On the occasion of The International Labour Day, Dr. Nick Ngwanyam x-rays work, its correlation with the Bible and the attitude of Cameroonians toward work.
According to him, work is not all about money, but about the love towards it. Celebrating labor Day in Cameroon has been misconstrued according to him because most Cameroonians do not actually know what and why they are celebrating. In this incisive interview, he defines work and makes pertinent proposals on what work should all be about in order to help our nation to emerge.
Doctor, it is a pleasure we are having another discussion with you on the eve of the International Labour Day. What is work?
|Dr. Nick Ngwanyam|
It is really important for us to really understand the concept of work. This is because if you do not understand the concept, you would go celebrating the way we do in Cameroon. Whether you are celebrating for the right or wrong reason, you would never know. I think the International Labor Day is a great thing. It is a day set aside for workers to stay away from work and really have a day for themselves and enjoy what work is supposed to be, enjoy the fruit of their labor, commune with one another and their spirits. This would enable them to continue working effectively.
There is no way you can talk about workers without talking about their work places, what they produce, the effect in the community, development and in the lives of their families. You cannot talk about a worker without talking about the employer, for those who are self employed, that is a different story. You must talk about the industry where they are working. These are the elements that you must take into consideration.
Before we go into analyzing many of these things, let me go back to some principles. If we want to understand work very well, we must go down to the foundation of work. Work is something that God himself instituted. It is very important to know that work was not instituted by man and there is a manner in which we should be working which would meet God’s standards. If you are not working, it is a sin. The bible goes on to say that, he who does not work should not eat. These are basic things.
We are faced with a situation where people do not want to work, but they want to eat. That is where the problem lies. You do not work but you want to have the benefits of those who work.
It is said that in six days, God created heaven and earth. On the sixth day, he created man. So God spent six days working and on the seventh day he rested. God also expects us to work for six days and rest on the seventh day. Whatever that seven day is for us; is it a Friday like for the Muslims, Saturday like the Methodists or whatever, rest. Is it on Sunday like for the Christians? The important thing is to have one day in a week during which you rest. This is to renew your body and to renew your spirit so that when you go to work, you should be refreshed.
That said, we have established the fact that work was created by God, and he worked. There is no way God can work and man refuses to work. So when I see a lot of Cameroonian youth who do not want to work but think that they are getting it right, they are getting it wrong from the foundation.
Do you mean Cameroonians do not like to work or do not want to work?
Cameroonians do not like to work and do not understand why they have to work. If a Cameroonian could have his way in life to earn a living, pay his rents, eat food, drink, run after women and fly to France without working that would be the best for him.
We have grown up with a mindset where we like things for free. You want something but you do not want to pay the price for having that thing. Just having something without doing anything would be the best things for most people. You do not want to be responsible enough. The Americans say, “There is no free lunch.” That is, ‘there is nothing like something for nothing’.
You know there is this gambling going on. It is called “parifoot,” horses or whatever, see how many young men at 8A.M. gather around those places looking for cheap meals. You want to grow through life by winning something. That is fey mania. What happens in life is, if you plant plantains, cocoyam, cassava or banana and come after the appointed time you would harvest the same.. But what we do is to harvest without planting. That is our mindset.
I think our elders have failed us because they have not shown us what we ought to do before we eat. Everybody just comes up thinking that you can just be smart and get it right. It is not possible. Most of the time when you employ to work for you or people who come looking for a job in your establishment, they want to put in minimum input for maximum benefit. That is a problem as well. When you go to the labor office which is there to arbitrate; though the employers might have their weaknesses; the employees also are just looking for an opportunity to just get something without putting in something.
On both sides in the whole nation therefore, we need a lot of education. To create a business or something that generates an income is not an easy thing, and therefore, when you do the best in terms of quality work, quality time and you are efficient and use the inputs in that institution efficiently, you make the institution to grow.
When the institution grows, you grow and you make the nation grow. But when you try to cheat by holding back, you kill the people and the nation as well as vision 2035. You know it is said that in Cameroon, the civil servants give in only 25% of what they are expected to put in and they want full pay along with the bribes and corruption. That is the mentality.
Before we get to the employer/employee mentality, can you elaborate on the issue of celebrating work at a time like this?
I am still coming back to it. When you are celebrating Labor Day, you are effectively celebrating work well done.
