By Dickson Okafor
Chief Tobby Anumaka, Patron Okpoko Igbo, a Pan Igbo socio-cultural organisation and Chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) said the change mantra of the present government is on course. According to him, the change promised Nigerians by President Muhammadu Buhari is evolving but won’t happen overnight. Anumaka said Igbo leaders should be blamed for the plight of the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu. He said Ndigbo have not done enough to effect his release from detention. Anumaka blamed the major oil marketers for fuel scarcity in the country but pleaded with Nigerians to be patient with the government. He speaks on other issues. Excerpts
Many are of the view that President Muhammadu Buhari has lost focus with power generation falling to zero per cent and high cost of fuel which has brought untold hardship to Nigerians, what is your take?
It is unfortunate that most of us do not understand the workings of government. This is a government that is less than a year and most Nigerians want President muhammadu Buhari to correct the mistakes of 16 years within one year; to me it is not possible. They want Buhari to rebuild in just one year a country that was raped, duped, looted, bastardised and milked dry by past administrations overnight. Mr. President is not a magician. It is easier to destroy than to build. You can pull down a mansion in a day but you may not rebuild it in one year. This is the first time power is transferred from the ruling party to the opposition, therefore, a lot of documents must be looked into, questions asked where necessary and changes made. This must take time, hence all this administration needs from Nigerians is prayer and support. Yes, people are suffering because the ways things are done have changed. So, I appeal to Nigerians to exercise patients and continue to support and cooperate with this government to put the country on the right track.
The whole country has been in darkness for months now and most Nigerians are finding it difficult to pay for high cost of fuel; do you foresee this hardship ending soon?
Of course, all these challenges will soon be a thing of the past. The APC-led government inherited a decayed system from the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I don’t want to be involved in blame game, rather; I want Buhari to get the job done. We all are suffering irrespective of party divide, tribe or religion. When this government came on board, it almost got the refineries fixed but some cabal who vowed that they won’t be alive to see our refineries function at full capacity engaged miscreants to vandalise the pipe lines just to ensure subsidy remains. These cartel who are working hand-in-hand with some staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) will import 3, 0000 metric tonnes of PMS and claim subsidy for 90,000 metric tonnes and are responsible for scarcity of the product. These same cabals are holding us hostage in the power sector because they acquired the licenses for electricity generation and distribution known as the GENCOS and DISCOs. Last time, they came out to inform us that except Nigerians pay additional 45 per cent tariff, they won’t be able to generate and distribute electricity to Nigerians. Nigerians refused and that is one of the major reasons for the blackout. However, I’m sure very soon, we will start to enjoy steady power supply with recent infrastructural development agreement Buhari signed with China. Another factor responsible for short supply of electricity and fuel scarcity is the delay in the passage of this year’s budget. I blame members of the National Assembly for the delay having failed to present a comprehensive document to the President to append his signature. So, Nigerians should hold the National Assembly responsible for the hardship they are going through. The budget empowers the president to spend money because Buhari cannot appropriate the nation’s fund without the permission of the legislature. Don’t forget that this government has blocked the channels through which corrupt and sharp practices thrive in the oil sector. These people decided to sabotage the efforts of government.
Postponement of Imo North senatorial rerun, what happened?
We cited insecurity and attempt by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to manipulate results as reasons the election should be postponed. For instance, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and other PDP stalwarts were in Imo. What were they doing there? So, Governor Rochas Okorocha felt that if the election was not credible, should it go on, it might lead to break down of law and order. So, Okorocha insisted that the election should not be held. Now that the coast is clear, we of the APC are calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to announce a new date for the election.
Nnamdi Kanu is still in detention; what are Igbo leaders doing for him to regain his freedom?
We have five governors and traditional rulers, how come nobody is saying anything. The republican nature of Ndigbo is affecting us negatively. Our leaders must be honest and sincere. They cannot claim to be leading us while they are leading us into the ocean. Most of them are after their personal interest and not the collective gain of Ndigbo unlike the Yoruba and those from the Niger Delta who always mount pressure on government to release their activists whenever they fallout with government over agitation for their collective interest.
Look at what happened during the last Presidential election; if not for Okorocha, Igbo would have lost out completely. No Igbo leader has come out openly and called for the release of Nnamdi Kanu. Even though I’m not in support of breakup of Nigeria, but Kanu has the right to self-determination. Where are the South-East governors, those at the National Assembly and traditional rulers? Apart from Prof. Ben Nwabueze who is an old man, where are other vibrant Igbo leaders? Why the conspiracy of silence of Igbo leaders over the release of Kanu? Don’t blame Buhari for Kanu’s ordeal but Igbo leaders. The people of South-East are waiting for their leaders to inspire them towards agitation of Kanu’s release. Therefore, I’m using this medium to call on the Federal Government to release Mr. Kanu unconditionally.
What about the workers?
