Kwara Minimum Wage: Too late, too little

By AbdulGaniyu AbdulQuadir

Last month which represents the 32nd month after his inauguration as chief executive of Kwara State, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq directed the payment of the consequential salary adjustment to the state civil servants. Though this should make the civil servant happy it was a gesture that rekindled the biblical saying that too long expectations may make the heart lose hope and become disenchanted.

That Kwara State civil servants and the populace, in general, have become disenchanted with the Abdulrazaq administration was obvious as the news of the salary adjustment was greeted with indifference. Some civil servants believe the gesture was haphazard, late, and not well-intentioned.

You cannot blame the civil servants who say it is too late, too little because the governor and his political party campaigned vigorously on the issue of payment of the minimum wage. They pilloried the immediate past government for not implementing the new minimum wage system. The present governor who was then the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) promised to immediately commence the implementation of the new wage system if elected into office.

Now, he has waited for 31 out of his 48-month mandate, a lot of pain and anguish to the workers before hurrying to implement the payment scheme. He has chosen to adjust the salary at a time when he thought it was useful for his political survival. With everything going south for him, politically – growing dissatisfaction by the electorate, indifference by traditional rulers and opinion leaders, and discontent within his party- all these happening during what could be termed the election year, the governor wanted to use the salary adjustment based on the minimum wage as his trump card.

However, many see this minimum wage political magic wand as a sheer act of wickedness by a person in authority. This is because it is widely believed that if the governor could direct that the salary adjustment based on the minimum wage for civil servants should take effect from January, then he could have equally commenced the payment since June 2019, the following month after his inauguration. After all, this is what he promised the people during the electioneering campaigns.

Abdulrazaq also ensured that the salary adjustment was implemented only when the inflation rate is so high that it would immediately nullify the good effect an average salary increase should have on the beneficiary. Thus, it is a question of giving with the right hand and retrieving it with the left one. The supposed beneficiary is immediately returned to base zero.

It is widely believed that the governor delayed the payment to impoverish the workers and force them to their knees, begging him. Many believe the present Kwara State government operates by the old vicious political philosophy that when you make the people suffer very well, they will appreciate the little that you do for them, especially if it trickles in as an if periodic alleviation amidst the suffering. The delay in the adjustment of salaries to reflect the new minimum wage was also done erratically without any method. That is why when the people at the base level have their salaries increased from N18,000 to N30,000, those earning N30,000 before now only had a very minimal and negligible increase.

This may still be a tactic from the poverty matrix strategy – a divide and rule system. At least, while some of the workers were rejoicing at the leap in their salary, the others know that the increase is so negligible that it leaves nothing to cheer about.

The governor believes he could use the minimum wage issue to break the rank of the mounting opposition to his reelection. The wage adjustment was packaged as a bribe to buy the conscience of the civil servants to assuage their wounded feelings. The people who have suffered heartbreak following the failure of the government to fulfill its numerous promises, the people who have seen incompetence in government at the highest level, the ones who have suffered untold humiliation and hardship, are the ones the governors feel he can induce at this late period (well, not yet twilight) of his administration.

These are sure signs of insincerity which is a hallmark of the Abdulrazaq administration. Every issue is politicized. Development is sacrificed at the altar of politics. This style has not only deprived the people of their dues, but it has also kept the State underdeveloped and reaped the dividend of incompetence.

Let me conclude by noting that the Kwara State Governor and the government owes the civil servants the arrears of the increment due on their salaries for 31 months. This should be paid without any delay. It is the right thing for the Abdulrazaq government to do. The workers deserve their pay. The holy book stated that a labourer deserves his pay and that the payment should be made before his sweat dries up. Kwara workers also deserve the arrears of their salary adjustment arising from the minimum wage. They have worked for it. Nobody should deceive the workers with this too little, too late gesture.

*Abdulquadir is the Press Officer on Local Matters, Abubakar Bukola Saraki Media Office, writes from Ilorin.

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