By Busuyi Mekusi
Peeling a tuber of yam with amorphous shape could be cumbersome, as one would be caught between the need to neatly remove the back, and the imperative of preventing the edible tissue from being ceded to the husk. While the husks used to be fed to animals, they are now being converted as additions to human edible menu in some places, in view of the food deprivations that humans suffer globally. Since the inauguration of Tinubu as President on May 29, 2023, he has been involved in very devious but ingeniously creative steps to overstep the many economic landmines inherited from the Buhari regime, particularly the hydra-headed issue of fuel subsidy payment and removal. Like a woman caught in the very act of adultery, Tinubu converted the nakedness robed him in by the economic paradox of either sustaining the old regime of subsidy payment and remaining down, or halting it to stay afloat and alive. Ironically, as the Tinubu government received hope of survival, the hope of poor Nigerians dimmed, with the stoppage of fuel subsidy.
With increased global population, and sizeable parcels of uncultivated land, cities and towns have drawn people away from rural agrarian communities in most African countries. Insecurity is a legitimate excuse for abandoning the farm, as old livestock cattle farming remains weaponised by an ethnic stock to leverage on land ownership and usage in Nigeria. The itinerant traditional model of herding by the Fulani continues to bring them in confrontation with farmers across Nigeria, with sorrows, tears and blood still spicing the season of ‘Renewed Hope’. One expects that the Tinubu administration would, ultimately, move cattle rearing away from the despicable past and present, to a more profitable and beneficial future.
Tinubu has successfully assembled a cabinet that is well prepared to drive his ‘Renewed Hope’ Agenda, as demonstrated by the Minister for Interior, Hon. Bunmi-Tunji Ojo, who diligently and frontally ‘betrayed’ the old order of Nigeria principalities and powers, by mobilising the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to attend to backlog of passports applied for by Nigerians. As at the last count, 204, 332 copies of passports were said to have been smartly produced, in an apparent display of the capacity of processes to work seamlessly in Nigeria. Even though BTO might have been driven by the stringent posturing of PBAT that he appointed his ministers to deliver, and not to give excuses, we surely need more of Tunji-Ojo in all spheres of Nigeria life. This performance indication is similarly a reminder that public office holders, who gave excuses in the past to justify their failures, must be made to restitute the benefits of their privileged placement they simply reduced to a liability for the citizens.
The threats of strike action by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), once again, reminded us of the contestations usually experienced across socio-economic and political divides. The working class and the ruling class are bipolarly engrossed in the art of subverting each other, with some leaders of the working group credited with the bravery to have mastered aristocratic tendencies as well. For people in this category, they deploy tact and style in their engagements, while suggesting to be belligerent in the estimation of their unsuspecting followers, whereas they are in agreement with the enslaving programmes of the ruling class. For a few others, the interests of the members that bequeathed the uncommon platform to them are gravely sacrificed on the altar of personal aggrandizements.
The removal of fuel subsidy has brought the Labour Movements to collusion course with the administration of Tinubu. Even though PBAT did not stop issuing assurances about his commitment to provide relief for pained Nigerians, some of which include; the introduction of a living wage, conversion of vehicles to CNG, purchase of CNG buses, conditional cash transfer of 25, 000 (twenty five thousand) to some poor Nigerians, support to farmers and operators of SMEs, among others, the Labour Leaders got disgruntled by what they saw as an attempt by the government to keep them merely talking, while the impoverishment of their members nay Nigerians continued. The renewed commitment of government that twisted the hands of Labour to suspend the strike for 30 days was centrally galvanised via the announcement of a wage award of 35, 000 across all categories of federal workers, until 2024 when the issue of minimum wage, that is a product of legislation, would be brought to the table.
