”Governor Fashola is wrong” – Etcetera writes again

Controversial singer turn writer, Etcetera writes again Governor Fashola is one of the most outstanding governors in Nigeria. Unlike some state governors, he should be duly commended for his style of governance, his vision for Lagos State, and achievements. But the recent approval of 10 days paternity leave and six months maternity leave for civil servants of the state has been greeted with mixed sentiments within and outside the state.

The paternity leave for instance sounds ridiculous to me each time I think about it. What sounds even more laughable is the state Head of Service telling us that the new leave regime is meant to reduce the stress of the extensive work life of civil servants in the state. Please, since when did we start attributing words like “extensive work” to civil servants in Nigeria? My father was a civil servant, I visited his workplace most times and can categorically say that most Nigerian civil servants don’t do any extensive work.

I was actually smiling thinking I had stumbled on a comedy show on TV, hearing her branding civil servants as workaholics and how the newly approved 10 days paternity leave is needed to boost productivity. Has moving from one restaurant to another leaving empty plates of iyan and efo riro in their wake become stressful all of a sudden? I see these guys almost everyday in their different ministries in Alausa but what I haven’t seen is the same picture of the hardworking soldier ants the government is trying to paint to us.

It will be more believable if the state comes clean with us that the paternity leave is basically for faaji. Even a newborn baby would giggle at the thought of a father demanding 10 days of paternity leave to bond with him/her. Seriously, how do you bond with a baby that hasn’t even opened his or her eyes? This is a child that can’t even find the mother’s nipples. What does a man need 10 days paternity leave for? Did he have his placenta or umbilical cord removed? Did they perform caesarean on his pot belly? Did he share in the task of carrying the baby in the womb for nine months? Most male civil servants in the country have grown too fat developing breast as a result of idleness at work.

Is this new paternity leave regime meant for them to stay at home and share in the responsibility of breastfeeding their newborn babies with their wives? Or are we granting them the additional 10 days paternity leave to also develop hips and complete the full circle of womanhood? This may sound funny but won’t this paternity law increase the rate of childbirth in the state, especially in a rainy season?
Our civil servants are not given to doing much work in the first place. Most times they are never even at work. I went to one of the ministries to see the permanent secretary about a project I was working on that needed state’s approval, and on entering his office, I was stunned by the sight of 15 large booli (roasted plantains) and two full bottles of peanuts on his table.

He almost threw me out of his office when I jokingly asked if I could join in his lunch. In Nigeria, we already have so many public holidays, pilgrimages and the three weeks compulsory leave for workers, and weekends. Is that how we are going to build Lagos into a mega city? I don’t see the rationale in this new maternity and paternity policy.

Some say it is a policy that is already being implemented in more advanced societies and we should follow suit without taking into consideration the peculiarity of this terrain. Yes in more advanced countries, extended maternity leaves and paternity leaves are no big deal.

The UK for instance grants as much as one year to a woman, to raise her child, with full salary, if she thinks it is necessary. And a man can take either 10 days or up to six months to stay with his wife and child. But we also know why this is very necessary for them. Unlike Nigeria, no UK grandparent will come to do omugwo or stay with a couple and help them take care of their children like a slave for anything more than a week or two.

Because most of these parents and grandparents are still busy chasing blind dates or searching for love on various online dating sites. Unlike Nigeria, in the UK there are no house-girls or house-boys who could be used like workhorses around the house for next to nothing. Also unlike Nigeria, UK men don’t take it as a duty to act on God’s commandment on procreation with every giving opportunity like some naija men.

Those applauding the six months maternity leave for women as a well thought out decision, should also consider that it may not be in the interest of everyone.

Workers of private institutions may demand implementation of the same policy across board. And most private institutions can’t afford such luxury. Some civil servants may even see it as a threat to their livelihood and survival.

The girls with the Lagos State Inland Revenue (LIRS) for instance won’t fancy sitting back at home for six months knowing how much of egunje (kickbacks) they will be missing. The female LASTMA officials will be wondering how they will survive for that long on their meagre salaries. Another question is, what happens to those ministries with fewer members of staff? What if a couple of them got pregnant at the same time?

Will they be granted six months maternity leave all at once? What about their skills when they return from such a long leave? Won’t it affect their ability to carry on and adapt to new policies? Will they be provided with extra courses to catch up with their colleagues? I think three months is okay for a nursing mother.

We also have to consider that salaries will be paid. Is the government going to slash salaries to cover up the inadequacies? Are we also bearing in mind that this policy may affect the already plunging productivity level of workers? Are we not creating more room for laxity? It is only in Naija that a female civil servant goes to work wearing a wig and returns home with braids. Isn’t that African magic?

Please never walk into a female civil servant’s office unannounced, because you will surely bump into her trying on a new attire sold to her by a colleague in the office. When you walk into some ministries, you will be left confused thinking you have mistakenly walked into Aswani market, seeing people loitering about selling all sorts of products. There are always ready buyers at the ministries.

I guess the Lagos State government must have had a big laugh thinking it has found a solution to this embarrassment by locating the Ikeja City Mall next door, but did it work?

We always hear of ministries and other government structures getting burnt in Nigeria and Mickey Mouse always getting the blames when it is no secret that some of these female civil servants have makeshift kitchens in their offices. You always see them at their desks drawing up lists of food ingredients for the interns to buy.
As I end this article, I want you all to join me in prayers that nobody recommends this paternity and maternity policy to my state government. Because as it stands right now, I can’t tell which is more confused between my state government and today’s weather.

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