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National Minimum Wage And Lalong’s Shining Example

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Gov. Lalong

Gov. Lalong

By Jerry Gyado

Every leader has his defects. Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau state is also not spared the limitations governance imposes on a leader either. Frankly, he has his fusillade of leadership challenges he battles every day to make positive impact on the Plateau, just like most or all governors in Nigeria.

But a good leader carves a niche for himself in specific leadership and governance areas. And what is inseparable and very dear to the heart of Gov. Lalong is the welfare of the people on the Plateau, the home of peace and tourism. It has always been uppermost in his leadership calculations.

So, the problem of months of unpaid state wages he inherited constituted one of his first priorities when he mounted the saddle of leadership. He vowed never to compromise it under any circumstance, even in the midst of meagre resources. He has personified it in words and actions to this moment.

No doubt, in 2015, Lalong inherited a state gravely afflicted with multitudinous problems. There was absolute dearth of development in all sectors; violence and consuming insecurity on the Plateau and months of unpaid salaries and pensions of civil servants.

Plateau public servants were owed seven months of unpaid salaries by his predecessor, Sen. Jonah Jang. Instantaneously, Gov. Lalong initiated actions to tackle the unpaid salary menace, which was partly responsible for the ominous discontent among the populace.

Within record time, he worked out modalities, which enabled payment of the pending salary arrears and current salaries simultaneously. It attracted his admiration of all, including his arch opponents.

By mid-June 2016, Gov. Lalong, an administrator per excellence, effectively cleared all backlog of unpaid salaries and sustained regular and prompt payment of subsisting state wage bill. This was even before the President Muhammedu Buhari contemplated release of bailout funds to salary-indebted states.

Workers in the state were pleasantly and constantly embarrassed with salary bank alerts. Some confessed being jolted out of sleep at midnight with salary bank alerts. Today, no worker on the Plateau is owed a kobo for salaries and allowances, as the state meets this financial obligations very timely.

It’s a plus for his government and a source of joy for people of the state, as he was able to navigate his path out of the unpaid salary dilemma. More perplexing was that it happened in the era of recession when most states fruitlessly battled the monster under biting economic recession.

The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) muted the idea of a new minimum wage. And eventually N30, 000 new minimum wage was approved from the initial N67,000 proposed by labour. However, some State Governors schemed to frustrate adoption of the N30,000 nationally approved minimum wage, as they claimed that only N22,500 was payable.

But as a core welfarist, Lalong was ready to pay reasonable and living wage to his workers. Reports from the initial negotiations with relevant stakeholders on the salary increment indicated that Gov. Lalong was quite prepared to pleasantly shock his workers and labour by accepting to pay the sum of N57,000 from the N67,000 initial proposal. It was the highest, when states were asked to voluntarily peg down the amount they deemed capable of paying as minimum wage.

It revealed the heart of a leader committed to the welfare of his people. But when further negotiations were anchored by the FGN, Salaries and Wages Commission and the Organized Labour and the amount was pegged to N30, 000. In any case, state governors still re-negotiate what they were capable of paying in their respective states and Lalong had to flow along with his colleague-governors, but agreed to pay N25,000 new minimum wage to the least worker in his state.

Quite impressively, even with the reduced sum as it stands now, Plateau state still ranks among one of the states with the highest amount of N25,000 pegged as the new minimum wage. This was after the Nigerian Governors’ Forum were jointly re-negotiating a paltry N22,500 as minimum wage in spite of consensus reached during the tripartite negotiations.

Therefore, Gov. Lalong’s Plateau state went to the negotiation table with a promising case for the least paid civil servant in his State earning a minimum of N25, 000 per month as new minimum wage. He wanted a higher bargain not just for Plateau workers, but all civil servants in Nigeria, but was beaten to the game by the votes of the majority opposed to it.

But Gov. Lalong’s case is very unique because unlike some of his colleagues, he is not just ready to increase the pay. But he has a knack and reputation for embarrassing workers with bank alerts on salaries, pensions, and other legitimate entitlements of public servants. All can vouch that with the N25,000 endorsed by Lalong, the payment will still be regular and prompt, without hitches.

