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Chicken, Egg. Egg, Chicken. These Tricky Things Called Priorities



I have a niggling head ache and it’s not even noon yet.

No, this isn’t about the name change of my alma mata because our issues run deeper than the name change and it is not enough to set off this ringing in my head. The labs have obsolete equipment, the libraries don’t have enough books but hey let’s ignore all that and skip right ahead to a name change!  We don’t have money for new library books but surely it wont cost a thing to carry out an entire re-branding of the institution. No, the issues with my old school are not my problem.  I’ve managed to narrow down the source of my headache to Nigerian agencies and their workforce.  Perhaps I should have titled this post “Work Ethics and The Nigerian People” but then my issues go far deeper than that.

In the course of my professional life, I’ve had to deal with staff of government agencies both in Lagos and in Abuja and one common thread runs through most of these agencies. “Zero Work Ethics”

I’m not sure what irks me more when I get to an office in Alausa but  it’s a cross between the fact that half of the tables are unoccupied because the staff have gone off on a frolick or the fact that the ones who are on their seats are wearing flip flops, either eating yam and palm oil or selling aso-ebi at their desks. When you walk into the office, it is business as usual. There’s no sense of urgency or a particular desire to work so whatever getting your file or the stamp of approval you’ve come for becomes a herculean task. It is akin to attempting to cross the Red Sea without the staff of Moses to help with the crossing( the staff in this case being The Long Leg of Knowing Somebody Up There).  It is even worse if you go on a Friday where every one all of a sudden becomes a muslim and the offices are cleared out by 12.45. Everybody has conveniently gone to the mosque. If you are lucky, some of them may stroll back around 3pm, if you’re not, then that’s it for the day. You have to come back the following week.

This is NOT news to anybody who has any business to do with any government agency but the part that gets me the most is that the people in these offices are you and me. They are our friends in church. We stand together to lift Nigeria out of the clutches of corrupt and oppressive rulers. They are our friends at the gym, who we complain to about the fact that the “government” is doing nothing about Boko Haram. They are our friends who we invite for 3-day long  week day parties and they tell us not to worry.. against all odds they’ll attend our events.

Can we take a minute to think about this every time we grumble about the fact that NEPA doesn’t work, or the fact that we can not be guaranteed of an effectively functioning conveyor belt.  Can we stop to consider that it is the collection of hard working ants that make a colony work productively and effectively. Are you doing your best at your job or are you slowly hoping that the ticking of the clock would hurriedly bring the 17th hour so that you can go home? Are you doing that which you should be doing and doing it diligently? Or, are you hoping that Mrs X will go on maternity leave so that you would quickly fall into the position for that training in South Africa that comes with estacode?

Sometimes we’re quick to blame “The Government”  for all our woes but this is not completely true – our problems run deeper and we really ought to stop putting the cart before the horse. And, I mean this in every facet of our society. If you work in customer care, be polite and courteous. If you are a trader/ business person get to your stall/office on time and be diligent in your work. We need to get our priorities right and fix our individual values; because then and only then would we be taking a step in the right direction. Maybe then, we can get this elusive change we keep making tee-shirts about! Maybe then, we can finally get the kind of Nigeria we keep singing about.

Maybe then, we can finally start heading in the right direction. Let’s figure out what our priorities are and FIX UP!

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.


  1. nwando

    June 1, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I agree with you! We all share some blame in the big mess called Nigeria, and no one will fix it but us.

  2. nwando

    June 1, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Plus, I’m reading this at my desk at work. *covers face in shame*

  3. Traditionalbay

    June 1, 2012 at 11:55 am

    A visit to the Secretariat in Ibadan will convince u… two officers were eating moi-moi + eko with the greenleaf (wrap) spread on the office table on a Monday morning, i was speechless.

    • lol

      June 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm


    • pynk

      June 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      Trust Ibadan to outdo themselves.

    • Tosin

      June 1, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      They don’t have taste. In Ekiti we start the day in style with pounded yam.

  4. LPS

    June 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm

  5. kendra Zuhair

    June 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    You couldn’t have said it better! Our leaders are from amongst us and are a direct reflection of our society!!!

