As children in the early 1980s, growing up in a typical Nigerian community in Kafanchan, Kaduna State, yours faithfully came across this bed-time story that was relayed to us by our elders which ended up teaching us a lesson that all animals are not equal. The story was about a very elaborate feast that took place in heaven during which all the crawling and flying animals were invited. Mr. Tortoise managed to negotiate with some huge birds to air lift him to heaven, with promises of better rewards afterward.
But the story goes that these animals were asked by Mr. Tortoise to take up a name each to make for easy identification by the host especially when the time comes for the distribution of customized souvenirs. Each of those animals quickly took a name but Tortoise did the unthinkable by naming himself as “All of you”.
When the time came for the event, all of them managed to find their ways to the heavenly host with Mr. Tortoise who took a smooth ride with some gigantic birds. But at the party, the host has this tradition of bringing all the foods and gifts and announcing that “All of you” should take possession of these items.
In this case, Mr. Tortoise automatically grabs all the items thereby making the rest of the birds and animals attending this party to go hungry and when it was time to go, the birds that gave a lift to Mr. Tortoise angrily abandoned him to his cruel fate making it almost impossible for the Tortoise to return to the animal kingdom on Earth since he defenestrated the solemn promises he made without recourse to his conscience. Not used to be beaten, the Tortoise was clever enough to give a message to one of the birds just before they all flew away to tell his wife to gather matrasses and pillows outside their house so he could land on them from the sky.
But the bird rather than relay the exact message told the wife of the Tortoise that she should gather stones in front of their house and when this was done, Mr. Tortoise who thought that his message reached his wife then landed on top of the stones which immediately cracked his back. So, we were told that it was greed and avarice that made the back of every Tortoise to look fragmented and rough right from the rough and tumble encounter of their common ancestor.
The import of this short story is that all animals are not equal but again, it is a demonstration that selfishness does not go unpunished. The above story flashed through my subconscious when in recent days, the Senator representing Kaduna central and my personal friend, Comrade Shehu Sani, disclosed the jumbo packages that Senators earned which show that Nigerian Senators earn better than legislators of USA which is the World’s largest economy. The revelation of this extremely heartless pay package also demonstrated that even in Britain, which is where Nigeria gained political independence, the legislators are paid peanuts when compared with the princely sum that each of our 106 Senators pockets monthly, not to talk of the 306 or so members of the Federal House of Representatives whose pay packages aren’t fundamentally different from what the Senators collect.
Shehu Sani’s revelation occurred only few hours after the federal government deferred the announcement of the new minimum wage that should be paid to civil servants to make up for the extremely high cost of living. For now, N18,000 is the minimum wage paid to the civil servants in Nigeria but some states of the federation have kicked against a uniformed minimum wage arguing that Nigerian states are not equally buoyant. Some of these governors who are kicking against the low minimum wage and arguing that they can’t pay such since it is high, are the same persons whose earnings are to be categorized as killing wages because each governor enjoys the kind of out-of-this-world privileges that have been described by a one-time governor Mr. Peter Obi as shocking. Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra State has stated that what governors earn in Nigeria will cause more outrage in the country than revelation of Senators’ salaries.
He spoke as a panelist at the dialogue organized by Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism in Lagos on Thursday and said governors’ earning in Nigeria was immoderate compared to earnings of public office holders in the United States of America. Obi told the audience that if he revealed how much a Nigerian governor earned, the outrage would be hotter than what trailed the N13.5 million monthly pay of senators.
“None of you knows what a governor earns; quote me anywhere if you know you won’t be here. “It is something you can’t imagine. You just know the one of senators, and you are shouting, but what if you know that of the governors? “America’s GDP is way above Nigeria’s but an American senator earns $174,000 (about N50 million) a year and you can imagine what his Nigerian counterpart earns in a month,” he said. “In America, governors earn according to their state. The governor of California is the highest paid in America, and he earns $192, 000. The smallest state earns $70, 000.
“But in Nigeria, I can tell you because I’ve been there, the cost of just keeping convoys alone is in millions. And when people ask me why am I saying these things, I tell them that even if we made mistakes yesterday, can’t we correct it today?”
“I asked them, why are all these vehicles following me, and nobody was able to explain to me. I didn’t stop it because of them following me, but the cost of maintaining them was high. I asked them why do we need to spend about N30 million fueling these vehicles that 60 percent are empty when following me?” he said. “What is the essence of a bulletproof car? Anyone who wants to kill you would come when you are out of the car. For eight years I didn’t use, and they didn’t kill me. “In 2017, Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, made public details of his state’s expenditure, including security vote,” he reportedly added.
Now, when compared to what Senator Shehu Sani said that Senators are earning, an observer is therefore left to conclude that these sets of killing wages paid to political office holders including presidency officials are the direct fundamental cause of our backwardness and gross under-development as a nation because only very little is then spent for capital expenditures. Daily Trust reported recently that Nigerian ministers earn higher that their counterparts in the developed Western economies. If you then put this revelation side-by-side with Senator Sani’s disclosure, you will then know that all politicians are our collective oppressors.
These burdens of high wages is the reason over 100 million Nigerians are absolutely poor. The best bet is for the civil populace to wage persistent mass action to compel the government officials to prune down significantly on what each of them earn since government appointment should be seen as service to the fatherland and not an avenue for self-aggrandizement.
Onwubiko, heads Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) .