I woke up this morning to a phone call from a very big shot in corporate Nigeria. They are hiring. The usual case of having only one or two advertised positions, 5000 or more applicants.
They’d taken the applicants to hell and back in the usual Nigerian ways of weeding – endless exams, aptitude tests, etc. Were it possible, Nigerian employers would also organize 100-metre sprint competitions for potential hires just to weed.
Anyway, they are now down to two and the big Oga wanted to talk to me about one of them. I was surprised that somebody at his level of seniority in the corporate ladder should be the one calling about an entry level position designed for EMPLOYABLE University graduates in the millennial generation.
I thought that a manager or a unit supervisor should have phoned me. Then I remembered that in employment matters in Naija, the Oga patapatas tend to oversee everything in an economy of slots, quotas, and allocations, etc.
“Prof, Prof, we were surprised to see your name as one of the referees of Mr. XYZ.”
“My Oga at the top, how man for do now? We are doing what we can to mentor those who can still be mentored in that generation.”
“So you’ve known him for a long time? He has really impressed us throughout this process.”
“I’ve known and interacted with him intensely for about five years now. It started on social media. He was in 400 level and approached me to be his mentor…”
“Ah, Prof, as if you read my mind, speaking of social media, that’s why I am calling you. We checked the social media accounts of our last two candidates. I didn’t do the checking but our people did and they found one update we thought we should investigate a bit.”
“My Oga at the top, una don start o. So, what did he write?”
“Nothing too bad. Something about his morning habits. If you are online right now, I can email you a screenshot. What’s your email address, Prof?”
I gave my email address to him, making a mental note of the fact that an employer had made a screenshot of a potential employee’s social media update. I don’t even know the legality of it all.
It is a grey area but more and more employers do it here in the West – they sniff around employees’ and job candidates’ social media accounts a great deal. This Nigerian Oga had taken it a step further by grabbing a screenshot.
The email arrives. And I see my protege yabbing away about how much he loves his morning sleep and doesn’t like waking up in the morning. Nothing much to it. Just one of those regular Facebook Naija yarns where you put up something about a habit and ask your friends and followers how they fare in relation to that update.
In the screen grab, you could see some early commenters saying they are like him, they don’t like to wake up early. Some are saying they are up by 5 am. People were just generally gisting about their sleeping habits.
I immediately understood the problem.
“Well, Prof, have you seen it”
“Oga I have seen it o. And I know why you are worried”
“Of course, Prof, the position requires a lot of early morning work in the office. The hire needs to do a lot of important ground work in the morning that must land on certain desks everyday before noon.
Although we expect the hire to start at 8:00 am, we actually won’t mind somebody who has enough sense to arrive much earlier. This your man that is saying he does not like to wake up…”
When I agreed to be the young man’s mentor and told him that he could use my name as reference in applications, I thought I would be asked one day to testify to his brilliance, sense of initiative, innovative spirit, sense of responsibility, diligence, etc.
I never could have imagined that his self description as a late riser on social media could potentially become the decider of his fate. I had to deploy my best oratorical skill to allay the Oga’s fears.
I told him that, obviously, I cannot speak to the sleeping and waking habits of my protege but I’ve been on social media long enough with millennials to understand that he was just probably mouthing off.
I told him about the psychology of Nigerian millennials on social media and how majority of them do not even realize the potential impact of what they do on social media on their lives.
For many of them, it is an anathema not to write entire paragraphs in what they think are cool and sexy abbreviations (yet, they have job applications pending somewhere and employers quietly monitoring to form an opinion); many of them cannot go to bed until they have met their daily quota of the number of people they must be rude to, people they must insult in the crudest possible language (yet, they have job applications pending somewhere and they don’t know who is monitoring).
I talked and talked and talked. Trying to minimize the impact of the update. I even mentioned Dipo Famakinwa who constantly tries to advise millennials on the difference between social media and real life.
“Oga, I think my boy just dey form ni o,” I concluded.
Whether he gets the job or not is now between him and his head.
God will save our folks from the grips of ASSDS – Assured Self Destruct Syndrome.
This article was written by Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada.