A short piece on Nigerians’ consciousness to the time factor.


The major tenet of African time is, “You don’t do things at the right time, else you appear too subservient to time.”

Someone said that the maxim “time is value” is of great importance to a Nigerian. This is very true as all actions, reactions, and inactions of Nigerians revolve around time consciousness. Nigerians’ great respect for time is shown in their creation of another form of time that best suits their demands, known as the “African time.” So when a Nigerian fixes time for some important event, don’t be surprised when the event starts at the allocated time, the next day. That’s among the wonders of African Time.

Scholarly attempts to define African time have proved abortive as it’s become difficult to pinpoint it to a single definition. Some people opine that African Time would bring the similitude of European time-consciousness to Nigerians, others say that it would give our leaders a sense of belonging when they reference certain completion of projects to a particular time.

If you are going to attend a Nigerian’s wedding ceremony and the invitation card says the programme would start at 10 am. You will be doing yourself a great deal of disservice if you get to the event centre a few minutes before the scheduled time as an early bird. Of course, the wedding ceremony would have begun but you would be the MC, DJ, and attendee all rolled into one to kick-start the ceremony.

Nigerians’ continuous (dis)regard for time is shown in whatever activities they engage in. If you invite a Nigerian to dinner at 8 pm, you must not be too hungry to eat the food because the Nigerian wouldn’t show up quite soon. So expect him around 10 pm or 11 pm; and please when he comes, do not thank him for coming too early. Else you would have no choice but to listen to his eulogy of time.

The African time though not widely known is what made people all over the world know the characteristics of a Nigerian. They keep adding more hours to the scheduled time in relation to events and that’s what makes them distinct. But never confuse this time phenomenon with procrastination, they can never be the same.

Even school students nowadays show fervid love for African time. A school would resume by 8 am and you would see some students sauntering around the school gate around 10 am. You then wonder if it is still the same school they are attending.

A friend of mine was telling me a story the other day. He said a Nigerian was invited to a programme by his European friend abroad. And, as the tradition goes, he got there three hours after the scheduled time and was surprised that the event had long ended. Of course, he was right to have used African Time … but was wrong to have used it in another man’s country.

There are many contributions by people of wits who have given explanations on how African Time operates so an innocent person would not be caught unawares. Many deliberations brought about some guidelines that best describe the operation of the African time.

If you’re invited to an event and you hear the MC saying the following, rest assured African time is in operation:

1. We are sorting out some logistics.

2. Give a round of applause to the organisers of this event.

3. Our guests of honour will be with us in a few moments.

4. Before we commence the programme, you can do a brief introduction among yourselves

Many people have, however, expressed their displeasure over the negative effects of African time. They say it is a disregard for Father Time and would tarnish the nation’s image globally. But that’s just mere talk. It is not a valid argument. Isn’t it amazing that a student may come to an examination and find his friends discussing answers to the questions and predicting questions in the next paper? Moreover, if you are invited to a food feast by your neighbour, you need not be too punctual, lest you create the impression that you are hungry and only your neighbour’s meal can suffice you.

The African time factor is very applicable to the project implementation of the Nigerian government as well. If the Minister of Transportation says, “We will complete the Lagos-Ibadan expressway in two years’ time.” Of course, the citizens would jubilate, but they know full well that that project would be commissioned in five, six, seven years … or, in fact, may never be completed. No need to fret. It is just African Time in action!