  6. frema

    June 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    What people fail to realise is that the government is you the individual. I have a believe that on judgement day God would ask us what value we added to this world, i can guess the look on people’s faces.

  7. lol

    June 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Atoke! what is your name again Atoke!!! God will bless you for this write up.
    This phrase says is it all “We need to get our priorities right and fix our individual values”….some people need to hear this. You dare not work lacklustre in the west as what happens in naija. Lets just call it a 4.5 day a week country. with many useless holidays they add on to even make the economy worse. In Britain, the govt can give you how much it will cost for the workforce taking a break over this wkend but there no o, make we jolly dey go.

    • Sandi

      June 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      Oh I doubt the holidays are holding Nigeria back honestly, trust me it’s one of the reasons I want to move back home, lol. Work hard and play hard, not work and work and work and wonder when you can afford to play, maybe 10 years later??? *sigh*

    • Tosin

      June 1, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      Help me tell them o.
      I was looking into US jobs back in the day and heard that you got 2-3 weeks off. I was like “in a year?” Oh boy that shizz ain’t worth it, well, unless…

  8. Adeteju Ajimotokan

    June 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Pretty sad a plight!!!

  9. my 2 cents

    June 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm


  10. Bee

    June 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    You have spoken well Atoke. You sure hit the nail on the head…. We really need to learn the art of prioritization and “FIX UP” as you say. God help us all.

  11. Gbemi

    June 1, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Very inspirational and sincere piece i must confess. I remember a conversation i had with my mum, she said “the church is not doing enough in Nigeria” and immediately i corrected her and said “Mummy we are the church, we are Nigerians, we make Nigeria, so therefore WE are the problem and WE need to “FIX-UP” (would add fix-up to my regular sayings when next someone complains about Nigeria as if Nigeria is a river with waters and not a nation with people). Cheers

  12. purplepearl

    June 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    ATOKE, may God bless you for this write-up, we really need to change our attitude esp when it comes to work and customer relationship in Nigeria needs revival, workers treat ppl as if they re doing you a favor. Lets change our country by changing ourselves

  13. grace

    June 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Well spoken,how I wish every government worker will read this piece

  14. onyii

    June 1, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    tell me about it, i got a taste of govt workers` non challance when i was serving. When we go for CD, these women just sit there and gist while we wait for goodness knows how long. then, when its time to sign our cards, the annoying lady would tell the girls that she has tops for sale, that we should patronize her if we want to go home quickly.

  15. feintoe

    June 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Wow! well spoken Atoke. The Change starts from us. let’s join the Conversation to Change The Nation on

  16. TobechiD

    June 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Deep write-up. That cuts to the bottom of the matter.

  17. lafunky

    June 1, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    I don’t even know the right adjective to describe this article. It’s a good piece.

  18. Sandi

    June 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    My goodness Atoke thank you for this write up. I swear I’ve been saying this for years to my family and friends. Every time they bad mouth Nigeria, I ask them what the hell they’ve done. How they themselves are better and different, they all jump on me and call me fool and naive. Apparently I’m supposed to eat my own share and keep it moving. Sorry I believe I’m my brother and sister’s keeper. I will testify to God on the last day and that my people is what truly matters. If you are not being constructive you have no credibility to criticize. People, ask yourselves how are you any better? If given the position that our politicians have, what will you do? Imagine I asked someone that during the Occupy Nigeria movement, person said he will do good o but e go chop him own sha. Imagine!!! The government is a reflection of the people. Change starts from within. As Michael Jackson, God rest his soul, said ‘I’m starting with the man in the mirror’ Have a lovely day people.

  19. karonwi

    June 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    So true… people need to realise the truth first then plan to move forward!!!

  20. i no send

    June 1, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    LOL @Traditional boy….my friend told me when she went to register for masters in one of our premier universities one of the registration officers was eating akamu she had to wait till he finished to attend to her…..

  21. NNENNE

    June 2, 2012 at 2:05 am

    Preach it! As a manager at work, I resume 45 minutes ahead of time,last to go on break after everybody else and the last to go home. Goes home twenty minutes after my official dismissal time. It is called being responsible! You want to be sure that things run well.

    Very nice article.

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