Minimum Wage Brouhaha, Salary Payment Punch-ups
by Eferovo Igho
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If governance is all about tackling and surmounting daunting challenges on entirely sacrificial note with huge results, you will need the likes of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and David Ben-Gurion. Those beautiful ones are not yet born in Nigeria. If governance is about daringness, huge foresight with crave to turn out results where hopelessness consumes all others then that will be up Wilson Churchill’s alley. So far, only Obafemi Awolowo came close here among all Nigerians of all ages. Governance, properly defined, almost has no example in Nigeria apart from Awolowo.
The sound inputs that governance requires, the intriguing working of governance, and the enthralling result of governance – real governance – has not been seen with the eyes here (in Nigeria) since Western Nigerian days. Because real governance can only attract great performers this is beyond the borders of many of our past and present leaders. Talk of misgovernance, and then researchers have more than enough materials to work with here!
Today, governance has been made grossly attractive and with no obligation to deliver. That is why you get candidates who ordinarily should be in the motor parks in government. We have been running motor-park government all the while. When governors (used here in the generic sense) have deep-seated area boys mindsets, parade motor-park mentality, handle governance with grip of gangsterism and plunge headlong into our treasuries as worst of rogues would, then all academic credentials is total rubbish. We need academic credentials that would alter savagery and barbarism in governance and in our national life.
The current minimum wage brouhaha with the salary payment punch-ups is because of this malady. Mismanagement of our national resources by rogue politicians is what has been reporting itself to us since the minimum wage increase debate started. Now, it has come to a climax: ‘corruption’ is making its point; ‘ineptitude’ is justifying itself, and ‘avarice’ even needing more money to spend. And no rubbish can ooze more than this.
If West Africa were to be one single country (which really would have been better) the material resources God has bestowed Nigeria with is more than enough to manage the region to the marvel of the world, that is if the resources are in hands of good governors. So, why can’t we use this resource to govern Nigeria and Nigerians! Why are we talking like unschooled bunch? Why are we talking incompetence with arrogance? What is cocoa that Obafemi Awolowo could use to transform the whole of the then Western Nigeria (which include present Edo and Delta states), giving us free education, making life and living worthwhile, creating benchmarks in Nigeria in virtually every area and giving Africa few firsts, and your governors cannot use oil money, nay, oil windfall monies to affect our lives in their small states. Now, they are even babbling in this matter of national minimum wage. What is even this minimum wage!
With good leadership and focused governance the Nigerian state can pay with good ease a national minimum wage thrice what Labour has asked for and have been granted. We cannot pay the minimum wage of eighteen thousand naira because of ineptitude and greed of the political class expressed in full-scale corruption, over-bloated political workforce and equally over-bloated salaries. Tackle ineptitude and these three prongs of greed, and Labor would go home with 54, 000 thousand naira minimum wage as against this ordinarily annoying 18, 000 thousand naira that is getting your governors’ hackles up; rough hackles that only ineptitude and corruption could occasion. What is 18, 000 naira? For a family of six, that is almost halfway with only kerosene!
And the entire proposition by these so-called state governors to increase their share of Federal revenue allocation and or to remove oil subsidy so that they can pay salaries is very sickening and only help us to place more properly those who our system calls ‘governors’ where they really are. Either call can only make sense to looters (and not managers) of our treasuries! Can you think of Obafemi Awolowo getting one tenth of what any state governor is getting from the federal government and still asking for removal of oil subsidy to be able to pay salaries of staff of such a state. I really don’t know…
Ineptitude and greed must be fought with all senses. This writer believes that the states in a federal setting should have increased revenue allocation but not necessarily to pay state salaries but for different purposes, which purposes will soon be a subject matter of another piece. But we must say it here that there should be huge devolution of power and responsibilities from the federal to states with accompanied increased financial allocation because the federal government urgently need to scale down its activities and ministries to twelve at the most because we must be seen to practice federalism. However, rather than speak grammar about increased revenue allocation to pay state staff salaries ineptitude and corruption should be addressed.
You don’t, as a matter of first resort, need increased federal allocation to pay state staff. It doesn’t make enthralling sense. Address ineptitude! Fight profligacy! The state governments should tap and use internally generated fund to pay state staff. Awolowo does not need to be tutored here; rather he is a huge lesson. And we are not talking of these oppressive taxes we are burdening the peasants, talakawas, okada riders, street traders and ‘wretched of the earth’ with. In Nigeria there should not really be this class of people as we write. If governance has remained in the hands of the Awolowos and Aminu Kanos till now, the gap between the Dangotes, Otedolas and Adenugas (in business), the Iboris, Igbinedions, Uduaghans, Atikus, OBJs (in politics) and that class of people would have been drastically bridged. And this is one chief essence of governance.
