By Ogunleye Moboluwarin
Some days ago I had the privilege of reporting a program by an organization at the University of Ibadan. According to the flier, the event was scheduled to begin by 10:00 am. And so, as a prompt person, I woke up by 8 am, had my bath, got dressed, and was ready to leave for the event by 9:30 am.
By 9:30 am, I started walking down to the venue. Upon reaching the venue I realized, to my dismay that it was practically empty save for the organizers, the decorators, and the sound engineers. Wondering what was going on, I pulled out my phone to make sure I had the time correctly; I did. It was 10:05 am, the time on the flier said 10:00 am, but the building was empty.
A little miffed at this point, I went to the convener and asked her what time she expects the program to start, and then she launched into a tirade, complaining about things that went wrong during preparations. Eventually, she tells me she expects the program to start around 12 noon and so I left.
Not wanting to make the same mistake I made in the morning, I left my room for the program again by 1 pm, and thankfully it had started. But these events come to light as a precedence of lateness among school-organized events that I have noticed in the past few weeks in this premiere university.
Thomas Chandler Halliburton said it best when he said “Punctuality is the soul of business”. But unfortunately, it seems the organization I mentioned above did not get the memo, and sadly, it’s the same way with others. So what causes this apparent indiscipline in event organizers?
Firstly, similar to my experience above, It is prosaic in our climes to have vendors who are part of the planning of an event – sound engineers for example- arriving at 10:30 am for an event scheduled for 10:00 am. We can only imagine what time the event eventually starts. This leads to the precedence of lateness which discourages guests from coming on time in the future.
In other instances, you’d have both the organizers and the guests alike playing into the ‘African time’ fallacy. With guests deliberately avoiding going on time because “ They have never started so early in the past; am I supposed to go and assist them in opening the door”. These are one of the many ideologies people use to excuse and justify lateness and sadly, most of the time, they are not wrong. You’d find organizers themselves expect people to show up late, so when they announce a time for an event, they actually work towards a much later time that guests would be expected to show.
Furthermore, tardiness drags back the time an event is supposed to start, for example; the conveners arriving late to their own events, which just leaves the rest of the organizers just waiting at the venue with no apparent direction and no actual work gets done till he/she gets there.
It is evident that this apparent indiscipline among these organizers does nothing good for the schedules of guests. For example, in my example above, the event I went to lasted about 3 hours. If the event had started at 10 am as earlier planned, it would have ended around 1 pm leaving the rest of my day free for other activities. But unfortunately, by starting the program late, its conclusion which was supposed to be by 1 pm becomes moved forward to 3 pm with the two hours I spent waiting wasted.
To prevent this in the future, I’d advise event organizers to try having a well and clearly defined schedule during planning. However, this does not mean that lesser jobs should be ignored when they come in. To put it another way, if someone is awaiting your response in order to proceed and you already know the answer, you should let them know.
Furthermore, auditions for new caterers or providers should not be held during events with stringent scheduling constraints. Always prioritize continuing business with established and reputable suppliers, if at all possible. Maintaining a good working connection with your provider should help to reduce the likelihood of encountering any unpleasant shocks along the route.
Finally, the ‘African time’ phenomenon will continue to be difficult to overcome until we come to the realization that time management follows naturally on the heels of life management and that the two cannot be divorced from one another. But in the meantime, organizers are advised to be disciplined and stick to their already appointed time to avoid setting precedence and giving an excuse to latecomers.