By Temitope Muhideen
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozlement. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozlement has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” — Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
The above quote defines the thought and beliefs of the labour leaders in Kwara state in relation to their agitation on new minimum wage. On their part, they assumed the campaign promises made by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq’s party in preparation for the Otoge victory must have been implemented by now. In furtherance, the labour leaders believe miracle can work without steps.
Before the emergence of the present administration, workers in the state were subjected to unstable salaries; the pensioners nurtured a regrettable experience after almost 35 years in service; the local government staffers were sidelined and they suffered economic pains inflicted on them by the last administration. When Governor AbdulRazaq was sworn in as the new executive governor of the state, he reiterated his commitment to providing a conducive environment for the workers, clear and make full payment of salaries in which he have been able to sustain and justify successfully.
The N18000 minimum wage was implemented in the year 2011 by the federal government in response to the yearnings of the Nigerian workers. One would wonder why Kwara state failed to respond or take steps towards the fulfillment of that law in the state. It’s also questionable why the labour leaders in the state, under different union leaders, failed to embark on strike in Kwara state (aside nationwide strike), between 2011-2019 under the watch of Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed. Can we say the leaders of the unions were convenient with the scale of preference of Ahmed’s administration? Or should we agree on the accusations on the labour leaders that the previous administration paid them millions of naira to silent their agitation?
Again, let us ask the labour leaders in the state the reason for their silence during the era of “no payment of salaries” and half salary in some cases during the last lap of Ahmed’s administration. When the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Kwara state chapter was fighting the last administration on the issues of unpaid salaries and arrears, due promotions and lot more, why were they silent? Or should we agree that they were part of those leaders who colluded with the NULGE executive to sabotage the effort of many local government workers?
Kwara state is tagged “civil servant state” because almost every household in the state have at least a relation working with the government and this is one of the reasons the Otoge crusade became a success. The labour union have to understand that Kwara state is a political school, even we played politics with our children, for every step taken, people relate it to politics or politicking, hence the reason why the labour union should be patient. Since the new government came on board, Governor AbdulRazaq has set up a committee to review and provide solutions that will lead to the implementation of at least the N18000 version of the minimum wage. In his opinion, the governor maintained that N30000 minimum wage cannot be implemented in the state in relation to the internally generated revenue and federal allocation combined. The governor made it clear that if N30000 minimum wage is being implemented it will automatically affect every other sector in the state, and as such the government will not be able to bring dividends of democracy to the people of the state, because the state worker salary will consume the IGR plus the allocation (placed on N30000 minimum wage).
“Our reality is that if we accede to the demands of the labour as they are, we will not be able to do any other thing other than paying workers,” according to Governor AbdulRazaq.
The labour union leaders — NLC, TUC and others on their path, one would assume they are impatient with the government of the state on their decision to embark on strike even at the detriment of an injunction from an industrial court. Again, one will wonder if those allegations leveled against them by the members of various labour unions body in the state, regarding receiving bribes from the previous administration were true. For 8 years, the last administration never set up a committee of implementation, yet the labour leaders were silent when their voices needed to be heard. One will also question the reasons and motives behind early show of politics from the labour leaders, the government have put a committee in place to submit its report within stipulated time yet the union choose not to wait for the outcome of that committee, isn’t this questionable?. They need to understand the reason why patience is paramount.
Yes, who ever advised the government of the state to secure a court injunction against the labour did no favor. The governor in his usual manner should have called for continuous negotiation till possible conclusion surfaces. It is paramount to remind us that previous meetings between the government and the labour leaders ended in deadlock. Nevertheless, negotiation is necessary. The labour unions on their path failed to abide by the three C of struggle: consultation, consolidation and confrontation. In my opinion, the labour leaders should have option to wait for the report of the committee set up by the government and the state government should have option for continuous negotiations not court injunction. For better Kwara, may AA succeed.