In one of the Federal teaching hospitals in one state, Lawrence, an Insurance broker visited the hospital for a private diagnosis bordering on erectile dysfunction. The normal practice was for the nurses to take the bio-data of a patient before the patient sees a medical doctor.
That schedule includes the basic information about the patient’s sex, blood pressure, heartbeat, contact address and other personal information. Lawrence provided all that for the nurse within minutes and was ready to see the young female Doctor. Dr Imah looked at his folder and smartly noticed the documented age, which she could not juxtapose with his crumpled face, but remained calm.
It was a beautiful doctor/patient communication and after Lawrence’s attention was arrested through questions and interaction; it was obvious that the age written on the folder and his furrowed chin could not rhyme. Imah politely asked him, how old are you? Lawrence said 45 years. Again, she also asked which year he sat for the West African Examination Council (WAEC) because that is the easiest way to unravel hidden ages.
Naturally, people that had smooth educational transition leave secondary school between 16 and18 years. With those questions, there was pin-drop silence in the consulting room. As a professional, she persuaded Lawrence to state his real age and his imagination was beaten hastily because he came to the clinic unprepared for the age debate. Imah convinced him to state his real age because of the nature of his illness.
“Mr. Lawrence, the medical team in this unit will carry out a research on your type of ailment which will form the medication you will receive if you actually want to bounce back and fulfill your marital obligations as a man; otherwise you might not get the right solution because of the age difference. Lawrence then opened up and said, “my real age is 52 while my official age is 45”.
Interestingly, Lawrence is not alone in this saga. Mrs Owolabi had worked as a secretary in one of the Federal ministries in the state, but passed on after battling with liver Cirrhosis. During her burial rites, her colleagues discovered that the age written on her burial brochure was far different from her official documents in the Ministry. The rumour was discussed in hush-hush tunes while the burial ceremony was going on. With that experience, the Permanent Secretary addressed the staff to that effect and encouraged them to detail their real age instead of falsifying their ages, which is embarrassing when discovered.
In the same vein, Betty, a middle-aged lady, felt that age was the reason she was not getting attention from the opposite sex and decided to reduce her age. Within the process, a brother started giving her romantic attention and both walked very close to each other. Bros decided to take Betty, his new beau, to visit a senior female relative; seeing her august visitors at the entrance into her home; there was an unusual silence. What is amiss? Betty and her visitors were secondary school classmates. She was far older than her boyfriend, but has a deceptive look. That simple falsification of age discouraged the young man.
A story was also told of Nicholas, a political science student who was vying for the post of a student union president. He has done well in his campaigns, from faculty to faculty, various halls of residence, eloquent like his role model Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe with an aura of an accomplished fellow. Fellow students call him ‘candle that lights others’. He was the anointed candidate. The day of the manifesto between him and other contestants finally came; the school auditorium was filled to the brim. Yet, at the entrance were squeezes and pushing amidst sweats, fierce looks, stiffened hand and tight body contacts, all trying to catch a glimpse of the much-awaited manifesto. Young politicians are at it. Two contestants had their time before Nicholas who stated his agenda and went into question/answer session. Thumbs were raised and one was recognised to be at the podium to ask her question. “Nicholas, at Federal School of Arts and Science Aba, (FESACS) in the present Abia State, you were known as the oldest boy in your ‘A’ Level Class at the age of 24, after three years in the university, you are still 24 years old? The microphone fell down from his hand and Nicholas followed to the floor of the auditorium. He knew it was automatic disqualification because he falsified and owned two ages. He received the rest of the election story on his hospital bed.
What about a brother whose younger brother was appointed a commissioner in his state. Family and friends had gathered to rejoice and congratulate him during the swearing-in ceremony. As his citation was read and his date of birth mentioned, it became obvious that the commissioner is now older than his very active elder brother who had invited his friends to felicitate with his family. The document had proved that the commissioner was older while biologically, but he is indeed the younger one.
Amazingly, Mrs Chika James lost her husband in Lagos, and set out for his burial rites according to the tradition. At home, the big banner announcement she returned with had a different date of birth while the family’s streamer had another date of birth. Family summoned to face the council of Sanhedrin for the mix up, and in her sobs, she said: “That was what he told me all the 13 years we lived as husband and wife; I am hearing his real age for the first time, and all his documents he acquired since I knew him bear that age.” Trust, some elders reasoned with her while some felt she was a bit careless.
Amazingly, Chuks was above 30 years when his job-hunting morning broke. He was invited for an interview and was instructed to show up with his curriculum vitae, which he did. Chuks is not an advocate of age reduction; rather say it as it is. Young men and women gathered at the interview venue, even the wrinkled faces claimed 25 years, the approximate age limit the organisation requested for. It was his turn and the interviewer refused him entry into the panel because his age has crossed the expected limit. Chuks asked, am I older than all the people here or is it because I stated my real age and not my official age? The interviewer said, we will get back to you and the chapter was closed. Chuks went for another interview where he was honoured for saying the truth. As usual, all had gathered, his curriculum vitae singled out and the managing director said, for being honest on your CV, you have been offered a place in the organisation. This simply means that not all industries are deceived by age reduction.
Interestingly, age reduction cuts across all sexes, sectors and what have you. There has been a big long battle between people accepting and owning their real age and the official one over the years. Somehow, official age is slowly, but surely gaining grounds within the system to mean that it is being accepted in some barriers. The most perpetrators of this chronicle are workers who boldly reduce their ages to have advantage of capital accumulation, allowances and remain valuable or invaluable within the workforce. That is why an 80-year-old man still struggles in the office because he has falsified his age. This battle reared its ugly head due to denial, hardship, sufferings, and fear of the unknown. Again, harsh economic condition, poor government regulations without palliatives in place is some of the reasons people go into age falsification.
Precariously, the bad side of age reduction gained its grounds mostly with employers of labour who pegged a certain age to the workforce. The financial sectors were the foremost set of defaulters who insist on smart, young and intelligent generation to shift the paradigm from the old structured system of banking and become new generation compliant, especially for fresh graduates. As they were done with old system of operation, so also were they done with old staff. In no time, other corporate and non-corporate organisations, institutions, bodies and civil servants followed suit and it became a case of 25 years status spreading like an octopus.
Today, the resultant effect of such stiff ideology has become an increase in old diehard of age reduction. Employers of Labour meant well for the productive industries, but the mindset of people were like that of Eneke Nti’oba in the popular Things Fall Apart written by the legendary Chinua Achebe; In a quote Eneke said: “Since men have learnt to shoot without missing, I have learnt to fly without perching”. It simply means that whatever they were trying to push away is somehow within the confines of the organizations. With the development, many job seekers started cutting down on their ages with a long knife while the lucky ones who were already within the confines of the age limit remained calm. Most employers never bothered to add other factors that make a workforce worthy, they were only interested in that age limit while their business counterparts have a field day so long there is no dimension associated with their age.