THE LIVING WAGE CONTROVERSY -IT’S ECONOMIC APARTHEID!!!

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By Rev. Fr. George Ehusani

The fundamental problem I have with the ongoing controversy over what is to be considered minimum wage or living wage for the poorest workers in Nigeria, is the master-slave disparity in wages earned by workers in both the public and private sectors of our economy.

How can we who belong to the privileged elite class continue to go to sleep daily in good conscience, when we pay a worker – no matter how unskilled the worker may be – 60,000 Naira for a whole month, to take care of food, accommodation, transportation, medicals, children’s school fees, etc?

Over sixty years after independence, we seem to have ended up with a new form of apartheid, this time, economic apartheid. As a student of social ethics, it just does not make sense to me, indeed it seems to me a crime calling to the heavens for vengeance, that whatever the disparity in talent, in skills, and in hard work, some can legitimately earn 30 Million Naira per month, and spend endless hours debating the sustainability or otherwise of paying 60,000 Naira to a family man for the month.

If this is not apartheid, I need to be better educated. And if I am wrong to say that the excessively wide disparity between the super rich and miserably poor in our society is a crime calling for vengeance, then I need to be educated on what really amounts to a crime!

It may be true that more cash in the hands of Nigerians may instigate more inflation. But in the absence of any viable social welfare systems, when the poor are dying of hunger and disease, and when the child of my security guard has been programmed by a criminally unjust system to end up as security guard for my son, those economic principles which some experts are outlining, may be seen as no more than boardroom discourse. In any civilized society, children are supposed to enjoy equal opportunities, especially in the early years.

We can then expect differences in outcome, due to natural talents, diligence, and hard work, etc. But a situation whereby children are already stratified from the day they are born, with some never having the opportunity to live in decent environments or attend quality educational institutions, a major injustice has been done to those children. And society as a whole is impoverished, as the full potential of the many geniuses in our slum dwellings will never be realized.

Perhaps the real challenge we must confront squarely and courageously is that the political, economic, social, and even religious elite in this country have continued a colonial-style reckless exploitation of the generality of the people, and we have built a society of reckless conspicuous consumption of the few, and the dehumanizing poverty of the many. This anomalous situation is definitely more unsustainable than the ongoing call to increase minimum wage.

What is more, it is this same elite class in Nigeria, many of who went to good schools at home and abroad, on government scholarship, that have destroyed the country, with their politics of greed and acrimony, and not the poor who have often been simply victims of the Nigerian elite debauchery.

My fear today is that we are heading for a violent revolution. The revolution has been delayed thus far by our senseless ethnic and religious bigotry and historical antipathies which the senselessly callous politicians have often exploited. But as things get harder for the poor, the situation will not remain the same.

The longer it takes for the scales to fall off the eyes of Nigerians, and for pending revolution to happen, the more deadly and devastating the form it will take for those of us in the privileged segment of society.

My advocacy on the side of the impoverished poor of Nigeria in these matters, is actually a question of enlightened self interest.

Finally, let it be known by succeeding generations that while the invading locusts devoured our national landscape and laid was our otherwise richly endowed fatherland, I was not a guilty bystander.

When the senseless fraudsters and the reckless scoundrels seized the reins of power and polluted the sacred precincts with filth, I did not sit on the fence. I was not a guilty bystander.

Yes, when the scales fall of the eyes of the poor, and those who belong to the political, economic, social, and religious elite class in this generation, are summoned to answer fatal questions, let it be known that I George Ehusani did not acquiesce, because I shouted from the hilltop; I screamed from the valley; and I roared in the plains.

I did not keep silent!

Rev. Fr. (Dr) George Ehusani is an accomplished theologian, author, preacher, teacher, administrator, musician, social commentator, activist and above all, dedicated priest of the Most High. He is the Executive Director of Lux Terra Leadership Foundation.