Last week I was thrilled to read that PMB threw a very interesting question to state governors who were owing arrears of salaries: How do you sleep when your workers are unpaid and hungry? In some states in Nigeria, we hear that workers are still being owed up to 6 months and pensioners up to 9 months, and that is after the federal government’s bailout packages and the recent Paris Club debt reimbursements.
For some of us things begin to get difficult just after two weeks of our last month’s pay, and if the next pay day is delayed for any reason whatsoever, we become anxious and dysfunctional. I cannot contemplate how we can survive with two months of salary arrears and yet we hear that some ‘poor’ civil servants can still transport themselves to work even when salaries have not been paid for six months or more. How? Is it from previous savings, iou, book me down, support from family and friends or from egunje? We need to hear from them please.
The question PMB asked intrigued me, because, it is the type I have been asking our leaders for years. It would have been nice to hear how the governors answered the unsettling question. Because, some of these governors do not only sleep very well, but they find the time and money to organize receptions and parties, undertake frequent overseas trips with their families and cronies in tow and fund sundry expenses. Many of them collect their salaries regularly and their security votes are paid up front, while the miserable civil servants are asked to exercise patience (unending?) or cajoled to accept a fraction of their emoluments as governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state tried to do recently. As I was concluding this piece, my heart was broken when I read the story of a senior civil servant in Kogi state who recently committed suicide because he was owed 11 months salary and did not have any money to take care of his wife and their 10-day old male triplets. What a shame! Does anybody know how many of such disasters have happened without being reported and yet our political leaders sleep easy!
It may sound unreasonable, but I have always expected the actions and moods of leaders to reflect the circumstances of the people they lead. If the people are mourning, they should mourn, if they are hungry, they should go hungry. If there is not enough money to pay salaries, the leaders should be the ones to be paid last. We should start paying from the least paid to the highest paid. If the state does not have enough money to pay salaries, then we should cut off frivolities and if that does not solve the problems, then we should down size and set the people free to go and do something for themselves instead of holding them as ‘captives’ and helping to spread poverty and misery. How can a man who is owed eleven months salary still be honestly regarded as being in employment, contributing to false statistics?
As they say what is good for the goose should be good for the gander. If permitted, I will like to ask PMB, how he sleeps when the armed Fulani herdsmen are daily ravaging communities and murdering innocent women and children, some in their sleep? How does he sleep when armed herdsmen are now killing more Nigerians than the Boko Haram terrorists? How does he sleep when last week, particular communities in Bassa LGA in Plateau state were consistently attacked and murdered by militant herdsmen, despite dusk to dawn curfew and despite the presence of the military? How does he sleep when the government he leads is failing in its primary duty of protecting citizens? It was okay for him to condemn the “madness” in plateau which according to him” has gone too far”. It was also good for him to instruct the police and military to bring an end to the madness. But would it not have sent a new message if he said he was delaying or cancelling his trip to Turkey in honour of the 15+9+27 innocent souls lost in cold murder in the plateau last week. When will the life of ordinary Nigerians begin to count in this country? Suppose one of those killed was his, would he still have travelled?
I may sound unreasonable, but that’s because I am really unable to sleep as I daily worry about the failure of leadership in this country! So help me God.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR