Workers’ Day in Kogi: From Bello’s 8-Year Affliction to Ododo’s Consolation

Ahmed Usman Ododo, Yahaya Bello
By Alex Adeiza

If this article was a poem, it would have some semblance of a dirge, not celebratory, but honours the lives that survived high blood pressure, those that could not escape their early graves, children who became school dropouts, and parents who are no less like insanities that roam the streets of Kogi; all because of the affliction of unpaid salaries that struck them, circa 2016 when Yahaya Bello became Governor of the state.

That year, heralded the marking of workers’ day in the state with grief, gnashing of teeth, and fervent prayers for redemption. In fact, the workers’ day of 2016 came with a post-traumatic stress disorder, brought about by enduring months of many screening exercises intended to root out ghosts from the workforce. The exercise which was the first much publicized civil service reform of that administration, ended up the worst mistake, an unprecedented disaster that had no dent of success.

At the time when the dust could have settled, the administration swam in many months of arrears owed these civil servants and pensioners without remorse. They, the government, would go ahead to start paying the state workers their dues, putting it up as a façade to shadow out the unpaid primary school teachers, local government workers and pensioners. The state chapter of the NLC became toothless and dumb, especially as their leadership comprised of state workers who felt satisfied in getting their payments against others.

To save face, and when the voices of the dejected and afflicted local government workers and pensioners became louder, Bello resorted to giving them 20% of their salaries behind the proper schedule. Putting this in proper perspective, assuming your rightful salary for this month is N100,000; you will be paid  N20,000 at the end of the next month. While this went on, federal allocations rained in increasing droves, and erstwhile poor political appointees lived la vida loca. There is no way the legacy of Yahaya Bello would be told without the story that these civil servants had written in their hearts, committed in prayers, and shared on the streets.

However, Governor Ahmed Usman Ododo, the very man whom Bello installed as his worthy successor, is the good irony that was not expected to do any differently from his Boss. Ododo served under Yahaya Bello for eight years as his Auditor-General for Local Government, and one would find it difficult to absolve him of the sufferings meted out on the workers, let alone expect him to perform better than his predecessor. But, he has since performed exceedingly beyond the expectations, leaving people to wonder whether he was just powerless to influence Bello’s decision when he served under him, or decided to play out the “if you cannot beat them, join them” strategy with the members of the cabal.

From the elections till date, Governor Ododo has shown what could be described as sheer humanity, mending hearts, bearing the olive branch and acting concerned about the welfare of the citizens of the state. Summarily, for the first time in eight years, local government workers and primary school teachers received 85% of their due wage promptly paid; while pensioners and state workers were fully paid in a quiet manner that made leadership not look like rocket science. It is a huge sigh of relief, and there is no how one will celebrate this as an achievement without casting aspersion on his boss whom he owes loyalty. It is such a profound irony to behold that Bello afflicted these people, and his anointed successor is giving them the relief and consolation they longed for.

Thus, on the occasion of workers’ day 2024, being the first in Governor Ododo’s administration, words on the streets are those of praises, commendation and good prayers for giving these people hope to hold on to about their welfare. He has done well, and it is hoped that a time would come in his administration that everyone will be fully paid, and other parts of their welfares promptly attended to.

To this end, who consoles those that did not survive those days of man-made sufferings, and their bereaved? For those who survived, “…he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time (Nahum 1:9)”

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