So who should celebrate?
We should all celebrate. Whether it is an employee, employer or government, we should all celebrate. But what is the point in celebrating when you did not actually work. It is wrong. A lot of people celebrate when they did not put in what calls for a celebration. What calls for a celebration is effective, efficient and useful work that moves the country and every body forward.
Who should be blamed? Should we put the horse before the cart or the cart before the horse in terms of an employer celebrating based on achievement or a worker not celebrating based on what he was expecting.
I do not know. The employers cannot win on their own; and the employees cannot win on their own either. It is a win-win situation. We all have to work together, keeping our minds on the most important goals and objectives. The main objectives are for the success of the company, civil service, the ministry or the government. That is what should be in our minds.
We work collectively so that whatever organization we are in succeeds. When we do that, the employer and the employee would jointly celebrate the success. We should work in a way that we are not tearing down that institution and its objectives. If we are not working like that from both sides, then there is no reason to celebrate.
There must be a mentality between the employer and the employee. What is a Cameroonian mentality on that basis?
To begin to understand the Cameroonian mentality, let me first of all define what His Eminence Christian Cardinal Tumi put down together as a path to success. You know he is a Wiseman and if he says something and you try to depart from it, you would only hit the rocks. You would not go far. If he says it and you understand it, fine. If you do not, then just take it as gospel truth and work on it. He says to succeed, be it a company, a community or a country; you need to do six things. You cannot do one and leave out the other things. You must carry out the six things simultaneously.
Primo, you must like work.
Secondo, you must like work that is well done. So you see, we have six points and what is taking two of those points is first you must like work and work that is well done.
The third thing is that you must be honest. Honesty counts. Be it the employer or the employee, a child, the teacher, minister, the gendarme, or police, we must be honest. But you know that honesty is a rare commodity in Cameroon.
The fourth thing is you must have self discipline. There is no way you are going to succeed in whatever you do without self discipline. Self discipline means your body is driving you to do something to waste time and resources, yet you know the right thing to do. So you begin to fight your body, fight your own desires and fight your human weaknesses to stick to what is important. You learn to do unto others as you would want them do to you. Always deal with people on a win-win basis. Your one should be your one and your two your two.
The fifth thing is that you must pray. Whatever you conceive your God to be, know that you cannot function in this world without a spirit being. The spirit being to those of us who believe in God the Almighty; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God who created us and made heaven and earth, we ought to pray to Him in spirit and in truth. If you believe that your own god is a mango tree or your father’s skull, pray to him but know that we must pray because we are spirit beings and we must subject our spirit, our minds and what we do to the spirit being that leads us. The problem is, to which spirit are you subjecting your own spirit and being to? Is it to God, the Almighty or to Satan? Whatever you do, you must reap the fruits of the spirit to which you have subjected yourself in prayer and to which you have surrendered yourself in thinking.
The sixth thing is, you must respect the environment. What is the environment? The environment is everything that you see, feel, touch and hear. In our Bible, we learn that in six days God created the heavens and the earth. So everything that is found in heaven and the earth is the environment. Let us put it in another way, respect everything that God created. It includes the land, animals. trees, grass, birds, bacteria, water, clouds, the air, sunshine, the rainfall and man. You must respect the environment because without the environment, we are dead. The environment is what is sustaining us and we must work to transform that environment in a positive way. That is giving value to what God gave us. When you fell a tree and you season that tree to make chairs and tables you create and add value and that is what work is all about.
Let us x-ray the Cameroonian laborer’s mind and tell us what he would have or ought to be thinking.
Let us put it again this way. You know the fireside has three stones. If you want to cook ‘fufu’ or cocoyam or whatsoever, you need three stones. You cannot use two stones. If you use four stones, it will create more problems. When it comes to work, laborers the company and what we do are those stones. We need the laborers, we need the employers, and we need the work place. We need these three things for work to be effective.
Therefore, the employer has to have a certain mindset to drive the institution forward to increase productivity using less energy to get the maximum benefit. The laborer too should have that mindset of work in consent with the employer for the best of the institution and the country. If we do not have that mindset, we get it all wrong. If we try to cheat, we are only cheating ourselves.
