Home > Articles > Naija: A nation on the brink? by Raphael Ojigbede

Naija: A nation on the brink? by Raphael Ojigbede

occupy-nigeria

On tuning my TV to listen to AIT World News recently, I saw a group take the protest of slashing of workers salary to the National Assembly. Also, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities’ (SSANU) are also protesting over unpaid salaries in 2 months. The message was clear: strike would begin and continue until they were paid. Did I hear you say ASUU strike nko? Well, the Finance minister before then had claimed Naija is broke and cannot afford to pay salaries; and yes even doctors are also affected too!

However, it is not the same with Senators and politicians. The public servants continue to earn jumbo pay with one female protester asking why they earn some crazy, huge allowance such as hardship allowance (yes, hardship allowance!), newspaper, domestic staff allowance etc., running into millions of naira monthly.

Indeed, someone once remarked that what ASUU is asking for as arrears in 4 years is what 469 Senators earn in a year!

First of all, why do we need such a huge number of Senators?! Alright, we know all the talk about propotional representation and how every one of us need to be represented in the green chambers. But what is the justification for earning reportedly around #29m a month in salary (more than Barack Obama earns as United States president) yet we struggle to pay #18000 as minimum wage, and other categories of salaries for workers in our public institutions too.

A few days back, the hashtag #askourNASS trended on social media. Truly, there are salient questions, not just the Senate but our own Finance minister and all the ruling class would have to answer. At least, the Finance minister is supposed to be a first-class product from a reputable University outside the shores of this nation where academic programmes are run with high standards and without hitches. She should be in the proper position to justify, if there is any such thing, the huge pay-out in the face of rising poverty in the nation. It is not possibly just me who thinks that the level of greed among the uppermost echelons of this socio-demographic strata is alarmingly unacceptable. It is becoming another thing entirely – so to speak. Definitely, I strongly believe it’s not just me that thinks so. I do not need to study economics – let alone be an expert – to sense the putrid air of greed, insincerity and dishonesty in this whole affair. No offence, but I think they are just a bunch of liars.

What’s worrisome is that with the way the situation is going, things may get out of hand soon. Although Nigerians have always been peace-loving people, I sense that our elastic limit is fast approaching, and very soon (if care isn’t taken), the centre might no longer be able to hold because things have fallen apart. I am not a prophet of doom. It is a sad reality staring us all on the face. It is not being contested here that we are an extremely patient set of humans – that insanely tolerant and resilient attitude that sometimes can be taken for granted or mistaken for stupidity. My fear is that what we may like to see as a positive quality is being continually being exploited by our leaders; or should I say our ruling class as the latter appears to be more accurate.

Of course, I had like to think that the fact that Nigeria has been through a really bitter and bloody civil war in the past, coupled with our notorious resilience do not make the idea even of a revolution an exactly palatable one. However, our ruling class has been pushing it, almost with impunity. I know nations who would by now have probably disintegrated if they had experienced a tenth of what we pass through in this nation. I once read that the French Revolution was ignited by an increase in the price of bread (yes you read right!) by a few extra Francs!

I’m reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s words that there is enough in the world for man’s need but not enough for man’s greed. Is there a better statement to explain the present situation we face in Nigeria? I doubt. If there is still enough money for them to get jumbo pay, then there is enough for workers be paid and for the salaries of workers not to be even be delayed let alone slashed.

Another Independence day is here again. I could bet a billion bucks (that is if I actually do have a million even) that
huge amounts of money will be claimed to have been spent in the celebrations. Ironically, this is a country where it’s Finance minister is screaming no money. If you are wondering what exactly is wrong with calling for pump and pageantry to celebrate our 53rd anniversary, you should ask yourself certain questions. When are our undergraduates returning to school? When would we get to the point where we do not have to resort to endless strikes or protests before things are put right in our nation?

Recently, NMA (National Medical Association) gave a 4-week ultimatum to the Federal goverment to address the issue of unpaid/delayed doctors salary. Similarly, NUT (National Union of Teachers) threatens sympathy strike if ASUU’s strike is not called off; and so many inresolved national issues.

Now I ask you, when would we truly speaking enjoy the ‘dividends of democracy’? When would corruption be brought to a minimal level, if not completely swept-off? When would jobs be provided for the increasing army off unemployed Nigerians and without having to know a certain ‘lagbaja’ to gain ‘favour’ in the face of the lack of job opportunities in the country? When can say that things have been working in this nation?

I’m not blind, stupid, naive or asking for what is an impossible task to achieve. Herculean? Yes. Maybe. However, it is achievable or why, I must ask, are things working elsewhere? The time when our ruling class begins to truly put the interest of every Nigerian at heart, above their own selfish, inordinate and greedy interests, only then would this country get better and truly become the nation of our dreams – a nation where we are all truly independent! For now, I say my friends, Au revoir.

Raphael Ojigbede is a Doctor. He is a graduate of the College of Medicine, University of Benin, Benin City, Edo State. You can connect with him on his Facebook profile, Raphael ‘Rafosky’ Ojigbede.

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  1. 04/10/2013 at 11:59

    PS: The protest in the first paragraph is different from the proposed strike by SSANU. 2 different points actually. Consider it a typo!

    • 04/10/2013 at 17:41

      Hello Raphael Ojigbede, your observation has been reflected in the relevant paragraph. Thank you.

  2. David Amakiri
    04/10/2013 at 15:14

    well I think the biggest issue is greed in the nation. I’m not on any side but I must say most workers and politicians alike are just greedy. By the way must teachers earn as much as legislators?

    • 04/10/2013 at 21:51

      Exactly, our problem is greed. Well they must not necessarily earn as much but when there is a huge disparity like we currently have it becomes a really big problem because there is no sincerity on their part and that truthfully has been the cause of most if not all of the strike we experience every time as it’s tough to see this folks live in so much opulence yet they come to tell us no money. It’s not something we, I mean anyone outside of their circles, would like to take and that’s why we have all this plenty issues of strike really

  3. Amakiri
    04/10/2013 at 15:16

    well I think the problem is greed in the nation. By the way must teachers and academics earn as much as legislators?

    • 04/10/2013 at 22:25

      mind you the workers ain’t fighting to receive as much, they know that wont happen. they just don’t want their salaries being slashed/delayed especially as it doesn’t affect them also. Asuu’s on the other hand is a case of govt failing to honour a previous agreement of which our president was a part of! Remember what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. That’s all we’r saying!

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