The first time I heard the name of the current Governor of Enugu State, Mr. Sullivan Chime, and that, I think, was after he was declared winner of the governorship election in the state by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), the first thing that struck me was the exotic nature of the name – Sullivan. For someone who had served as both Special Adviser and Commissioner for Justice under ex-Governor Chimaroke Nnamani (a man noted for his prodigious appetite for the limelight), it was not surprising that I was hearing Mr. Chime’s name for the first time. Certainly, Nnamani’s over-blown image had eclipsed virtually everyone that worked under him.
Nnamani was one of the high-profile governors of the last dispensation. He was mainly known for the countless lectures he gave here and there where he advocated what he neither believed in nor practiced, and his ability to package his modest accomplishments in office with intimidating pomp and fanfare.
But while Nnamani used whatever was available to him to capture the public space and boost his image, the people who worked in the various parastatals in
Let the people survive first. Their welfare must first be taken care of before anything else. Of what use is the government if it lacks the capacity or willingness, or both, to improve the lives of the people? Government is about service to the people, and not about sweet, tantalizing melodies and high-sounding slogans that would never be able lift the people out of their suffering.
Perhaps, I may also ask: Of what significance is the Ebeano Tunnel in
I am glad that Gov Chime has, reportedly, promised to pay these workers and illumine their faces with broad smiles. I urge him to expedite action on this and halt the pain and anguish they are presently undergoing. Nobody should give the impression that these workers have committed any crime by working for the Enugu State Government. Their sad condition, each time I think of it, makes my heart to bleed. It must be clear to the new Governor that he cannot afford to prolong their agony any further.
Many of them are being owed more than fourteen months salary arrears? It sounds incredible, but it is true. Take, for instance, the Enugu State Water Corporation whose workers are being owed about fourteen months arrears of salaries or the employees of Enugu State Waste Management Authority (ESWAMA), who are hoping that their own fourteen months unpaid salaries would be cleared.
What name can any one give to this kind of depressing situation? Yet, that is not all. The list is benumbing. The last time I enquired, and that was last weekend, workers at the Enugu State Transport Company (ENTRACO) topped this list of shame and agony with about eighteen months unpaid salaries; Enugu State Broadcasting Service (ESBS), about seven months; Enugu State Library Board, not less than nine months; Enugu State Council for Arts and Culture, about nine; Tractor Hiring Company, twelve; Daily Star Newspaper, about ten; Sports Council, about ten; Enugu State Agricultural Development Programme (ENEDEB), twelve months; and several other parastatals, all left to pine away in hunger and impoverishment.
How have they been coping, I am often forced to ask? Somebody told me last weekend that many of them live on the goodwill of friends and relatives. Many have had to borrow to pay house rents and hospital bills. And the debts are mounting. Many have practically become beggars, calling up anyone they had known for assistance from time to time. Many who have no one to turn to may have simply sunk into the dark chasm of despair and are withering away with each passing day. Some others may have even given up the fight and died. Who cared? It is that bad.
I find it difficult to believe that an employer would have the heart to owe his workers for all these months. Although, the Chimaroke regime withheld the leave allowances of the workers in the core civil service for five years, he, nevertheless, managed to pay their salaries. Now, I do not know the reasoning behind paying one set of workers and leaving the others to suffer, except that it helped the state government to perfect its divide and rule tactics, because, its continuous announcement that it had paid ALL the workers often led to serious misunderstandings between the unions fighting for the welfare of the parastatals and the other unions.
This is not fair, and Gov Sullivan Chime should step forward immediately and halt this raw advertisement of heartlessness by simply paying these workers. Workers in both the parastatals and core civil service all buy from the same Ogbete market. They all have school fees and house rents to pay, and families to fend for. In some cases, both husbands and wives could be victims of these unpaid salaries. Imagine the agony the family would be going through.
I am waiting to hear that Gov Chime has paid these workers and I am going to thank and celebrate him in my weekly column, SCRUPLES. I just hope he won’t compel me to create a space there weekly where I would be reminding him of the need to discharge the obligation towards these hapless, helpless workers, which he inherited from his predecessor.
Well, something tells me it won’t come to that. In fairness to Mr. Chime, he did not create this problem. It is a live-snake his predecessor handed over to him. He should face it headlong, trash it, lift the gloom it is creating in
Let me close with this….
As a young man, I lived in
In those days, one appreciated
In fact, in