Dear President Muhammadu Buhari, I wish to thank and express sincere appreciation for your thoughtfulness to give the issue of a national minimum wage a second look and assent to the bill for a minimum wage of 30,000 naira. Without any delay, let me quickly go straight to the real issues - the need for a better living wage for Nigerian workers.
Quite frankly Mr. President, it would not be out of place to say that you have a good opportunity to write your name in gold and also to engrave such gesture on visible footprints in the minds of Nigerian workers.
The ongoing back and forth between the Nigerian Labour Congress and representatives of government about which template to adopt for commencement of the minimum wage payment, is an opportunity for you to take the bull by the horns.
As a matter of fact, it should even become more compelling for you to expressly append your signature for a minimum wage that is not just barely struggling for a living but also, to lend your voice and support for a sustainable living wage for the Nigerian workers.
On this note however, you don't need any adviser to take you through lectures about the excruciating state of the Nigerian economy, because, you had once worn the shoes and understand where and how best it pinches, considering your antecedent before becoming a democratically elected president - after retirement from the military.
Mr President, like other Nigerians who have faith and still believe in the future of this country, I don't want to conclude that you have since abandoned the popular Marxist school of thought and joined the oppressive class of Nigerian elites, and some state governors, and law makers, who belive that what is good for the goose is not also good for the gander. I am writing this with all sense of responsibility and seriousness, because you seem to have completely changed about some of the masses-orientated ideologies you had once held and advanced when you were in the opposition party.
Mr President, I wish to put these questions to you. Is the current value of the naira the same as it was some 11 years ago when Nigerian workers salaries were last reviewed? Do members of the National Assembly, political appointees and your aides, live in one country with the same economy as the Nigerian workers? The factual and undisputed truth, of course, is that the economic value of naira is not the same as it was, and all classes of Nigerian workers live in and have only one country - with only one economy to buy goods and obtain services.
They are also parents and uncles and aunts who have immediate and extended families to fend for -with numerous responsibilities to look after. They pay bills, ranging from shelter, education, health, transportation, and electricity supplies which are usually staggered, epileptic, and rationed. For these genuine reasons Mr. President, would it not have more bases, both in rationality and logic and capped with empathy - to add reasonable and sustaining amount to all cadres of workers' salaries.
And if you are considering the financial implications such increments will have on the national wage bill, as maybe advised by economic experts, why would such consideration come to fore only when it is time to increase workers salaries, as contrast to political appointees, presidential aides, top government functionaries, national assembly members and their aides, who receive fat salaries and allowances - gulping more than 25 percent of the country's national budget? Mr. President, Whichever ways you choose to approach and answer, the questions are left for you to think through, as conscience is like an open wound that nothing can heal but only the truth. In the same breath, one fact also remains clear even if your conscience adjudge you to be right or wrong - that, you have a date with history whether you take action or not - to improve on Nigerian workers welfare.
Your Excellency, as a way of conclusion, I would like to end with these perspectives or admonition to you: Ensure to consider and accommodate most of the positions of the Nigerian Labour Congress - so as to give all workers a fair salary deal without feelings of exclusion. But also in that order as you do so - you should search round within the country, or go to anywhere in the world - to get onboard, credible, experienced, brilliant, and intelligent economic experts, who have distinguished themselves, that will steer the affairs of the country's economy.
In other words, your appointments of those who would manage the economy should be tilted towards merit, integrity, experience, and impeccable records of performance, and not along the lines of political considerations, convenience, and expediency. This is extremely important that you take note of, because, at the centre of it lays the foundation for the next four years, and in the future to come.
- Ngbede is a public affairs analyst