By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
Last week, the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, rose from a meeting to announce that they can no longer pay the N18, 000 National Minimum Wage that was signed into law in March 2011, by President Goodluck Jonathan. The governors gave as reason for their inability to continue to meet their obligations to the Nigerian working people, the poor state of the Nigerian economy. Specifically, the governors pointed out that the wages burden was lighter when crude oil sold at $126 as against the current $41 per barrel.
“The situation is no longer the same when we were asked to pay N18, 000 minimum wage, when oil price was $126 (per barrel) and we continued paying N18, 000 minimum wage when oil price is $41, while the source of government expenditure is from oil, and we have not seen prospects in the oil industry in the near future,” they said.
Predictably, the Nigerian working people have sharply reacted to the provocative intention. Leaders of the NLC and the TUC warned that if the governors wanted working people to shut down the country, because of their hare-brained idea, they would gladly do so. They added that: “The governors should not think that the Nigerian workers do not have the capacity to retrench them”.
Responding to the oil price red herring raised by the Nigerian Governors Forum, NLC President AyubaWabba pointed out that: “When there was excess crude money, the workers did not benefit and so we cannot bear the brunt”. Most significantly, former NLC President and current Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, dissociated himself from the NGF.
Speaking at the Labour House in Abuja last Friday, Oshiomhole said the minimum wage was not imposed on government, rather, it was a product of an agreement with labour. And just in case the governors suffered a self-inflicted amnesia, he reminded them that: “Democracy doesn’t have to run at the convenience of governors, ministers and presidents…the issue in the economy hasn’t got to do with minimum wage.
I have also reminded my colleagues that the minimum wage was not imposed, it was negotiated and state governments agreed to it, the president signed it and it was not under duress, there was no strike to compel the then president to sign it, he signed it voluntarily”.
So disgusted was a broad section of Nigerians on the NGF’s intention, that former Vice Chancellor, Professor AngoAbdullahi, angrily suggested that whichever governor was not able to pay the minimum wage should resign to pave way for those who can, in the interest of the Nigerian worker. He added that governors who could take huge sums as security vote, cannot then state that they won’t pay N18, 000 minimum wage. “If certain political appointees of the governors take home N1 million monthly, how can the same governors not be able to pay N18, 000 to each worker…? asked Prof. Abdullahi.
In truth, I think the governors still haven’t understood the depth of changes taking place in Nigeria today. The Nigerian working people will NEVER allow their minimum wage that cannot even really take them home, to become the terrain of sacrifice in these difficult times, and for very good reason.
The assumption that the burden of sacrifices must be placed upon the working people and the poor, while protecting their own personal and class comforts, will not fly. Governors and the political elite should make the greatest sacrifices today. They should give up at least 50% of their wages and allowances. Same for emoluments paid hundreds of political appointees that consume a huge part of the recurrent expenditure of states.
They should also prune down the number of commissioners; special advisers; special assistants and other hangers-on. It was not too long ago, that Isa Yuguda in Bauchi and MurtalaNyako in Adamawa, appointed hundreds of special assistants! Similarly, there is the need to cancel the immoral pensions that governors have awarded themselves. These pensions are paid to individuals like Bukola Saraki in Kwara; Bola Tinubu in Lagos and GodswillAkpabio in AkwaIbom, for example. In many instances, these pensions are even the first lines of expenditure for states. How can these pensions be justified? These individuals made huge sums of money from and through their states in the eight years that they ruled. And for example, a poor Kwara State will continue to pay BukolaSaraki and his family millions of naira annually, for as long as he lives. The same chap is now in Senate, drawing the salary of Senate President. If he survives his problem at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, then he will add a Senate pension to his Kwara State pension!
This is the class injustice that the Nigerian Governors Forum is blinded to! They see the huge sums they award to themselves and the illegal sums many cream off their states as normal. That process of personal and class enrichment to the detriment of Nigeria’s economic wellbeing and social peace should be discontinued.
But the Nigerian working class must NEVER make a sacrifice of losing the pittance they are paid as a National Minimum Wage. Nigerian governors must brace themselves up for the Mother of All National Strikes if they attempt to stop paying the N18, 000 National Minimum Wage!
