Use the Night, or Keep Muttering “Foul!”
How a Twenty-Four Hours Functional Market Double’s Up a Nation’s Growth Chances
Enter an average Nigerian street today, you’ll find little clusters of people, different genders and ages, talking, animatedly, over drinks or light food or some such, about matters—problems—that are really out of their hands to solve, directly that is. These are complaining lips, grumbling hearts, murmuring souls, angry and upset about any number of things— the way of governance in the country, the wealth distribution or its lack thereof, the fact that there are no jobs to help even the most optimistic partake in a little of the unevenly shared wealth, the understanding that corruption cannot be replaced as the blood that circulates the veins of industry and economy in Nigeria. It’s so rampant finding these groups that categorizing the act of finding time to indulge in it as part of the Nigerian lifestyle would not be so arguable.
Imagine where members of these grouchy groups were otherwise engaged, not with some white-collar, or even blue-collar job, but with a handiwork; a personal, private, skill or gift utilized to accrue income, gain satisfaction, and add beauty and ingenuity to the artisan community. Let’s call them gold-collar jobs for kicks. Say, in one of these groups there were eight persons, and within them is a born writer, a born speaker, a born caregiver, a wise old man or woman, a hefty muscular man, a born gamer, someone with incredible taste buds, and another who wouldn’t leave a computer screen if he met one, you have within them people with so much potential to contribute to the economy they so complain about, despite having the oddest combination of skills.
Before the big reveal of how our group of eight can contribute, a little look at what bad job culture has forced down our throats. There are jobs. To say there are no jobs is the most deceptive thing a youth and school leaver can ever think. The reality is that most of the jobs available are still materializing as untapped opportunities. The quickest to see, grab, and make use of these opportunities becomes a pioneer and market-driver in whatever he or she does.
To help visualize this, think of the elements that come together to constitute work:
- Time – work must be done within a time period.
- Space – work must be performed in a created spatial environment, virtual or otherwise.
- Ability – work must be performed by someone who can do the work.
- Tools – work must be done with equipment, resources and material that come together to create a desired effect.
- Drive – this is an intangible or soft element. It describes the emotion or actions that will bring the worker to the work. It may be voluntary or involuntary, by willing participation or forced upon, desired or necessitated.
The Nigerian street is filled with persons who still struggle to bring these elements together to work for them, the toughest being the first and the last— time and drive. Companies want workers; these days, more skilled than unskilled or semiskilled. The companies create the space and provide the tools. You gain the ability through past experiences (with other companies or self-taught), certification courses, or through one degree or the other. The trouble comes when the drive to work comes from necessity, is involuntary, or as a result of force. It makes for a horrible worker, and thus an unhealthy work environment. Everybody wants to jump into the most popular job out there, whether it resonates properly with them or not. So, they as well, read the wrong courses in school and pursue the wrong certifications. They forget that the gold-collar jobs even exist. They refuse to search themselves for what they can do; skills they are born with, no matter how mundane it may sound. The biggest trouble comes when we sleep. Yes, when we clock in to bed by 9pm and clock out by 6am, spending 9 hours, give or take, doing nothing but doing nothing. Yes, people may perform jobs that require exertion of energy and get tired. Then, that group is excused. What of the group that does not? What of the group that does no work at all? What of the motley crew of eight in the bar, muttering “foul!” at the injustices of wealth distribution in the country?
We see now that untapped opportunities lie in the times when we totally ignore them gold-collar jobs and decide to sleep instead.
Back to our group. Firstly, how they contribute on a macroscale.
There have been arguments among business people about the true means of achieving growth— whether through a jobless recovery, or by kicking it off with creating jobs. The latter school of thought insist that jobs provide people with income, income begets consumption, and higher consumption (as a component of gross domestic product) means growth. In principle, this is true, and if it can be achieved practically, would be the best model. What most nations, Nigeria included, face however is the need for jobless recovery. According to the business website, Investopedia, a jobless recovery is an economic recovery, following a recession, where the economy as a whole improves, but the unemployment rate remains high or continues to increase over a prolonged period of time. This effect may be a result of cautious businesses that add hours to existing employees in order to increase production capacity rather than hiring new workers.
First, these businesses emphasize the ability and time elements, by pushing them to the bare, ensuring its only workers whose drive to the work can allow them invest much more time to working that can remain with their jobs. Only positive drives of desire and voluntariness can achieve this. Only a lawyer who was born to do law can afford this. Only a born medical practitioner can afford this. Because they love it.
Second, what happens to those laid off? Do they go home and fold their hands? What of those who never even got in in the first place? Do they carry on grumbling? Nobody said a jobless recovery means a workless economy. In fact, the emphasis is that if you must partake in the riches shared by this thinned-out job environment, you must imitate this model adopted by the businesses and be your own boss (this does not necessarily mean becoming an entrepreneur because not everyone is born to be one; it just means starting your own thing. The entrepreneurial aspects can be optioned out to an employee when you don’t have such managerial skills), doing what you love, carrying out the gold-collar jobs and working the night, not sleeping.
London’s night-time economy contributed £17.7bn to £26.3bn in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy in 2014. The UK’s night economic activity directly supports 723,000 jobs – one in eight in London. Big night employers include not just hotels and restaurants (97,125 jobs) and arts and entertainment (46,592) but a whole range of industries: transport and storage (107,136); health and social work (101,282); admin and support services (62,150); professional, scientific and technical (59,803); wholesale, retail and repair (59,248); and information and communication (54,558). When indirect impacts are included, the night-time economy is responsible for 1.26 million jobs overall and £40.1bn GVA. That figure is likely to grow by a further £1.63 billion a year by 2026, and by £2 billion a year by the end of that decade as another 66,000 jobs are added.
There are eight members of our motley crew. The born writer can use the peace of the night to run freelance writing gigs. The born speaker can work the night as a customer service representative for a cable company, an insurance entity, an investment company, a bank, or a telecommunications company. The born caregiver can work the night as an urgent care intake worker for hospitals or clinics, or as a CNA (a Certified Nursing Assistant) or an HHA (a Home Health Aide), or as a paramedic. The wise old man or woman can work his or her night as a residential counsellor for colleges and residential private secondary schools. The hefty muscular man can work as a security guard for any number of companies. The born gamer can have the time of his or her life as a night casino game dealer or croupier. The individual with incredible taste buds can put his tongue to function nightly as a bartender. The computer addict can work as a night-time computer operator in a server room or data center. This way, we have our eight friends doing what they love, and doing it well into the night, utilizing the potentials of the night, and only having break times to meet together and discuss how to improve their conditions and get others to realize what they have in their gold-collar assignments and in the uses of night.
They can say, “while men slept, we were on the grind, and now we smile.”
There are lots of jobs and works that are meant for the night and can be conducted in the night in Nigeria, many largely untapped, some completely non-existent. One can be an air traffic controller, a funeral director, a protective services worker other than being a security guard (correctional officers, jail and prison guards, firefighters, private investigators), a clinical lab technician, a pastry chef or baker, a taxi driver, a photo journalist capturing the evenings and the night, a babysitter, a mail sorter, a repo man (a repossession agent), a food delivery man/driver, a disc jockey (DJ), a hotel desk clerk, a fuel station attendant, a merchandise stocker, a night school teacher, a highway tollbooth attendant, a liquor store clerk, a movie projectionist, a physician’s assistant, or a medical sonographer. The list is endless, and one can get creative with one could do in the night, coming up with specialized and customized jobs that just fit the personality and innate skills and gifts of the worker. Because that is what counts.
So, as a way of closing this piece, please let us stop complaining about what is bad, and make efforts to make it good. Let’s work the night.