• Friday, July 19, 2024
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2023: The invincibles and the vulnerables (2)

Recapitalisation for PFAs and the welfare of Nigerian pensioners

This is the second part of a two-part series that was published on Friday -Good Friday. In that earlier piece, we focused on the presidential hopefuls and contrasted this search for power with the mood of the times.

This mood is clearly embodied in the fasting season, which is being observed by Moslems and Christians alike. One individual who drew our attention to this unusual situation was the governor of Ekiti State. In much of what follows, we will elaborate on this point and also focus on the other side of the invincibles, ie, the vulnerable.

When the Ekiti State governor was asked, or better still pressed about his own plans for 2023, he came forth with one of the most thoughtful comments, which to my mind, captures the essence of the moment.

As I contemplated this gentleman’s condition or non-condition, I knew that, what I was encountering was just an index, in the midst of an overwhelmingly massive and national situation

According to him, these are times that call for reflections in the light of the ongoing fasting session/season that is being observed by adherents of the two major faiths. One must certainly take to heart these observations of the Ekiti helmsman.

This is because there is something of dissonance between these spiritual times and the desperate urge for power on the part of the invincibles.

The fasting season, irrespective of one’s faith, seeks to remove the person from the mundane pursuits of this world- power inclusive. It seeks to instil moderation.

It also seeks to serve as a reminder, about what this life is all about. That we are sojourners here. That our preoccupations should be largely divorced from the rat race, which is the current preoccupation of the invincibles and their supporters.

And talking of fasting the situation also speaks, and eloquently too to both the poor and the rich in our midst. As regards the latter, the lesson is this, as you fast, and undergo the pangs of hunger; one not only learns a lesson in self-control.

Equally important, is that the transient experience of deprivation is for a lot of our compatriots in Nigeria, a permanent state of affairs. It is so permanent that, when the fasting season comes upon us, as it does with unfailing regularity for the poor, the fast is really something of a continuity.

I caught a glimpse of this numbing and moving situation when I had to interact with a member of the dispossessed. Innocently, I posed the question to this gentleman: are you fasting, since you are a Moslem. His answer was in the negative.

Why, I asked and his response jolted me. According to him, he is not fasting because the wherewithal to break the fast is not there.

That ordinarily, if you are fasting, the breaking of the fast entails some expenses, which according to him, he cannot afford. This was a real human situation unfolding before my very eyes. It can even be called, a human rendition of those World Bank and IMF depositions that speak to the fact that ours is indeed the poverty capital of the world.

As I contemplated this gentleman’s condition or non-condition, I knew that, what I was encountering was just an index, in the midst of an overwhelmingly massive and national situation. In other words, right before me was a veritable member of the vulnerable.

And when, you compare or better still contrast the status of the vulnerable with the invincible, one can then readily appreciate that, there is trouble in the land. Luckily for us and in its own way, the press has never failed to draw our attention to the plight of the vulnerables among us.

Whether we like it or not; even if we chose to ignore them, it must be said that, this dismal situation is part of our daily realities. And in his rather prescient way, the Lord Jesus Christ himself spoke to this situation, a long time ago. This was when he declared that: the poor will always be with us.

Despite the seeming inevitability in much of the foregoing, it is clear that poverty in contemporary Nigeria does not just happen. It is in reality the misapplication of resources on the part of the invincibles and invariably, or better still, in the process, the vulnerable are given the short end of the stick. A number of recent examples as depicted in the media come to mind here.

There is this pathetic case of First Bank pensioners. Yes – you read right. We are talking here about First Bank – a prime financial institution that is as old, even older than Nigeria.

But then, it must be admitted, even as depicted in its own advert, First Bank is an integral part of Nigeria’s colonial narrative. So in a rather perverse way, what is currently happening to its pensioners has a ring or consistency.

As the story goes, it was reported that the bank’s pensioners as revealed in the monthly meeting of these senior citizens are groaning under the yoke of the inhuman treatment being meted out to them.

Over 80 percent of the pensioners reportedly earn less than N20,000 irrespective of their departure status. To worsen matters, the bank has refused to review this monthly pension, despite government’s directives and edicts, that there should be a periodic review every five years.

Meanwhile, the First Bank has also consistently ignored all the pleas by the pensioners to this effect. Consequently, and as revealed, the pensioners are now dying in droves, while a lot are languishing on sickbeds, due to mounting and unaffordable medical bills.

The attention of the public has also been drawn to the fact that, First Bank is yet to account for the N200-billion, accumulated Pension Trust Fund as reflected in the Bank’s 2006, Audited Account.

So, while this sad drama continues to play out in which the vulnerables are groaning the beat goes on as being marshalled by the invincibles in the land. Apparently, nobody cares.

Read also: 2023: The invincibles and the vulnerables

The race for the presidency is all that matters, amid the brutalisation and deprivation in the land. Unfortunately, the case of the ill-used pensioners is not an isolated phenomenon.

A similar situation can be seen in the case of Citizen Ukwu Chiemezie, a police constable who enlisted in the Nigerian Police Force some four years ago.

As his personal story goes, after a six-month training, he was paid four months’ salary after the training ended. At 45,000 a month, he was given the seemingly princely sum of N180,000. After deducting loans, which he contracted in the dry season of his life, he bought some furniture and rented a house.

According to his calculations, at N45,000 per month, his salary came to some N1,500 a day. It is a pathetic situation in which after managing to take care of basic expenses, nothing remains.

In his own very words, nothing remains to buy drinks like other Nigerians, nothing to buy uniform, as we are not being given. Nothing to save. He goes on to assert gloomily that the Nigerian Police Force is the worst paid security organisation in the whole of Africa, with little or no pension.

He also comes forth with the damning but well-known contention that the average person can only survive in the organisation through corruption.

Again in his own words, if you refuse to be corrupt, you will pass through financial hell, as the government has left police at the mercy of corruption.

Every police officer in Nigeria, he asserts, is psychologically on strike. Hence, and in the light of the foregoing, citizen Ukwu says that he has been compelled to throw in the towel.

He may have been saying the obvious. But what becomes clear is that if the police institution is as broken as this, then what we have in place is also a broken country. Again, one is not saying anything new here.

Incidentally, another member of the invincibles, Peter Obi came forth with the rather thoughtful comment, that when he was asked to join the presidential race, his response was that, Nigeria was like a vehicle with a knocked engine.

One would have easily dismissed Obi’s deposition, as just one of those media hugging rhetoric that politicians are well known for. But with the practical insight and disclosures of citizen Ukwu, it is evident that Peter Obi was spot on.

Yet, despite these numbing cases of the vulnerables, practically many of whom abound in the land, the invincibles continue to beat their drums with insistent ardour.

It is a long dark tunnel, whose only outcome is this: the most populous black nation in the world will continue to be mired in anomaly, and as such will continue to punch below her weight in world affairs.

Another phrase for much of the foregoing is arrested development and potential-irrespective of the invincible gladiator who wins the trophy come 2023.