Retirement in Nigeria has become a permanent nightmare courtesy of our inept and kleptomania like ran governments at all tiers. It beats my imagination that politicians most times aided by top civil servants (example ministry of health official in trying to rope in Professor Grange and her minister of state) would steal billions of our money year to year and yet nothing tangible comes out of it. Instead mockery of the rule of law takes the place of summary trials with the culprits grinning, looking as fresh as ever instead of being manacled. Which nation abhors old age? Which nation treats the elderly with contempt? Why are we proud to bring out the aged under the sun from year to year all in the name of phantom verifications? When shall we employ a better method of doing these verifications? When would the news “pensioner dies waiting on cue” leave the pages of our newspapers? When would the relevant trade unions from where these pensioners retired stand up and say enough is enough? Unless we stand up, this government would do our pensioners no justice. Every single working class person is a potential pensioner. It is not enough to say that we are not involved; someday we would directly or indirectly.
Time and again we have been inundated on the plights of several pensioners ranging from civil servants to military men. On several occasions, we have read that pensioners are owed several months of pension arrears with no hope for immediate payment. We have read of how pensioners die as a result of stress during the verification exercises as organized by our inept government. It is saddening to note that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s eight locust years in office did not provide any hope to our suffering pensioners (himself also a pensioner). We parade and pretend to be the giant of Africa yet pensioners, the aged and the infirm die year to year as a result of lack of care occasioned by in depth corruption. Most of the suffering pensioners are people, who worked within the rank and file of civil and military service and honest persons who did not loot our treasury blind as to secure their future, some others who may not be particularly honest, had no opportunity to loot the treasury. If we are serious as a nation in fighting corruption, shall we allow our pensioners to be passing through hell whilst those who are still in service look on? Be assured that mindless looting of our commonwealth would never abate in the face of this maltreatment that is crying to high heavens for justice.
I have been privileged to listen to several church testimonies in which people testified of the goodness of the Lord in touching the hearts of our irresponsible government towards paying a couple of months of pension arrears. I want to state categorically that since pension and gratuity are part of the conditions of service, it is an inalienable right of the individual not a privilege. I have observed the conspiracy of silence as practiced by several trade unions. As at now with the exception of ASUU, NUPENG, PENGASSAN and a few others, the rest exist merely in name not action. If the unions are what they should be, they ought to tackle this irresponsible government on these pension matters and if possible down tools until the needs of their comrades are totally met. The time to canvas for a better tomorrow is now. If they continue to turn a blind eye, they should know that someday, they would be pensioners themselves and be subjected to the same terrible conditions. Freedom can only come by struggle. Nobody negotiates with terrorists. Our repressive government has become one in attitude. They must comply- pay pensions as at and when due. Several government workers engaged in pension offices nationwide participate in all sorts of demeaning activities designed to fleece the poor pensioners to no end. I have it on good authority that some of these disgruntled elements request the retirees to pay them a certain percentage of their expected gratuity before their documents would be processed. What a crying shame? What an injustice crying to high heavens? How could a potential pensioner do this to a fellow human being? I am reliably informed that where one fails to cooperate, it may take up to five years before the gratuity would be paid. Even at that, no interest is calculated, taking into consideration that the money has been withheld for that long. This is pure wickedness. I have also noted that sometimes the pension starts coming several months after one must have retired and the arrears may never be paid. Is this fair? How do we expect our elders to guide the youths in this perverse generation when they are literally hungry? What legacy are we leaving for the younger Nigerians? Is it to tell them that old age is a blessing or that it is a curse? How then do we tackle this corruption that has crippled every aspect of the Nigerian life including the revered judiciary? Everyone wants to be sure of what to eat tomorrow; therefore thieves would continue to loot our treasury until we take action. The time is now. As at present, a lot of people dread retirement because of all the woes associated with it. A lot falsify their documents as to stay longer on the job. How can we as a nation provide employment for the teaming Nigerian youths when the people in service would not retire? Nobody blames them for staying on well above the retirement age. Someone once told a story of how some of the children of retired railway workers could not further their education to the tertiary level simply because pensions and gratuities of their expected sponsors where withheld. Is this fair to all concerned? What patriotism would one expect from the victims of this wickedness? None at all I suppose.
These endless pension verifications must come to an end. I refuse and would continue to refuse to accept the injustice of bringing out the elderly under the scorching sun or cold weather for phantom verification exercise. I refuse to accept the wickedness of engaging a handful of staff to carry out the kangaroo verification for thousands of retirees. I refuse to accept that able-bodied young men and women would waste man-hours and scarce funds assisting their aged parents to get their documents verified when they ought to be at work if things were working right. It is therefore time for all the trade unions to stand up for their rights. If it will take industrial action, let it be commenced without further delay. Innocent men and women would not have worked only for touts, jobbers and thieves in government to enjoy our common wealth. To add insult to injury they award national honours to themselves and their cronies. When we talk about billions of stolen funds by ex-government officials, we realize that the monies would have been more than enough to keep the retirees in excellent shape. To provide quality healthcare for them and other suffering Nigerians and all other amenities of life. While all these are going on, influential people, religious leaders and bodies, traditional rulers, trade union leaders and the general public have conspired knowingly or unknowingly to remain silent, thinking that things would resolve on there own. Make no mistakes; until we agitate and by agitating we commence industrial actions to cripple every facet of the Nigerian economy and make all aspect of the Nigerian life insecure, these beasts in government would do us no justice. Our retirees are only asking for their entitlements as agreed with this wicked government. Obasanjo, his officials, his family members and all their cronies must return every single kobo stolen from us. All past leaders must be probed if we are serious towards fighting corruption. I am of the opinion that the anti-corruption campaign is a farce until we arrest all these people parading as respectable members of the society including as members of the lower and upper chambers.
Recently the erudite scholar Professor Chike Obi passed on at the age of 87. It was only last year that Governor Obi of Anambra State appreciated the late scholar’s wizardry in mathematics. All previous governments did not see that, why? We give honours to the dogs instead of real achievers. I understand that Chike Obi retired as far back as 1985 from the University of Lagos. The scholar ought to have been engaged by the government to give talks to students in schools on mathematics nay the sciences. This was a living legend ignored by irresponsible governments. If Chike Obi had been in a civilized nation, thousands of mathematicians would have arisen as a result of inspiration drawn from him. Having conquered the field of mathematics, he died without a single national honours paraded even by animals in human skin. What a sad story. Today we still have retired living legends in all fields of human endeavour that would go to their graves without passing on the torch of great achievements, courtesy of failed governments. This is no time to pray for change any longer. We have to stand up for our rights. This repressive governments founded on the altars of political illegalities and headed by semi-humans including stack illiterates must do us justice. The time for indifference in political issues has come to an end. We have to do our civic responsibility of voting and where we have voted and they still go ahead to rig the election as they did in April 2007, we must make Nigeria ungovernable for the riggers. Freedom comes by struggle. Instead of asking elderly people to continue to furnish the so-called verification teams with disused documents, I would suggest that Nigeria must provide thousands of fingerprint machines. I have it on good authority that fingerprints remain consistent throughout one’s life. If we start now to collect this relevant information for all our workers, we would definitely not require the time consuming, money wasting, wickedly designed to decimate the population of pensioners through stress verification exercise. One’s fingerprint is enough. Let our retirees be treated with dignity just like there colleagues all over the world. This struggle is my life. I lay no claim to Solomonic wisdom.