Permanent secretaries, directors of civil service, military generals, judges, school teachers, professors, journalists and many more are among the endless list of people who retire from active professional career every year, many of them un-tired due to good health, yet the society forces them to expire because we undervalue the significance of their contributions.
Retirement in our countries has become one of the biggest sources of frustration. After serving thirty to forty years, after investing his youthfulness without learning a single tip on how to live a private life, after sacrificing substantial part of his earnings and savings with the pension board; indeed at the time he gathered all the experience needed by the younger generation, he is suddenly required to retire into the world of uncertainty.
The focus of this discourse is not necessarily about retirement itself, but how our society neglects the experience of the retiree. The hero of yesterday has suddenly become the toy of grand-children. He has suddenly become the story of the expired specie whose service is only required to supervise naming and wedding ceremonies, sleep in the house until mid-day, find time to visit fellow retirees in the evening to share their frustration, and remain endlessly waiting for the realization of his pension. His past contribution is ignored, his present ability dismissed, his potential under-estimated and his contribution to the society never appreciated. If he is the honest variety who doesn’t steal from public funds, the same society he dedicated himself to serve frowns at him for being ‘stupid’, within a year of leaving service, the gentleman whose signature approved projects, whose order sent shivers in the office, has now become a spectator.
But there are so many services that our retirees can offer. In fact, they could do a better job than many of the neophytes our society tends to trust but who continue to disappoint. I recall in the mid-1990s, when the Kano State Government came up with a policy for establishing model primary schools in key areas of the state. The headmasters were selected from the pool of experienced retirees who served in various capacities in the State. They were given the resources and the support to pursue their duties. Within a short time they recruited the best teachers, created an excellent atmosphere of learning and teaching, and because they were elderly, old enough to be the fathers of some of the teachers, the respect the teachers had for them produced a culture of discipline and forthrightness. Within a short period, these schools excelled, parents started transferring their kids from the most expensive private schools into these public schools. But this was possible because at the time the potential of these retired individuals was recognized, and they were never allowed to expire, they were hired to transfer their skills where they are needed.
Recently, I was searching for a school for my daughter. I went to one school which I found extremely amazing, the staff looking very neat and disciplined. Everything that you could see was functioning well. No teachers in the staffroom chatting while classes were on course. It was a highly multi-cultural environment with the serenity that would make a child want to learn. After a brief discussion with the school’s headteacher, we exchanged business cards. A few minutes later, I looked at the business card and realized the headteacher was a retired army General. He never allowed himself to expire, he still has the energy to contribute to the society, and you could clearly see that in the organization of the school.
My heart quickly switched from one thought to another. Just imagine, if the position of councilors in our local governments is reserved for the retirees who worked in different sectors of the economy, and I wouldn’t mind that. Just imagine the results we will get if retirees are engaged to become headmasters as was once done in Kano State. Just imagine if the permanent secretaries, the SSGs, the senators, the generals, the school principals who retire annually, would be re-engaged even if on part-time basis to work in certain sectors of the economy, perhaps that will help improve some of the social services no matter how little. Yes I am only imagining, but there is no harm in trial.