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Simple Naija Girl: When African Time Goes Too Far

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“Hi Siri, I have a Naija party starting at 4pm, what time should I leave home?” Siri responds.

“You. should. leave. at. 6pm. if. you. want. to. help. with. set. up. Expect. the. party. to. start. at. 8pm.”

Can just we have a moment of silence for all the party jollof I have missed because events started so unrealistically late that I left before food was served?

Let me gist you. I recently attended a friend’s PhD graduation dinner at an exotic Brazilian steakhouse. It was one of those bougie restaurants you need to make reservations like six years in advance to get the private room. So you can imagine my excitement when I got the invitation. The dinner was on a busy Saturday packed with errands for my husband and me. We had accomplished everything but picking up my husband’s car from the mechanic.

Simplenaijagirl: “Oko mi, ma binu, if I drive you to pick up your car from Oga Sunday, then I’ll be a solid 45 minutes late for the dinner, and I’ll be that one awkward person placing an order when everyone else is already eating.”

Hubby: “No wahala. Let’s ask Iya Peju, our neighbor, to watch the kids. I’ll get an Uber to take me to Oga Sunday.”

Simplenaijagirl: “Eeeya, pele. I’ll be back home in three hours tops.”

I got done decking up; hair and makeup were on point, and I wore a cute little black dress and sparkly heels. I was feeling myself like kilode? I patted myself on the shoulder when I pulled up to the parking lot at 5:59 PM. Just in time, I thought! So, I did my catwalk into the restaurant and started talking to the greeter.

Simplenaijagirl: “I’m here for Ruth Jegede’s PhD graduation dinner.”

Greeter: “Oh, hi, Dr. Ruth! It’s nice to meet you. Come with me.”

Simplenaijagirl: “No no, I’m not Ruth. I’m her friend,” I said with a confused look on my face.

Greeter: “Oh, sorry about the mix up. Let me show you to the room for Ruth’s dinner.”

He walked me there and the room was empty. I arrived before the celebrant! “Chai, and I made oko mi spend money on Uber. Plus, he’ll still have to give iya Peju something for watching the kids. Issokay, I’m sure Ruth will be here soon and it’ll all be worth it.”

Guest after guest arrived, but none of them was Ruth. It was now 8:06 PM, and there were 14 ladies in the room with hungry bellies, sweating out our makeup.

At 8:13 PM, Ruth finally arrived. All hail the Queen of Africa. What does your time matter when it is the Queen’s PhD graduation? “I’m so sorry, guys, my tailor made me late.” It was after that wack apology I decided it was time to go home.

It’s not just Ruth. Most of us Africans are guilty, and it stems from that sense of entitlement; in this case, the entitlement to people’s time. Here’s the breaking news – your friends are not obligated to give you their time. It’s rude and arrogant to keep people waiting when they come celebrate with you. I said what I said because I want to get us angry enough to stop it. Ruth was nice enough to apologize, which is unusual. Most people ride under the “African time” expectation. It’s a bad cultural habit; the unspoken rule of “D’uh, arrive two hours late to avoid waiting.” But it keeps progressively getting worse. Nowadays, arriving two hours makes you an automatic recruit in the set-up crew. Just be ready for, “One-two, testing-testing, aunty can you hear the mic over there?”

Ruth was also nice enough to understand my leaving early. Many would be offended that I decided to leave “early” and not continue wasting my time. Let me put it in context – in the 2 hours 13 minutes that I sat waiting for Ruth, Bill Gates would have made $3 million, and Zuckerberg, over $2 million. Let’s even bring it home, our uncle, Dangote, would have made almost half a million dollars!

I have been a victim enough times to understand these two categories of people:

1. The bad party planners
They have good intentions of starting “on time,” but don’t realize how long it will take to set up the 1,000 roundtables at their event. They also happened to assign the same person to pick up the food, be the DJ, and the photographer.

2. The professional African-timers
The venue is set up and ready to go an hour before “start time.” Food is ready and music is jamming, but they have no intention of starting until after the “end time” they indicated on the invitation. Ask them why? It’s African time now, d’uh?

As you’d guess, I’ve had to develop some coping strategies because my time is too valuable for me to sit in a hall for hours watching people arrange silverware on tables. No, ma’am, nobody got time for that. So here are four tricks I use.

1. Text to confirm the actual start time beforehand. Say something like, “I have a few stops to make. Can you please confirm the actual start time so I can be there right on time?”

2. Try to be productive if you are kept waiting. And no, social media does not count. I do most of my blog writing on the cloud, so I just pull out my phone and write away. Try reading a book, listening to podcasts, or responding to emails.

