To The Ideal Workers With Love, By Abdulyassar Abdulhamid
If we weep, gently, gently
If we cry roughly to our torments
What heart will listen to our clamoring,
What ear to our sobbing hearts?
-Birago Diop’s Vanity
Today, 1 May, is International Workers’ Day. It is very special day reserved to celebrate enormous contribution labourers make to the process of nation-building. We should, as a means of paying back to those ideal workers, fly broad-winged kites and gigantic balloons through the endless sky with their names boldly written on them.
This is the little we can do to immortalize them. I am well aware whether we do this or not their labour will never be in vain. For one day when a worker is long gone, a passerby will come and say here lived one of the greatest gatemen, clerks, street-sweepers or carpenters. The time will come.
When I move from one common to another I see invisible pictures of workers that have constructed our bridges, streets and built our houses. Their traces are there in our places of worship. Somewhere in classrooms I see their vestiges. In hospitals I see their wide footprints. At our gate they are there working day and night. These workers pitiful they may be man our factories that produce the garments, shoes, whatnot, we use. Some of them have lost a limp or two in the process of rendering their services to the public.
At our police stations we have workers that feed others at our courts. Those at our courts channel it to those at our prisons. Is there any place where there are no workers? Tell me? How often do we spare even a thought for those perfect workers from whose sweats germinate the seeds we plant, from the seeds thereafter come up plants and fruits; and then to finished products in front of us. Have not they deserved some respect?
As an individual pinned down by his intentional predicates, since a man cannot be stripped off his society, history, orientation or belief, I will dedicate this special day for one section of this workers. I will wave their spacious flag not because I downplay the others’ efforts. No, they are equally important. I will always work harder if I have the chance.
I will today give golden medals to the ex-workers of Nigeria Airways once more. Although many of them are gone forever, I commend them in absentia as a token for the faithful services they rendered for this great nation. Many of them have used up their energies, exhausted their eye-sights and worn out their lungs in this noble service to their fatherland. They worked, worked and worked until they could work no more. They are the true nation builders.
The struggle today is twelve years down the lane. I watched different protests they staged. Guess who are the front-liners? You could hear the screeching sounds of their crutches. Some were wobbling. Rheumatism has eaten up their joint. The rows of these ex-workers converging to claim their pay-off are led by strong-hearted comrades. They push, push and push unrelentingly in search of justice. I could see, and still do, their flag-bearers waving colossal flags under the heavy rains and in sunny days.
Now and then sharp scythes of injustice come reaping the remnant mercilessly. The front-liners, in some cases, lose their lives. The scythes cut limbs after limbs but before the flag touches the ground the next person takes up the flag in soldiery attempt to defend a nation – a nation of workers upon whose back mighty international ties and massive hinges of international relations rest – and of a sudden an invisible gold-studded crown with comrade inscription cut on it places itself carefully on his head.
I at once go upon my knees to pay unwavering loyalty to these ideal workers. There are workers who worked risking whatever they got until work took to its heels. The torments are unimaginable and the cries so deafening; but nobody seems to care and no mercy in sight. Some live on crutches forgetting the pleasure of legs; and some have threw in the towels: they could no longer hold onto the rope of the living. The suffering is so grudgingly incarnating itself in their families. It set up high barriers between them and hospital due to its exorbitant medical bills, schools for its skyrocketing fees and exaggeratedly grain of any type. Hollowed eye sockets, famished body, callous hands and cracked feet, falling sights and age are their frequent visitors.
So strange a move medical doctors in Canadian province of Quebec have rejected a pay rise this year. I watch this with envy. They are luxurious and superior like statues. Are some workers better than other? By way of comparison, our workers here, especially the ex-workers of Nigeria Airways, are living dead.
My fear, my only fear, is when will these ex-workers be listened to? When will someone from those estates of the realm wipe out their tears even with the back of his hand? When will someone so high weigh their torments and fill in the patches created by their tears? I wish I own that muscled pen to sign the papers that will unlock the safe wherein their pay-off has been stored. Alas, I am a common-man-of-the-street. Who can neither speed up their trial nor intervene.
Albeit all this, I will work harder, harder, for the pleasure in it – for the human race in general. Some days beads of sweat from my hard labour will inspire, motivate and excite me and others until we push work to the next level.
Abdulyassar Abdulhamid wrote in from Kano and can be reached at email@example.com