By Dele Sobowale
Tyranny is the name that must be applied …to any government in which he who is charged with the execution of the laws may make, destroy, break, interpret, hinder or suspend them with assurance of impunity —Vittorio Alfieri. 1749-1803, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, p 256.
PRESIDENT Buhari, ever imbued with the tendencies towards dictatorship as evidenced by his refusal to obey valid court orders on Dasuki and El Zakzaky, has again demonstrated those attributes on the vexatious issue of Minimum Wage Bill. He had also allied himself with two per cent of the workers who have arrogated to themselves the right to speak for the rest of us who they don’t represent.
Before going forward, let me declare myself as a bona fide worker. In fact, I am more of a legitimate worker than most of those in the public service – Federal, State and Local Government – which the Nigerian Labour Congress, TUC, ASUU and other self-appointed spokesmen/women for the masses actually represent. I am more of the “masses” than most Civil Servants in Abuja or any state secretariat who seldom report for work on time, if at all, and are idle most of the time.
Despite that, the NLC and other organisations in the organised Labour sector have ensured that these slackers, called workers, are paid monthly by their employers; whereas I don’t get paid for no work done 24/7.
Buhari, in his infinite lack of understanding of economic principles, has endorsed a Bill which makes it mandatory for Federal and States’ institutions to pay people who don’t provide value for money N30,000 minimum monthly. Again, I repeat, they constitute not more than two per cent of all workers.
Empowered by Buhari, the Labour leaders have now taken it upon themselves to threaten states which fail to pay at the end of this month with mayhem as if the governors are their own servants exclusively; as if they alone voted for the governors. I don’t blame them. Fish rots from the head. When the President of Nigeria exceeds his constitutional powers by “ordering” the states to implement the law passed “immediately”, or “with immediate effect” as he used to say in his days as a failed military head of state, he forgot that he now leads a democracy. (Believe me teaching old dogs new tricks is frustrating business and dogs learn faster than people). If he has a competent minister of justice and attorney general, Buhari would have been told that nothing is done “with immediate effect” in a democracy until it has been approved by the relevant governments, and part of the approval is the commencement date.
To the best of my knowledge, no state governor has placed a bill before the State’s House of Assembly; none has been passed into law in the state and the States’ accountants general have no basis for releasing funds based on the Bill signed by Buhari. Furthermore, lifting the lowest grade and level employees from N18,000 to N30,000 per month will result in paying gatemen, drivers and messengers more than officers several grades and levels above them. What sort of a Civil Service is that in which Grade 1, Level 1 staff earns more then Grade 5, Level 5?
Obviously, the change in minimum pay calls for a comprehensive review all the way to the top. What will Grade 16 officers now receive? Certainly, President and the Labour leaders cannot be so self-delusive as to think that only the workers now below N30,000 will benefit. In fact, they will soon discover what professional economists have always known; that, they and Buhari have laboured more for the top officers than the low-paid workers. Let me illustrate the point.
Increasing from N18,000 to N30,000 for the lowest grade workers amounts to N12,000 or 66.7 per cent. Just 10 per cent increase for officers on N180,000 will net them N18,000 increase per month; 20 per cent will take them N36,000 higher.
In the end, the real wage gaps will be wider. Presently, the gap between N18,000 and N180,000 is N162,000. If the top levels receive just 10 per cent increase, the gap will become N168,000 per month. If they get 20 per cent (which is most likely), then the actual gap in take home pay will become N186,000; that is N24,000 more than when the organised Labour stupidity began. It is surprising that given the sort of “grammar” which some Labour leaders dispense they lack the wisdom to consult calculators to understand the repercussions of their demands. As one CNN anchor occasionally asks, “How stupid can people get?”
It would have been easy to just leave Labour leaders to get broiled on their own fire if not for the negative impact their insistence on immediate implementation will have on the rest of us. They talk as if government money belongs to them alone; the rest of us don’t count. They promise to shut down the governments which don’t pay immediately.
I have bad news for them. Shutting down governments will hurt everybody including the workers themselves. A recent dispute by health workers in Lagos State and partial shut down of services left one of the leaders and his wife, in serious labour, paying loads of money to a private hospital.
He has not recovered financially ever since. When government services are shut down nobody knows who will suffer. It is like playing lottery with everybody’s lives.
At any rate, there are laws to be obeyed. If governments don’t pay at the end of May, Labour must follow the legal procedures before a strike can be called. They cannot use the ill-advised “order from above” issued by Buhari to break the law.
Buhari is already setting a bad example as a leader with respect to lawbreaking. History, which belongs neither to APC nor PDP, will not judge him kindly for it. He can act with impunity now; but he cannot stop the documentation of his lawlessness by Executive Order. I have a word for Labour and Buhari on this.
“Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperilled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent and omnipotent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”
US Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis in the Olmstead case, 1928.
Buhari by over-stepping his bounds when ordering the immediate implementation of the Minimum Wage Bill by states has already set in motion the invitation to anarchy by encouraging organised Labour to be lawless. But, the President of Nigeria and Labour must understand that nobody or group has a monopoly of chaos. If Labour threatens to unleash it, it cannot expect to act alone.
The majority of workers who don’t stand to benefit from this nonsensical bill and who will suffer from the inflation attending it, will and must stand with the Governors at all costs – until a more sensible bill had been passed which takes care of all interests not just those of the NLC and its camp-followers.
LAST LINE: “District Head of Daura, Musa Umar, kidnapped.” That was in several newspapers on May 2, 2019. Anarchy has already visited the President’s own state and town. He should not ignite it on another front like Minimum Wage.