Ondo Workers' Salaries: How Gov. Mimiko Stopped the Sun from 'Shining'

 
 
"All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership" - John Kenneth Galbraith

A good and true leader should feel the pains of his people. A visionary leader is very sensitive to the plight of his people. The implication of being a leader is to serve the people. On this note, a good leader is invariably the ‘servant’ of his people. This is what the major principles of democracy preach as the leader is a mere representative of his people at the helm of authority to assist in the pursuance of their interests. Its high time Nigerian leaders are reminded of the ancient philosophy of ‘Servant Leadership’ to aid their understanding of good governance. A strong cue of the concept can be drawn from the words of Chanakya, an Indian Teacher, Philosopher, Economist, Jurist and Royal Advisor. He wrote the message below, in the 4th century BCE, in his book titled Arthashastra:

The King (leader) shall consider as good, not what pleases himself but what pleases his subjects [followers]. The King (leader) is a paid servant and enjoys the resources of the state together with the people

In government, the word ‘people’ is very paramount and it’s not as a result of lack of alternative words but the fact that the government exists for them. Any government that is disconnected from its people has failed woefully regardless of other visible achievements on ground.

Ondo state is famed for having a high number of high-flying educated elites that stand-out in the South-west region as well as at the national level as a whole like Adebayo Adefarati, Dr. Akerele Adu, Chief Olusegun Kokumo Agagu, Dr. Olu Agunloye, Pa. Michael Adekunle Ajasin, Rotimi Odunayo Akeredolu SAN, Chief Jise Akinmurele, Chief Bamidele Awosika, Prof. Ajayi Boroffice, Dr. Tayo Dairo, Col. Akin Falaye (Rtd.), Chief Olu Falae, Chief Rufus Giwa, Chief Olusola Oke, Chief Yele Omogunwa, Chief Niyi Omodara, And the list seems endless.

It isn’t an issue of coincidence that Ondo state is being described as the ‘Sunshine’ state but that is a mere mockery of the current economic position of the state where a supposed ‘high-achieving’ governor named Olusegun Mimiko is yet to pay salaries of state civil servants for a staggering period of 5 months. In Ondo state, pensioners are owed 4 months, while civil servants are being owed for 5 months according to a Vanguard newspaper report dated back at May 2, 2016. The state Finance Commissioner, Chief Yele Ogundipe said pensioners had been paid till December last year. He added that civil servants were owed from December last year till date.

I have always argued that the worst thing you can do to a man is to delay or refuse to pay his wages/salaries after he must have religiously offered his services to you over a period of his productive time. The victim maybe physically able but economically he becomes lame, he begins to suffer from psychological defeat and frustration due to his financial incapability in the face of exclusive needs, he goes home to stare at the faces of his hungry children; Some of them might have been sent home from school after failed promises to pay school fees, the man endures humiliation from his creditors after he must have over-borrowed and exhausted the grace given to him for repayment, his Landlord might be taunting him with unsolicited visits to remind him of his house rent which is long overdue, he is left at the mercy of providence when he or any member of his family falls sick and suddenly the architectural work of his realizable future plans become a mirage. This is just a few of the dilemmas civil servants face when their remuneration hangs in the balance owing to the questionable decisions of men in power.

They may also get suicidal when such a government deploys massive state resources into celebrating the 40th anniversary of Ondo state and also the 7th year of the governor in power. It was a week-long event (February 22–27) and reliable sources revealed that millions were burned by the same administration owing its workers 3 months salaries as at then. This is a blatant show of insensitivity towards the plight of the people.

According to a report on Premium Times, some courageous and highly marginalized civil servants who risked being victimized by already oppressive hands in Ondo state said these:
“I have five children and it is not easy to feed not to talk about doing other necessary things in the home”

Another state worker also bared his mind;

"It has become so hard that paying school fees for the children is now a matter of indebtedness, some of the schools are allowing us to pay in bits whenever any of the salaries come"

Another person also cried out;

“I borrowed from the bank, and because salaries are no longer coming as usual, I do not know what to do,”
he said.

