Work: Nigeria Pathway Towards Economic Emancipation
Man has witnessed many civilizations. But of course civilization is the product of man. Since the beginning of human existence, each epoch, each generation is marked by a certain civilization - a specific system of social development - from the development of tools to the manufacture of the most sophisticated machine now available. Generations come and go with their accompanying civilizations, but one thing remains and will continue to remain as the underlying factor of the past and future civilizations. This is nothing else but work and, we mean human work. Civilization or development of whatever kind is the product of work and is determined by work.
Work, therefore, remains the single most effective means of development, the single most effective means of technology and economic advancement and emancipation. On the other hand the pace of development in technology and its nature, dictates the pace and nature of economic emancipation. “The form and nature of work process help determine the character of a civilization, but in turn, a society's economic, political and cultural characteristics shape the form and nature of the work process as well as the role and status of the worker within the society.”
Work is described or defined as “human activity designed to accomplish something needed and valued for its functions in civilized life.” From this description a distinction can be made of work as essential in providing the basic and physical needs of food, clothing and shelter and other explanations given at different times for the existence and purpose of work for human survival; and work as a human value for self-fulfillment and thus “re-creational.” Although work is commonly applied to manual or physical labour, yet its understanding does not exclude intellectual or other psychological prowess. However, in this write-up, we shall consider work not in its limited sense of manual or physical nature, but also and more importantly, intellectual work which is the basis and which gives meaning to any form of human work. It is not the prerogative of this paper to enumerate kinds of work. That in itself would present an impossible task since it would involve the enumeration of all forms of human activity.
WORK AND THE CHANGING TIMES:
Time is an indefinite continued progress of existence. As it is often said, man waits for time but time does not wait for man. There exists in our world today a radical and profound economic and social transformation. These transformations have great impact on all sectors of social life including work. Every transformation is an innovation. It brings new things. But at the same time, in every transformation, there is an element of tension between the old and the new. Almost all works today have become corporate-like. Even the ministry is similar to corporate jungle. Traditionally, work has ≠been a reserve of men, but now that arena has yielded to the other sex. It becomes important that man has to have a rethink of the meaning of work in the changing situations. He has to think through a host of ne work related issues.
These transformations have also brought about tensions between the instruments of work and the worker, between technological innovation and the need to safeguard the work place. Pope John Paul II points out “In the more industrialized countries, the phenomenon has taken on such dimensions that the model of dependent work that was carried out in the factories with set hours already belong to the past.” There is no doubt that these changes have great and profound impact both on the human person and on his economy. For one thing, many workers in the modern market place feel increasingly bored with their jobs and with life. Robert Hicks offers this advice: “Since work occupies one half of man’s waking hours, this area of life is critically important. For activity claiming so much of our time, we ought to reflect more on its nature, essence and meaning.” Pope John Paul II is even more emphatic in his observation and admonition. According to him,
It would be a serious error, however, to think that the changes taking place happen in a deterministic manner. The decisive factor, the 'arbiter' of this complex phase of change, is once again the human person, who must remain the true protagonist of his work. He can and must take responsibility in a creative way for the changes that are happening, to ensure that they promote the growth of the-person, of the family, of the society in which he lives and of the entire human family.
Therefore, it is to be said and expected that the human person who is both the subject of work and the protagonist of change, must not allow himself to be left behind, swallowed, confused and led astray in the changes that take place. Man is the author of technology and technology is made for man. Thus technology which brings about changes in the place of work must be dully harnessed to the good of man so that man does not become a tool in the hands of technology. It must be said that technology of any kind is indifferent to the use that is made of it. The actual use of it may be ethically right or wrong or it may be right or wrong from the point of view of the technique itself. There is no doubt that technology has immensely increased the productivity of unskilled labour. If the remuneration were proportional to production, the unskilled labourers would for the first time in history, enjoy a high economic position. In other words, technology can be and should be put to a good use for economic emancipation of the human person.
NIGERIAN ATTITUDE TOWARD WORK
It can be said that every person who has attained the use of reason spends the great majority of his/her working hours or his/her life at work. This is even more true of the Nigerians whose working life begins much earlier. Nigerians generally are hard working. This is because they are born into the situation where they must struggle in order to survive. “The kind of work they do during these many hours and the attitude they take toward that work impact profoundly on their development as persons, on the solidity of their sense of self and on the nature of culture they produce in common.” It is an observable fact that the social etiquette about work is gradually changing. The “How do you do?” or “How is work?” pleasantries are so eroding and giving way to “What do you do?” For most people, this is not Mere a chanced or an incidental question, it gets to the root of peoples identity. People’s identity is becoming closely tied to their work. This is not a problem in itself. It is just that what one does is beginning to determine how one does it and the attitude towards such a work.
There are certain works especially among Nigerians that are seen or perceived to have some prestige or dignity attached to them and others without such prestige or dignity. We cannot put a tag on these because they vary from place to place and from one community to the other depending on what value gains the upper hand in a particular locality. The truth is that the attitudes of the subjects toward work are different and I mean in terms of positive and negative attitudes. Definitely, the productivity levels would as well be different. It does even happen that those with the so-called prestigious works have allowed their heads to be swollen and their egos magnified by their mere association with such works that their commitment level is at the barest minimum. Thus productivity that should befit such a position and work is not forth coming. Worse still do those who perceive or think that society perceive their work as non-prestigious. Such people are not only proud of their work but they are not happy to be associated with it. One can only imagine their level of commitment and consequently the output of their work. These groups are simply at work in order to get their livelihood. They have neither joy nor satisfaction that comes from working; and they care less about the effect of their work on others. There is very little dedication to duty and there is no fulfillment. There are others still who are merely opportunists and lazy especially about what does not concern them. They have a kind of laisser faire attitude at work and only wait for their pay. C. T. Adebayo expresses it better when she says: “There are some workers, who knowing that salaries would be paid, would prefer not to work. This is especially applicable to the civil servant who knows that their paycheck at the end of the month is constant, whether he/she is seen to work hard or not.”
In the attitudes such as these, work offers very little to man in terms of growth, productivity, fulfillment and economic emancipation. It becomes merely a means of recognition, status, style, personal significant and survival. Work must go beyond survival and proofing of personhood to the outside world.
Poor or minimal attitudes towards work is not only the creation of workers, other factors can actually encourage indifferent and lackadaisical attitudes at work. These include poor remuneration, lack of appreciation and poor condition at work place, to mention but a few. Every worker deserves and expects at the end of his working hours, week or month (depending on the agreed arrangernent) a just wage or remuneration. But where the wages are proportionately lobesided compared to the amount of work done, the indifferent attitude of the worker towards the work is not and should not be a surprise. It is actually expected. Worse still is when the wages are not paid at the expected and needed time. It is difficult in such a case to have the good disposition of the worker at work.
CHANGING ATTITUDE TOWARDS WORK AND ECONOMIC EMANCIPATION
Work is said to be anything we do to sustain ourselves in the world. The word sustain here should be understood in a wider sense. Robert Hicks explains: “It should be clear that work involves far more than a mere job or occupation. It involves our goals, our time, our motives, and ultimately our view of life and ourselves.” Man is not a machine, thus work is not a mechanical system. It is a conscious human act and must be applied to some human purpose which goes beyond merely economic value. Pope John II captures the picture:
As long as man exists, there will be a free gesture of authentic participation in creation, which is work. Work is one of the essential components in realizing the vocation of man who, in fulfilling himself, always discovers that he is called by God to dominate the earth.... Today, compared with the past, these concepts appear to be increasingly inadequate to interpret the facts, because they fail to recognize the absolutely original nature of ark, which is man's free and creative activity.
The above statement sets a tone for a changing attitude towards work for economic emancipation but above all for the emancipation of the human person from the burden of work itself. The human person has to come to terms with the fact that work is part of human living. The human person has to accept that it is not the kind of work ha one does - it is not the so called prestigious work that gives prestige. What actually gives prestige is the fact that one works. In other words, it is not what I do but how I do what I do. We have to embrace the old ways of “How do you do?” and “How is work?” and try to minimize the “What do you do?” question so also as to minimize the question of which work is prestigious and which is not? Everybody is working: one who flies an airplane and one who drives a tractor in the field; one who sits in the air-conditioned room of the skyscraper and one who cleans the public toilet at the basement; one who discovers the most-current cloning technology and who weeds in his flower garden; etc. All these are works and workers and it is how they do these works that really matter.
