Sound learning is the wellspring of sound teaching, and it appears that out of Kaduna State, Nigeria`s ‘Center of learning’, the country is witnessing another novelty from a government that hugs the headlines more for its eccentricities than for any genuine effort at good governance.
In a statement at the end of last month from the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, signed by the Special Adviser to the Kaduna State Governor, Media and Communication, Muyiwa Adekeye, a four-day workweek was announced in the State to take effect from December 1,2021.
The statement said that the measure was designed to help boost productivity, improve work-life balance and enable workers to have more time for their families, for rest and for agriculture.
The statement also noted that the measure would help reflect lessons learnt from managing the Covid-19 pandemic which required significant relaxations of old working traditions and the ascendance of virtual and remote working arrangements. The implementation of the transitional arrangements was to begin on December 1,2021.
In a country as quick to grab every western oddity like the accelerating tongue of a chameleon capturing crickets, this is hardly surprising.
Of course, the four- day workweek is not original to Kaduna State. Such feats of originality would appear beyond the current government in spite of its elaborate grandstanding. Its provenance is western.
It has been tested in places that have known nothing about banditry and poor work ethic for many years. It has been the rage in a couple of countries, mostly western. Undoubtedly, the Covid-19 pandemic also pushed considerers to make up their indecisive minds.
Research has shown that when properly implemented, four-day workweeks increase employee satisfaction, company commitment and team work while decreasing stress levels. It has also been shown not to affect productivity or output.
There have been trials in New Zealand, Japan, Iceland, the United States and the United Kingdom.
But is Nigeria ready? More specifically, is Nigeria`s `Center of Learning’ ready? Is Kaduna State and its troubled public service ready for such a quantum leap?
Does it have on ground the facilities without which productive remote work would remain a mirage at best?
An Igbo adage holds that what is found in the home of eneke is also found in the home of esengene, its mother. Thus, what is the norm in Nigeria`s poor and ponderous public service in Abuja and elsewhere is invariably the case in Kaduna. That being the case, can any State in the country claim to be ready to ring changes as seismic as the four-day workweek?
In Nigeria, in spite of the generally poor work ethic of many Nigerian employees, there is a sharply distillable dichotomy between how seriously work is approached in government employment and private employment.
Because government employment comes with job security, reasonably stable salaries and less than stringent supervision, it provides a petri-dish for Nigeria`s chilling experiment with corruption, nepotism and bureaucracy. It explains the many ghost workers that do nothing but weasel their way into the payrolls of government.
That is a far cry from the cut-throat world of private employment when many employees are just one mistake away from getting the sack from their broke employers.
Thus, it is common knowledge that since the Covid-19 pandemic-related lockdown was lifted, many government employees are yet to resume work. Many of them breeze in weekly and briefly before returning to their sidelines. Many pick and choose when to come to work and when they make it to work at all, they close way before the day gets old.
The situation in Kaduna State is not different, and it is into such a maelstrom of appalling work ethic that the Kaduna State government has introduced a four-day workweek that even better run countries, states and organizations are reluctant to fully embrace.
It is only fools that rush in where angels fear to tread.
It begs the question whether there has been any trial whatsoever of the four-day workweek in Kaduna State. What research underpins it? What empirical evidence undergirds the argument that it will boost already sagging productivity in Kaduna State, improve work-life balance and enable workers to have more time for rest, for their families and agriculture?
Already, given the harsh religious sensibilities of the State, and with 2023 just around the corner, many have interpreted the handwriting on the wall as being markedly different from what is scrawled on the whiteboard of the government in Nigeria`s `Center of Learning’.
Of course, there is only very little incentive to be painstaking about the efficacy or otherwise of the four-day workweek given that whether Kaduna State public servants are productive or not, at the end of the day, the Niger-Delta cash cow will be milked for oil to generate revenue with which they will be remunerated.
One of the gravest failures of governance in Nigeria is the puerile misplacement of priorities. One would think that security and infrastructural permutations would take precedence on the government`s list of priorities in a state convulsed by banditry and poverty.
Alas, it appears Friday jamborees come first.