I have seen a number of nations that holds its women, some its youth, others its adult, some just children or a combination of both in contempt, but need I court controversy by stating albeit painfully that our case is as bad as it can be, we treat our youth, the future generation in disdain, we do not reckon with the potentials of our women, and our children hawk anything from nylon packaged water to expired Vitamin C tablets in traffic hold up.
Our senior citizens (pensioners) are not left out in this all-out total war by the leaders on the led. I have for some time especially since the advent of democracy which was supposed to bring everything good, taken a seat by the fence to watch events unfold and the more I thought it was just a simple oversight that would be rectified by the government of the day, the more gloom I saw in the picture, but as the curtain draws to a close on the present PDP led disaster of seven years I want to add my little voice for the sake of posterity and also that the in-coming government may have the will to tackle the menace.
Not too long I watched on network television as licenses were issued to Pension Administrators, most of whom I beg to misconstrue where Baba Iyabo's friends, no grudge I did not apply for one and after all Baba has re-echoed Late General Adisa's lines that he would not hand over to an enemy... (Adisa in response to a question at the then Oputa Panel regarding awarding contracts to his friends answered, “That would they rather have him give his enemies the contracts”. This is not far away from the Nigerian way of doing things, most of the new Pension Administrators have barely a year experience, off course I hear a school of thought telling me, little beginnings, give them time and they will grow. I have not lost total hope in the experiment called Nigeria but our antecedents have barely encouraged anything good.
I specifically choose the above title, from a work by renowned novelist Adaora Lily Ulasi, I read the book some fifteen years ago and as I ponder over this pension problem, I just felt the more I tried to make sense out of some, if not all of government's actions I simply understood little, this essay will come in the most commonsensical way I can. The new Pension regime has seen workers being forced by management of their organization to choose particular Administrator even against their wishes, while most pension administrators are using the old bank marketing style of wear the half skirt, put out a smile, do anything doable with the CEO of the organization but get us the account. Most Nigerians do not even know the basics of the English that is involved in the whole scheme, while others would ask what became of their funds in the now renamed Social Insurance Trust Fund. Like the ordinary Housing Scheme for the masses, the question is can we really get one thing right.
I do not intend to drift to far away, many things you and I never will understand...the government owes Pensioners in most cases 25 months of pension arrears, the monies given to these senior citizens are peanuts, yet government through heartless policies ask most of these old people some in their 70's and 80's to do three, four journeys sitting with backs that ache from rheumatism, to all sorts of aging ailments and all they have come for is to be screened or have one thing or the other verified. I do not understand, because through such screening at the last count over 3241 senior citizens have died at military pension boards, Federal Secretariat verification centers while in queues, these figure does not include the States and local government arms of government.
Many things too strange for the ordinary man to comprehend about governance in Lady Lugard's Niger area....We are told by government that about N6 billion will be needed to offset the pensioners being owed and that the monies are not available, with all the crude oil sold at Father xmas prices with profit, the government rather chooses to pay the Paris club and borrow again from the Chinese club, then to pay the monies it legitimately owes its senior citizen's club that are dying because of no money to buy their drugs, to feed, to cater for their dependent has become a subject of government's bureaucratic nature of busy doing nothing . In areas of the Federal Capital Territory these pensioners have turned it to their permanent abode, and our leaders cannot claim ignorance of their presence. Like a Senator well know for his love for scandals said that he spent an hour trying to locate EFCC's office in Abuja and he had aides that live in the city, he has been a Senator for seven years yet he was trying to locate the EFCC’s office and he was going to declare himself available to be investigated for getting part of some funds made for ecological repair in his State. So it is very possible that our leaders are not aware of the dreadful after effect of their actions.
Why should we try to understand the reason a public servant will after 45 years in service still be 48 years of age and get scared anytime there is possibly going to be a purge in the system...easy try, in understanding why he has an official age and his real age. Then also let’s try to figure out why the public coffers are inviting, they are only planning for the proverbial rainy day. They see what they are likely to become and they vow by hook or crook not on their lifetime. So it is the same system that suffers the brunt. I never will understand why while we owe these men and women that have given their youth, their freshness to this nation, we go about on a spending madness, if it is not COJA, CHOGM, Abuja Canival, Fertilizer Summit, JAJA of Opobo may be next, and that is when they are not celebrating PRINCE CHARLES DICKSON Carnival.
Governors after stealing billions want to be President, they could not pay pensioners, and Ministers loot like there is no tomorrow, before the last cabinet reshuffles one of the affected Ministers, a junior one for that, vandalized the doors of the official residence the taxpayers' monies provided for him. Yet our old people are dying like birds with flu. We have not a single old person' home, I can remember only one of such somewhere at the old Agege Motor road in Lagos; I do not know if it is still there. Can you help me understand that in Ekiti State, the House of Assembly just passed a bill that provides for pension and gratuities for Governors and their deputies, and painfully these are thieves, whose only achievement has been to run a riot of financial madness on the system? If you understand, can you beat the inglorious Senate, the same Senate that gallantly fought the Hitler called Third Term spent over an hour arguing about Ex-leaders remunerations and to imagine that the bill was packaged by the Senate Committee on National Planning and Poverty Alleviation and it did not and has not thought that the pension issue is a problem.
I now see why NITEL workers would refuse the 1.7 billion Naira made available to them to offset part of their salaries and allowances, they know that soon, they will be given the abattoir treatment after the government has milked them dry. They know the government is only patronizing them because of the place they hold and that someday they will be sitting on thatched mats awaiting peanuts from the government that will never come. They understand to an extent, so...
The President in the euphoria of the Africa Fertilizer Summit, one which I have tried hard to make sense of, donated 10million USD to what it called an African Fertilizer Financing Mechanism to be domiciled at the African Development Bank, the same bank which we where tactfully denied Presidency of...This is the same President who in his big brother attitude donated money to Sao Tome and I am sure if left will donate money to the UK to help fight piracy of rock music. While our aged population that has contributed no matter how small to the nation suffer.
We should not be surprised they (Politicians) do not understand (if na me i no go understand) when you steal like Tafa Balogun, Makunjuola, Alams and many of them, you never will care about pension, you will age knowing that you can go to Spain for tummy tuck and bottom rearrangement....(no bi money dey talk). Even the Holy Books say money answereth all calls. In a phone in programme, majority of callers categorically stated that this government was simply being wicked as they could not understand the basis of the whole drama of denying those that ideally are the grandpa and mas of the nation the fruit of the labor of their youth and sweat. The Pension disaster is one that is cut across, from Professors down to teachers in Primary School that taught some of these so-called leaders to clerks in Local Government Areas are being owed.
Our old people are an example exactly of how not to treat the parents of a nation, Railway owes pensioners, NITEL does, Military does, Police also, NNPC is owing also, Water Board, NEPA now PHCN...what is progress, a government cannot seriously claim to have achieved anything, with such records. I end by stating that ordinarily if this old folks curse this nation do we really think that we can make progress. Our leaders should know that they may steal the stealable and use their pen to wreck havoc on the society, but we all some day have an appointment with Almighty Allah in Judgement...Let us rise up to the challenges of doing the right thing regarding our senior citizens.