By Tikum Mbah Azonga
This paper is an adaptation of an earlier one I delivered on the Cameroon National Radio Station on the 11th of April 2003 with a view to provoking reflection on the dreaded question of retirement and consequently prepare for it. The paper was one of the daily political commentaries I delivered on the 6.30 a.m. prime time national and world news on Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), Yaoundé, between 2002 and 2005.
For every employee, retirement ought to be viewed as something inevitable and therefore planned ahead of time. This is because people grow ordinarily as well as in their jobs. In one's life time there is an indisputable peak period or some crescendo, so to speak, during which one is at one's best performance. Thereafter, there is a decline which inevitably leads to retirement. Even so, the exact point at which one actually goes on retirement - that is, the cut off point, can be flexible in the sense that the employee can either take early retirement or ask for an extension of time when retirement is due so that he or she works for a few more years before signing off.
Under normal circumstances a retired employee is supposed to be resting. After all, retirement is that one period when after years of toiling to earn a living and taking responsibility for family and other commitments the retiree is supposed to put up his or her feet and have a good time. The retired person or "Senior Citizen" as they are commonly referred to in Cameroon can at this juncture proudly enjoy his or her pension, although according to pension rules it is usually only a fraction of the salary that was earned in active service. Another point that really must be raised here is that which concerns the annoyingly slow process involved in processing the files of retirees in Yaounde so that their pension can start flowing. Even so, one can draw comfort from the adage that half a loaf is better than none, for, the truth is that if a retiree can not reap the dividends of years of hard work at such a point, then when else can he or she do it? If the employee fails in this, he or she should be selling themselves short and shooting themselves in the foot.
However it is a fact that some retirees have been known to put their retirement years into good use especially as the professional ones notably, when they retire, are at the apex of their careers in terms of mastery of their jobs. Some dynamic ones have been known to land lucrative jobs in other countries as they embark on this second life of theirs. A good number of those who stay in Cameroon have also been known to re-engage themselves in other activities that give them an income and keep them busy and away from bad health. Some of such activities include farming in the large sense of the word, opening and running a school, a secretariat/documentation office or engaging other activity.
One compelling reason for the need to go on retirement is that when senior employees leave their jobs, this enables younger staff members to also rise within the ranks. If this did not happen, the young would have no real chance of putting into practice the skills which they have acquired. They would also be denied the enjoyment of the aphorism which requires: "The young must grow".
The truth is that retirement can, if well planned, be turned into a pleasant new lease of life. Unfortunately, many people do not prepare for it so that when the time comes, they are caught between a rock and a hard place, as the saying goes. Out of frustration, victims of such circumstances then get hooked on alcohol, a factor which creates other problems like where to get the money to sustain the life of an alcoholic. Such people then spend their time complaining about everything and everyone. Their discourse becomes loaded with anti-Biya and anti-government daily diatribe. They stop and complain to anyone who is willing to listen and in a sense, re-enact the ancient mariner in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
The best way of enjoying retirement is to prepare for it long before it is due. An example is that in addition to the pension scheme, a prospective retiree could invest in some venture, either as an individual if he or she has the means or collectively as a group with other similar minded people. Even when already on retirement, the retired person can still sustain the momentum by keeping themselves busy. This can be done either through joining a social group like a charity, a choir or enrolling on a course, taking up writing or even just reading books and newspapers.
Many Cameroonian professionals are bilingual in terms of mastery of English and French. These include the military, accountants, magistrates, doctors, engineers and secretaries, to name those. They could therefore use bilingualism as an asset in their international job search for there are many a country that would whole-heartedly welcome them, considering that being officially monolingual, they need to open up to the world by having contact with another international language.
So whatever the senior citizen does, he or she would do well to remember that retirement is a golden opportunity to fulfill those thousand and one dreams they had nursed previously. It is therefore not doom and gloom. In fact, retirement is a second birth, a rebirth, a renaissance, a second life, a new lease of life