Aminata Sow Fall’s classical novel, The Beggars’ Strike, reechoes the disdainful treatment of underprivileged commoners by an ambitious public figure, who lost his desired spiritual enhancement for political placement to the revolt of beggars. Mour Ndiaye, in the translated text, suddenly realises, after visiting his marabout, that he will need to distribute a slaughtered ram he sacrificed, based on spiritual prescription, to the beggars he has sent out of the city, because of his commitment to keep the city neat. Ndiaye’s desperation to achieve his inteton sees him being scammed by the beggars, who have come to the realisation that most of the patronages they enjoy are due, largely, to the desire of the people to elicit prayers and well wishes from the beggars. In short, Fall’s intriguing satire is didactic, and with an intention to make people realise that notwithstanding palpable inequalities, created by natural and artificial conditions, people within an ecology are bound to depend on one another, in an interconnecting manner. Little wonder that the Zulu’s Ubuntu emphasises that “you are because I am”.
Unlike the sacrificially manipulating gifts in Fall’s The Beggars’ Strike, the Tinubu government had to make a wage award in order for Nigerians to stay afloat in the face of the traumatic conditions that tend to annihilate the people. Tinubu had offered to pay 25, 000 to low grade federal workers, apparently to prevent more inflationary overboard, but the need to shore up the purchasing power of Nigerians is not merely not just to cure greed or hunger, but a strategy to encourage manufacturing. Unfortunately, the twin crises of fuel subsidy removal and the devaluation of the naira (amidst high crude oil price) have precipitated an ambivalent inflationary proportion that have speedily created new paupers. Therefore, the economic imperative of having to reduce the money in circulation is as poisonous to the poor as the inflation that must be killed. Arguably, the most desirable solution to the present poverty in the country is an improved naira.
The payment of wage award to Nigerian workers is a form of ‘ransom’. Ransom payment in Nigeria has become an economic index, just like the very many illegally sourced monies that get injected into the economy. If the myth of money rituals is anything to go by, one would wonder what nature of currency and which frequency monies secured in this manner get integrated into the economic reservoir. Running Nigeria economy has largely been based on the whims and caprices of individuals per time, as recently demonstrated by Emefiele and his cohorts, who raped the economy, punished the people, and scared the powerful. We wish that he would be made to confess his sins openly, rather than being treated with the camaraderie of criminality, that would not only indulge him but ultimately justify him.
Cases of kidnapping have resurfaced across Nigeria, as victims are made to issue life award in the season that government is paying wage award. Youth corpers, university students, church choir members, are some of the new entrants into the custodian centres of kidnappers. Akin to the negotiating pattern of Labour leader, kidnappers across the country are now more audacious, as they do not any longer rely on random payment to release their victims. We can just hope that the payment of both the wage award, and later minimum wage, would not make kidnappers to legislate a new price list for ransom administration.
Another worrisome development in the engagement between government and labour is the disaggregation that excluded workers in the states from the negotiations for wage award. Whereas the two Labour centres at the national level had proclaimed to want to shut down the country, workers in states, as defined by federalism, were later counselled to engage their respective governors, bearing in mind that the desired minimum wage would only serve as the minimum benchmark, which the states and private sectors could surpass. Even though more money is already accruing monthly to the states from the federation account, it is envisaged that the present allocation formula would be tinkered with, in line with true federalism that Tinubu has nursed, over the years.
However commendable the efforts of the Tinubu-led administration is in fixing Nigeria, we must remind ourselves that the various efforts made at the moment to bring Nigerians a new lease of life are still very inadequate, in quantity and value, and more are needed to be done, to mitigate the distress in the land. The remuneration in public office should be reviewed to cut cost, while the public service, at all levels, must be reorganised to speak to specific needs, as against bogus size and wasteful content, that continue to burden the Nigeria ailing economy.
PBAT and his team members must be reminded that they should not pay ‘ransom’ for Nigeria workers and citizens, but must ensure living wage, and improved standard of living for all and sundry, while blocking leakages in the economy and cutting excess luggages for political office holders. The past experiences of PBAT, as a teacher and security man, must help him to understand the precarious conditions of Nigerians, that have since attained equilibrium in dispossession and recrimination. This is more so, as we need to, as a nation, stop popularizing Chicago State University through our ignominious stories!