It is important for labour leaders to remain relevant and have influence. To achieve that status, they must aspire to have oversight, insight, hindsight, and foresight about everything that concerns the labour-force rather than agitation and strike actions as their hallmark. The country is in a mess much deeper than we had ever known as political leaders have become more of a burden. The labour leaders have no doubt been useful in terms of securing some level of welfare for the workers. The template adopted by the labour leaders in securing attention from the recalcitrant political leaders has not changed much. It has to change as this is not the period to cry over an increase in minimum wage. It is a time to think of ways to have oversight on the issues that affect the labour force. It is a period to turn information to intelligence. It is a time to look backward in order to be able to influence the future and anticipate the same. Have we ever asked ourselves the question of what level of welfare the previous minimum wage has ever guaranteed? Are the goods and services available to be purchased? Are low-cost houses available to be rented, are the roads motorable, is electricity available for both domestic and industrial or business use? Is security available? How good are the schools and hospitals? What of water and sanitation? Are we anywhere near the 2030 goals set in the Sustainable Development agenda? These and other questions should bother the minds of union leaders. How many union leaders are in the national assembly as legislators? What is the status of the Labour Party? Why can’t we use the platform of the Labor Party to secure the changes we desire? I guess the labour leaders are serious but in the wrong direction.
I wonder why the labour leaders are comfortable asking for minimum wage in a country where solipsism and nativism are leading everyone into the wilderness. Are thousands who today are kept away in the IDP camps not part of the labour force of this country? You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Enough of agitation for minimum wage. It is time to start asking for good roads, well-equipped hospitals, accountability from the government at all levels, sanity in our courts, security for all and sundry, food for all, water and sanitation in all nooks and crannies in this country. Where you do not have to provide your electricity, water, security, roads, hospital, and ‘rent’ teachers for your children and wards, then the minimum wage would become maximum wage.
I believe labour leaders keep records of vows made by politicians during electioneering storm which they fail to deliver on in the calm of their positions after elections. If they don’t keep records of such vows I advise they do. Those records should provide the basis for any intended strike action. I am convinced that if vows made in a political storm are not forgotten in a political calm, there might not be a serious need for any agitation for minimum wage. During the electioneering campaigns in 2015, for instance, we were told that a serious government should be able to “fix power problems in six months” and that the only way to have stable electricity is to “vote out PDP.” I am sure PDP was voted out and we have had multiples of six months since 2015 without stable electricity. It is also on record that the question was asked: “why is the nation’s currency, the Naira, now trading for N180 per Dollar, while the South African Rand is trading at R11 one United States Dollar?” This was a legitimate question but today the Naira trades for N360 to the dollar. When went wrong!
It was also drummed even to the ears of the deaf that “it’s time to restructure Nigeria: The present situation of things where all component units get a monthly allocation from the Federal Government only makes the States lazy and Unproductive.” Jonathan was also asked to resign if he “has no solution to the violence being unleashed on some parts of the country.” Have States stopped receiving a monthly allocation from the Federal Government? No. Has violence ceased in Nigeria? No. Is it that the present government is not doing anything to stop violence and other crimes in Nigeria? No. Then, what is the problem?
Even though the politics in Nigeria is toxic and prevents real action on pressing issues, I perceive in my heart that there is no government, no matter how naughty, that would not want to make meaning contributions to society. I read recently the compendium of ‘Public Service Reforms’ in Nigeria (2015-2017). The compendium provides a summary of the various reform initiatives of the Buhari administration, the major achievements, key challenges and proposed steps to mitigate all grey areas. The compendium is suggestive that the government desires to improve the living standard of Nigerians. But, as with other previous governments, not much has been achieved even with the best of intentions. This means that there are fundamental issues to be addressed before governments can begin to make progress in their activities. The progress will not be political ‘party dependent’ but the ability of reasoned debate to win arguments.
Neither the present nor the immediate past government gave birth to the present level of abasement but all governments have embraced it enthusiastically by stretching the truth and telling lies with pride. There is no wage that can take the workers home in a country where politicians are willfully divisive and callously cruel. I beg the labour leaders. Strikes are potent where governments are ‘deaf’ and ‘dumb.’ But let’s go on strike because we have no access to information on the remunerations of our political leaders, especially the National Assembly. Let’s go on strike because our roads are eroded, schools are without teachers in terms of quality and quantity, hospitals are without drugs. Let’s go on strike because there is insecurity everywhere. Let’s go on strike because there is corruption everywhere. We will not soar by an increase in the minimum wage because we can’t keep prices of goods and services constant. The workforce will only be poorer by any increase other than in improvements in institutions and infrastructure.
Professor Iyoha is of the Department of Accounting, Covenant University and Research Fellow, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). He wrote via email@example.com
Tags: Minimum Wage