By Joseph Onajevwe
Growing up as a young man in the Ginuwa area of Warri, there were many stories, experiences and happenings that caught my fancy. Many of these stories meant nothing to my young impressionable mind at that time. In fact, many of such tales held no meaning to some of us. Some were wished away as tales by the moonlight fables cooked up by creative storytellers. Some were wished away as part of the anthology of jokes, innuendoes and witty tales in the neighbourhood that kept our social lives going or enriched our social exchanges and relationships. One of such jokes was that concerning the expression, ‘Afamaco work’ which in those days connotes, ‘I don’t want to work without pay or for free.’
It meant little or nothing other than its literary connotation without tangible setting about the origin of the expression until recently when the expression trended on social media, lending credence to its full value against the social setting where it originated from. According to the post, the origin of the saying was traced to Benin City, then Bendel State, now Edo State. It is said that there was a company in Ikpoba Hill, Benin City called Afam & Co., and the labourers and everyone called it ‘Afamaco’ as the story goes. It turned out that the owner of the company Mr Afam always delayed paying salaries to his workers. His poor workers tried to manage and bear with this bad employer but he didn’t change his behaviour. After a while, all the workers quit the company to other factories that paid salaries regularly.
With his reputation as a bad employer, whenever he advertised job vacancies in his factory, people refused to apply saying, ‘’I no Dey do Afamaco work” and this stuck to date. In my growing up days in Warri, the expression, ‘I no dey do Afamaco work’ was a kind of protest against investing one’s energy, time, resources and intellect in any venture that fail to yield expected dividends. To continue to do Afamaco work is to labour in vain, deliberately sign in to a contract without benefits. The Nigeria political experience is nothing but Afamaco work for the majority.
Every four years, the politicians appear before the people to apply for jobs. These jobs are given in form of votes. The employer of labour in the political setting is the ordinary voter. The voter in a true democracy constitutes the power cistern through whom power is invested in selected individuals saddled with the responsibility of taking decisions, conceiving ideas and acting on behalf of the people. After elections, the table is turned and the employees become the boss in the system. More often than not, our politicians (our bosses) have failed the people. Yet they come every four years to ask for the same votes and they are given or allowed to run away with the undeserved victory via the use of force and all shades of malpractices perpetrated with Nigerian youths. When are we going to be tired of Afamaco work?
If we are tired of Afamaco work, we should tell the politicians to their face that they have failed and deserve no reprieve from the people. During elections, many people are engaged to perform various duties to operate the electoral process but in the end, only one man would be commissioner for 8 years, reaping all the benefits from the political enterprise as the case is under Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. Most of the commissioners in 2015 since Okowa’s first coming are still in office harvesting the dividends and sweats of all the political actors from various local government areas while the rest are made to suffer pains and deprivations. That is a clear case of Afamaco work in the political arena. Some people say Okowa is an experienced politician but this man has failed to spread amongst a larger spectrum of the populace like President Buhari that is holding to performing and non-performing Ministers at the federal level. This kind of politics does not encourage hard work from the people. Only a very privileged few reap the benefits of everybody’s labour while the rest salivate in vain outside the dining session. Buhari and Okowa share the same blame in retaining his few henchmen for 8 years and by so doing failing the rest of the populace and even committed party faithful.
Many of our youths snatched ballot boxes, perpetuated violence and intimidated voters to ensure victory for particular candidates yet are dumped once they get into office. These ones would be recruited again and again for peanuts yet cannot protest like the workers in the Afam & Co. in Benin. The question is when will our youths be tired of Afamaco work? One thing is certain, not all those who participated in the political process derive direct benefits from electoral victories. But if elected officeholders are able to attract roads, schools and other public facilities to an area, the general public benefits. If people-oriented policies are formulated and enacted, the people benefit. But if the officeholders fail to promote good policies to better the lots of the citizens, it behoves on the people to reject them and vote for popular candidates that could work for them. Recycling failed, indolent, unintelligent and unpopular politicians every Election Year because of the peanuts they dole out aggregate being caught by the Afamaco spirit.
Any politician that will not promote the welfare of the people in his activities in the office is using the people as in the Afam & Co. experience of the old Benin workers. Such experiences must be rejected because, many vacancies will soon be announced by the Human Resources department of the Nigeria nation, INEC. In the Nigerian scenario, we have workers who do not want to work but get paid. They make empty promises and fail woefully. These failed politicians impose huge burdens on the people in the form of Afamaco experience. Nigerians should reject these applicants and bundle them out of the system. Nigeria deserves a system that could work for the masses. That is the only way to reject Afamaco work of labour without benefits.
Joseph Onajevwe writes from Ginuwa Road, Warri, Delta State.