Posts Tagged ‘President’

Hoping and Waiting For a never-coming Messiah

Image from: https://theinfong.com/2016/11/12-times-nigerian-presidents-changed-fuel-price-see-highest/

When Nigerians discuss the deplorable and dishonest performance of their politicians one often hears sentiments like, “Let’s hope that someone will come to power that will turn things around.” Despite the fact that regime after regime the country seems to be taking a nose dive, the expectation of the people for a messiah is unshakable. Perhaps it is this lassitude that is the root, the perpetuating factor for the poor governance of Nigeria and Africa as a whole. In spite of the numerous maxims that abound to the evidence of our misplaced faith, there remains the unwavering belief that someday, somehow, someone will arise from among us who does not have the voracious appetite of his predecessors for illicit wealth, someone who has an aversion to self-aggrandizement, someone who will do us good of his own volition. 

But the reality is that we have created a society in which such a messiah cannot exist. The worship of wealth, irrespective of source, in Nigeria, and the total disdain and disregard for the poor and have-nots has bred a crazed appetite for wealth irrespective of source. In a society where infrastructure is dilapidated and the lives of citizens are worth next to nothing—as far as the governing class are concerned—there is not only an astonishing lack of a common will to demand justice, but a reckless aspiration in individuals to seek what piece of the national cake they can grab for themselves. The social conscience of the nation seems to have been annihilated. But in all this, the realization, perhaps, has not dawned on all concerned, that a working Nigeria will work for all. The rich will be more comfortable and secure and the plight of the poor will be bettered. A progressive Nigeria will cause all to progress. In a society where the roads are death traps, where the state of security is dangerous and hospitals do not live up to their designation, even those who consider themselves well off are only one emergency situation away from total disaster. 

Yet, what is to be done? History teaches us that there is no freedom without struggle. The French rose up multiple times against their elites and their insistence on equity brought about, at last, a thriving society. It was a sustained struggle against apartheid that caused the world to hear black South Africans and join them to bring down a shameful oppression. But even for citizens who are not like the brave peasants of France, the modern world offers avenues for freedom from oppression.  If Nigerians decide to engage in a sustained struggle against corruption and poor governance it will get to a level where the world will take note and the corrupt politicians will have no place to hide.

In this day and age when the poor governance in Nigeria has created a large population of economic migrants around the globe, it has become easier to curb the ability of corrupt Nigerian politicians to launder their stolen wealth abroad and seek healthcare abroad while their citizens perish in abject poverty and dangerous hospitals.  Indeed, more avenues are available to curb the illicit activities of corrupt Nigerian leaders should their citizens decide to act. And decide they must, if there is going to be hope of progress for Nigeria.

Nigerians in diaspora, in whatever country they live, through their different town meetings, have the power in their hands to curb the freedom with which the corrupt politicians access the amenities in the West. These politicians use the nation’s coffers as their launch pad for living it up in developed countries: purchasing mansions, stowing away illicit wealth, seeking health care and sending their children to school abroad while their citizens are left to grovel in poverty and poor amenities. If Nigerians in diaspora are able to make politicians’ activity in developed countries uncomfortable through regular demonstrations, the politicians will get the message to fix things in their own country. After all, politicians from developed countries do not come to Nigeria to buy homes, send their children to schools in Nigeria or live lavish lifestyles beyond what is commensurate with their income without being called to account. 

It is time for Nigerians in the diaspora, when they attend meetings of their towns of origin, to begin to consider ways they can foil the corrupt activities of Nigerian politicians that occur in the country in which they live. Nigerians at home in Nigeria, in whatever way they can, also need to demonstrate peacefully and frequently against the corruption that wastes the land. Freedom does not come to those who fold their hands in captivity. The messiah that Nigerians await is within themselves. It is the people that will demand good governance and insist on it; it is the people that can make it impossible for corrupt leaders to continue to trod them underfoot; it is the people that have the power to create a situation where there is no lavish gain in political office and thereby encourage only patriotic individuals intent on leaving a legacy, to seek public office.

The Elusive Minimum Wage

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President Buhari of Nigeria is grossly mistaken when he says that Nigeria cannot afford to pay its workers the minimum wage of 18,000Naira (equivalent to USD 50) a month. During his interview with Arise news (recorded for them by ThisDay Newspapers), the Nigerian president compared the demands of the Nigerian labor union for an increase in the minimum wage to the behavior of a mad woman. In response to the issue he said that he had to “relapse into his culture.” The Hausa culture, he said, has a story about a mad woman who went to make firewood; she gathered and tied it up. When she couldn’t take the firewood because it was too heavy for her: “she increased instead of reducing it.” He then said that when the states in Nigeria can’t pay the basic salary of 18,000Naira, the labor union is requesting for the minimum wage to go to 30,000Naira. He asked, “Where do we get the money from? Do we print more money?”

And this he said after he had previously agreed to their demand only to renege on his promise. In the same interview with Arise news he admitted that some states in the federation currently owe their workers six months of salary. For a worker to be owed six months of salary boggles the mind. The president, himself, admitted to this non-payment of salary that plagues the country. Now when you talk to fellow Nigerians you will find that some are actually owed up to even a year of unpaid salary! How are people expected to live, to survive? People work to make a living and take care of their families. They need a place to live, school resources for their children, food and healthcare for their families and transportation to get to work. How are the masses to survive?

In this same Nigeria, much as the President says that there is no money to pay the minimum wage, some politicians are receiving double salaries without so much as a skip of one month. Nigerian senators, who were former governors or deputy governors while receiving their salaries as senators now, are also receiving pension payment to the tune of the full salary for that former position they held. The same holds for former state governors now serving as ministers. And yet, the president says that there is no money to pay the minimum wage to desperate Nigerians. There is no money to pay those who receive the barest minimum, but those who are paid grossly exaggerated incomes do not skip a month in their salaries. And some of them are receiving double: salary and inflated pensions!

Nigerian politicians are paid higher than their counterparts in most of the developed countries. The publication of their budget through the advocacy of #OpenNASS confirmed what has been common knowledge. Our legislators are paid US$170,000 annually (wardrobe allowance included) before all other additional benefits are fully counted. Meanwhile, the minimum wage in Nigeria is under US$650 per annum, meaning our legislators earn almost three hundred times the minimum wage. Compare that to the U.S. where the average legislator is paid US$174,080 annually and the minimum wage is US$15,080 and so a legislator in the U.S. earns less than twelve times the minimum wage. Three hundred times to only twelve times! Add to that the fact that many Nigerian workers have not been paid their salary in months while the legislators do not skip a month of their own pay.

So, the response from the government, from President Buhari, to the strike and demonstrations of the Nigerian Labor Congress for a just cause is regrettable. That some states have not complied with the current minimum wage of 18,000Naira without consequence is an abysmal failure of leadership. The insensitivity of the ruling class to the plight of the masses of Nigeria is disturbing. The abject poverty in which the masses live is a distressful sight to behold. Is it not a lack of basic human decency for Nigerian politicians to keep themselves in opulence while denying those under them their basic earned sustenance?