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EditorialPolitics

El-Rufai: The Pathfinder and his Unpopular Idea [EDITORIAL]

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The year 2021 has been a turbulent one for Kaduna state, the tenth largest economy in Nigeria by Gross Domestic Profit (GDP). The state had barely survived the protracted Southern Kaduna crisis with several peace talks last year and the state is supposed to be breathing a fresh air of peace. But how it suddenly became the nerve of banditry and kidnapping in the country in the wake of 2021 remains startling.

The security situation in the state has degenerated greatly but unlike it is seen at the federal level, the state government did not suffer in pretence despite being led by an APC Governor. For every of these malevolent acts, Governor Nasir El-rufai-led administration reminded the federal government of the need to embrace the idea of state policing, proper funding of the existing security agencies amongst other measures.

The government at the centre has failed to heed to these salient interventions and the security breakdown persists nationwide. Sixteen greenfield university students are still missing with promises of securing their release unhurt from both the state and federal governments. Days have run into weeks and no good news yet on the release of the undergraduates from their captors.

It is however unthinkable that the man who has found himself in this quagmire would marshal another revolutionary move in the history of civil service reform in Nigeria at the same time the state is battling gross insecurity. Only an all-rounder like El-Rufai can. He did not allow an aspect of governance to suffer because of another. This exemplary move has taught everyone that the travails of a man should not stop him from progressing.

It is a known fact that Nigeria has an over-bloated workforce. This has been emphasized in past committee reports but what do we get? White papers without implementation. These reports recommending a thorough pruning of the civil service only become useful for research or archival purposes. Now that we have found this excess baggage, shall we continue to ferry a boat knowing fully well that it leads nowhere?

All over the country, only a few states have a clean sheet when it comes to prompt salary payment. When you mention Lagos and a few oil-rich states, all others are either grappling with salary payment or owing their older citizens’ pensions and gratuities like an irresponsible father. All these culminate to the poverty index that we rant about but Nigerians do not care to know. We found ourselves in this multidimensional poverty as a western newspaper describes it and we simply need a multidimensional approach to rescue ourselves. Therefore, we cannot continue to pretend and subject these issues to debate without actions.

No fewer than seven states in the country have yet to implement the N30,000 minimum wage approved over two years ago. Kano state, which had earlier gone ahead to start paying the approved benchmark later rescinded to the former N18,000 as part of its negotiations with the labour union when it proposed a mass sack.

But the Kaduna state government, which was one of the states to first implement the N30,000 minimum wage, has decided to take the bull by the horn. Rather than resort back to the paltry N18,000, it resolved to lay off redundant civil servants and political appointees.

The state has neither released the modalities for the planned action nor announced the date it will kick start the action when the labour unions began to cry foul. Although dismayed by the reaction of the union leaders, I’m consoled by Albert Einstein’s position about the unpopularity of the right things.

The German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest physicists of all time, says “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.”

The same labour unions that have derided the high cost of governance in Nigeria now wailing about the move to reduce. What an irony! How do you achieve development if a state spends over 80 percent of its revenue on salary payment? What happens to the healthcare system, infrastructure, education and other places in dire need of funds? Should these cogent sectors suffer the nemesis of maintaining an over-bloated workforce?

If these labour unions can objectively provide answers to these questions, they would be concerned about working the modalities out with the state government instead of the pressure being mounted through strike actions to thwart the implementation of the right-but-not-popular idea.

If El-Rufai can scale these hurdles– the brickbats from NLC and other sister unions, and implement this legendary reform, he would have successfully charted the way for other states to follow.

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