Posted by Shaibu Stephen Ojate | 15 September 2016 | 2,966 times
The social media was awash with the news story on Friday August 26 that irate Muslim Youths in Lokoja pelted stones and rotten vegetables on the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, when he went to the Lokoja Central Mosque to observe the Jummat prayer.
It was reported that security men saved his life, as they hurriedly boggled the governor out to his waiting vehicle. That singular step prevented the irate Muslim Youths from molesting him. Reports have it that the youths, in showing their anger over how the administration of Bello has fared in the state, chanted ‘ole, ole’ – which means ‘thief, thief.’ Moreover, a section of the media were not also left out, as they too tagged the governor ‘corrupt person’ while reporting the news event.
So many people have expressed their reservations on this latest happening in Kogi State. Some condemned the action of the youths in its entirety, noting that it is totally wrong to mete out such treatment to a societal leader in the house of God, a place considered sacred. They contended that the mosque is a religious worship centre and it ought to be respected. Thus, an action of this nature has degraded the place. This class of people stressed further that even if the Muslim Youths had ill-feelings against the governor, it should have been done in a diplomatic manner rather than such open display of immaturity and shame.
Another school of thought contended that there is nothing wrong in what the Muslim Youths had done, asserting that the display of the youths has clearly corroborated the saying that, ‘a hungry man is an angry man.’ This school opined that the anger of the Muslim Youths stemmed from the non-payment of salaries to workers, which has run into months now, since the Bello took the reign of affairs in Kogi State.
The central position thereof now forms the basis of this article. And, my mission is to educate members of the public better on the issue of non-salary payment to workers, not only in Kogi State but across states of the federation at large. I must echo to the ear of my readers that Kogi State is a federating unit in Nigeria, just like other states who get the bulk of their revenue from the Federal Government in terms of monthly federal allocation funds. Therefore, the present anger of some people on the issue of non-salary payment, as experienced in recent times, is lack of adequate information. This is what I termed as total display of ignorance. Many people have failed to understand that the states in Nigeria survived mostly with federal allocation funds, and this has drastically reduced over time. The present federal allocation to Kogi State is nothing to write home about when compared to what his predecessors, Idris Wada and former Governor Idris Ibrahim, received during their tenures.
For the sake of those who are not knowledgeable on the issue of Nigerian economy, I must educate them further that the reduction in federal allocation figure to states was caused by the fall in crude oil price at the international market. This was further compounded by activities of the Niger Delta Avengers, with the coming of Buhari-led government barely a year ago. The militant group has serially engaged in the destruction of oil installations, leading to shortage of the Nigerian crude oil supply to the international market. The low revenue as made by the Federal Government impacted negatively on what each federating unit gets as their monthly allocation.
Going by this, many state governors could not cope with the regular payment of workers’ salaries: and this is not peculiar to Kogi State alone. Sequel to this, states like Imo, Benue and Nassarawa have no option than to resort to slicing monthly salary of workers, a measure aimed saving the states from total collapse, since the meagre federal allocation could not sustain the states anymore.
It is important to note that governors who took such steps had not been crucified by their respective constituents, nor stoned by their workers, despite that they too owed them backlog of unpaid salaries. The stakeholders showed understanding, and reasoned with their governors.
I therefore, began to wonder as to what precipitated the irate Muslim Youths in Lokoja to call for the head of our indefatigable and youthful governor on the non-salary payment to workers, as at when due, when this is not his making. He was left with the only option of utilising the meagre funds that comes to the state. Kogi State is not a sovereign nation with its own central bank. There is nothing like Kogi Central Bank, which the accusers of Governor Bello would have expected him to resort to at a time like this: by ordering the printing of more naira notes to enable him pay workers. Even if the state happened to be a nation of its own, there are rules guiding the printing of national currencies, as things are not done that way.
At this juncture, what we need now is understanding and reasoning. The good people of Kogi State should commend the governor on his absolute resolve not to slice workers’ monthly salaries, but boldly maintained the status quo as he is very hopeful of better days ahead. We should, therefore, know that things cannot turn for good within a twinkle of an eye: it is a gradual process. I believe strongly that the governor has not rested on his oars as he is up and running, and has taken a giant stride to woo Industrialist Aliko Dangote, and some foreign investors to the state. All these will translate to good and enhance the internally-generated revenue of the state in years ahead.
Concluding this article, I must say that the failure and the success of Governor Bello is not only his but ours, as all of us are stakeholders in the state. Having made this remark, the attack on one another on social media which, at times, are being triggered by ethnic and political sentiments will not solve our problem. This is not to say that I absolve the governor from blame on his inaction in the state, but my plea is for the collective interest. I must also make it clear that the problem of unpaid salary in Kogi State is not because the governor is of Ebira ethnic extraction, as some might portray it, rather it is a national problem.
In view of the above, let us support the governor in his policies and actions, as he needs us to succeed. Let us support him to succeed and make the state better for all of us.
•Shaibu Stephen Ojate (08052666344), a journalist and public affairs commentator, writes from Abuja. Photo shows Governor Yahaya Bello.
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