DewaleAwoyemi(Not real names) works at the Ministry of Lands in Osun state, his wife, Nike teaches in a state government owned Primary school.
They have 4 children, the first son is serving Nigeria in Imo state, the second child, a girl is studying medicine in Obafemi Awolowo University, the third child studies Transport Management at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology. The last born child is still in secondary School. Theirs is a thriving middle class family, the kind that is often seen as an exemplar of the Nigerian dream. Humble beginnings and a steady rise. Since payment of salaries to state government workers became epileptic, the family has had to suffer repeatedly. The savings they had was depleted at the height of the state government’s inability to pay salaries of workers. With the pressure from the extended family members who depended on them and their own needs too, they have had to take a bank loan.
The scenario above depicts a mild version of the sufferings of an average state worker in Osun State. Many workers have been reduced to beggars; they literally beg others, mostly uneducated friends who are in business for help. And as at June 2015, it became unfashionable to beg because it had become excessive and shameful. Nigeria is a country of paradox, we get to hear of the millions the politicians and political office holders handle, we hear of millions in the news, in budgetary allocations and in stolen public funds. For many government workers who really work hard, the closest they get to millions is when they take loans and in the newspapers and television sets. On the other hand, these people interact with hundreds of naira daily, when they can. Only the senior staff members get to deal with thousands daily. Some people who work 8am-4pm everyday earn as low as 25,000 naira. From whichthey’re expected to pay for housing, transport, wardrobe and feeding. And if they have a family, they’re expected to feed several other mouths from this. A quote which I find sacrosanct is this:
Any leader who cannot pay salaries consistently is not fit to rule
This article is not to discuss the several problems bedeviling the Nigerian economy and how much the governors of the states where salaries are owed are trying to help their workers. This article is a response to the people who give excuses for non-payment of the salaries. I discovered that many who comment don’t really understand the enormity of the situation, because some of them are in faraway Lagos or London. Some have just decided to be wicked. For those in Lagos, they failed to realize that the gap between the economies of Osun and Lagos states is as wide as the distance between them. Osun state is a civil service state; the workers are the middle class who have the spending power as their sole monopoly. The two major companies the state had; Nigerian Machine Tools and Ikirun Steel Rolling are no longer functional. Aside a handful of private run companies and educational institutions, there’s hardly any other means of gainful employment in the entire state.
The first month the government defaulted in paying salaries, the workers endured and carried on with their lives and duties, after the second month, some fell back on the petty businesses they had, some others survived on their savings and the not so lucky ones had to take loans from friends and family members. The following months were torturous as the ones with savings had exhausted their savings; the others with businesses had almost exhausted their capital while the beggars had simply remained at the mercy of others. Because the middle class workers own the spending power in the state, the economy of the entire state came crashing due to non payment of salaries.Even when individuals who are not directly affected need an excuse for ineptitude, the non-payment of salaries come in handy.
The point is that we should all join hands to condemn non payment of salaries and encourage governors to make it their top priority to pay salaries. When people laud governors who owe salaries of several months, I feel offended and I remember the friend I have whose parents work with the federal government but had to support the retired grandparents because of non-payment of pensions, they also had to support two uncles and their families who are on the payroll of the stategovernment. I also remember the teacher I met recently who appealed to me for 500 naira so he can feed his hungry family. I also remember the story of the asthmatic principal who died of asthma after serving the state for 22 years because he could no longer afford to buy an inhaler.
Rather than make excuses for these governors, let’s pull them closer to the masses by making them aware of the sufferings of the common man. Let’s make them feel the pains of ordinary people. We all need to realize that salaries are sacrosanct
Facebook:Ayodele Eagles Ibiyemi
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