BY ABDULHAMID AL-GAZALI, FEBRUARY 11, 2024 | 02:52 PM
The committee set up by President Tinubu to review minimum wage, very shockingly, forgot the main reason for its work, before it started, and requested the sum N1.8 billion for its inauguration. But even more sadly, it did, by this, nothing more than bringing out the extent of the erosion of the public spiritedness with which the country was built.
For many of us, government, and perhaps the whole of Nigeria, is a bazaar, or a cake, so everyone comes clutching some cutleries, a knife! It is no longer a platform for service, which, for instance, a line of my grandparents, maternal and paternal, climbed as judges, teachers and scholars, to build what comes down to us as a country. As such, the service for which our parents lived, and prepared us for, is no longer anything one can recognize. It is entirely not there, such that what now goes for it is a case of self-service, nepotism and nonchalance—and with all of that and more, you don’t dare wonder why mediocrity, confusion and purposelessness have become normal.
Each time I happen to work in a government committee as a member, and perhaps just anything that is related to it, I got startled by how most people seize the opportunity for self-help. The interest of bettering the individual entity materially would almost always be put ahead of the work, to the extent that the work would get missing in between. It is now normal to over-bill the government, and it is also not uncommon to underserve it—despite that! I understand government work can be demanding, with huge logistical costs, but it is not to the extent that a billion will be spent to inaugurate a 37-man committee!
A leaked memo from the president’s office showed a request submitted by the SGF, Sen. Akume, in which he said the committee’s‘asking price’ for its inauguration was N1.8 billion; but he said it was slashed down to N1 billion. The president instructed that it should start with, again, half the slashed amount.
What brought out the lie was the SGF’s own attempt at window dressing, which was bringing down the amount to N1 billion; for, if N800 million can be slashed down from the original amount, and it still wouldn’t affect the work substantially—which, if it would, would normally worry the SGF even more—it then tells you that the committee’s amount is not a result of any thorough, genuine and credible process; it is just a hoax and the SGF knows. The slashed amount is almost half the total sum and there is ordinarily no way a budget, a credibly produced one, would be cut down by that much without affecting its overall performance. But the question is perhaps whether the SGF did the slashing solely by himself or, as it would be expected, by engaging the committee, which, whichever way leaves us to wonder how the committee will perform with almost half of its budget cut down.
The committee is chaired by Goni Aji, a former head of service. The members come from various sectors, including labor/trade unions, governors and etcetera. Its work is to work out a new minimum wage for the country; which, though long overdue, is not unconnected with the recent rise in the cost of living, emanating from the removal of petrol subsidy. The argument is that the government does not have enough money to run the country, which is true.
But this is so more for the inexplicable wastage, unwarranted spending and deliberately inflated cost of governance than other pseudoscientific explanations! The committee members, given the reason for their work, need no one to educate them about the factors that led us into the present crisis but are here simply telling us that they don’t care. One is now left to guess how much will be blown up by the end of the committee’s work in April.
This is what further hikes the price of living in the country. With so much money shared to committees and what have you, for very a little work, inflation will undoubtedly increase. But that’s not the problem, the money they receive is spent on luxury goods, foreign trips, foreign meals and foreign lifestyle, further destabilizing the foreign exchange market and destroying our industries. They no longer use Naira, they are big boys with dollars. Even their gifts are in dollars, though they say it is scarce.
Unfortunately, this is why, no palliative effort and sermonizing media pacification can help the cause of the poor in this situation, and perhaps not this pretentious government committee works here and there. The money saved from the subsidy removal will go the way of waste and funding the lavish lifestyle of the already rich few in government. Already, they receive fuel allowances in millions for their generators and cars, all of which were also bought from government coffers. Their trips, meals and wardrobes are all dumped down on the poor, who is being misled into believing that he is sacrificing for the good of the country. Alas, he is only being overburdened by the lot of a few, stinkingly rich officials, consultants and contractors of the government.
It explains why there is a mad race for power and public service, or some access to it, for it is mostly one’s escape from the burden of looking after oneself and a passport to living large, besides prestige and bragging power! This very thing is the reason for our problems. Policies are formulated to serve the interest of some few; its implementers also use the privilege for themselves and thus poorly implement them. The country is treated as some sort of war spoils. After it fails, the fact of it becomes a campaign point for others who want to replace them to create their pseudoscience out of them—and it will go on until the time we begin to see power as a platform for service. Until then, I am just so sorry!
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