Osomaalo goes to work for unpaid workers

travelsIn traditional communities, the Osomaalo is a personage of great importance. He or she was the last point of call when what is owing is not paid on time, in full and with interest. He would charge a percentage of the amount of the payment. Her style of money collecting was unique. Once the person owing has been identified, the Osomaalo sets on him with vicious determination. She would not sit down to demand the money. She would not answer the debtor’s greetings before demanding the money. She would disturb the debtor in various ways while demanding the money. For instance, if the debtor wanted to cook and lights the cooking fire, Osomaalo would put out the fire any way how. She could pour water on it. She could pee on the fire. He could scatter the fire wood. Anything to ensure that the debtor had no life until he has paid his debt. And the debtor could not fight back except with the payment of the debt.

As we all know now, all across this country left and right, north and south, government and no government, believers and unbelievers, kiriyo ati musulumi, all have been subjected to the non-payment of salaries. Depending on where in the country you are, there are some who have not been paid for twelve months, some nine months, others six months and still some for a mere three months. The statement of fact that salaries are owed to workers is no longer any news. It has been discussed to nonsense by progressives and regressives, Marxists and capitalists, male and female, the young and the old. Everybody agrees with the fact of the matter that salaries are owing. Even ghost workers are agreed that, yes, they too were owed unpaid salaries. The question is: what is to be done?

Many stakeholders have suggested what is to be done. You do know stake holders. What some people call steak holders: those who are holding the fat side of the steak/meat. They always have suggestions. The steak holders suggested that the economy should be diversified. The idea is that oil has not allowed the economy to breathe properly. Let’s look for other things to sell to the international community and so there would be a greater money pot from which salaries can be paid. Others suggested that farming should be the beginning of economic wisdom. It was at that point that the matter of subsistence economy came up.

There were issues of subsistence farming, subsistence teaching, subsistence trading, subsistence engineering, any economic activity, which only provided enough to cover from food table to mouth and back was subsistence economy. And every economic activity in the country did nothing more than provide for subsistence. You could not plan your economic life. You could not plan what you would buy for Christmas. You could not plan what you would wear for that family wedding taking place in 18 months. The economic activity that the economy provided did not give one any opportunity for saving and planning. Other economies allowed their citizens to save money, to put money aside for the education of their children and the burial of their aging parents. Not the Nigerian economy. In fact, Trouble was so worried that he went to interview Economy and this is what Economy told Trouble and Alaba when they asked him what was his trouble: Nigerian leadership is my trouble. What do you mean Economy? What I mean is that our political leaders want to put something aside for themselves, something aside for their wives, something aside for their children, something aside for their aging parents, something aside for their relatives, something aside for. . . and there is nothing to put aside for their distant relatives never mind for the ordinary citizens of the country. What is to be done now Economy? What do you recommend?

Economy was hesitant, unwilling to be misquoted and really not wanting to be said to be interfering in the affairs of the country. Speak your mind, Economy! Afterall it is about you, not so? Everybody is expressing their opinion about you, about their hopes about you, expressing their untested views about you, is it not time that you yourself expresses your view of yourself, your opinion of yourself and your expectations of yourself. That is a good thing, even a great thing but remember I am not alone. I have Informal with me, I have Small Enterprise to think of and Medium Enterprise to ruminate about and of course there is always Big Business looking over my shoulder. If you ask me, I would say, without any hesitation, that the sweat of the labourer must not dry before the labourer is paid his wages. Owing wages is not good. Salaries must be paid.

Trouble was disappointed at the tame manner in which Economy answered the question. Alaba was appalled by Economy’s timidity. Why are you lacking in courage Economy? One always thought that you were so powerful you could call anybody to order. Now, look how pathetic you are. Anyone thinking of fixing the economy and thinking that the economy would have something worthwhile to contribute is barking the wrong tree. Better to forget the economy in the consideration of the economy.

Alaba then suggested that it was time to send Osomaalo to the various governments at the local, state and federal levels to persuade them to pay the unpaid salaries of the workers. This feeble effort was dismissed by the young unemployed workers who had stopped looking for work because there was no point using money to seek work and the work not giving anyone then employed no money. Waste of time and of money. There was the story of a Nigerian business that came to establish in South Africa. The business flourished and people were buying and paying for his product. But he did not pay his workers and he did not pay his suppliers. This meant that his workers could not plan their economy. They could not put something aside for feeding their families. They could not save something for the rainy day. They could not do lay-buy on a pair of shoes and the shoe shop could not buy more shoes and the factory could not expand and employ more workers. The government closed down the business. There was no room for any Osomaalo here. Pay your workers or close your work! What? Close government work?



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