The scripture has an opinion on it and conveys same as an inviolable principle: “A worker is deserving of his wages”, it posits.
But despite this injunctive position, employers including government brazenly violate this tacit rule by taking the remuneration of employees for granted. They owe them severally and serially altering what naturally would have been an exciting and rewarding endeavour to a nightmarish venture that has common romance with poverty, lack and possible destitution. And in a society where arbitration institutions are still weak or tied to the apron string of government and strong men, the so called employed people exist at the mercy of the employers.
Unemployment in Nigeria is a notorious bane. It currently stands at about 25% according to reports from the Bureau of Statistics and other credible sources. The summary of this is that a large section of our youths are unemployed. Of course, the resultant consequence is the idleness that trails their lives and turns them up for vices ranging from thuggery, cultism, armed robbery and kidnapping, drug addiction and other sub-culture behavior that are inimical to the future of the society, if we still believe in the principle that the youths hold the future. It is why the failure to provide employment and worse, providing it without commensurate remuneration as at when due should be considered as a crime against humanity. My opinion is that it is morally reprehensible to engage one by way of employment and fail to remunerate accordingly to enable the worker earn his or her wages as prescribed by the scripture.
Fortunately for Akwa Ibom people, things are done differently and in consonance with good governance culture that Governor Udom Emmanuel is not only a devotee but a scion through his pedigree. It is on record that he undertook courses in good governance in the course of his career in the banking industry which saw him ascend the height of an executive director in the fourth largest bank in African. Of course his office availed him opportunity to acquire a lot of knowledge, some of which were in corporate governance. Suffice it to say that Governor Emmanuel has been able to maximize the gains of this knowledge and has allowed it to cascade and benefit the people of the State.
Part of the gain of that good governance principle is inherent in the Udom administration’s acknowledgment of its obligation and faithful implementation of salary payment to workers in Akwa Ibom State. As one who has the fear of God and believes that a worker is deserving of his wages, Governor Emmanuel has set a revolving template that ensures that civil servants and political appointees get their salaries as at when due. This is not a mean feat in the face of the prevailing national malady of dwindling fortunes. But as a prudent manager that he is via training and vocation, Governor Emmanuel understands how to order priorities in the face of competing needs. This he has done diligently without allowing other areas of governance to suffer adversely. That is the beauty of putting a round peg in a round hole.
Accepted that the issue of payment of salary should not provoke any din since it is assumed to be a given but not in a clime where not paying salaries has gained the currency of a culture. Not too long ago, the Federal Government in one of its rare magnanimities extended bailout to some States to enable them liquidate long outstanding salary debts. It was because the central government observed the disturbing trend of non-payment of salaries as a prelude to economic crisis especially local economies of States that depend on informal activities. Many States rushed for the bailout but had since relapsed to another round of backlog of indebtedness. Interestingly, Governor Emmanuel who refused to obligate the State with the bailout fund obviously owing to its stringent conditions has continued to honour salary obligations as at when due. He was paying before the bailout fund and is still paying now. What a feat?
But to the naysayers, paying salaries is not any achievement just as they stridently averred during Akpabio’s era that constructing roads is not an achievement that should be celebrated or applauded. These naysayers fail to acknowledge that they still exist governments which don’t honour these obligations. Yes, it may be a given but not all givens are usually attended to. It takes a government that is wholly committed to the people in terms of service for these deliverables to be met. It takes a government that sees the people as the central measure of value and the civil service as its engine room to pragmatically address the concerns that plague them.
A wise saying posits that man thinks in dual or comparative terms. But those who criticise activities in the State tend to localize and condense theirs in a straight jacket fashion without recourse to goings-on in other places. It is this type of defective analysis or thinking that has always made some of the submissions warped and untenable. Let us examine the case of payment of salaries and other emoluments by various state governments to public servants in their respective domains. Akwa Ibom State is one of the few States in the federation that is not owing salary to its workers. In a state of States salary survey which is widely circulated, States including oil producing States are recorded to be owing whooping sums to primary school teachers, secondary school teachers, local government workers, secretariat workers and Independent agency workers. But Akwa Ibom has zero in all the columns indicating that it has no record of indebtedness in any of the units or subset and that every workers is paid as at when due. It would be recalled that upon his advent to the saddle as governor, he took the pains to pay the backlog of gratuity and pension that had been outstanding from 2002 to 2011. He has also allocated about a billion naira for another batch to be paid. Such gesture can only come from a people centered government under a God fearing governor.
But why is it pertinent to raise this concern of salary payment and make a hullabaloo of it? It is because our people whether in the course of mischief or whatsoever are defiant to logical thinking with comparative framework. As a substitution to this self afflicted mental indolence, we recourse to fabrications, superstition, falsehood and more mischief. We are contemptuous to all that is good in a warp pursuit of cheap political capital. We do not evaluate governance dispassionately, we allow our evaluation to be soused with emotions with the attendant outcome of subjectivity. With this conduct, governance is imperiled and the cost borne by all of us.
We in Akwa Ibom must count ourselves lucky with the quality of leaders God has blessed the State with since the beginning of the Fourth Republic. Each of them beginning from His Excellency, Obong Victor Attah had something significant he achieved. The State has continued to steadily ascend heights. It has moved from a nondescript circumstance to a cynosure. But it can be better if we all subscribe out support and criticize only when the course of governance seems to derail. It should not be politics ad infinitum with heavy cost to governance. A government that has shown faith with the people and remained committed to the extant social contract as that of Udom Emmanuel should be encouraged and supported with politics of acrimony eschewed. This I believe is the way to go
By Joe Iniodu, public affairs analyst