Dignified Labour

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Nigerians have been variously described as the happiest people in the world. And now the Senate President has also described the Nigerian worker as the bedrock of economic growth and by extension national development. He has also promised to ginger the National Assembly to help improve the lot of Nigerian workers.

As Nigerians marked the Workers Day on May 1, this reporter recalls more than 30 years ago when his father told him how he received three job offers in his mailbox while still an undergraduate in one of Nigeria’s oldest universities. According to him, jobs were plentiful back then and university students were coveted by employers across every sector of the economy.

The fifth and sixth lines of the first stanza of the national anthem state thus: “The labour of our heroes past…shall never be in vain”. Truth be told, millions of heroes labour in vain in Nigeria on a daily basis, barely eking out a living or making enough for personal use, much less for family and other commitments.

In those days in Nigeria, honest labour was cherished and dignified. Although honest labour has not altered much presently, it is hard to remain dignified in the face of grinding poverty, unpaid wages, pensions and other entitlements. Now pensioners sadly drop dead in long payment queues while their pensions are siphoned into private pockets.

If the Senate President helps to improve the welfare of Nigerian workers, then the average ‘labourer’ may yet get his or her rewards while still here on earth. The pitiable minimum wage of N18,000 is a good starting point for the Legislature to influence positive change, and the proposed N66,000 minimum wage will surely bring back smiles to the faces of Nigerian workers. For those who form the bedrock of this country’s development, that wage is not too much…is it?

– Abimbola Akosile