“I learnt of a finance house they call Sharp, Sharp. Some people are going there. I don’t know whether that will be an opportunity to get money, but paying back has always been the problem.”

My heart bleeds for the people of Ondo. They have suddenly become voiceless despite having a voice. What have they done wrong? What is their major offence? Was voting in a supposed visionary leader a grave sin? This agrees with the saying that the choices we make today will determine the results we will get tomorrow.

Governance has become a business venture to impoverish many and amass wealth at the expense of the growth and development of the people. It should be noted that the civil servants are not politicians with massive access to state funds, they don’t have enough to eat and save but they stay hopeful and live for better days, they don’t have major businesses that could cushion the effect of economic hardship. Some of them can’t even survive being owed for a month not to talk of 5 months which could be termed as an indirect legalization of cannibalism in the state by the government as an extreme measure by the people to stay alive.

Dear Governor Olusegun Mimiko, my investigations revealed that you are a Christian but I don’t how grounded you are in the Christian faith. On the platform of morality as well as religion, there is no justification of the 5-months financial drought you have caused in the lives of the good people of the sunshine state.

The bible vehemently condemns your actions and I will make some references hopefully to prompt you to have a change of mind and deploy resources to ameliorate the sorry plight of your people just like Osun and Edo states which I will elaborate on later on this article.

The book of James Chapter 5: 4 says:

“Behold, the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts”

The book of Deuteronomy chapter 24: 15 says:

‘’You must pay them their wages each day before sunset because they are poor and are counting on it. If you don’t, they might cry out to the LORD against you, and it would be counted against you as sin’’

 
‘’To deprive an employee of wages is to commit murder’’ - Sirach 34:20–22, Apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus.

Ondo state with an average of a population of 4 million people approximately is heartlessly stricken with high rate of unemployment and also a leader that has taken 8 years to fathom unsuccessfully a headway out of the cancer of poverty in the state due to lack of political will not far from a distraction from the state treasury.

Research has shown that majority of the gainfully employed people in Ondo state are civil servants due to the lack of industries to explore the full potentials of the state blessed with natural resources like Tar Sand, (Bitumen), Clay, Lime Stone, Pebble, Kaolin, Quartzite, Coal, Ceramic, Crude Oil, Marble, Sea Shells Fossils, vast and fertile land for agriculture etc. due to the ineptitude of the governor which will be addressed at a future date.

Once the salaries of the civil servants are delayed, it takes a direct negative toll on the fragile economy of the South-western state as the purchasing power of the people drops. The entrepreneurs and other traders are forced to market some of their perishable products either on credit basis or at giveaway prices to avoid stagnancy in business.

This is what the great Ondo state with the unmatched energy of the ‘SUN’ has been reduced to by men that seek power and more power through the people, not for the betterment of the people but the furtherance of personal interests and ambitions as they jump from one political party to another.

The pathetic fate of Ondo workers is a blatant machination of men and shouldn’t be blamed on the forces of the economy affecting the Nigerian state holistically. It exposes to a large extent the lapses of the Mimiko government in public finance. Challenges can’t be eroded from politics and administration but good heads accept challenges and exploit them to reach great heights.

This can be confirmed in the words of a proponent of natural capitalism, Paul Hawken who stated that;

“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.”

Ondo receives an average monthly allocation of N3.61 billion from the Federation Account and an average Internally Generated Revenue of N976.56 million, 13 percent monthly derivation fund of N1.26 billion as an oil producing state, monthly Value Added Tax of N697.42 million but due to long-term systematically calculated mechanisms of corruption, deliberate deficiency in financial planning, misplaced priorities on the part of the state government and gross misappropriation of funds, Ondo state has proudly taken a beggarly position in the country joining the league of insolvent states pleading for bail outs after bail outs from the Federal Government. This also negates the principle of true federalism where the federating units are autonomous and don’t rely on the central government for survival.

If I am not being economical with the gospel truth, I will sadly admit that Governor Olusegun Mimiko has failed the people of Ondo state and should seek forgiveness from his people who have become despondent after his 8 years of redundancy in the development of the state through pseudo-capital projects that are highly efficient conduit pipes to rape the treasury of the state through unimaginable inflation of budgets and patronage politics that has ushered in people of questionable characters in leadership positions.

