By Sam Amaku
Since January, this year, there has been unprecedented labour unrest in Imo State. And from all indications, the battle is not yet over. But when two elephants fight, the grasses around suffer.
Therefore, continuous government labour disagreement does not really urgur well for our state especially with the state of our country now and the ailing economy. Think of the many man hours wasted as a result of these shows of strength. An Igbo adage however said that the rabbit does not just run out of its place of abode in the afternoon for nothing. There must be a cause.
At the back page f the Christian Voice Newspaper, Sunday, Jan. 17 – 23 Jan. 2016 edition, it carried a banner headline, “Protest in Owerri.—- Owelle says labour was misinformed —- Labour insists Governor must respect Civil Service Rules”.
In this publication, the Imo State Governor, Rochas accused his government workers of “ingratitude” and acting as an “opposition party” rather than “partners with government”.
The Sunday, June 19 – June 25, 2016 edition of this same Newspaper, again came up with another front page banner lead captioned “Day of rage in Owerri”.
BUT WHY ONLY IN IMO STATE, you and I may wonder? This time around, it was the Senior citizens of the state – the pensioners (men and women) who had used their youthful lives and experiences to serve the state and humanity. Some of the women are ofcourse widows who must look after their children. And among them are also the very aged ones who managed their ailing health situations to participate in the exercise. Among them still, are former Permanent Secretaries, Directors and ex-government house workers and voices of government and the people – the journalists.
These pensioners, drawn from the 27 local government areas of Imo State, rose up in unison to debunk boldly, Imo State government’s claims that it paid them 12 years arrears of pensions. These demonstration exercises ofcourse shut down all activities in Imo State on each occasion.
Contrary to Gov. Okorocha’s claims the pensioners were demanding payment of their accumulated pensions and gratuities as well as harmonization of pensions which they said stood between 13 – 71 months. The situation is very serious. It is not a laughing matter or an issue to be brushed aside with just a wave of hand.
But frankly speaking, between Gov. Rochas and these demonstrators – the serving civil servants and the pensioners – who is deceiving who in these accusations and counter accusations? Could it be possible that the civil servants as well as the pensioners would have received their entitlements as openly claimed by Rochas and still boldly mustered the courage to hold the entire state and government hostage on two major occasions now?
And if truly, the Imo State government has duly settled the workers and the pensioners, why does the government not feel free and present to the public its material evidence of those payments and shame the devil? After all, such payments should be properly documented.
One thing most people take for granted is the fact that God says He will come to judge the world after every one of us must have played our individual parts here on earth and gone. God is no respecter of man or position. That is the more reason why those in positions of authority must be very careful about their utterances and actions while in office because there is still a supreme being above. What God says He will do, that ofcourse is what He does. Be you a former Head of State, ex-chief Justice, ex-governor, senator or whatever that is immaterial.
When God created the earth including man, he expected us to live in peace and harmony with one another. Our God is God of ORDER and DECORUM hence he went further and armed us with CODES of CONDUCT. If we follow them strictly, ofcourse, Nigerians will not derail and everything will function well. There will be no conflicts even between husband and wife. But, unfortunately, man out of unnecessary pride, has decided to do things his own way. That is why we are where we are today in this country. Some of us see ourselves and positions which are simply transient, above God.
From the Holy Bible account, God demonstrated his love for contractual agreements between a labourer and his hirer. For instance, in the Book of Lev. 19 (13), God said “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor neither rob him; the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning”. Deut. 24(14) says,” Thou shall not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of brethren or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gate”. In Mal. 3 (5) the Lord God warned”. And I will come near to you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against those that oppress the hirelings in his wages, the widow and the fatherless and that turn aside the stranger from his right and fear not me”. Jer. 22(13) says, “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by wrong, that useth his neighbor’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work”.
Then in James 5 (4), the Bible also said, “Behold the hire of labourers who have reaped down your fields which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entereth into the ears of the Lord of Sabbath”. See also Ex. 2 (23) and Matt. 20 (8) respectively.
When, we Nigerians whether in governance or otherwise learn to fear God and respect his ordinances as well as have regards for our fellow human beings, then Nigeria surely will be a better place to live in. Man’s inhumanity to man will be a thing of the past because respect for human dignity as enshrined in our constitution and manifested in our National Anthem would have become obvious. Who is man to challenge God Almighty?
We should know that without workforce there will be no meaningful government and if people in public service don’t retire at their stipulated old ages, there will be no room also for our young school leavers – the future leaders. May God bless Nigeria!