This is the basis of Nigerian technology. We cannot import technology that is above and beyond the nature of our work process, otherwise the best technologies will, at work be put to a very bad use. Nigeria must develop its own technology based on its own philosophy of work. We must become specialist in whatever we do by the way we do it. We cannot become specialist if we do not recognize work as a duty, a divine mandate, accept it whatever it may be, be proud of it, enjoy it, put our best in it, improve upon it and get the best out of it. This is the only way we can expect not only economic emancipation but also the emancipation from the drudgery of work.
So far we have been talking about work as physical or manual. We mentioned earlier that to limit work to only physical or manual ill give a narrow understanding of the concept. There is also intellectual work and consequently, intellectual worker. Intellectual activity more often than not is considered an activity of the privileged few or group. And compared to manual work, it is an activity that one need not bother about. The truth must, however, be said that there is no work which is human that is not at the same time intellectual or intellect based.
We want to set out with the premise that knowledge is work because it is a human activity. It goes without saying that if one wants to know something, one must work hard for it. And it is even said that reason acquires its possession through work. Thus knowledge is the fruit of human intellect or human effort. However, let us understand knowledge here in two senses: useful knowledge, i.e., knowledge that is directed to useful ends. It can also be called functional knowledge. In this case, it is not difficult to understand knowledge as work - intellectual work. According to Josef Pieper, “Intellectual work in this context would mean intellectual activity in so far as it is a social service, in so far as it is a contribution to the common need.” In the second sense, knowledge that is gained for the sake of itself, i.e., for the sake of knowledge. It is very easy to recognize knowledge in the first sense as work and whoever possesses it, is an intellectual worker. This is knowledge of science and technology. Like the manual worker, he too, “is harnessed to the social system and takes his place in the division of labour; he is allotted his place and his function among the workers; he is a functionary ill the world of 'total work'; he may be called a specialist, but he is a functionary.”
The critical question is actually in the second sense of knowledge. The first question is: Is there any knowledge, human activity that is so liberal and so disinterested that it does not need to justify itself by some practical purposes? Secondly, if such knowledge exists, can it be called “work” and can the possessor of such knowledge be called “intellectual worker”? In the modern man's understanding of the concepts “intellectual work” and “intellectual worker,” but more especially in the modern man’s understanding of man from the point of view of functionality, the answer is clearly “NO.” In other words, in ordinary functional world, there is no knowledge that does not point to some ends outside itself.
God created the world and gave man the charge of caring for it. That is man's first responsibility, or put it differently, man's first work. Work is part and parcel of human existence. Through work man enters into a certain relationship with God the creator who is himself a worker. Not to work is not only dehumanizing, but is also a denial of the fact that man is made in the image of God to be a worker. Even the Holy Scripture has it: "I see there is no happiness for man but to be happy in his work, for this is the lot assigned to him" (Qoheleth, 3: 22). Therefore, we must not look at work as servitude, but rather we must see work as that which sets us free from servitude. Works sets us free from economic bondage, free us from idleness, gives us the opportunity to do good to others but above all, in work we serve God. Laborare est orare. Hendricks and Sherman sum it all up thus: “Through work we serve people, through work we meet our own needs, through work we meet our family's needs, through work we earn money to give to others, through work we love God.”
The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed., S.V. “Work and Employment,” edt by A.F. Saint.
New Catholic Encycloppedia, 1981 ed. S.V. “Technology of Work,” by E.G Kaiser.
 Pope John Paul II, “The Human Person is the Measure of Work,” in The Pope Speaks, Vol. 47, no. 4
 Robert Hicks, Uneasy Manhood; The Quest for Self-Understanding (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub, 1991), 54.
 Pope John Paul II, “The Human Person is the Measure of Work” pg. 196-7.
 Doering, B. “The Philosophy of†Work and the Future of Civilization: Maritain, Weil and Simon in From Twilight to Dawn: The Culture Vision of Jacques Maritain (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990),49.
 Adebayo C.T., “Attitude of Nigerians to Work as reflected in Yoruba Proverbs,” in Nigerianess (Enugu: Vougasen Ltd, 2000), 107.