Most of the time, the Cameroonian laborer does not care about the workplace. After all, it belongs to someone else or to the government that has no face. He does not want to grow the workplace. If there is anything, he goes out there and tries to discredit his workplace. When he comes back now because he has been discrediting his workplace, he has a negative mindset toward this workplace. He turns back now to play the hide and seek game in the work place. He becomes an eye servant only working when somebody is watching over him. 80% of Cameroonians behave like that. They are eye servants. They do not want to work.
How do you relate that kind of paradox to brain drain?
I have seen people who have worked here and earned about CFA600,000 to 700,000 a month. They think it is better in America. When they drop it and run to America thinking that they would carry that mindset there, they realize that they have to do three jobs and have to work their asses out to pay bills. In America, you do not answer a phone call while on duty.
So a lot of Cameroonians who do not know what work is here, when they go to America, they have to learn what work is otherwise they would sleep in the streets. If you really want to know what work is, go and ask those who have come back from America and they would tell you. Check out on MTN, Orange, Guinness, Brasseries or CongelCam and you get a clue what work should be in Cameroon.
Work as you define it, is the love to work. Do you really think we know how to work?
No, we do not know how to work because there is no way you can work if you do not love your job. Let us try to redefine work again. Work is the mental and physical energy that you put in to achieve a certain goal. We go to school to learn, to get knowledge, skills and the knowhow that equips us to solve problems. If you go to school as many of us do and you are not ready to solve a problem, then the school was useless.
So the reason why you go to school is to have the ability to solve problems. The problem we have had with our school curricula is that we are not taught how to solve problems let alone solving specific problems. For example you just go school to learn Geography, History, Mathematics, Religion and English and you do not know how to solve a problem. That is the fundamental error that we have been making.
What would you propose?
We have to ask one basic question. Why did God create me? Why did God create you? God created you for four things. If you go to your bible, you would know why God created you. If you do not know why God created you, you would make a lot of mistakes.
God created us to praise Him and worship Him every day and at every moment. We have to live or to dwell in his presence. He created you to love Him and to love him above all other things else.
These are the three fundamental reasons why God created you and me. You have to realize that, that is what the choir of angels spends twenty four hours every day worshiping and praising God. We have to join that choir of angels in our prayers as well.
Then there was a fourth assignment that God gave man on earth. He set him in the Garden of Eden and said, ‘You are going to multiply in this garden’. You are going to continue with co-creativity in this garden. You have to add value to the Garden of Eden.
There is no way you can add value to something you do not love.
One reason we are failing a lot in Cameroon is because when a competitive exam is launched, for instance for the recruitment of Custom officers, every young man does it. When the one of gendarme is on, the very people who went in for customs go for it. The one for teachers or medical doctors, all of them go for it. They are struggling for survival. To work and work effectively, you have to do the job that you like so much so that even if there is no salary, you will still be doing it. If the salaries are delayed, you will still be doing it.
If you pick up a job because of a salary only, you would never like that job. Most of the time, we in Cameroon go in for jobs not because we like them but we are looking for a means of survival. So there is a difference between work and the opportunity to survive. In Cameroon, we try to work for money. No! Usually in life; the way God put it is; you work for the sake of the job and money and happiness come later as bonuses. When you work for the sake of the job, then you become happy and you have joy. But when you work for the sake of money you can never jump out of your bed and go to work because you do not like the job. You love but the money behind the work.
We are failing a lot in Cameroon because people work for money and not for the love of work. You have to know the problem that you want to solve, and have a clear understanding of how to solve the problem. Each time you solve a problem you are happy. The salary that you earn is just a motivation. Your real motivation comes from the joy you get from solving a problem.
Work actually boils down to choosing a career. What is a career? A career is a set of problems that John chooses to be solving down the road in his life. When you are choosing a career, it is not different from choosing a wife. If you want to get married, you do not just run into the bar and get one. All the women have got two breasts, nice legs and good eyes but not all are the marrying type. You must choose a wife that you would love until death do you part. You choose a career based on love.
On the occasion of the International Labor Day, what message do you have for workers and the youth?
We have come to this world to work. If you have not come to work, then you are getting it all wrong. If you are going to be cheating to feed yourself, that is not work. Work means you have to burn up time, energy and produce something. If you are trying to make a living without working, it would not work. You can win in a lottery and buy food, that is not work. Work means adding value to a system. In Cameroon our work efficiency and everything is not more than 25%. This manner of work cannot take us to 2035.
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