The national and state treasuries apparently exist for the benefit of their so-called managers or handlers and their friends in politics and business, which also explains why everyone wants to be in government to allocate to themselves and their bloated teams whatever their avarice dictate. The take home of your councilor today is more than the best paid professor in our country today. Talk of the uncountable councilors, too many council chairmen, countless state board chairmen and untold members, myriad legislators, innumerable commissioners, sundry advisers and assistants and so on and so forth, and what you have can only be grossly nasty.
Is it reasonable at all that the total take homes of a state’s entire elected class and political appointees should come near that of its civil service? And is it not even madder when the total take home of the entire elected class and political appointees in a state equals that of its civil service? Yet the maddest thing takes place in many states in Nigeria, and at the federal level too; be it the executive or legislature. The total take home of the elected class and political appointees here and there not only doubles but more than doubles and in some cases more than triple that of the civil service connected to them. And even in some states like Delta, the take home of the so-called elected class with their political appointees may well be anything five and ten times that of the civil service.
Because governance must cease to be about emptying the treasuries, I think it is high time some of us including Labor, human right groups, women groups, youth groups and even faith-based organizations sponsor a bill to make total take home of all elected officers with all their appointees not more than a quarter of the civil service working with them. With proper mobilization and full-scale weight of lobby by these groups such a bill must know legislative accent and executive signature. That will instill some fiscal discipline, because only few men (and usually the best and true nationalists) will step forward; and with a select team they would dare to govern. The result will be results.
My friend Stephen Dieseruvwe once alerted me on Facebook the other day when he said that “The salary of the Nigerian Senator is 778 times the salary of a Nigerian worker on the minimum wage of N18, 000.00 per month, while the salary of a House of Representatives member is 543 times the salary of workers on the minimum wage. This means, it will take 778 years for a worker on the minimum wage to earn the annual salary of the Nigerian Senator, or 543 years to earn the annual salary of a member of the House of Representatives. This is INSANE, and is man's inhumanity to man. THIS SITUATION HAS TO BE REDRESSED. ARISE, NIGERIANS ARISE.” Yes, it is time for Nigerians to fix the salaries of our politicians from the backdoor since only the politicians can fix their own salaries. And the backdoor approach is that suggested bill that must tie the total pay of any political group to the total pay of the civil service connected to it; that is, without mentioning figures. It is like setting the perimeters. Then, let them go and fix their salaries accordingly!
O how really sad what your parliamentarians take home presently! Why must not our motor-parks empty their selves (with their fights) into our parliaments? And I can even tell you that there are many motor-parks across the nation where very many agberos will dare not pull themselves to pieces or render their wear to shreds when very young, descent school boys and girls go to such motor-parks (on excursion). But in a parliament; a Nigerian parliament, historic history was made when your legislators did a do-or-die and kill-and-go mêlée to the glare of us all in our quiet homes and right in the presence of young, descent school boys and girls who thought they were around to learn governance. They saw a speaker umpiring scores of Mike Tysons doing it not the ring-side way but the motor-park way: Kill- and-go! Governance my foot; apology to the one who holds the propriety right to do-or-die politics that has bred so much rubbish in this country including the apical disgrace that is the legislative combat just referred. But, can the wages, stealing and inflation of contracts and ghost appointees, and bloated appointments of the executive arm, justify this legislative greed and madness?
When governance is too attractive only the OBJs will step forward. And their stepping forward has been the ruin of our country. They may even want a third term to bury the ruin; so that all of us can forget about Nigeria. There are too many OBJs in our body politics.
Nobody knows anything about national wealth creation. All is all eyes about this manna called oil and are frenzying about its unceasing windfall. Providence is their concept of governance. Anybody can govern if that is what it is! They all want to manage resources from the centre; no one knows how to create them. And no one knows what it means to lead let alone lead. But then, if we must assume that governance is in no way about generation of wealth but all about going to the national tilt, which is wholly the result of Providence as it is today, and using it profitably we may not be too troubled; but not even many know how to spend what is given to them to spend for others. And the result of this is the very sorry malady we have today in our hands: Too many rogues are mounting the saddle of governance at all levels and in all two arms of executive and legislature. It will remain so because governance is too attractive.
But if we make governance extremely unattractive, yet with pointed and binding deliverable electioneering promises, with very informed governmental goals and targets and visibly flourishing drive to achieve same in whole or near so; and fully accountable and with unbending laws of recall then we are getting set to beat a nation into line. It is then patriots and nationalists would step forward. Nearly all the characters on stage today will vamoose into thin air as we say. And we shall have leaders indeed: Leaders that know more than us.
As it is today very many of us know far much more than these people in many of our state houses and legislatures. George Burns, the American comedian is credited to have said: “Too bad all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair.” But when we are ready for proper governance and the stage is set for real patriots to come on board it will be a case of ‘too good all the people who know how to run the country are squaring up to the duty of governance’.
With good managers Nigeria has all it takes to turn West Africa around and showcase it as a piece of marvel to the world. So, there shouldn’t be any problem with paying salaries of any government worker in Nigeria. These so-called governors must see that they work and pay these salaries or walk out!
Igho writes from Warri.
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