Callousness of state governors
‘‘How can anyone go to bed and sleep soundly when workers have not been paid their salaries for months? I actually wonder how the workers feed their families, pay rents and school fees of their children,’’ said President Muhammadu Buhari in his castigation of some state governors for their failure to pay their workers for several months. It is pertinent to inquire: ‘‘Are the state governors and their deputies not collecting their own salaries?’’
If they collect their salaries and other official and unofficial fringe benefits, what stops them from paying their workers? These governors were sworn-in with their Bible and Quran (Holy Writ) during their inauguration at the beginning of their tenures. Every state chief executive took the Oath of Office, averred that, inter alia: ‘‘I do solemnly swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that as the governor of the state, I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability and in accordance with the constitution and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of the country; that I will exercise the authority vested in me as the governor of the state, I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability and in accordance with the constitution and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of the country, that I will exercise the authority vested in me as the governor; so that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions; that in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people according to law; and that I will devote myself to the services and well-being of the people. So, help me God.”
What has become of these declarations? They were empty promises and assurances, because of the breaches as the workers’ salaries and allowances are denied them. Their failure can be viewed from various perspectives. It borders on man’s inhumanity to man. At the beginning of creation, the Supreme Being ordained that men shall eat from the sweat of their brows; that is, men must toil for their daily bread. The governors’ failure has incurred the wrath of the Almighty whose commandment is breached. The workers carry out their sides of the contract of employment, whilst the governors default in theirs. What an abomination! Recently, a worker whose wife delivered triplets, allegedly committed suicide, because his state governor failed to pay him for several months.
There is no greater inhumanity to man. Each worker has family commitments. Every one of them must have children to cater for. And in some instances, their parents must be dependent on each worker. Empathy is the prelude to sympathy. One has to empathise before he is sympathetic; that is, one has to imagine the feelings of others to realise what they are passing through. These inhuman and callous governors have to empathise to be able to sympathise. It is this callousness that causes workers to go on strike every time. Equally deplorable is the negative reaction of some obtuse-minded. Nigerians who may not appreciate the endurances and long patience of the unpaid workers.
President Muhammadu Buhari lamented that despite the various interventions by the Federal Government there are still complaints and agitations by workers over unpaid salaries and allowances. It takes two parties to argue over an issue. President Buhari opened the floor with the lamentation that the state governors were heartless by not paying their workers. The governors argued flimsily: ‘‘The governors inherited a backlog of unpaid salaries and huge debt portfolios on assumption of office.’’
During the meeting with the President, the governors requested that the President should ensure the release of the 50 per cent of the Paris Club loan refund that the funds could be built into the 2018 budgets of the state governments. If states government are indebted to workers on salaries, what do we expect from private corporate bodies? The latter have the latitude to deny their workers of salaries. The question is: ‘‘The funds that were earlier collected, for what purpose were they expended? ‘‘The second question: ‘‘What are the other sources of revenue generated in the states? Are they not generating funds besides those from the Federal Government? ‘‘In my considered opinion, the defaulting state chief executive must be made to account for the previous installment of funds.
During the agitation for states creation, the argument was that the prospective states could be resourceful sufficiently to be financially sustainable to merit the creation, buttressing their stance with the fact that they were blessed with rich natural and human resources to run their affairs. Why is it that such natural endowments are not exploited to finance the states? Today, the states are not viable economically to weather the debilitating storm of recession. A hollow agitation, it was. In my opinion, the reason for the states governors’ laxity, indiscipline and slip-shod performances is that nobody is supervising and monitoring these governors.
In the lifetime of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, there was no clear-headed state executive who could dare fail to pay workers. The late leader will continue to be my venerable reference point in Nigerian politics. Periodically, Chief Awolowo would invite any defaulter to his Ikenne-Remo home to answer some queries about the goings-on in his state. He was monitoring and supervising his LOOBO states governors like a secondary school principal would monitor and supervise his teachers
Today, nobody, and indeed, no party-chairman is monitoring any governor. Who is supervising the governors of All Progressives Congress? Is it Chief John Odigie-Oyegun? Who supervises the governors of the Peoples Democratic Party, a party that is drifting like a rudderless ship?
Our leaders are hypocrites who swear by their respective Holy Books, but practise debauchery. This writer proffers the application of indigenous faith symbols to compel their sincerity. Also, the states governors must endeavour to explore internal revenue sources for development. They must stop depending on the Federal Government for subsistence.
Oshisada, a veteran journalist, wrote from Ikorodu, Lagos.
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