It explains the passion and unbreakable bond between workers and the Governor. Lalong is not only feted by workers; by acknowledged by the hard-to-please national leadership of the NLC led by Comrade Ayuba Wabbai for his exceptional commitment to workers welfare. So, chants of Gov. Lalong’s reelection in 2019 vibrates louder in workers camps in the state, much like the retinue of other interests who angling and actively working for his comeback in 2019.

The refrain consistently voiced out lucidly by people on the Plateau is that workers cannot afford to jeopardize the new reward systems for workers in the state, with another sailor, they reckoned could only be good in broken promises. Workers still remember gloomily, the level of physical humiliation, psychological or mental torture as well as the pains months of unpaid salaries caused them.

Observably, If the population in the state civil service remains thick as it is today, those eying Gov. Lalong’s job in 2019 are in deep trouble. Certainly, it will be a tough time for other contenders to do battle with Lalong in 2019.

Not just workers, but contractors, youths and all shades of interests on the Plateau who have been relieved variously by Lalong’s administration are the leading exponents of his reelection in cities, villages and communities. Clearly, Gov. Lalong has yet another fulfilling date with destiny come 2019.

Gyado wrote this article from Vom, Plateau State.

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Opinion

War with The Church, As Obi Insulted Catholic Bishops

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…Says they Lack Political Relevance

The recent media war between the former governor of Anambra state, Mr Peter Obi and the most populated Christian faithfuls in Igbo land (Catholic Church) has left many totally Flabbergasted .

Chief Peter Obi who is a running mate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Sunday the 20th of January, 2019 described the Catholic Bishops as a group of cabal in Igbo politics yet without voting capacity and relevance and urge the highly placed / top Religious mentors to seek for an additional system that will make them move from parasitic to symbiotic animals.

Chief Obi made the statement when he met with members of the Anglican laity councils of Nigeria(ANLCN) Anambra state chapter at his Onitsha GRA quarters .

We must also realize that few days ago, it was gathered that Obi called one of the most respectful catholic Bishop in Anambra state on phone around 2am and threatened him on why the Catholic church is against his aspiration and even went to a far extent to inform the Bishop that Catholic Church can’t stop him from winning the election but they will not benefit from his government if he wins.

Unfortunately for the aggrieved Obi who spoke to the clergy man with furious language, he never that his voice was recorded by the Bishop who further played the audio in the congregation of their meeting .

Since ever then, Obi have been working very hard to discredit the enormous spiritual, moral and value development created in the entire christiadom by the Bishops and members of the Catholic church.

One of the most recent and most unbearable was Obi ‘s attempt to refer the Bishops as a group of cabals without political relevance.

Just like Martin Luther King Jr would say ” Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere ” it therefore suggest that the attack on on Bishops by Obi is an attack on the generality of the Catholic church.

It was equally gathered that Obi was forced to declare war on the Catholic church because he was reliably inform that over 70 Bishops attended the Igbo conference where it was resolved that Igbos needs a presidency in 2023 not a vice president.

The above resolution from political perspectives didn’t favour Mr. Peter Obi’s vice presidential ambition and since ever then, Obi has declared war against the church.

Joseph Nwanolu wrote from Onitsha

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2019: ORTOM MAKES MORE GAINS AHEAD OF MARCH 2

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By Nathaniel Ikyur

On the sidelines of the gubernatorial campaign rally in Gwer-West which held in Naka town, headquarters of the local council, on Saturday January 19, I met a couple of three Tyoshin men, two women and seven youngmen at a food joint. One of the woman runs the food joint. I had visited the place to fill up while the governor was meeting with the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, a short distance away.

The initial discourse, as I heard why enjoying my pounded yam and pork meat delicacy was about the Gwer-West Council chairman who was caught on camera kneeling down before a group of people. They were referred to as the PDP ‘stakeholders’ of the local government who were embarassed, as I learnt from the discussion, at the actions of the chairman for shouting APC at a PDP function where the wife of the governor, Erdoo Ortom was present.

There was a unanimous position among these discussants, except one lady, that the chairman of the council deserved what he got. The middle aged woman who runs the food joint told me when I enquired why there is so much bile against their local government chairman, as translated into English; that, “the chairman never helped himself by his conduct in office. He isolated himself. The youths were not awith him as others do.”

