It was George Orwell who theorized that the further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it. But speaking the truth to power, according to Richard N. Haas, is a form of loyalty to the country. That many Nigerians still remain loyal to our country isn’t in doubt. That is why we speak. Nigerians must look into the mirror and speak the truth to ourselves. We must continue to tell those in authority the truth. Otherwise, if we leave the country to the politicians in government alone, we’re done for. Anyone who says that the country and its 200 million people are doing well doesn’t speak the truth.
Politics is local. Indeed all politics is local. As citizens of Nigeria we must find a decent way of engaging our state governors, legislators and those who serve in our local government areas. They must be accountable to the people who elected them into office to serve. They can’t assume position of authority with all state resources only to display a nonchalant attitude in office. The nation has socio-economic challenges today mainly because those elected to serve in governments are not accountable. Both the rich and poor are afraid because of kidnappers. We are afraid of those jobless Nigerians who are blood thirsty. Yet, those in government only tell us the problems without articulating a workable strategy. The workable strategy is in improving the economy, not use of guns only. Only those in government can improve the economy. We deserve to have the best from those elected to serve us. Many Nigerians have lost confidence in most of our elected and appointed leaders at the state level. It’s not time to discuss the ineptitude of those who are serving at the federal level. Anyway, very soon those who served at the federal level as ministers will be swept away by “Buhari’s tsunami.” Most of them didn’t help their principal.
Let’s concentrate on our states and those who chose to lead. We didn’t beg them to be our governors; they chose to be. Unless there is a deliberate effort on the part of those who chose to lead at state and local government levels to develop their states, most citizens will continually be in poverty. The governors and governors-elect must work hard to earn the trust of the people that elected them into office. The entire country is waiting for May 29, 2019, when state governors and governors-elect will be sworn in. They must be close to the people as they govern their states by adopting the bottom-up approach to leadership. Nigerians deserve a better deal from democracy and by extension, from our state governors.
In the past 20 years of democracy in Nigeria, not much has been achieved in terms of infrastructure and quality of life of many Nigerians at state level. The task of building a nation requires a generation of committed leaders to be in charge of the affairs of the country. A country of 200 million people cannot only have one man of integrity in the government. So, I ask: Where are other Nigerians of integrity? They’re out of politics because most of them cannot afford the cost of buying nomination forms coupled with intrigues and mischief at the political party level. A pity, you may say.
On the minimum wage, thank goodness that President Buhari has signed into law that the minimum wage of N30,000 be paid to workers. To improve the working life of those Nigerians at the bottom of the society, it’s not just enough to make laws. Those in the government must ensure that they enforce the laws. There is no doubt that increasing minimum wage will boost the pay of many workers. It’s incumbent on state governors to pay the minimum wage to their workers. Our governors must pay salaries and pensions of workers and retirees. But how will they pay when it is alleged that 14 governors, their deputies and 434 lawmakers are to go home with N2.06 billion for poor performance in office in 8 years. It is sad to read in the newspaper about an oil-rich state in the Niger Delta where pension for life bill was passed by the state house of assembly within four hours. But for the state governor who rejected the bill, may be it would have become a law. Leadership is about strategy and character. But when those elected to serve as either governors or state legislators do not have appropriate strategy to govern and develop their states and local governments, they should please, not lose their character.
Some of these states cannot boast of good roads, quality education and healthcare facilities. Some states don’t have portable drinking water in the 21st Century. One begins to wonder how these states will be developed even when their internally generated revenue is not impressive. Most citizens do not pay tax because they don’t trust those elected to into public office that taxes collected will be used judiciously. Still most Nigerians look up to their governors and local government chairpersons to help alleviate their sufferings. What a contradiction?
Our governors and their local government counterparts should treat those citizens who voted them into office the same way they would like to be treated. Any increase in the minimum wage is a step in the right direction. It doesn’t in any way reflect a “living wage” for Nigerians who are going through hard times. In 2011, when the minimum wage was N18,000, the cost of one litre of fuel then was N87/ltr. At that time inflation was about 10.5 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The implication was that the minimum wage could only procure about 207 liters of fuel at that time. At N145/ltr of fuel, and and an inflation rate of 11. 3 percent, the minimum wage of N30,000 can still purchase only 207 liters of fuel in 2019. Surely, it is doubtful if the increase in minimum wage would be remotely impactful. Many of the workers on minimum wage should not dream of having a roof over their heads. That means almost 20 million people that are homeless should not aspire to have a home of their own. So until wages start keeping up with inflation, an increase of 60 percent in minimum wage may not mean much in Nigeria where the cost of living is high. What I am saying in effect is that the increase in minimum wage is hardly sufficient to scratch the surface of economic challenges workers face in the country. The real value of the minimum wage can hardly afford an average worker the basic necessities of life in line with the first level of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs namely food, shelter, and clothing. How can those Nigerians who are still wishing to be on the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs achieve self-actualization?
We have a society where there is a wide trough between the rich and the poor. The poor in our society have no hope for now. Those elected to serve us have a lot of work to do to ensure that the inequality in the society is bridged. We need to transform our states, and this requires a deliberate action on the part of all the state governors and the citizens of Nigeria. Most importantly, our state governors should demonstrate capacity to create, renew and increase wealth of the people who voted them into office on a continuous basis. The coast of poverty across 36 states is expanding at an alarming rate. This calls for meaningful economic reforms throughout all the states of Nigeria. Thank you.