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Oga at the top

The Hausa have a saying – “maganin kada ayi, kada afara”, which loosely translates into “to cure it, don’t start it”. Human constructs almost always…

The Hausa have a saying – “maganin kada ayi, kada afara”, which loosely translates into “to cure it, don’t start it”. Human constructs almost always succumb to the hijinks of the chaos theory, your journey of a thousand miles starts with avoiding taking a single step down the wrong direction.

By the provisions of both law and nature, it is the leadership that takes steps but in our own case, it should not be limited to the Three Arms Zone in Abuja, it should be felt more on the streets than even the president’s office.

As a Muslim, I was taught that every man is a shepherd and his dispensation will be held to account on the day of judgment. The minimum wage Armageddon raging between the federal government and organised labour is becoming a headlong charge onto doom for the already beleaguered Nigerian population. I doubt that the labour unions represent up to 20 per cent of the Nigerian labour market, yet they are demanding a share that will amount to about half of the annual federal budgets and more than 100 per cent of the revenues accruing to some state coffers. The implication of that is that we become a de jure consumer nation.

It appears the unions are digging in too and apparently ready for violent confrontations. There were reports that union officials went as far as forcibly removing workers who decided to show up for work against directives from the ogas at the top.

Make no mistake, an intangible benefit that could translate into tangible benefits for both companies and employees is improved employee morale resulting from higher wages. Business owners frequently note the challenge of providing sufficient encouragement to spur workers to optimize productivity in their job duties, and that this is particularly problematic with low-wage workers who feel that they are not being paid a “living wage”.

Increasing employee morale could easily translate into more tangible benefits, such as increased employee retention and reduced hiring and training costs and ultimately productivity. Employees who are more inclined to stay with a company longer could benefit from greater advancement and an overall reduction in job-related relocation expenses.

Alas, too much government intervention in price control and wages never ends well. The potential beneficiaries can’t see the consequences beyond the SMS alerts from their banks every month telling them their labour is now worth N495,000 even though the value they add is far below that. Now, I realise I come across as a sanctimonious twit, given the influence of the confirmation bias rooted in the cognitive grassroots of my consciousness. China became the world’s factory mostly because of its lax regulation of the labour market. Many countries moved their production and their capital to China because they won’t be bogged down by so many labour regulations that could impact the cost of production and of course profits.

The way I see it, the contentions, as it were, are as follows:

Despite constitutional provision to “review the minimum wage every decade, no bill has successfully passed both chambers of the National Assembly that can back the demands of the trade unions represented by the National Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress (NLC & TUC).

The unions and their surrogates argue that changes are needed to help incomes keep pace with increasing costs of living, and a higher minimum wage will lift millions out of poverty, as advanced in the Renewed Hope Agenda of the Tinubu Government.

On the other hand, federal and state technocrats, as well as the organised private sector argue that higher wages could lead to inflation, job cuts and make business concerns already strained by the shock therapies applied by the new administration started from Day 1, less competitive, and devalue the potential of the job market.

Wage increases are undoubtedly good for workers. Nonetheless, wage increases are a double-edged sword that often has more negative economic consequences. Importantly, wage increases are undoubtedly good for consumers too. There is no arguing that point. After all, who doesn’t want to make more money for doing their job? However, it is equally important to note that wage increases are not “free lunch”.

Labour costs are the highest expense to any business. It’s not just the actual wages, but also payroll taxes, benefits, paid vacation, healthcare, etc. Employees are not cheap, and that cost must be covered by the goods or services sold. Therefore, if the consumer refuses to pay more, the costs have to be offset elsewhere.

If we go down that road, the chain-reaction will be quite catastrophic for the workers themselves. Obviously, there is going to be mass retrenchment, and the inevitable inflation would wipe out a significant proportion of their purchasing power. They will also be further dampened by those outside the formal sector who are not direct beneficiaries of the hike.

The irony is that, by insisting on an unreasonable demand, the unions are actually digging their own graves. At face value, they appear to actually not know that their cause is a dead-end. In a hypothetical situation, the government might cave and agree to their demands and they would have then won the battle. The sad part is that the very fact of winning this hypothetical battle means losing the war. A very costly war.

They say that Immanuel Kant is the most evil human being to have ever lived and do you know why? Because his metaphysical analysis of right and wrong is predicated on the ontological virtue of one’s actions. It is morally acceptable to do absolutely anything you want as long as “your intentions are pious”. The Nazis actually believed they were doing the world a great service by eradicating the Jews and the other undesirables. By the same token, the mass murderers in Tel Aviv also insisting that their genocide in Gaza is also battle between the forces of good and evil and they are the good guys and anyone who dares speak out against their sadism hates and wants to kill all Jews. They insist that their existential foe is a danger not only to the terrorist state of Israel, but the entire civilized world, to wit, the West. They seem to actually believe that Zionism and its subhuman depravity is an inviolable sacrament – or maybe they learned well from Goebbels.

Yes – maganin kada ayi is kada afara! The unions bosses, like almost all people in leadership positions in Nigeria don’t look beyond themselves and their immediate environment. When a cat chases a mouse, it will throw itself down the nearest cavity it can find, and it ends up becoming a delicious meal for the pregnant snake roosting in that cavity. It is incumbent on the ogas at the top on all sides to really think this through and sidestep the epic economic meltdown looming. We already have the cure to this, and that cure is to not take that one step down that road.

Leadership is not just managing a state house or legislative chamber, it is about shepherding your own flock too. It makes no sense that the union ogas should insist on sinking the same ship they are onboard too.

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