BY OBIORA ODENIGBO
I HAVE never for one moment believed that Nigerians have short memories. When they appear to be so, it is only by choice in order to suit their whims, and this means they know what they are doing.
The Anambra State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has chosen to have a short memory and it is clearly because it wants to achieve a purpose which is openly selfish.
Led by Patrick Obianyo who hails from the same local government area as an ambitious former governor of the state believed to be goading them, the NLC in the state has obviously forgotten or chosen to forget all that the present Governor did for them but has instead decided to be goaded by a man who conveniently ignored them when he was governor of the state.
This former governor had when approached by the then labour leadership with a request to lift the embargo on promotion of workers out-rightly told them that promotion was not a right but a privilege. The defeated labour leaders crawled home with their tails between their legs and that was the end of the matter.
During that same regime, the greatest achievement of that governor as long as workers were concerned was the regular payment of their salary and nothing more – no promotion, no salary increment, nothing.
Then Governor Peter Obi came on board. Without prompting, he lifted the embargo on promotion, built two magnificent secretariats for workers whose offices before then were scattered across the capital territory, increased their salaries five times, restored in-service training, bought official cars for permanent secretaries for the first time, among others.
For the teachers, he dug boreholes for schools, provided generators, built modern classroom blocks in each of the 177 communities of the state, provided computers to schools and for the first time in the state’s history provided buses to secondary schools. He also employed 2, 000 teachers for both primary and secondary, employed 200 computer teachers and capped it with a further employment of 800 workers.
Under Obi, indeed, the state’s work force never had it so good. But today, what is the work force doing to reciprocate his gestures to them? Like the proverbial pig, they are proving that no matter how you bathe it, it will remain a pig.
They are equally justifying the Biblical admonition that one should not throw what is holy to the dogs, lest they trample on it and come after the person. For crying out loud, the workers, led by their mercenary leadership, are coming after Obi, conveniently ignoring all he has done for them for a pot of porridge.
They are against Obi for what they refer to as his failure to implement the new wage structure, but did Obi fail to implement it? Here is what Obi did and I want you the reader to compare it with the scenario in other states.
The Anambra State government in full compliance with the Minimum Wage Act paid N18, 000 to the least paid worker and added at least N10, 000 to other categories of workers so that today in the state no worker earns less than N18, 000. But the state’s labour body says the government has not done enough and has advised its members to stay off work.
It is pertinent at this point to take a look at what is happening in other South East states before going national. In Enugu whose workers have called off their strike, workers on levels one to six were paid according to the Minimum Wage Act, same as in Anambra.
But unlike in Anambra, the other workers were paid far less than N10, 000. Yet they have called off their strike. Abia workers have not been paid anything, at least as I write this, but they never went on strike. Anambra has paid and done more than other South East states but its workers are on indefinite strike.
In Imo State, they have not been paid anything yet but they called off their strike, yet Anambra workers have been forced by labour to be on strike.
Ebonyi State hasn’t paid anything yet to its workers but they called off their strike, but Anambra remained on strike as at the time of this write-up. In fact, as I write this, Anambra was the only state in the South East that was still on strike, but Obianyo, the labour leader insisted in an interview that their strike must continue even at the risk of their strike becoming unpopular.
In the entire 19 states of the North, workers have not been paid anything but they are all working. In fact, the only states which have paid the minimum wage, apart from Lagos, are the six oil-rich states in the South-South.
So what’s stopping the Anambra labour from going back to work like the other South East states? Why have they not borrowed a leaf from their counterparts in other states who have shown more patriotism? Does it mean the allegation that the leadership of the labour in Anambra is being manipulated by opposition politicians is true? Who then is fooling who? Isn’t it time the workers realised that their leaders in NLC have been compromised by opposition politicians who are after their electoral fortunes?
Recall that Obianyo in a telephone interview he had with a journalist wondered why people should compare developments in the state with those in other states. He said this when asked why his union had remained the only one in the South East still on strike despite the Anambra State government doing better than all the South East state governments.
It has become crystal clear that the labour leadership is on a secret agenda to destroy Anambra State. It is clear that their manipulators want to cripple the state by forcing the government to empty the state’s lean coffers on the work force which constitutes only 20 percent of the population.
Those manipulating them are living in dread of Obi’s achievements with so little at his disposal. This is why the labour allegedly called on international donor agencies to leave the state. If true, is this not an indication of where they are going?
*Mr. Odenigbo, a commentator on national issues wrote from Nimo, Anambra State.