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Tinubu’s govt throwing money on non-existing products – SDP’s Adebayo

Prince Adewole Ebenezer Adebayo is a businessman and politician who contested the 2023 presidential election on the platform of Social Democratic Party, SDP. Against the…

Prince Adewole Ebenezer Adebayo is a businessman and politician who contested the 2023 presidential election on the platform of Social Democratic Party, SDP. Against the backdrop of the labour movement’s agitation for salary increment, Adebayo said beyond the talks, the government should concentrate more on social security investments which will automatically reduce the agitations of salary increment.

What is your take on the agitation by Labour for the minimum wage in the midst of the prevailing inflation?

With respect to increase in wages, the dialogue between labour and the government in economics is called economics of a farm. They are behaving in a micro economic way. They are talking within their industry alone. Both sides have their negotiating tactics, with some of the numbers they are throwing around which may appear to them unrealistic. But my message to them is to let them know that this debate arose not from the adequate of wages but the problems of purchasing power.

When you listen to Mr Osifo (Trade union Congress, TUC president) and all the comparatives he was given , even though he was talking micro economics in terms of what his members need to get from their employers, they are not talking about economy over all. What is causing price instability for them is the purchasing power of the naira. There are two ways to help the purchasing power of the naira. One, you can do stabilisation of the currency itself so that you kill hyperinflation and inflation so that the naira from January to December can maintain its purchasing power.

The second thing you can do is to come from the welfaristic point of view to realise that what are the workers worried about? What exactly do they spend their money on? If the average worker has access to housing say at 7% of his salary, has access to medical care of 5% of his salary, has access to education of four to five children at 6% of his salary and now deal only with food and issue of transportation by virtue of you having employment, you have access card which I grew up to know in Lagos State during the (late)Lateef Jakande administration, that is LSTC (Lagos State Transport Corporation). So, if you have all these things packaged, say, 25% to 35% of your salary, then, you won’t worry too much about this arguments about salary.

If you have a million workers out of over 200 million people, if 37 state governments will need up to a million workers to run the services, so, you will be spending N615b every month, in a year, you will be spending about N8Trilliojn just paying minimum wages, it doesn’t make any sense.

Now, if they cut it by half, it still doesn’t make any sense. If they cut by one-third, one-quarter, it still make no sense. At the end of the day, let say there is a magical space where you are just printing money. The way N615,000 sound today is not the way it will sound in four years. Mr. Osifo or his successor will come back to say N615,000 is a joke. It can’t take us anywhere.

So, the intervention we are making is that you are solving the problem at the pricing of labour. You can not solve the problem there, because it is too narrow a space. Where you can solve the problem is the amount of social investments you need to make in the economy such that employed, semi employed and unemployed, skilled, highly skilled and low skilled, there is a minimum that is a minimum floor below which you cannot fall.

Talking about social security investments, do you think the government has started on a good path given the Tinubu administration’s plan to re-engineer the social security and welfare of the people?

We don’t have the same ideology, but they are throwing money on non existence product, that is where I have disagreement with them. Whether you pay salary, pay allowance, pay grants like we did during the Udoji Award, you give loans and all that, what is that loan chasing? Remember during the Udoji award, where once you get it, everybody runs to UTC to go and buy bicycles, and the price of bicycles skyrocketed.

Meanwhile, in China, if you join the civil service, they will not give you any Udoji Award, they will give you bicycles because the bicycles come with the job. If you were in the colonial government and you are an assistant District Officer, School officer, Health Officer, Forest Rangers, or PWD, all these things are tools. When you are getting the job, they will direct you to the staff quarters, this is the school your child should go to.

So, how do you guarantee those basic supply- education, shelter, and health care, basic needs that people scamper to get?

We have to organise our politics and government around them. What we are doing now is that we are organizing our politics and government around sharing money. In Abuja, the states come to share, the local government under ALGON come to share. The TUC and Labour also come to collect their own share . It is still the principle of sharing money, not sharing value, and not creating anything. Remember, if you are talking about stakeholders in the country, labour is superior and senior to the government of the day. I can be president tomorrow, I will still meet labour there, because it is a continuity and the social services, everything you want to run to make life easy for labour is to be done by labour members themselves.

If this government is to start on a note that is sustainable, what would you say is the best and practical step to start?

It is social investments. First, stop worrying about is a worker or who is not. They have to first look at chapter 2 of the constitution and say if by virtue of this constitution I have been given a mandate to come and govern Nigeria, what are the promises inside the constitution? What is the minimum that Nigeria should, and do we have the resources to put them there? By that,you now know that you need new hospital beds and new roads.

During the Second Republic, all the governors understood this social investments elements and that is why all the state governments had their own school board, scholarship board, water resources such that water gets to houses even in rural areas. What we are doing now is monetary government where we share money and we assume, for example, Mr Osifo, the TUC president, is an important person in Nigerian leadership, is assuming that because you are collecting 3x the money in FAAC now, than in 2019, that there is availability, not knowing that 7x the cost now is not up to what you are collecting before because this is the illusion of money.

It is not the amount of money you collect, it is the purchasing power of the money and the allocative efficiency in the economics of that money. So, you will see that a state in the North with 20% of revenue of the states in the Niger-Delta is making more progress with its allocative efficiency is better while the other state may be spending its own money on politics and things like that.

So, you are saying this social investments must come as a package at the point of employment.

The way our constitution is crafted, it is not related to your job. It is related to your being a citizen. While I was growing up, I schooled in Lagos and Ondo. Jakande and Ajasin. I was too young to be employed by anybody. I was about 5 years old in primary school, and as such, I was not employable, but the government was interested before we started class whether I had eaten or not . When we got to school, the first thing they would give us is bread, beans, and milk. When they were chasing you around in primary school to give you that inoculation, it wasn’t that you were going to be employed by them, it was required that the government made sure you were not blind or crippled.

If you were President Tinubu today, based on the fuel crisis is now , what would you be doing?

What I will do is broaden the philosophy. Don’t follow the party manifesto. Follow the constitution. Know that if you want to be president, you must follow chapter 2 of the constitution. If we follow that, Nigeria will be a different country.

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