By George Eze Emeghara
These days, things have changed. The approaching retirement date is looked upon with great fear.
This fear has led to a boom in the business of affidavits as people scramble to alter their ages. They swear affidavits declaring false ages and bribe the clerks in the relevant offices to substitute whatever was in their files with the new documents bearing the false age.
This age manipulating game is not limited to government workers. Those in the organised private sector are also in on the game, as are politicians who don’t want to appear too old to run for, or hold office. Even private business men are involved. Some of them want to project themselves as ” whizz kids” who made their money early.
In many marriages, one or both parties cut years off their real age to give the impression that they are younger than they really are. Some couples don’t even know the real age of their spouses.
This penchant for age falsification can have consequences that are both ridiculous and amusing.
Once, I ran into a classmate who was working with one of the paramilitary agencies. He said they came to bury the younger brother of one of his bosses. He also disclosed they were amused to see that the obituary posters showed that the man died at the age of 62 years while the age of his elder brother, his boss, in their official records was 58 years old.
Obviously, the his boss was not as smart, or as careful, as another over aged top civil servant who decreed that no mention must be made of the age of his deceased younger brother during the brother’s burial. Consequently, the obituary posters and brochure which was circulated at the funeral did not carry the man’s age.
One other top civil servant summoned an emergency meeting of his extended family when he learned that his younger brother’s children were planning to have a big party to celebrate their father’s 70th birthday. He pleaded with his kinsmen to prevail on his brother’s children to shelve their plans so as not to expose him. The stories emanating from the numerous age audit panels set up from time to time are some thing else.
When “affidavit ages ” are compared with unalterable dates such as those on the certificates presented by the same persons, the results are usually scandalous . They reveal that some of the people being audited managed to obtain their secondary school school certificates at the age of five years or less.
In a bid to look their new age these sit tight workers, starve to look slimmer and younger, wear tight clothes, dye their hair jet black , shave off any hair on their body that has turned grey and invest in creams that moisturize the skin and remove wrinkles.
Their reason for trying to postpone the” evil” day of retirement is largely economic.
These days, people retire and ten years after, they have not been paid their gratuity. The pension is irregular and often delayed with some being owed for as much for as much as forty eight months or four years. Even when the pension is paid regularly, the amount they get cannot keep pace with the galloping inflation in the economy.
It is the state of the economy that has made it virtually impossible for retirees to launch second careers as entrepreneurs. In the past many retirees became even richer than when they were in service, thanks to the businesses they established after retirement. Before now, by the time they retired most workers would have managed to build or acquire one or two houses.
With the high cost of living, high cost of bringing up children, high cost of everything else, building a house has become a dream for many.
Not a Picnic
When they retire and are compelled to vacate their official quarters or they lose whatever housing allowance they get on the job, most of them are not be able to afford a place to live.
Retirement is not a picnic in today’s Nigeria, so it is not a surprise that people do not look forward to it and they do all they can to postpone it.
Apart from the few who managed to make money on the job or those who are lucky enough to have children who can support them, most other people would do anything to hang onto their jobs for as long as they can. Considering the circumstances, no one can blame them.
Since everything is connected, their sit tight posture creates huge problems in what ever system they are working in. In addition to slowing down service delivery, the fear of retirement compounds the unemployment situation.
If people retire when they are supposed to, their subordinates would move up and create room for new hands to be employed to fill whatever vacancies there are.
This is why the various governments in Nigeria have to make retirement attractive once again. They must discharge their responsibilities to retirees promptly and regularly. Gratuity should be paid on retirement and pension should not be delayed.
Until this is done, people will continue to revise their dates of birth and the brisk business in affidavits, hair dyes and moisturising creams and wrinkle removers will not abate.
George Eze Emeghara is a Nigerian journalist, writer and public affairs commentator based in the southeastern city of Owerri. Money Palaver is his weekly column for Nairaweb.ng.