The three-day holiday

The recent, universally observed Ramadan fast finally culminated in Nigeria going on a public holiday spree. For the first time, the usual two-day break was unduly extended to three days on account of some sloppiness on the part of the Interior Ministry which handles such matters.  Usually, the end of the Ramadan is determined by the religious rule of sighting the moon but once the fasting has lasted for 30 days, it automatically terminates irrespective of the vagaries of the elements. Somehow, this year, the moon did not hurry out to be sighted early enough to permit the usual variance experienced by the faithful at the end of the fasting period.

Without sighting any moon, the Interior Ministry declared Tuesday, July 5 and Wednesday, July 6 as holidays for the Eid-el-Fitri, only to later include Thursday, July 7, as the holidays progressed, thus giving a country in recession an official authority for undeserved sloth. We can wager a guess that the 8th July which happened to be a Friday also went as a public holiday, especially in the civil service that has a legendary reputation for malingering and sloth.

Across the country, the initial response to the development was total incredulity, as such a flagrant abuse of protocol had never been experienced before. But it became official when a release to that effect from the Federal Government sealed it, and there have been effusive reactions from a  public whose adroitness at concocting absurdities is almost beyond belief. One of such public reactions was its implication for the adherents of other faiths. It could, for instance, be expected that this official largesse will eventually be extended to Christian faithful during Christmas in the name of religious balancing, even though the Christian faith hardly ever depends on the elements to celebrate its festivals.

Any kind of official hesitation may not be justifiable without the administration betraying a bias in favour of one faith against the others. This is one fundamental reason for the condemnation of the tactlessness of the Interior Ministry in handling such a sensitive issue that could unnecessarily spark seething resentments against the Federal Government. We are therefore unequivocal in condemning this lapse on the part of the Interior Ministry which has the bounden duty to advise the government properly.

But of course the larger picture is the country’s penchant for holidays in the face of the precipitous trajectory of its productivity level. Incidentally, this issue provided the background canvass for the recent lapse by the government in not exercising enough restraint in granting an extra day as a public holiday. According to reports, the three-day holiday cost the country about N138 billion. This was because there were scheduled treasury bills auction estimated at N94 billion, as well as N44 billion treasury bills maturity for the week, which the unusual holidays put off.

Hindered by crude infrastructure, it is easy to see why the country’s GDP is not anywhere near the ideal considering the immense potential market promised by the critically underserved population. The country’s public sector may have the lackadaisical attitude to productivity but it has an untoward damaging and reverberating effect on the private sector that does not have to share in the effects of the attitude on productivity. This is, we think, a most unfortunate development. As corporate citizens, many private companies are constrained to conform to the dictates of their host community even when these are not wholesome to their economic survival in a globally competitive world. The offensive penchant, not to say craving, for indiscipline as the official attitude in Nigeria is once again in evidence.

As a country in recession, the three-day public holiday was an aberration and it gave the country up as irresponsible and recalcitrant, even to those who have a modicum of respect for it. Incidentally, the lingering pain being experienced by players in the economy is sourced from such attitudes as that which played out during the Eid-el Fitri break. It is impossible to reconcile the socio-economic dilemma which unemployment represents with the penchant for holidays at the drop of a hat. No effort must be spared to stop this crazy wave in the country’s tottering economy to save it from going under despite the promises it holds.