By Issa Aremu
Appreciation to Almighty Allah for keeping last Saturday (June 25), which the Kwara State Council of National Union of Journalists (NUJ) had dedicated to the inaugural Annual Ramadan lecture in memory of my darling wife, Hajia Hamdalat Abiodun Aremu. With this singular solidarity, NUJ leadership, in collaboration with University of Ilorin has shown that love doesn’t die with death of loved ones. The first Ramadan for decades without the two most important women in my life, my mother, Hadjia Afusatu Amoke Aremu, and wife, Hadjia Hamdalat, raises the nostalgia of love and warmth lost forever. However, Kwara NUJ’s first-of-its-kind dedicated Ramadan Lecture (in a month of remarkable intellectual reflections and sobriety) was spiritually fulfilling. The robust presentation by Professor Abdulrasheed Abiodun Adeoye, Head, Department of the Performing Arts, Faculty of Arts, University of Ilorin, on the “Perspective on Labour Wages and the Nigerian Situation,” was commendable and timely. Both my late mother and wife once worked and lived happily on their modest salaries paid as at when due. They would not phantom how it is now a fashion for some state governors to owe workers salaries for months unend.
The difference between a slave and a worker is payment of salaries. Slaves, like workers, historically had jobs but had no salaries unlike workers. It is a sad commentary that most states’ civil servants, in particular and Nigerian workers, in general have been turned into glorified slaves, as they work without pay for months. In fact, most workers have unfortunately been turned into working beggars and emergency weekend farmers, as in Benue. For many workers, however, it was “fasting” before the Ramadan, on account of unacceptable lack of means of livelihood.
For goodness sake, let’s just pause a bit and consider the plight of that worker, who has not been paid for months. If he or she is the breadwinner, it is clear then that during this Ramadan of spending and giving, the family support collapses. Food must have been difficult to find to feed the children with all the implications for malnutrition. Some kids must have been withdrawn from school on account of non-payment of school fees, while Sallah cloth will necessarily elude them. Pray, the family is not sick either. Since the breadwinner cannot meet expectation, depression logically replaces love within the household.
The options before unpaid workers in a society without social security, like Nigeria are, therefore, better imagined. Non-payment of salaries amounts to what I called economicide, which means systemic destruction of lives on account of lack of means of livelihood. It is an economic equivalent of genocide. It’s time Nigeria treated wage-related crimes, non-payment, low payment, wage-diversions (so-called ghost payments) as economic crimes!
Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet said: “Allah Said, ‘I will be the opponent of three people on the Day of Judgment: One is who hires a workman and having taken full work from him, does not pay him his wages.” ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar narrated that the Prophet , said: “Pay the labourer his wages before his sweat dries.” The holy Prophet says the precondition for productivity and loyalty of the workforce is prompt return on efforts.
When workers are well paid, then employers can demand increased productivity and discipline. Biblical injunctions also underscore prompt pay for working men and women. According to Pope John Paul II, ‘a just wage for the worker is the ultimate test of whether any economic system is performing justly’.
Anti-corruption campaign cannot be sustained when workers do not receive adequate salaries on time. A hungry worker is not only angry but also vulnerable to graft. There is also a link between economic growth and wage payment. A well-paid, motivated worker will definitely be productive worker.
Given the importance of wage payment for national development, all arms of governments, namely the executive, judiciary and the National Assembly, should declare a state of emergency on the current unacceptable crisis of compensation in some states of the federation. Only President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly called a spade a spade, damning states, who had refused to pay salaries.
Addressing State House staff, last Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari again spoke the mind of labour that it “was a national disgrace” that most states of the federation couldn’t pay salaries of their workers.
One of the governors is Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, who declared, barefaced, recently, “Ondo State is broke. I can’t pay workers.” Governor Mimiko and his like debtor-colleagues should rather announce their resignations and offer apologies for running aground their states and bankrupt such that they cannot pay salaries of their poor workers. If he were a Managing Director of a company, shareholders would demand his sack for glorifying bankruptcy. Regrettably the Ondo governor reportedly dared to shout down the protesting workers and even threatened them with mass sack if they persisted in their legitimate struggle and did not return to work.
One frequently advertised claim of the debtor-governors about non-payment is the falling oil revenue and declining federal allocations. Again, as President Buhari asked, when the oil revenue was in surplus what did these states do with the surplus? Not a few surpluses went into corruption, not saving and diversification. Even now at $49 per barrel, and huge funds looted, Nigeria is still a rich country, albeit with poor people. There is no justification whatsoever for non-payment of salaries of workers. Despite the hysteria about crude oil price fall, no governor has said his salary is denied, none rides KEKE Napep to work, but a fleet of jeeps with ever-secured “security votes”! National Assembly leadership even dreams of life pensions! So much for collapse of oil revenue. A debtor governor’s personal account is even reportedly in surplus of billion in a bankrupt state!
The founding fathers of Nigeria rightly envisioned the link between motivated workforce through prompt payment of wages and productivity. Even British colonialism paid workers as at when even, if not in line with prevailing cost of living leading to legitimate protests and strikes. Almost 60 years after independence, it is acceptable that Nigerian workers would look back at colonial exploitative order with nostalgia.
• Aremu wrote in from Kuru, Jos.