By Dele Sobowale

“Those who deal in ideas, if they are wise, will welcome attack. Only a peaceful passage should dismay them; for it proves that the ideas do not affect anyone very much.” Professor J K Galbraith, 1908-2006, Nobel Prize Winner

The attacks will come. They are welcome. Most of it will be from Labour leaders, never-say-die “Socialists”, media fellow travellers and others emotionally wedded to the idea that Nigeria is still a rich country – where “money is not our problem, but how to spend it”. 

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The fallacious notion of great wealth, because we are an oil-producing nation, was planted early after we joined the oil cartel. Few people are aware that the oil bonanza was over years ago. Henceforth, exporting crude oil will not save us. It will certainly not make it possible to maintain our over-bloated public service sector anymore. The new global economic reality calls for far less reliance on oil than most of us realise.

TODAY IS THE BEGINNING OF A NEW ECONOMIC ORDER

“Ekiti State suspends minimum wage; slashes political office holders’ salaries.”

News Report, June 5, 2021.

“Umahi sacks over 1000 board members, aides.” News Report, May 30, 2021.

Two Governors have taken tentative steps to adjust to the new normal. Governor Fayemi of Ekiti slashed the take home pay of Special Assistants; he has also reduced the number of those appointed. Nobody needs to tell the poor fellows affected, whether sacked or retained at reduced pay, to adjust their life styles to the new reality. For many, it will constitute the biggest shock of their lives.

Governor Umahi of Ebonyi State went even further. Not one to dwell on half measures, he sent his entire board members and several aides packing.   It is not surprising that Ekiti and Ebonyi were among the first states to take drastic action.

 They rank 33 and 32 in the league of Nigerian States. Only three other states are poorer than those two. Rest assured several states will soon follow.

Nothing sobers a person up as quickly as a sack letter. Governor El-Rufai acted first, unwisely if you ask me, and is already fighting his own battle. For the hundreds of thousands likely to go under nationwide the trauma is the same.

The entire world you have built around yourself crumbles in one minute. Self-esteem evaporates; the future looks totally bleak. Evil thoughts creep in – suicide is always a strong possibility. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. 

The media publishes the news on the same or the next day. There is no hiding place. You can’t go to church, mosque or club without several people asking “What happened?” Only those who had experienced it can understand how the people involved really feel. Thank God, I never did.

DON’T BELIEVE THE GOVERNOR; EXPECT RETRENCHMENT.

“States bank on PPP projects as cash crunch bites harder.” News Report, May.

Virtually all the states, and the Federal Government, are now looking longingly in the direction of the private sector to bail them out of, frequently, self-imposed financial hardships. Private-Public-Partnership, PPP, which most of them avoided like COVID-19 before is now being explored as a way out of impending disasters everywhere. 

To be quite candid, it is already too late for those with only two years left in office.

Despite the obvious inevitability of down-sizing, some Governors are still deceiving their people that there will be no retrenchment. Anybody who believes that rubbish has not heard that “You cannot adopt politics as a profession and remain honest.”(L. M. Howe, 1871-1936). 

They won’t tell the workers they are going – until the sack letter arrives. Preparing for it is the beginning of wisdom.

WHY THE MINIMUM WAGE BILL IS DEAD

“You can’t bully reality.”

One of the reasons why Nigerian governments have failed us, and might continue to fail us, is the lack of understanding of the basic principles of economics by the leaders and the led. We operate a country in which the blind lead the blind. That is why the most popular campaign promises are massive job-creation and free services – starting with education. 

The listeners clap; the party members go round and ram those vague promises down our throats. We vote and wait in vain for the promises to be delivered.   

The Minimum Wage Bill is a classic example of how the Nigerian people conspire with the politicians to deceive themselves and develop high expectations – which invariably are not, and cannot be, met. And, that is irrespective of which political party or which candidate wins the election. As usual, readers should follow me down memory lane. As far back as December 2015, Nigerians – governments and governed alike – were warned that we would end up here today. Read on.

MINIMUM WAGE AND THE INEVITABLE BANKRUPTCY OF STATE GOVERNMENTS.

“Who ever reads history with application will perceive that the same events are often repeated and that we need only change the names of the actors. Frederick the Great, 1712-1786, (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 92.)

Another economic war is about to start in Nigeria. The war will be about Minimum Wage, MW. The states want to renegotiate it, meaning reduce it. 

Labor also wants to renegotiate it, meaning increase it. Renegotiation seems to be the only point of agreement; it is also the battle ground. On the face of it, one would assume that this is only “a matter of cash”. But, it is more than that. 

The very existence of states and local governments is threatened by this conflict.

The first sounds of the 2016 war involving the governments and Labor have already been heard from most of the state governors – minus three dissenters, namely Governors Wike, Fayose and Oshiomhole. Wike, as everybody knows, faces another election and cannot be seen to be anti-labor. Self-interest is the motive here. Fayose, we know, loves to fish in troubled waters; while Oshiomhole is caught in the trap of his past as a Labour leader.

 The former Labour leader cannot be seen to be forsaking the people who brought him into prominence. At any rate he has only seven months to go; he can leave his successor with the problem when he goes. That is the worst form of political cynicism. 

Irrespective of how the three governors arrived at their current positions, they can be regarded as traitors to the cause of the other governments. They may eventually regret their dissent from the majority.

Let me declare, up front, that I strongly believe that the two sides are engaged in a war that would end up in mutual destruction — they will also destroy the states, economically, as we know them now. Most states are already tottering on the brink of bankruptcy with the current MW pegged at N18,000 per month.”

Need I say more?

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