3. Get up and leave. It is actually okay to do so. Set a time limit to spend at the event regardless of the actual start time. Once the time is up, give the host a hug, take a picture with them, and say something like, “I actually have another commitment right now. I was hoping this would have started a while ago. Congrats again, you look stunning!” It doesn’t matter that the commitment is with your bed or Netflix.

4. Make stops on your way. If you know you are attending the event of a chronic late-starter, and you are one of those people who still end up being early despite planning to be late, then make stops on your way. Visit your friend that lives along the way, fix your heels that broke last Sunday at church, or stop by the petrol station to fill up your tank.

Dear Nigerians, here is my plea: consistently start your events on time, irrespective of how many guests are present. It shows you have integrity. Over time, people will learn to show up early for your events.

What has been your experience? Please share your best “African-time” stories below.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

My name is Abisola Sofolahan, and I live in the United States with my husband and two kids. I own a blog, called Simple Naija Girl, where I use my personal story and fiction to share my thoughts on everyday topics such as finance and relationships.Website: www.simplenaijagirl.com Instagram handle: @simplenaijagirl

10 Comments

  1. TeeTee

    January 31, 2019 at 6:09 pm

    I once had a friend show up 4 hours late to her own graduation party which supposedly started at 8pm

    • Abisola Abolude

      February 1, 2019 at 2:48 pm

      That’s something. The audacity. I wouldn’t have even waited to find out what time she got there.

  2. Ajala & Foodie

    January 31, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    So I have a certain acquaintance that pissed me off during her baby shower. There are some people I expect this from and just arrive late (attended a Birthday party recently start time on IV was 4, I purposely got there at 6:30pm, party no start until 7pm). But shower was at this individual’s house. I was rushing cos I hate going empty handed to events like this and since I was going with my mum I woke up early to make stuff to take with us. Got there, an hour later mama was still painting face. 2 hrs later she comes down and instead of event to start. Herself and her friends (the organizers) decided that was the perfect time to begin taking pictures and selfies. The rest of us just needed to sit like jobless individuals with no lives. After that for naming we thought we had learned. We got there an 1hr and 30 mins late. I thought since this was in Church and oyinbo Church with one of our oyinbo pastor’s coming in they will be on time. Na lie! I got there and had to help with decorating. There was another African there that thought the same and was pissed. She had her 2 kids with her and by the time it started it was past their nap time. She had to leave. It is totally disrespectful, selfish and inconsiderate. I had that conversation with my hubby too recently. The only thing he is on time for is work and when he is serving in Church (so I know he can be on time), every thing else? ……. I had to give him a whole spiel. We are still a work in progress.

    • Abisola Abolude

      February 1, 2019 at 2:51 pm

      So unfortunate! It’s sad this happens all the time, and people have somehow normalized this to be okay behavior. We have ways to go!

  3. Butterfly

    January 31, 2019 at 10:41 pm

    A very bad habit indeed. I was invited to a 40th and I was told it would be starting at 4pm, She also asked me to bring her some bucket for drinks. I got there right on time and happened to be the first person to arrived apart from decorators setting up. Other people started to arrived like an hour later. Well, to cut the long story short, she and her celebrant husband and bunch of people arrived 3 hours later. After exchanging greetings with them and had some snacks, I told her I was leaving an hour later.

    I just can’t get it right or should I say ‘get it wrong’ to go to an outing at an African time, I end up arriving early. I have given up trying to calculate how late I should get to an outing, as the writer said, I’ll just get there at the time I am given and leave like one hour later. Simple.

  4. Rachelle

    February 1, 2019 at 3:21 am

    I was invited to a Nigerian church picnic last summer…. start time was 12pm, so I decided to attend 30min late to give a buffer. Of course when I arrived, barely anyone was there and I was automatically assigned to the “setup” crew ???

  5. Simple Naija Girl

    February 1, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    Right! I’m tired of the time calculation as well. I either ask to confirm the actual time or I mentally prepare to leave after x hours.

  6. chu-chu

    February 4, 2019 at 10:29 am

    Guess we can put ‘Entertainers,’ we keep us waiting for hours in this category. How can you tell us a show is starting, at 7pm and not show up till 1am? Yet we paid good money to see you. Or do we blame the crowd who don’t show till 8pm? This accepted culture of lateness, needs to stop!!! We need to stop taking people’s time for granted!

  7. whocares

    February 4, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    mate, i went to a wedding and the bride was 8 hours late to her wedding. at the designated time to end, i carried my bag and i left the hall. Babygirl had a date booked. I can’t let someone’s bad manners ruin my life abeg. lool.

  8. Manny

    February 5, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    I went to a friend’s birthday at a restaurant. She said 4PM, I got there at about 4:30…………6PM we were still waiting for her, ordering appetizers and whatnots to while away the time. At 6, I got up to leave. I don’t have time for nonsense.

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