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We and our time

BY: Doreen Hammond
Doreen Hammond
Doreen Hammond

I have been in China for the past week but by the kind courtesy of the Internet, I have had the opportunity to follow closely some events back home in Ghana.

An embarrassing scenario happened during a press conference called at the behest of the FIFA Normalisation Committee.

A journalist, who was obviously not enthused at the late arrival of a member of the committee, questioned the gentleman why he had arrived so late for a programme that was organised by a committee he was part of.

As is usually the case in Ghana, the ‘big man’, who felt his conduct could not be questioned by a mere journalist, took offence.

According to the report, it took the intervention of well-intentioned people present to avert a nastier situation.  

In the same week, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana (UG) had cause to caution fresh students that those who could not take part in matriculation ceremonies would not be admitted to the university to pursue their programmes.

Such a warning could only be coming from a man who has had it to the teeth.

Again recently, the media reported the case of a government official who refused to take part in a programme because as of the time he arrived, which time as given by the organisers, they themselves were nowhere to be found.

Stories of Ghanaians not keeping to time have gained global notoriety.

 Almost every Ghanaian has suffered this cancer at one time or another.

 What is regrettable is the fact that we seem to have accepted it as a way of life and very little conscious effort is made to right this wrong.

 Even with time, those who used to be punctual acquire the habit as a result of the demotivation to be punctual.

I recall travelling all the way from Accra to attend a wedding programme at Akosombo.

I got there at 12.30 p.m. for a programme billed to start at 1 p.m. It was when I had had enough and was leaving  at 2 p.m.

 that I heard the tooting of horns ayefroo, ayefroo, dondoo! Strangely, it appeared I was one of the few who were not aware that any time on the card is plus two or more hours.

This was shown by the few people who had turned up at the stipulated /official time.

 It appears that being late is now the swag and the guiltiest are government appointees and political office holders.

Some even think that saying that I was in another meeting of equal importance or I was caught up in traffic are good enough excuses to keep people waiting for hours.

It is so bad that sometimes shops which have inscriptions like we are open at 10 a.m., remain closed at noon. In the same vein, shops showing 24hr service are closed by 10 p.m., at most.

In all, these we don’t seem to feel embarrassed as we keep investors waiting for hours because a minister is late.

To make it even worse, we have boldly found a name for it - Ghana time - which is usually one to three hours after GMT.

How and where we acquired such negative traits is difficult to tell.

Even as children, reporting late to school was not the way to go since every pupil knew the sanctions could be unpalatable.

The importance of time keeping has been drummed home to us over the years to no avail.

 If anything at all, it looks like the situation is going from bad to worst.

 It is time we made a concious effort starting from national to the community level to address this canker.

The media could intensify education in this regard.

At the organisational level, people who keep the time could be awarded to motivate others.

This must, however, be differentiated from those who report to the office early to make use of toilet facility due to the lack of one at their places of abode.

Perpetual late comers should also be sanctioned though I hasten to add that this can only be effective if supervisors are punctual.

 In this globalised world,nobody is waiting for us and if it is our desire to catch up with those ahead, then we need to revise our time keeping, after all, time is still money.

In China, they believe that it is disrespectful to be late and that when a person is late, he or she unnecessarily punishes others.

Time is strictly regarded here as an irreplaceable resource once lost.

 Obviously, that in addition to hard work is what must have resulted in the level of development that am witnessing here.  

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