The Show of Shame in Akwa-Ibom, By Tomiwa Ilori
Many have worked tirelessly all their lives, in order find meaning to life and establish a life after the work they must have given their lives for. A lot of people have sweated their brows enough to fill an abyss while looking forward to a life of healthy retirement. Old age as it is, often sets in by the time most workers opt out of work either because of physical or health incapacities or because of their age. The challenges of old age are enough to cripple a heart that has diligently kept its virtues and diligence at work. It is to cater for the challenges people will face after a considerably long life of dedication to work that pension schemes were established. By the time most workers retire, there is little or no use for their labor anymore.
However, the realistic fact that juts at all of us in the face is how these old men and women who have sacrificed their agility and youthful energy towards their work, mostly in government ministries are subjected to aching and inhumane treatments of always and constantly being denied their rights. Over time, what plays out is that, either these pensioners do not get their pays in time or they only get paid in arrears of several months back or even years. How do they survive between these periods they are not paid? What the government does to add horror to the pain of these pensioners is to call for monthly accreditation of these pensioners to ascertain whether they are not ghost pensioners but usually at the detriment of their health which is largely due to lack of compassion by government officials.
Looking into the lives of these old pensioners, their only source of survival and livelihood is this pension programs. A good number of them have lost the use of their legs to arthritis or rheumatism due to prolonged standing either for these needless accreditations or while trying to get paid their allowances. The way we treat our old ones is a reflection and a subtle prediction of how we will be treated as age passes on us. These are people who in their various capacities have dedicated their lives to a worthy cause of service to secure whatever ounce of comfort we enjoy today.
It is against this background that I wish to visit the pension laws for public office holders, especially the one just passed in Akwa-Ibom. It is no longer news that the show of shame in Akwa-Ibom both by the Governor and the House of Assembly is an indication of the rot in our society. For anyone with a right dose of reasonability and integrity, adjectives will be used up in qualifying the public show of disdain by these public office holders. Godswill Akpabio from time has been known to be a “Father Christmas” of repute in doling out the taxpayers’ funds. What he has done is moving on from the impunity of corruption while in office and extending it to his life after office.
What this law actually affords for is a continuous milking of the country’s resources at large for the rich few. The meaning of this is that by virtue of the Law, Goodswill Akpabio alongside his deputy will earn 26.7 million naira and 25.3 million naira respectively and a threshold of medical services with his deputy which will stand at 100million and 50million naira each, annually. The outcry against these horrible actions is not farfetched. It only confirms the core challenge of the typical Nigerian society: leadership deficiency. The current Mayor of New York, Bill de Blaiso earns 36 million naira annually, not as pension, but as salary. The salary which in actual fact he has never collected for once due to a commitment genuinely given to public service. Connecting the dots of how dangerous we have tended as a country continues to repress every sense of hope anyone might have for our national development. When just one person will go home with several millions of naira for an office which is supposedly for public service calls to question what sort of service is being rendered.
In a country where the pensioners that ploughs the soil that brings the booty literally begs for what belongs to them while a rich few enjoys such booty not only for a period of time but now for a life time, it is formerly established that the masses are living at the mercy of the rich. There is no reconciliation between public service and blatant disregard for what continuously fosters economic and social disparity, whatever link that may exist however is the conspicuous absence of a conscience needed in delivering a desirable leadership needed in a country like ours.
the writer tweets @tomiwa_ilori
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