Abeni Aso-Oke

Nigerian Workforce: How to Look Forward to Retirement. By Prof. MK Othman

Group of Nigeria pensioners
Abeni Aso-Oke

 Dan-Ibro, the famous Hausa film actor of blessed memory, acted as manager of NEPA of a community. Unknowingly, he instructed one of his subordinates to cut off the cable supplying electricity to a family house of a lady he was courting because they failed to settle their monthly bill. When the lady exited the house seductively, Dan-Ibro immediately withdrew his instruction, but the subordinate hesitated. Dan-Ibro barked, “If you don’t stop it, I will retire you immediately!” The man jumped down the ladder for fear of retirement. In Nigeria, retirement is like a prison sentence, which everyone detests. As a worker, your take-home pay does not take you home, but as a retiree, your pension is so meager that it can hardly meet 10% of your basic needs as a senior citizen. The miserable life of a retiree starts in the month he retires from his job – no salary, no gratuity, and no pension; if he is unlucky to live in staff quarters, his house will be given to someone who may be in a hurry and impatient to move in. The tension continues to mount without reprieve.

In contrast, retirement is like a ticket to heaven in developed countries. Common phrases when encountering people about to retire are “goodbye tension, hello pension”, “I can wine all I want without worrying about waking up early; I am retired”, and “When you come here next to two/three years, you will not see me, I will be in so, so place enjoying my retirement holiday”. To them, retirement means having a joyful rest, physically, mentally, and psychologically, after 30 years of diligent and meritorious service to their motherland. Here, retirement is doing nothing without worrying about getting caught in it.
Retirement for workers in Nigeria and developed countries presents starkly contrasting pictures. This piece aims not to delve into the reasons behind the hardships faced by retiring workers but rather to explore what Nigerian workers can do to find solace and perhaps even look forward to their retirement.
As a consultant to the Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN), I was among the thirteen WOFAN-ICON 2 project-sponsored participants in two intensive training workshops in London on Planning for Retirement and Developing Effective Policies. The workshops ran from 13th to 24th May 2024. Master Card Foundation funds the WOFAN-ICON 2 project in Nigeria. WOFAN is implementing an Integrated Community-led Network of Hope Scale-up (ICON2) project targeting the economic empowerment of 675,000 people for a three-year project duration within the age bracket of between 18 and 35 years. Huge successes have been recorded since project commencement.
Now, back to the subject matter. Like death, the retirement date must come to pass, prepared or unprepared. After witnessing the retirement of our senior colleagues, it is evident that our retirements are fast approaching. How prepared are we? Who am I after retirement? When working, we often identify ourselves by our role, saying things like ‘I am the CEO’ or ‘I am the Finance Director’ at…Losing this identity can be challenging. The road ahead after retirement can often be viewed with apprehension or concern about ‘who am I now?’ you might ask yourself the following questions. What is my purpose now that I am not working? What status in society do I have now? How will I fill my days & stimulate my intellectual needs? Will I be lonely and miss the social interaction? Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Many others are going through the same transition, and there are resources and support available to help you navigate this new phase of life.
Retirement is not the end of life; it is a transition, a regeneration from one stage of the journey to another in our lifetime, the beginning of a new phase. With proper planning and preparation, retirement can be transformed into an important life journey that could be thrilling. It’s a time for personal growth, self-discovery, and new beginnings. There are five significant stages of preparation for successful retirement and continue with your life until the creator, Almighty God, calls you to a permanent home. These are self-assessments to understand yourself, planning for retirement journey, engagement, and planning for succession and execution.
In self-assessment, you must understand your inner and outer self. This is a powerful tool that can help you take control of your retirement journey. Explore the motivators, positive and negative influences, and impactful experiences that have shaped how you live and your life purpose. This is done through conducting meticulous self-assessments of your life journey to learn about yourself, understand your personality, and increase self-awareness. How can you do that? The simple method of self-evaluation is to assess your behavior. Before behavior assessment, you must be honest and genuine and live your values; measure your worth, which is authenticity. Authenticity is genuine of one’s character, personality, or spirit. Behavior is what you see in ourself (skill, knowledge, and attitude), and what you don’t see are the drivers—feelings, uncertainty, needs, values, emotions, traits, motives, and thoughts. The first self-assessment stage is constructing a simple life chart of good and bad events from your youthful life to date. What would life look like if you could take everything you learned into retirement planning? A life chart or lifeline involves plotting significant events that helped to define the person you are today. This will be anything that has had a meaningful impact on you. Study your lifeline, observe the swings, and track your mood swings, life events, and medication through the chart.
Knowing if they are related can help you control your mood swings. It would be best to have self-control and wisdom as a senior citizen. Next, conduct a personal style inventory (PSI). The purpose of PSI is to give you a picture of the shape of your preferences, but that shape, while different from the shapes of other persons’ personalities, has nothing to do with mental health or mental problems. At the end of the lifeline exercise, you will discover yourself, your weakness, your strength, and what trickers your emotion. Note your peak moments (positive or negative); what did you learn from these events? Is there anything that you did, you could have done differently? What are the three fundamental values dominating your decision-making? When you have discovered yourself, identify areas needing adjustment in your new retirement life, do away with negativity, and concentrate on positive actions. You must improve your resilience and transform your elasticity into plasticity – the ability to recover and normalize after intense pressure. How can you build your resilience to be ready for your transition journey?
The next stage is the retirement plan and engagement. First, you must resolve to continue working until you can no longer. However, the type of work, where, and how to do the work has to change. It would be best if you planned to maintain physical health and fitness, be curious about learning, and appreciate the fundamentals of financial planning. You should be the captain of your life with several options and openings. Investment in income-generating activities, engagement in voluntary community services in which you have competency, involvement in religious activities, socialization with peers and loved ones, and many other vocations that can occupy your time. Boredom is a killer.
The last two stages are legacy and succession plan. Ideally, retirement preparation starts 10 to 5 years before the retirement date. What legacy would you want to leave in your workplace? Legacy would imprint your name in the sand of time, which will continue to immortalize you after you leave or your demise.
The Nigerian-born Philosopher & Global motivator, Emeasoba George said “The greatest legacy anyone can leave behind is positively impacting others.” That means adding value to other people’s lives, knowingly or unknowingly. It is therefore important to engage in activities during your service years with the long-lasting impact of your life passed down to the next generation within the context of character (Reputation, Ethics & Values) and wisdom. The last is to choose an heir who will continue building on the foundation you erected and improve the system even after your retirement. This involves a meticulous succession plan through consultation, stakeholder engagement, and personal quality assessment of potential successors. Retirement is actual; the earlier you prepare for it, the better, and you may even look forward to it—best of luck.

Abeni Aso-Oke
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