I was interested in their discussion but was more curious to find out about what took me to Naka. So i interjected in a friendly tone. I asked what their position is/will be in the forthcoming governorship elections. It was not hard for them to know where I stand since I was decked in an #Ortom2019 branded PDP shirt. Of course I knew why I asked this. Two of the governorship candidates in the fortcoming elections are of Ihyarev extraction. Barr Emmmanuel Jime of APC but particularly, Rev Frederick Ikyaan of the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP who hails from Gaambe U Shin Council Ward/Mbatswarev in Gwer-West. And like a well rehearsed choral group, they all chorosued: Ortom.

The woman who runs the food joint told me in unequivocal terms that “Tyoshin people have always been PDP. We don’t know what happened in 2015 but thank God General Ortom is back to his roots.” The other youngman who said he was from the same council Ward with Rev Ikyaan said, “it’s not that we don’t love our brother the Rev. We don’t want to waste our votes. Even if we vote him, he won’t win so we’ll go with what the Tiv people are doing” and added with a proverb: “see, we are holding down a mad dog. We won’t lose our grip from its neck until we kill it, else it will bite us and the poison from its bite will kill us. And the person we know can do this is Gov Ortom.” The mad dog in the proverb is the marauding herdsmen who have killed and maimed the Benue populace.

Remember also that Gwer-West had a bitter bite of the anger of the military last year where a section of Naka town was razed down by the soldiers over allegations that a soldier was killed by the villagers. The scars are too fresh for the people to forget in a hurry.

As the discussion got underway, some of my fellow discussants assured me that the crowd that will come for the rally will be in excess of what I may have seen before. Of course I didn’t doubt them because we experienced similar turn out in 2015. But I asked them if mere crowds at a campaign rally coul garner in the needed votes. They spoke with some air of confidence saying, it’s a testimony of the good things that would follow. That it’s the assurance of things to come.

And true to type, the campaign ground began to swell to its brim. By the time the governor arrived the venue at about 3:25 pm with Dr Ayu in tow, the entire field was filled to capacity. Leaders of the various sections of the local government spoke with one voice. Chief Godwin Ikyereve spoke on behalf of Raav. Hon Kenneth Iyo, Engr. Felix Atume among many others who also spoke at the rally confirmed what the young man at the food joint told me. That Gwer-West is PDP. Hon Iyo who is a former member of the Benue state House of Assembly expressed deep pains over the way and manner his immediate community situated along the river Benue have become a place where there were constant attacks by the herdsmen. In one agreement, they declared that the mistake in 2015 will not be repeated. Which is why they decided to maintain one direction in the forthcoming general elections by voting PDP. Indeed, they assured they will work to ensure that this is sustained.

Gwer-East and Guma local government where the governor hails from, had also witnessed the same sort of referendum on Gov Ortom’s re-election. The turn out at the Gbajimba rally was electrifying and massive. Gradually, the wind blowing across the state is been resolute and consistent. That Ortom who many have given him an unofficial title as the civilian general be voted again to round up a second term and lead the people of the state against the invading herdsmen. It has been a clear testimony. And apart from other sections of the state, MINDA leaders have all spoken and have given hope that they will swing their votes in favour of Ortom on March 2, 2019. In the four MINDA local governments of Guma with a total registered voters of 91,141, Gwer East 93,606, Gwer west 61,411 and Makurdi with an admixture of metropolitan nature, with a whooping figure of 272,158, it will be heartwarming to see how the enthusiasm on the faces of many will be turned into victory songs and dance inspite of the familiar challenges.

From the MINDA axis alone where the invasion is high next only to Logo local government in Sankera, governor Ortom and the PDP will sure garner more than 60 percent of total vote cast, leaving the other parties to scamper with the rest. Of course respected elder statesman Prof Shima Gyoh, a renowned medical doctor had once argued that the most important thing at the moment is to join hands with Governor Ortom to fight the invaders first. After that, we’ll sit down and ask questions about other sectors of our growth and development.

Jemgbah bloc also gave their referendum in favour of Ortom. Thousands thronged the PDP campaign rallies in the three Jemgbah local governments areas of Gboko, Buruku and Tarka. They were also unanimous that Ortom be returned for a second term. They are convinced that his doggedness to repel the herdsmen whose plan to invade and take over our ancestral lands is real should not be treated with kid gloves. Dr Iyorchia Ayu, former Senate President stated this much when he spoke at all the rallies. The three Jemgbagh local governments has a combined total voter registration of 402,548. Which makes them a hot bed as a deciding factor. (Gboko: 232,132; Tarka: 49,098 while Buruku has 121,318) Before this election, there wouldn’t have been any contest in Gboko, Buruku and Tarka against the status quo. That’s not there again. And the reason is simple: there’s a growing anger against the APC and its leaders for not only turning a blind eye while the state is almost over ran by the herdsmen with traceable complicity against some tribal groups like Miyetti Allah, MACBAN and other affiliate groups but also that some Tiv leaders have allegedly gone into alliance with foreigners and were accusing the Tiv of killing themselves.

The turn of events at all these rallies points to the fact that not only are the people resolved to stand behind Gov Ortom Ortom to fight the aggressors, he will also sing a victory song. His election will affect drastically, the outcome of most elections, altering the status quo. This will see the PDP winning more seats at the National and state legislative houses in Benue state.

And for those who dont know, another gain of Governor Ortom in the forthcoming elections is the expectancy of political blocs like Jerchira, Kwande in Tiv speaking area and the Benue South district who are aiming at taking over in 2023. These three blocs are all laying claim to the coveted seat in 2023. And so one last term for Ortom in 2019 is a sure bet for them at taking a shot at the 2023 governorship seat. Which is why they will return block votes for Ortom. Except those who may want to live in denial, the odds of the 2019 governorship elections in Benue state are more in favour of Ortom than any other perceived candidate. We may argue with every emotions in us, throwing up all manner of imaginary powers elsewhere to subvert the popular will of the people, at the end of the day, Ortom will coast home to victory, dusting the ambitious, pretenders and jokers.

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Atiku’s withdrawal from the debate is a tactical masterstroke

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By Farooq Kperogi

I’ve read commentaries that aver that Atiku’s decision to bail out of Saturday’s presidential debate in protest against Buhari’s decision not to participate in it was a tactical error. I disagree. Here is why.

The presidential debate is designed to be a match–or, if you like, a push and pull– between the defending champion, i.e., Buhari, and contenders to the title he holds, i.e., Atiku, Moghalu, Madam Oby, Sowore, and others. If the defending champion declines to thrown his hat into the ring, the entire match becomes pointlessly self-injurious to the challengers. In other words, it would have been a fatal strategic and tactical error for Atiku to partake in a potentially bruising contest with other challengers while the defending championing sits pretty somewhere unhurt.

I’ve read other people suggest that Atiku, being Buhari’s closest challenger, should have used the opportunity of the debate to sell himself to Nigerians. Well, that’s what #NgTheCandidates town hall chat is there for. You don’t sell your agenda by making yourself vulnerable to potentially deathly blows from other challengers who don’t hold the title you are fighting for.

Instead of pillorying Atiku for not taking part in the debate, we should question the other candidates for agreeing to participate in a meaningless dueling match with each other when the defending champion who holds the crown they want to grab chose to run away. Their performance in the debate would only be meaningful if it’s measured against the performance of the defending champion.

From a tactical point of view, I also don’t blame Buhari for refusing to show up for the debate. His mental and physical infirmities are now on full display and would be exposed even more in the unscripted, back-and-forth format of a debate. The cabal that minds him already deeply regrets allowing him to take part in Thursday’s town-hall chat because his cringe-worthy performance at the event dramatized his dementia and aggrandized his unfitness for the job of president. His campaign trail mishaps aren’t helping, either. Another bruise from a debate would seal his fate before Election Day.

In a tragic irony, Buhari and Atiku are less qualified for the presidency than all the other contenders are, yet it is either of them that will emerge president in February. That’s why both candidates are more guarded and strategic in their choices than the rest.

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