Random Thoughts on the Nation

By Jude Atupulazi

As the countdown to next year’s general elections continues, events are moving at dizzying speed on all fronts. This is a period when politicians put final touches to their strategies aimed at wooing the electorate. It is also a time when the electorate plays the unwilling bride, hoping that the politicians will raise the ante. This is a time when the suffering masses have the rare privilege of holding the politicians by the jugular, forcing them to do their bidding. It is indeed, certainly a sweet period.

Because we are in this kind of period, it won’t surprise many to see some things being done by people who would ordinarily not do them. Top on the list of such was the visit to Kaduna by our president.

Kaduna: Buhari suddenly turns human
In the height of the killings by Fulani herdsmen of hapless villagers in parts of the country, especially Benue and Plateau States, our president seemed to have closed his eyes and stuffed his once ailing ears with wax so that he neither saw nor heard the cries of villagers being slaughtered by the Fulani herdsmen. Even when 72 people were buried in one day in Benue State, what surely would have constituted a monumental national disaster in any sane country, Buhari was nowhere near the place as the families of the dead cried their hearts out.

When even more than 200 people were killed in Jos, some months later, Buhari still feigned ignorance of the deaths. No word was even uttered by him. He left the people to bury their dead and this was despite public outrage against his clear lack of concern.

What he did was to express unhappiness with the way the killings were tagged killings by herdsmen. He said the real tag should be farmers’/herdsmen’s conflict.

Even at that, some people wondered what kind of conflict would always leave one side decimated, while the other goes unscathed. And like fools, the media seems to have bought Buhari’s suggestion. That is why these days you hear many media houses describing the killings as clash between farmers and herdsmen. Shame!

Now, with the elections knocking on the door, Buhari has suddenly become a caring father. Last week he was in Kaduna to commiserate with the state government over the loss of lives there in the wake of the crisis that claimed over 20 lives as officially reported.

Buhari’s visit to Kaduna was what he ought to have been doing all along; just as we see other world leaders doing all the time, even when only one person died.

Buhari’s visit to Kaduna and his sudden show of compassion will however fool only the fools. It is nothing to do with compassion. It is just a political gimmick aimed at attracting support ahead of the general elections. If you don’t believe it, then you certainly deserve what is happening to you today and what may happen if he comes back.

Minimum Wage Palaver
The burning issue in the country today is the face-off between the federal/state governments and the workers represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC. The federal government is saying it is ready to pay workers a minimum of N30, 000 a month which the workers are also insisting on. The state governments are however, only ready to pay N22, 500.

But beyond all this is the question of whether even N30, 000 suffices as minimum wage for any category of Nigerian worker when politicians gulp millions as salaries and allowances. This is not acceptable and never will be.

Sometimes I wonder how the average Nigerian worker survives. I mean those who take home the minimum wage; not the senor workers. I’m well aware that a politician can enter a supermarket and within minutes buy stuff worth a hundred thousand Naira. Sometimes, it is spent on their girlfriends. Yet, somewhere, a worker is struggling to manage N18, 000 for a whole month.

This N18, 000 is what the poor worker will use to pay the school fees of their children, feed their families, clothe them, pay hospital bills and pay the ever increasing house rent. They will also use this to pay tithes in their churches, assuming they belong to religious faiths that thrive on tithes.

Honestly, I’m beginning to think that this category of worker must be a magician. If not, how can they manage life on a paltry N18, 000 a month whereas politicians can spend ten times that amount in 30 minutes?

I believe that if government has a human face and heart, it will not hesitate to pay a minimum wage of at least N80, 000, given the harsh realities of the day. Government can do that if it cuts down on the cost of governance. For example, is there any reason why a governor should have more than three vehicles on their convoys? Often times, the vehicles on the convoys are empty; yet they are fuelled daily and used as an excuse to deplete our common wealth. Same goes for the president.

I have seen a European president go to work on a bicycle; yes, a bicycle! When we see such on the social media we hail them but down here, we won’t replicate that. Some foreign leaders have been known to go to work on public trains too. But here our governors and president have a long line of expensive cars on their convoys, including ambulances, dispatch riders and all the other needless additions.

Yes, our leaders have to cut costs to make it possible for the less privileged class to earn living wages. They have to cut the salaries and allowances of ministers, commissioners and aides. Only people who can add value to their government should be appointed. No one should earn a kobo if they do not contribute anything meaningful.

I’m also sure that governors can afford to pay workers well if they pay less attention to their security votes. What on earth are they doing with such stupendous amounts as security votes?

It is clear that the inability (or is it refusal?) of the government to pay living wages is because of the high cost of governance. The day we begin to make political offices less attractive, the better for the country. That way, only those with genuine desires to serve will offer their services. That will be against the current scenario where political offices are used in settling some people. That is why you see political appointees who have no other means of livelihood, meaning that without their appointments they will starve.

Indeed, it is shameful, abhorrent and wicked of government to be dragging the issue of what to pay workers at this age when government officials are sucking the system dry.
With what workers are paid, any wonder why they do not work with their whole hearts? Any wonder that they fleece anyone unlucky enough to need their services, either to find their files or process documents? Any wonder that some officials create ghost workers in order to make ends meet? Why is it that we don’t have ghost lawmakers, ghost president and ghost governors? Your guess is as good as mine.

Still on Peter Obi
Although it is now getting to a month since former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, was adopted as the running mate of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, that development has continued to dominate the political space and public discourse.
The vast majority of discussions and analyses have been kind to Obi. The fact remains that Obi deserves all the accolades. What he is seeing today being said of him is like someone being alive to witness one’s funeral by loved ones. Obi thoroughly deserves everything today because he worked for it.

When he came to these parts preaching his gospel of prudence, many thought him a weird fellow. Others described him as a miser, including me. But he stuck to his guns and emerged as a model leader. Nigerians took note of his accomplishments, even though grudgingly.

Today, when good men are being sought to save the country from the jaws of bad governance, people like Obi are being mentioned; not those who splashed the cash or acted like Santa Claus. This means that whatever one does as a leader, there are those who take note and file it away somewhere for reference later. That later time is here.
The lesson of Obi to the rest of us is that we should not allow others to influence our actions when those actions are not for public good. We should stick to what is beneficial to all; not what is beneficial to us.

Today, isn’t it strange that a running mate is more popular than his boss and is being celebrated more? You can hate Obi for his tight fists but you have to concede that in administration, very few are better. He is indeed, one of Igbo’s best. Even if it all ends here, at least he has seen the reward of his attempt to change his society for the better.

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