This piece you are about to read is likely to offend my friends in government and in several establishments across the country. Governors in 33 out of the 36 states in the Nigerian territory who have not been able to pay their workers as promptly and regularly as when due, administrators of universities and several tertiary institutions who are owing their workers, chief executives of banking and financial institutions who are owing arrears of salaries and even authorities of police institution, and agencies charged with paying our illustrious pensioners are all going to go up in arms raising curses on my big head. So be it.
But let me quickly add that all those who have not been able to pay salaries, with the exception of the ‘federal ’government are hereby discharged and acquitted. Their only offence is that they have not demonstrated sufficient political will to exterminate the UNITARY government hoisted on the Nigerian territory of which they are a strong component.
As an aside this writer has vowed never to refer to the unfortunate territory mischievously named Nigeria as a country. The huge land space is neither a country nor a federation. And there is nothing federal about the territory’s character or its spirit and operations. It, therefore remains a territory which hitherto was a collection of free nations and nation states forcibly broken into two protectorates and later equally forcibly amalgamated into one territory under Lugardo-Fulani imperialism.
Now to our discourse today. I had thought slavery ended some 200 years ago, little did I realise that the inhuman subject has resurfaced in several parts of the world and monstrously in this amalgamated territory called Nigeria.
Slavery was and still remains the greatest tragedy in all of human history. It was a phenomenon where fellow human beings were chained up, their lips perforated for insertion of padlocks to prevent them from talking or communicating with fellow human beings. It was a tragedy which saw human beings, specifically the Arabs and Euro-Americans carrying the Holy Quran and the Holy Bible respectively and yet wielding guns, cudgels and whips to debase and dehumanise fellow human beings in the most heinous, brutal and cruel way imaginable.
Slaves were forced to labour without wages and their services were most cruelly procured!
Now in the 21st Century, those charged with running the affairs of the officially given 186 million human beings in the territory aforementioned have borrowed from the experience of the old slave masters to engage fellow citizens or sub-citizens in the same cruel treatment of slaves. Millions of workers in the territory called Nigeria have gone for several months without their duly earned wages paid to them. They religiously go to work every day, most of them on empty stomachs, and come back weary and sad without a kobo put into their pockets. It has been a daily routine. And to add copious salt to festooning sore, some of their insensitive employers visit their own frustration on the poor workers.
Whereas these employers know the real and root cause of their frustration; the central government that has stolen all the money meant for running the affairs of the whole territory, they chose instead to bully their hapless workers whose only offence is that they were born into an ill-defined geographical space.
Hundreds of the unpaid workers are reported to have collapsed on their way to work, or at points where bogus verification exercises were being conducted. For those who may not be aware, verification exercises are some of the delaying tactics employed by state governments and some establishments to prolong the suffering of their employees. If there are ghost workers, there are better and cheaper ways to identify and catch those who do not exist and yet are put on the pay roll. Each department can do a physical count of the workers who report daily at their desk. Use the list of those to pay salaries and the task is done! But the truth is that governments do not have the money to pay and must therefore resort to all crude methods of delay.
There are two people to blame for this wicked state of affairs. The workers have a right to stay off work if their services are not paid for. It does not make any sense for anybody in the 21st century to allow themselves to be used and treated as slaves. If the workers in the 33 or so states that are owed salaries and wages down tools across the Nigerian territory all at the same time, those who are treating them like goats will sit up.
Governors know that all the money meant for them to run their states and pay their workers is tied up in the belly of the unholy over centralized UNITARY government in Abuja. They too can force the hands of Abuja to remove the politico-economic yoke tied to their necks. They can force a return to status quo ante. The territory called Nigeria must be brought back to pre-1914. Everybody must demand it. Everybody must fight for it. Everybody should begin to talk about it.
Slavery of workers must stop. Nationalities occupying this mass territory must free the money kept in the unholy vault in Abuja. This is the peaceful way to do it. This is the only way to prevent the Northern and Southern Sudan imbroglio.
By the way, are governors drawing their own salaries? Are members of the National Assembly including the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives not receiving their salaries uninterrupted every month end? Are members of all State Assemblies not smiling to their banks every month end? Are Vice Chancellors owed salaries?
Why in God’s name should helpless workers be made slaves?
Work without pay must stop.
The pen is the tongue of the hand,the silent utterer of words for the eyes…Henry Beecher
Otunba Tola Adeniyi is our esteem guest columnist.