There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigerians are languishing in their country as if in maximum prison. They feel like dying in the face of unmitigated hunger. They earnestly plead to the angel of death to terminate their souls which seem not worthy of existence. Or what is the essence of souls that cannot be nourished? Trying to force death upon themselves, they were told it is a suicide—a criminal act. Many of those who hitherto sustained themselves and their families through wages could not do so anymore because their wages could not be converted to daily bread. Many lost their jobs to right sizing, downsizing and retrenchment. They become burdens to overburdened families and friends who struggle to earn little.
It was this melancholic situation that prompted the Nigerian masses for a negotiation and demand for an increment in minimum wage. Their malevolent government tried hard to circumvent the implementation of the statutory increment; but it has to succumb to the consistent demand of the masses. It was a solo demand: increase our minimum wage we are suffering! No sooner had the minimum wage increased, with the masses' expectation that it would improve their pathetically tattered condition, than they were confronted with successive waves of poverty that cut across every nook and cranny of Nigeria’s landscape. Every member of the Nigerian masses has his or her own share of the engulfing poverty, for it is all-encompassing.
The educated Nigerian masses knew it was not a symptom of a failed state but its reality. But they were hamstrung from saying it for fear of being invited. We are all in the know of what happened to the few who mustered the courage to say it. The illiterate Nigerians were saying it repeatedly, they were complaining bitterly but were not educated to couch it in its befitting term: ‘failed state’. They did not know the technical term. Those who live in denial pretentiously refuse to understand how Nigeria could be a failed state under their leadership. So are their hero-worshipers who tenaciously hold that the hardship under this government must be understood as progress, development, enjoyment, what have you. They believe this government and its leadership is the best thing that has ever happened in Nigeria, and to Nigerians.
Despite all the glaring manifestations of a failed state seen by all eyes, the romantically unrepentant admirers of the President could not still see nor reason. Bigotry, racial or political, is actually a disease. But since fact is fact. Fact is scientific. It is objective; not subjective. It can be denied, but cannot be changed provided its particulars remain intact. This is why Nigeria was declared the poverty capital of the world and subsequently a failed state. Thanks to those international rating bodies for telling our government the truth they know, but pretend not to know.
Nigerians are now regretting the minimum wage negotiation. They never knew it was an offence in the first place to ask for their statutory right. The government did not also tell them it is an offence to do so—they wouldn’t have done so. Now that the deed has been done; and the government is unleashing its anger, what is the way forward? It should be noted that the minimum wage does not go round. There are many government workers who are yet to get any minimum wage increment though they have swallowed their dose of maximum hardship. They are still swallowing other doses of maximum poverty, maximum hardship, maximum hopelessness etc.
As for the way forward, many Nigerians believe in protests. They believe in industrial actions (strikes). I don’t disagree with them. However, I counsel that the protest should be peaceful. For fear of gunshots and tear gases, the protesters should be on their knees. Let us all kowtow before our megalomaniac government as humble citizens with tears in our eyes, hands on our heads. Let us whine by wailing. Let us let them know that we are not disrespectful; we are rather pushed to the wall. Let us tell them that they are the most powerful but God. Let us promise them that we shall never demand or negotiate any increment in minimum wage for the rest of our lives so that they can let us live. Perhaps Almighty God will touch their hearts. For the hardship and hunger in the land is unbearable.
Some are even saying the suffering is because of our sins! Though under former President Jonathan, our suffering was due to his cluelessness! What sense of justice is there in this conclusion? This is standing logic on its head. The Americans, the French, the Chinese, the Britons develop because they are not sinners. We, Nigerians, suffer because we are sinners. This is their argument. The premise is as specious as the conclusion. Or how do you categorize this kind of thinking?
Already Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are on strike. All other university unions: NASU, SSANU, NAAT vowed to embark on strike on resumption day. It is not an empty threat. They made real their threat on Monday at the Lagos State University (LASU) as the University resumed only to ‘de-resume’. The strike is all about a devilish and cancerous payment platform (IPPIS), notorious for eating deep into the hard earned wages of federal government workers. It has never been this bad! Some academics who had worked for over three decades in the universities lament that their salaries have never been reviewed downward. Even though the upward reviews have always been very marginal and disheartening. They consider all previous governments in Nigeria as being insensitive to their demands. Under the present government of the ‘best president’ in the world, they experience substantial deductions. This is catastrophically disheartening. I don’t know how they will describe this government. As if that is not enough, the academic staff are in their third month without salaries; yet our president is the ‘kindest president’ in addressing ASUU’s issues. Bigotry could be this dangerous?!
Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) on strike, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) are to join by the end of the month. Hunger is also striking the masses. The former President, Obasanjo, said the state is failing. Though he is not qualified to say so since his ten fingers are conspicuously seen in the architectural design of the failed state. He should have apportioned some of the blames to himself and apologised to Nigerians. So, he was christened the ‘divider-in-chief’. However, many Nigerians ignore the messenger and focus on the message. Many are queuing behind him, including Prof. Soyinka who is notoriously known not to be his fan; and has not by this acknowledgement become his fan. Truth be told and politics aside, the masses are hungry, and suffering, and dying. Mr. lecturer, Eedris Abdulkareem, is indeed not a prophet; but he sounds prophetic. Nigeria has never been this jagajaga and everything scatter scatter where poor man dey suffer suffer. Our major sin is asking for a minimum wage increment. And we have seen the maximum hardship: food unbuyable, electricity bill prohibitive, taxes unbearable, fuel price unprecedentedly high. We pray to God, since they say it is our sins, to forgive us and direct our government to better better our conditions before we all opt for voluntary suicide.