24th June, 2015
By Peter Claver Oparah
It is difficult to start a report like this. How does one start without being set upon by the hounds baying for blood in Osun at present, as rejoicing in the fate of workers who are yet to receive their wages since December? Yes, the Holy Bible even admonishes that a labourer deserves his wage but how does one balance this with the bankrupt state of the national treasury some mischievous commentators and political traders want us to believe exclusively affects the State of Osun? In a clime like ours, and given the state of collective amnesia that seems to bedevil public commentary and politics in Nigeria, it is very easy to reduce every issue in the tragic fate of our country at present to a bland, “Aregbesola Must Pay Our Salaries”, as many, for reasons that are self serving, are making it now.
Yes, Osun State owes arrears of workers’ salaries. It is neither hiding nor denying this fact. In fact, the Governor, Ogbeni, has oftentimes talked about this and the dire challenges he faces in dealing with this tacky situation in view of the sharp drop in revenues accruable to the state from the federation account which sustains most Nigerian states as well as the prodigal federal government. But then, is Osun State the only state owing workers? The answer is a capital NO as twenty of the thirty six states are reported to owe their workers. Does Osun owe its workers the highest months’ salary arrears? The answer again is a capital NO because some states owe various categories of workers more months’ arrears than Osun’s purported seven months, as reported in a recent publication by the Nigerian Labour Congress.
Does Osun owe all workers across board six months’ salary arrears? The answer again is a capital NO for Osun has paid some categories of workers some chunk of the said six months arrears, especially junior workers that are susceptible to the pangs of the nonpayment of salaries. Again, how come Akwa Ibom State that collected as much as N20 billion in monthly allocations at a time, is owing workers while we are being organized to pull down the roofs on Osun State whose April allocation is a mere N400 million naira when it has a monthly wage bill of N3.6 billion because Ogbeni is not minting his blood to pay workers? Ogbeni has gone further to remind Osun people that he had a tradition of paying a 13th month salary to workers every year until Nigeria got bankrupted by the deliberate acts of those that have turned do-gooders in Osun today.
He also reminded that up till July last year when the crevices of a sick economy started showing, he was on record to have paid workers salary on the 25th of every month. These are incontrovertible facts that Osun people know and Osun workers know these. Ogbeni has also come forward to reveal an incontestable truth that the state’s last monthly allocation was a paltry N400 million when he has a huge monthly wage bill of N3.6 billion and a huge infrastructure base to attend to but the syndicated picketers of Osun are playing deaf to these facts. Thank God for Osun people who know more than the interlopers and political fortune traders that have invaded every news space with sordid tales to tell about how “Ogbeni stole Osun money and refused to pay workers”.
Thank goodness that Osun workers know that Ogbeni has made very heavy investment in every sector that has lifted Osun to a modern state and they know, to the consternation of the encircling do-gooders and their dubious mission, that Ogbeni is not owing them for pleasure and that he is not the only governor caught in that binge. Given the coordinated syndication by those who feel eternally subdued by his stay as Governor of the State of Osun, aimed at blackmailing him, Ogbeni has come out to state that by this month end, he would pay a significant chunk of whatever arrears of salaries he owes. But this has hardly pleased those that still believe that the gritty task of running Ogbeni out of Osun is an eternal warfare they must have to win; even if it means dancing on the sad fates of Osun workers who are victims of the crass irresponsibility and corruption that wracked PDP’s feel of Nigerian governance.
They have transmogrified into mischievous cult of do-gooders and like the Pharisees of Jesus’s time, have rolled out suspicious marshal plans to bail Osun workers from God-knows-what. They are the sinful Pharisees that have successfully masked their dubious political intentions with concern for Osun workers. Like narcissist flies, they have descended on Osun with all manner of dubious piety. A curious fact that welds them together is that a sizeable percentage of the do-gooders that are relocating to Osun at present with their tainted goodwill are the profligate partakers in the reckless purloining of the country’s treasury by the out-gone Jonathan regime. Most of the dubious do-gooders that have descended on Osun like lascivious vultures are those that freely shared a country’s monumental oil wealth and left the states bankrupt today. They are lining up, like vultures do when a corpse is in sight. Pastors, politicians of easy virtue who have made their marks feasting on the rations meant for Nigerian poor, hacks and writers of fortune, public commentators of convenience who are at the beck and call of fraudulent interests-and there are many such soiled interests encircling Osun since Ogbeni’s emergence as Osun governor. And you wonder if these dubious do-gooders are oblivious that more than twenty states owe their workers. You wonder if these characters that are unleashing manna on Osun workers are oblivious of the fate of workers in other states.
Why are they not extending their dubious gestures to other states as well? But even as they try to picket Osun and make it a singular case in what is a national crisis occasioned in part by the very people coordinating this blackmail, we shall not lose sight to the fact of how Osun, the other states and indeed the nation came to this tragedy. Let us recall the many times the Progressive Governors led by former Governor Chibuike Amaechi, raised alarm to what we are experiencing today, which the dubious do-gooders, in furtherance of their political interests want to naively localize in Osun. He said the mandarins of the Jonathan government will expose Nigerians, not just Osun workers to the sad situation we have today and how the sitting government responded to all these with condescending abuse and insults.
Let us recall the uncountable number of times billions of dollars and trillions of naira were stolen from the treasury by fronts and minions in active cahoots with the out-gone PDP government. Let us recall how former President Obasanjo warned that horrendous looting of the external reserves will expose us to the kind of pass we have today. Let us recall how the governors warned that the crass irresponsible manner the PDP-led federal government was presiding over the pilfering of our national wealth by a deadly cult of partisan freeloaders who feasted so freely on the simple-mindedness of the Jonathan presidency will land us in this mess.
Have we forgotten the overused reply of then Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that the country was on very solid, unshakeable financial state? Have we forgotten the careless manner the Jonathan government frittered money on dubious and unproductive ventures to benefit the many roaches that found home in the corrupt conduct of that regime? Are we expecting that the country will still remain buoyant after these unrestrained orgies? Fact is that the Nigerian economy is wrecked; partly from the drop in oil revenue and to the crass corruption the PDP government promoted and which favoured the mischievous do-gooders that have now overwhelmed Osun. Fact is that in indulging in shocking profligacy, the PDP government played deaf to the advice to save for the rainy day and fact is that a chunk of the millions of dollars the Jonathan government took to bribe voters in Osun during the last presidential campaigns would have gone far in salvaging the bad fate of the workers. Fact is that the same PDP that is using the fate of the unpaid workers to continue its campaign of attrition against Ogbeni was neck deep in the corrupt acts that brought this quagmire upon us. Had the PDP federal government restrained itself and saved the bounteous harvest we made from oil when oil sold for as much as $110 per barrel for the rainy day, which is now, would the entire country, not only Osun been in the quagmire it is today?
Ogbeni, so far, has been the only governor that has come clean with the details of what is a national problem for which some of the provocateurs of the Osun mischief would have stood trial. Perhaps, that he is ready to engage has been the reason for which he is singled out for pillorying by political hustlers that lurch at every misfortune; even of their own making, to cash political profit. They are merely playing the ostrich on a national calamity occasioned by corrupt governance.
•Oparah wrote from Ikeja, Lagos. E-mail: [email protected]