Today is Workers Day, but my pulsating anger queries, which worker? Is it the grateful monkey that nods eagerly at the unimaginably brown paltry Banana peels thrown at him while the brutish odd looking taskmaster, Mr. Baboon eats the juicy yellow flesh while lounging on the rock or supervising from the red and green patch?
The legendary paradox of the Monkey and Baboon describes the uncanny reality of the Nigerian worker.
As Nigerian workers and their union leaders with bellies protruding from midnight handshakes with state and corporations take to the streets today to perform the odd ritual of chanting ineffectual sweat-songs while waving curated banners, it is paramount to pick at the oozing sore that Nigerian workers nurse; usually conveniently omitted from those glossy speeches.
The Slave Factories Are Back
Nigeria has again permitted like it did 400 years ago, slave masters who set up sprawling industrial complexes and factories. This time with the permission of the state.
The foreign Baboons who oversee the boiling cauldrons in conjunction with the local Baboons devise and use the Monkey, N800 a day; plus a chance to get roasted or loose a limb!
Like Abass who worked with Lifemate Furniture, Oregun, Lagos and told journalists “this job is slavery, there is no other way to describe it. In fact, the company only started paying N15, 000 recently. Our salary was N12, 000 before. But where else do I go if I leave this job? Even if I find another factory work somewhere else, it is not likely that it will pay better. We hear from many other factory workers around. Their bosses pay terrible wages as well. It is usually like that in Chinese factories”.
And it’s not just the Chinese; it’s the Lebanese, Japanese, every other nationality and even Nigerian companies or employers who milk every productive juice in the lean body of the Nigerian worker while the labour unions look away save for when an unflattering story of death or abuse breaks and causes them embarrassment and distracts them from their fancy agitations.
“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”- George Orwell
Let’s move on to the black vans filled with guns and blaring sirens bypassing traffic all in a bid to convey expatraite workers who own these slave factories to work or for a flimsy coffee break while their workers in most cases do not have functional staff buses.
This absolutely unnecessary pomp is a sight you behold everyday while your countrymen die in the hands of marauding bandits, herdsmen and kidnappers.
Some workers have had enough contrary to the uninformed claim by the unproductive beard, workers in Nigeria, be they surplus or miniscule are leaving in droves.
While the population grows in a deceptive geometricic manner, it is important to note that these baby milling states lag in education, innovation and ultimately a viable innovative work force so do not be decived by population numbers.
I know this fact is incomprehensible for some pseudo-big men who recklessly describe a reality they are no longer in touch with.
Minimum wage or slave wage?
Mediocrity loves company. It’s why union leaders kneel for crumbs, uncertain crumbs when they can have the whole loaf; without the permission of the Baboon.
If you think bagging this incredibly buttery loaf is impossible to get, ask your self where your lawmakers get N13.5 million monthly as “running cost” from. Do you not run things too?
Mind you it does not include N700,000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances which they also receive.
All these while 3,000 legislative aides protest the non-payment of salaries and allowances, within the same building!
Can you honestly survive on N30,000 a month? how about rent, fees, bills, food, transport and so on?
Yet you! Nigerian worker attack and diminish anyone who suggest to drag you out of this muck and confine them to the mediocre part of your psyche that compels you to say pessimistic things like ‘where will the money come from?’
It will come from mining, tourism, solar energy, agriculture and where ever else on this patch it wills to come from!
May Day! May Day!
Nigeria will implode if you, this working class monkey keeps your subservient mien. So this is not a drill or another lengthy ramble about the conditions of your service or lack of, depending on your status in the jungle.
So as you don those branded tees and wave your scripted banners today, remember that you are not just another Monkey in this anarchist jungle.
You can decide to demand for factories, industrial complexes, insurance, benefits, and dignity for your labour or you can send out press releases commending your unlivable wage and condition of service.
Decide if you can bear to live on that wage, continue that hazardous job without insurance or watch your kids jobless after your relentless sweat deposited in the school receipt while corrupt government officials, their families and expatriates running illegal slave camps cash out.
If thinking of the above is so intolerable that it haunts your imagination, revolt. Because if you do not revolt against the system, one day, soon, the system will revolt against you.
If Monkey work, Monkey must chop!
Remember…”the labour of the fool wearieth everyone because he knows not how to go into the city”-Ecclesiastes 10:15.
Senami Kojah is a Writer, Journalist and Public Affairs Analyst who writes from Lagos.