By Tonnie Iredia
According to Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would not in the name of restructuring attempt to make everyone equal.
This may sound unfair considering that all citizens are supposed to be equal, but that takes the governor’s statement out of context. The point he made was that it would be wrong to equalize unequal entities.
El Rufai was responding to agitations by some sections of the country that all zones irrespective of population and land mass should have the same number of states.
To do that would in fact create further agitations, as it would frustrate the use of empirical and uniform criteria for decision making.
At the same time, el rufai’s argument may not convince critics who know that such parameters were not taken into consideration when the nation gave all states the same number of three senators and one minister per state.
This resurrects the argument in this column the week before, that there are by far too many basic things that are begging to be reviewed before the issue of restructuring which is now a national song. So, let the APC begin by making equal, all entities that are supposed to be equal.
No one for example understands why Kano State has more than twice the number of local government areas in Lagos State. Similarly, we hardly know why the Minister from the latter state controls three ministries while the one from the ‘heart-beat’ is half a minister. It also does not appear that Ministers who are supposedly equal are actually equal as some are officially described as ‘junior ministers’.
But then, if it is difficult to equalize these matters, it should not be same with individual citizens who in line with the rule of law are equal with each having only one vote. Put differently, while we are all not equal in areas such qualifications and age, all equals should earn equal pay. If two fresh graduates are newly recruited into different public organizations to contribute to nation building each should be treated equally.
Now if one who joined a government agency is remunerated on grade level 08, while the other who joined the legislature reportedly earns a salary equivalent to grade level 17 are we not making two equals unequal? Indeed, with the legislator having a newspaper allowance that is higher than the salary of the other, we seem to be asking everyone to become a legislator by whatever means.
Thus, the nation is probably responsible for the high level of political violence it accommodates. Of course, we can all not be legislators even if we wish to; because there is a limit to the numerical strength of a legislative house.
Besides, law makers are expected to only make laws, they do not produce food; which suggests that we will die of hunger if we all go for law making. Everyone is therefore important and should not be unnecessarily subordinated to others.
It is this same principle that lends credence to the new thinking of stopping medical doctors in the public sector from private practice which encourages divided loyalty. If other health workers are not officially allowed to engage in private practice, then for equality sake, none should be allowed.
We can also hardly defend the idea of allowing some people such as Judges or Professors to enjoy the benefit of working for longer than age 60 or 35 years of service. If that is when maturity adds value to a job, then it should be valid for all jobs because all jobs are important provided as the erudite Jerry Gana once suggested “if you are a teacher, teach well.” If this type of equalization is not forthcoming, we will continue to have persons who alter their ages every year through affidavits to meet those who are privileged to work for longer than the general rule. What is more, how do we explain the disparity in retirement benefits?
Everyone ought to retire with a common percentage of his previous salary as pension. Rather than go home with a percentage of their high salaries, privileged people like Permanent Secretaries are allowed to earn the same salary at retirement as they did in service. The latest now is governors who can earn salary for life after working for a maximum of 8 out of other people’s 35 years. It is difficult to see how this can create equal handling of people.
Events in our nation have shown that certain privileges accorded some people are unnecessary; a good example being the immunity clause which prevents the rest of us from suing the head of an executive arm and his deputy.
There is doubt if the original intention which was to prevent people from distracting such office holders was well thought-out. Former Governor Fayemi of Ekiti state had successfully sued a newspaper for defamation but on account of immunity, no one could have sued him for whatever he did.
It amounts to grave injustice for a man who cannot be sued during his term of office to be empowered to sue anyone during the same period. We don’t need to go beyond the same Ekiti to see that it is easy for a governor to be been engaged in self distraction. So, lets remove immunity and equalize us all.
Similarly, there is no wisdom in allowing a legislator to get away with defaming other persons only because he made such untrue statements on the floor of the House. Those who initiated the principle of parliamentary privilege in their countries do not have our type of disposition as they hardly abuse privilege.
Still on equal handling of issues, this column welcomes government’s decision to enforce the no-work, no-pay rule. It is only fair that striking workers should not be paid for the period they did not work.
But we cannot stop there, government must be prepared to also enforce no-pay, no-work and allow a situation where workers can sue for damages arising for its failure to pay them as and when due; otherwise the subject loses equality. Similarly, the zeal to penalize owners of vehicles that are not road-worthy will attain greater efficacy if efforts are made to bring an end our too many roads that are not vehicle-worthy