“Men who fight without foresight always return to fight again.”
We need to set the table right in order to understand what we should truly fight for. The question is how much does a minimum wage of #30,000 mean in the face of bad governance? It must be understood that any increase in salary has a rippling effect on the cost of living. The standard of living of the recipients may improve but for how long before the cost of living capsizes it? Why does it have to be about increasing salaries when obviously the lack of the means to do so is not the problem but a mere poverty of good governance?
A lot is amiss in our country and we may have to fight for them first before we request for an increased salary. Talk about the health system, how much does a monthly salary save a dying patient in a country without good health care? Many of these hospitals cannot boast of drugs let alone the availability of facilities for surgery. We should be aware that everything we can ever fight for is tied to good governance.
In this period when many higher institutions are on the verge of outrageous school fees, where does the minimum wage of #30,000 lead us? Who still suffers the brunt of an increased salary? The salary earner or the greedy public officers who at every opportunity, siphons public funds or the petty trader whose income is not enough to pay her ward’s primary school fees? We may be fighting, round and round, for the wrong thing.
The dangerous impression which the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has created is that money is what solves the myriads of problem facing its members. What about those who are not its members? Will every member enjoy the increment? Relatedly, the on-going strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is no way different from the pattern. It is not unexpected that as soon as financial requirements are met, we are back to the same battle in few years’ time from now.
Obviously, the crime of every average Nigerian public office holder is bad governance and unfortunately, the masses are the one living with consequences of a disesteemed democracy. The standard of living of the masses testifies to this. The solution to the underdevelopment of Nigeria is not increment in salaries of workers. In fact, the increment is only at the fortune of the greedy rich owners of manufacturing firms in which, largely, many of our politicians have unity of control.
Commendable as the feat is, we still have a long way to go; the NLC really needs to prove its strength further. It has successfully made the Federal Government approve its demand for a better minimum wage but this does not eradicate the problems of the masses. This does not restore the value of our currencies; it does not improve basic amenities neither does it rid the country of any corruption. Does increased salary attract potential investors in the face of insecurity of lives and property? Does it pave way for national growth and development through the resurrection of every sector? These are some of the questions that demand our critical reflection before as we celebrate the feat that comes with banal strike actions.
Let us not be deceived however by the seductive insinuation that the FG cannot pay the money or that the agreement is hard; if we begin to set the landmark for good governance, everything else changes. Good governance is the change we need and not increment in salaries. If bad governance continues, the agitation is just a fight round and round the circle. What we should fight for is not that which only benefits the members of the union but that which has a far-reaching effect on the lives of every Nigerian living in squalor.