The major aim of governance all over the world is to secure the lives of its people as stipulated in the social contract theory of state by Thomas Hobbes. Now here is by question; how well has the government of Mimiko secured the lives of the people? Mimiko has not only failed in creating jobs for the advancement of the lives of the people but also robbing the struggling workers of their entitlements by not paying them. His action could be seen as a frontal attack on the legacy of the civil service which exists to bring government closer to the people.

Ondo state people by being owed their salaries over a staggering period of 5 months have been exposed economically to the excruciating torture of life which is tantamount to a ‘dead wish’.

In fairness, times have been unpredictable and hard in Nigeria due to the fall in the prices of crude oil in the international market leading to about 70% depletion in the nation’s foreign exchange earnings but mathematically, the monthly federal allocation to states under President Muhammadu Buhari doesn’t replicate a 50% depletion in allocation meaning states can survive the hardship by setting priorities right and doing away with frivolities with the backing of the state’s treasury.

The resurgence of Osun and Edo states has forced me into the conclusion that the insensitive actions of Mimiko might be purposeful. The plight of Ondo state is not as pitiable as that of Osun state that lacks the adequate natural resources to survive. In February, 2016, Osun state received a laughable monthly allocation of N6 million from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, FAAC which is virtually the salary of a top business executive in Lagos state but the state has showed a political will to attend to the pains of the people by paying ‘half salaries’ since the month of July, 2015 till the month of February, 2016 which he did last week.

This could be minute but it’s a working solution keeping hopes alive and far better than nothing. Edo state has amazingly graduated from a state ridden with incessant protests for payment of workers’ salaries to a pacesetter by not only paying civil servants up to date but also increasing the minimum wage from N18, 000 to N25, 000 even in the face of economic downturn. What a thrilling achievement that mayn’t seem attractive to Ondo state due to the anti-people position of the present day government.

The ability to achieve this minimum wage feat must be expanded further with mismanagement and lack of innovative ideas and foresight being the only explanation for the gulf in both states’ fortunes. Edo truly represents an apples to apples comparison of two states with different interests; one purely interested in playing politics and the other keen on improving the fortunes of the people. According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, Edo State recorded a significant increase of 2.1 Billion naira in IGR or an 11% increase between 2014 and 2015. Ondo State on the other hand, realized a contraction in IGR of 1.6 Billion or a 16% reduction.

Beyond federal allocations which numerous governors blame for their inability to pay workers, IGR is the true lifeblood for any state to become truly autonomous. These are similar States possessing similar populations and workforce demographics yet the state with a lot less, Ondo having a larger trove of resources including its ever vital position as a coastal state, is realizing a lot more.

A concrete detail from a BudgetIT publication gives an insight to the economic potential of Ondo state which the current administration is blind to for obvious reasons. With Bitumen deposits in commercially viable quantities, Ondo sits atop an industry which is the feedstock for the road and infrastructure construction sector that would attract a chain of top companies thereby providing viable employment opportunities in the state but it’s disheartening that the Mimiko government only channelled the needed energy towards the exploration of Bitumen at the twilight of His reign over flimsy excuses. Added to this are its significant strides in cocoa farming, all of which means Ondo should have no business being in the company of states needing to borrow to pay debts associated with personnel costs.

The great Ondo state which is the home of top scholars in Nigeria whose rare ideas and intellect can propel the state to the zenith has become a mere ‘sleeping giant’ that needs to be woken up. Dr. Olusegun Mimiko and his People’s Democratic Party cohorts are the ‘sleeping pills’ which the state blessed with natural resources has gotten an overdose of. There is a need to uproot that structure of leadership and its remains from Ondo to institute progress. We will not incite violence, we will not pick up arms but we will brandish that weapon of peace more lethal than all weapons of mass destruction which is our voter’s card as we go on the march again in September this year in making a choice between darkness and light.

We have been in darkness for so long and we have seen the star which is an emblem of hope and a new order from afar. With the collective support of the people, we will institute a change and fix Ondo state.
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About Osayimwen Osahon George

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