“The modern laborer,” Marx wrote, “... instead of rising with the process of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper...” This pauperisation have taken place against the backdrop of a colossal looting of public funds, accompanied by a more ruthless expropriation of the fruits of the worker’s labour by government officials and employers – in one word the capitalists.
Once again, we are called to the barricades to take up the fight for a living wage. Once again we must take up our position among the ranks – ready for this fight. Workers have the right to earn a living wage. This time the demand is for a ‘whopping’ #52,200.00 minimum wage. The response of the ruling class is – traditional; the bogey of inflation.
This bogey is reserved solely for the working class – each time a living wage is demanded. “It will cause inflation, stupid!” One could almost hear them say. We will deal with this presently. But first we must point out, as an aside, that they never frighten themselves with this in their enjoyment of various perks of office. Even they go on grabbing for more, never mind the fiction of the recent so-called wage ‘cut’ of public servants. This is just an attempt to throw sand in our eyes. It won’t work; we continue to see clearly and we say that in the face of the current economic crisis, bringing in a decent wage is a necessity. It spells the difference between having food and going hungry.
A sizeable proportion of Nigerian workers receive pay that is nothing but starvation wage. Today, over 75% of them live in conditions of crushing poverty, in conditions not far removed from barbarism. They live in rotten tenements in decaying communities. Hundreds of thousands of working class families lack access to medical services and find it increasingly difficult to send their children to school and workers poverty have reached new heights.
Government officials continue to line their pockets and swell their bank accounts with money that could be used to offer workers a living wage. In the past period, fuelled by rising oil prices, government and big business had made more money than ever before. But not a single dime found its way into the pockets of the poor toiling masses.
RICH GETTING RICHER
Late last year, during the fund-raising drive for the construction of a new secretariat complex in Abuja of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) the ruling class achieved further heights of insensitivity: over #6bn donated – for a building! The list of donors include:
• Femi Otedola - #1 billion
• Aliko Dangote - Cement worth #3 billion
• Princess Bola Shagaya - #25m
• Chief Michael Otedola - #25m
• Strabag Construction - #100m
• President Umaru Yar’Adua - #527,205 (Representing 15% of basic salary)
• VP Goodluck Jonathan - #454,735 (Representing 15% of basic salary)
(THISDAY Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008)