OPINION: Governor Otu and the May Day Bliss

May 3, 2024 - 12:55
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OPINION: Governor Otu and the May Day Bliss

By Linus Obogo 

The announcement of a new minimum wage of N40,000 by Governor Bassey Otu of Cross River State on May 1, no doubt, came as an elixir to the state's vibrant workforce.

While it may have been met with mixed reactions, there is no gainsaying that many workers are pleased with the token increase in their salaries. 

And if there were scepticisms, trivialisms or cobwebberies, they, however, verge, probably, on the government's ability or lack of it, to sustain the new wage given the state's financial challenges.

For long now, workers in the state have groaned and hoped against hope for this "bolt out of the blue" surprise package which finally came on that commemorative May 1, Labour Day.

Governor Otu's decision to implement a new minimum wage of N40,000 for state workers was motivated not only by the need to align with the economic realities of the state, but borne more, out of empathy and concern for the plight of the state's civil servants.

Despite his acknowledgement of the financial constraints faced by the state, including low federal allocations and a high debt servicing ratio, the Governor has demonstrated in howling terms, his commitment to prioritizing the welfare of workers by ensuring timely payment of salaries and pensions.

During the Workers' Day celebration at the U.J Esuene Stadium in Calabar, Governor Otu reaffirmed his administration's focus on putting "People First." By emphasizing the importance of a strong relationship between the government and its workforce in creating wealth and improving livelihoods, Otu also made bold his assurance to the workers that his government was working towards untying the knots as well as addressing the backlog of gratuity payments dating back to 2014.

While the announcement of the new minimum wage was welcomed by many workers, labor leaders in the state, including Comrade Gregory Olayi and Comrade Monday Ogbodum, raised additional demands during the Workers' Day celebration.

 They called for prompt attention to promotions of civil servants, payment of gratuity to retirees, and recruitment to the state service. As a listening servant leader, these demands were not lost on the governor and neither would he treat them with levity.

Coming at a time when the state is still reeling from various challenges, including rising inflation and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy as well as battling decrepit infrastructure, it won't be totally wrong to assume that the governor may have taken more bites than he could chew. 

The wage increase, even though a bit constraining, was undoubtedly, a melodic rhythm to the ears of the state's workers.

The gesture represents an audacity of faith from a leader with the moniker SWEET PRINCE, a servant leader who has come to usher in a season of Sweetness.

In spite of the concerns with regards to the sustainability of the new wage; the anxiety that government may struggle to meet its obligations in the long run, the worry about the impact of the new wage on the state's budget and whether it will culminate in cuts in other areas of government spending, Governor Otu's optimism about the future of the state and its workforce, cannot be dimmed.

By prioritizing the well-being of workers and creating a conducive working environment, the governor hopes to ramp up productivity and ultimately boost the state's economy.

 The commitment of the governor, therefore, to addressing the challenges faced by workers and retirees, comes undeniably as a progressive step towards entrenching a rewarding culture of industry as well as building a more inclusive and prosperous society.

More poignant in the governor's gesture, is the understanding that a strong relationship between the government is not only crucial, but a desideratum for wealth creation and improved livelihoods.

Obogo is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Governor Bassey Otu of Cross River State.