The debate paints the country in bad shape, reckons Victor C. Ariole

When the global political establishment puts its force on GDP growth human and natural systems come under enormous pressure. That means creating

rules that encourage destructive behaviour as what is measured and how it is measured are all wrong things hence the outcome is going to be wrong….Jason Hichel

Measuring and doing the wrong things at both macro and micro economic levels  are part of pressure on Nigeria  that is creating more unhumanly marginalised and oppressed Nigerians than expected and the debate on minimum wage not only degrades further the great number of Nigerians in the ultra-subaltern space but also makes Nigeria ignominiously an ultra-subaltern country, oppressed by world institutions that want to see to its destruction. More forecasts show its great decline already and by the findings of Nigerian economic operators no fewer than five million Nigerians could boast of 500,000 naira in their banking accounts, not up to 400 dollars.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGN) complains about the impossibility of Labour Union aiming at 100,000 naira as it means he must pay each of his four drivers that amount if passed into law. He is just seeing minimum wage as political largesse to the subalterns in Nigeria as confirmed by a guest from his part of Nigeria on Ayo Makinde programme of Channels TV. To that guest minimum wage in Nigeria is just a way of giving some amount to civil servants not necessarily as a worth of their productive or efficient  input in Nigerian economy. He stated that employment in the civil service was just for political concern not that they are expected to do any serious work that helps Nigeria grow its GDP.  Quite an absurd statement.

SGF is not reneging that statement as he claims that minimum wage is never to be equated as living wage. It is in contrast with how Governors like Obaseki and Makinde see it.  These are governors who cherish greatly the input of any one employed by the State to perform a duty that cumulates to a better progress of the country. You either employ someone for the perceived input he or she makes in the economy or you keep them aside and propose a welfare package for them, as the revisited national anthem provides, feeding naturally out of the abundance of ‘our own dear native land’.  What the land provides is capable of allowing them at least a subsistence living if no one is encroaching on it as either mineral exploiter or nomadic settler.

For example Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, countries not far from Nigeria having crude oil and mineral resources do that for their citizens and they still parade the highest GDP per capita in west and central Africa, almost 7000 dollars as against that of Nigeria that is 2,500 dollars. Their minimum wage is about 240 dollars as that of Nigeria’s 20 dollars. Minimum wage to them is just a parameter to a living wage as no one earns less than the double of the so-called minimum wage, approximating the relative cost of living in their urban areas.

Unlike as expressed by the SGF, a driver in Gabon or Equatorial Guinea is a professional not a minimum wage candidate and not employed as a largesse by politicians. He earns above one percent of what the highest paid politician earns, their own way of measuring what the lowest earner should earn.  Almost in tandem with how France quietly pays its workers by measuring always what to add to their pay without debate as inflation on a weighted basket basic living items are considered as inflation shows up.

So, as reported, if the highest paid Senator in Nigeria takes out of the treasury of Nigeria about 30million naira, 300,000 naira ought to be paid as minimum wage to the lowest paid Nigeria or allow him to be oppressed further or feel dejected in a native land where no one should feel oppressed. Most Nigerians going by the concern of the SGF are greatly made to feel highly oppressed. It is like for every one politician four Nigerians are bearing the burden of great oppression in the land. Almost 160 million, if the 200 million population stands, are completely and greatly oppressed in the native land or sovereign mother land. So how do Nigerians measure the worth of the revisited national anthem?  In deed it should be the concern of government holding in trust the collective wealth of Nigeria.

The SGF will do better by releasing half of his drivers and allowing them to aim at being less oppressed by employing them in a living wage business. The presumption that civil service work is not remunerated on efficiency or productive metrics is greatly an indictment on the Civil Service Commission and the ruling elite. They should learn from the Senegal’s recent elections and the excellent way their civil servants conducted it.

The electoral processes were handled by civil servant working in the Ministry of Internal Affairs not a separate body like Nigeria’s INEC. As the then President Macky Sall planned to postpone the election on the ground that late preparation could mar it, the head of the civil service in the Ministry stood its ground that they were ready to conduct the election; and so it happened. These are civil servants devoted to their functions not employed on compassionate grounds or on the largesse of politicians.

Nigeria’s reward system is negatively programmed to favour non devoted people hence the devoted ones are disdained or looked down on. Civil servants must be seen as the conscience of the nation and they must be employed on the basis of how best they could raise the value systems of Nigeria where tongue and tribe may differ but completely subsumed in brotherhood so as to grow economy with over one trillion GDP though quite below what a small country like Netherlands of 18 million current worth.

Enough of the debate on minimum wage as it paints Nigeria as a country of irremediable human and natural resources’ disaster; just not capable of rising up to the threshold of economic profitability with great natural and human endowment and potential. Greatly a factor of wrong reward system.

 Ariole is a Professor of French and Francophone Studies, University of Lagos

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