By Ojo Oyewamide
Towards the end of the year 2019, coronavirus proclaimed its existence. Within a very short time, the invisible monster ravaged the whole world. It claimed lives. It destroyed human health and wealth of nations.
For a while, it defied all efforts to tame it and reduce its devastation. It humiliated science and religion. But science later came to the rescue of humanity. Now, there are vaccines to curtail it. The plague is yet to be defeated. It still rages. But it will surely be overcome.
Before the middle of the year 2020, coronavirus had wrecked serious havoc on humanity and the world economy. To save lives, one of the recommended armours against it was to maintain a distance from one another. People all over the world were asked to stay indoors. Businesses were shut. Factories and offices were closed.
The situation created revenue challenges for many governments. They struggled to meet their obligations. Salary payment became an issue. It was a global heat, and Ondo state was not insulated.
Despite the financial difficulty, the Oluwarotimi Akeredolu government priotized the welfare of its workers. However, the opposition PDP sought to scoop political gains from the situation. Out of mischief, they elected to disregard reality.
They ascribed the salary problem created by the Coronavirus-induced financial difficulty to callousness. To them, the money was there to pay salaries and the Akeredolu government didn’t want to pay because of its hardheartedness. Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu inherited seven months salary arrears from the PDP government. He defrayed six out of the arrears. There was regular payment of salaries before coronavirus disrupted the economy of the world. So, where is the basis of the PDP’s allegation of callousness?
But Ondo state enjoys the blessing of responsible labour unionism and enlightened labour leaders. The PDP falsehood can only sway the minds of the gullible and the uninformed, not those of the present labour leaders in the Sunshine state.
The industrial harmony in the state is a function of the understanding of the organised labour. It is also attributable to the transparency and openness of the Akeredolu government. The state NLC Chairman, Sunday Adeleye-Oluwole, recently openly lauded the transparency and openness of the government. Adeleye declared that the Commissioner for Finance “has been laying every kobo on the table for us to see.”
The openness has engendered trust and confidence. This was shown in the speech of the NLC chairman while speaking on behalf of workers in the state at the 2022 yearly Prayer Meeting With the Governor.
Adeleye declared: “I thank Mr. Governor for being a sincere man. I don’t have much trust for politicians, but I trust Mr. Governor. You have said it all. You said you will clear all salaries before you leave. I trust you. When you came on board, you cleared six months you inherited and I don’t see why you will leave with unpaid salaries.”
Emphasising the importance of transparency in leadership positions, Kirsten Gillibrand said: “I believe transparency in government is key to restoring our nation’s faith in its elected leaders.” But if transparency is absent, it will definitely result in distrust. The understanding of the organised labour and transparency of the Akeredolu government will surely render futile the PDP’s mischievous attempt to politicise the salary issue in Ondo state.
Before politicising issues such as salary payment at a time like this, Nigerians should realise that their country is a mono-product economy. It largely relies on petroleum for revenue. Coronavirus drove down prices of crude oil in the international market. Tax-collection was also affected. It was a serious attack on the purse of the country. Such is the vulnerability of the nation’s economy. If anything happens to the prices of petroleum products in the international market, it will significantly affect the economy.
That Nigeria still relies largely on oil revenues is a shameful emblem of leadership failure. The product has given enough to the country. By now, the reliance on it should have reduced. But during its boom, our leaders took the path of doom. They wasted the fortune. Much of it disappeared into private pockets.
They had no idea of using the oil wealth to diversify the economy and create several sources of income for the country. No vision to save for the raining day. No moral courage to prevent massive stealing from the collective till. The present is now suffering the leadership follies and fumbles of the past.
The way out is to collectively find solutions to our national problems. We should stop politicising issues that fundamentally affect all of us. Instead, we should try to dispassionately and objectively dissect these issues irrespective of where we belong.