International day of solidarity with Palestine
Every year on November 29, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is observed by the United Nations and around the world. This is in accordance with General Assembly resolutions 32/40B of December 2, 1977 and 34/65D of December 12, 1979. November 29 was chosen because of its special significance to the Palestinian people, as the day, when in 1947, the General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II), which eventually became known as the Partition Resolution. That resolution provided for the establishment of a “Jewish State” and an “Arab State” in Palestine. Up till today, only the Zionist Jewish State has come to being, while the plight of the Palestinian people has become a major blot on the conscience of humanity.
Conscience of humanity
The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People has therefore offered opportunity for humanity to focus attention on the unresolved issue of Palestine and the fact that the Palestinian people have yet to exercise the inalienable right to self-determination; national independence; sovereignty and the right of return to their homeland.
It is indicative of the reactionary nature of the contemporary international system that the Palestinian Question has been pushed to the backburner of discourse and in many instances; the dominant paradigm has been framed by Zionist Israel and the world imperialist system as well as a complicit international media system. Unlike a couple of years back and especially in my generation of students and working class activists, today many people do not really understand or appreciate the issues around the plight of the Palestinian people. This deep-seated ignorance also has an unfortunate religious dimension which has played into the propaganda of Zionist Israel. The spike in Pentecostal Christianity has also seen the strengthening of a “Christian Zionist” movement which literally sees support for Zionist Israel as a religious duty. That blinds them to two central facts; the first is that the Zionist Israeli is not even a Christian but a Jewish entity; and the fact that it is Palestinians that are actually Christian and Muslim and therefore their brothers and sisters in faith, whose national rights, humanity and dignity are assaulted everyday, under occupation, in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Today, while Africans and the world have dismantled apartheid in South Africa, apartheid is however alive and well in the relationship between the Zionist state of Israel and the occupied people of Palestine.
The Middle East is one of the most volatile regions of our world today. It is a scene of wars and unending crises. It saw a series of Arab-Israeli wars dating back to the 1940s, 1967and 1973. The region witnessed the illegal Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq; the emergence of terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS. These conflict situations have reverberations and are extrapolated into other regions of the world, including even inside the imperialist Western countries, as we saw with 9-11 and the recent bombings of France. At the heart of these conflicts has been the inability of the world powers through a deep-seated hypocrisy and bias, to find a resolution to the Palestinian Question. In the past two decades or so, the Zionist state of Israel has become more arrogant in its intransigence, while the various wars that it launched against the Palestinian people in Gaza, employing weapons supplied by mainly the United States, have led to the destruction of even the little the Palestinian people have. It unleashes the terror of one of the strongest armies in the world against a people that do not have an army or an airforce. The killings of mainly Palestinian civilians and hundreds of children have been televised around the world. The images triggered the deepening of abhorrence for the ways of the arrogant Zionist Israeli state; and as a result the International Boycott and Divestment Campaign against Zionist Israel has gathered momentum around the world. Leading intellectuals, public figures and scientists revolted by the Zionist Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people and the cruel arrogance of the Zionist Israeli state, are increasingly endorsing or joining the international movement to boycott Israel.
As the United Nations and people around the world mark International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People this year, I hope that many more of our compatriots would begin to give a thought to the plight of the Palestinian people. It is one of the last issues of denial of the rights of a people in the world today. Nigeria has always actively supported the cause of liberation from the early days of our national independence. And it never mattered that we had a military or civilian government; the support for national independence against colonialism, apartheid and Zionism were central to Nigerian Foreign Policy, until Goodluck Jonathan took the decision to betray our Foreign Policy tradition by voting against Palestine at the United Nations at the behest of Benjamin Netanyahu, the hawkish and ultra-reactionary Israeli Prime Minister! Thankfully, the Nigerian people voted out the Jonathan administration which was content to play the puppet, kowtowing to the Western powers and to Zionist diktat. At his recent address to the UN General Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari reaffirmed Nigeria’s solidarity with the Palestinian people, thus reconnecting with our proud Foreign Policy tradition. That is as it should be! The world owes the Palestinian People the restoration of their national rights, namely the right to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty and the right of return!