The nation was shocked when the Nigerian Labour Congress raised an alarm late last year that twenty-two out of the thirty-six states of the federation were owing workers in their respective state civil service salary arrears. Osun State popularly known as the State of the Living Spring seems to get the most attention. It owes its workers seven going on eight months’ salary arrears and there seems to be no respite in sight as the Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has thrown his hands in surrender and publicly declared that the problem is beyond him.
True to the spirit of brotherliness and keeping up with the axiom of being our brother’s keeper which is one of the beautiful traits of being African, Living Faith or Winners Chapel has donated money and food items to ameliorate the untold hardship being suffered by the battered workers. The disturbing report of a suicide attempt by a sanitary worker in Obokun local government underscores the psychological and emotional trauma the hapless proles are currently going through. The embattled Ogun State Senator who is incidentally from the Peoples Democratic Party rose to the occasion by donating thirty trailer loads of rice to each of the thirty local governments that make up the state.
Robert Greene warns that if you seek to stand out from the crowd, it will arouse resentment and envy from most people and you have no choice but to be thick-skinned to bear the brunt. This seems to be the lot of Senator Benedict Murray-Bruce as he offered to divide his wardrobe allowance into two – one part for the Osun State workers and the other for some widows in his native Akassa in Bayelsa State.
The Director of the Osun State Bureau of Communications, Semiu Okanlawon took a swipe at the showbiz impresario turned politician by opining that he was merely playing to the gallery by mocking the workers of the state. He blasted him by engaging in questionable philanthropy by questioning his rationale for only selecting Osun state. He urged the Senator to campaign for a reduction of the allowance on the floor of the senate if his conscience pricked him on the jumbo pay in the midst of the sufferings of the people. A Prophet has honour except in his own home goes the Biblical adage. Some youths of his community didn’t take kindly to his ‘kind gesture’ as they called on him to pay his salaries to his constituency rather than just his wardrobe allowance.
Okanlawon’s response throws open the Pandora’s Box. Why was he silent on the donation by Kashamu who has drug related offences hanging on his neck like the Sword of Damocles? This is a man who is sturdily battling extradition charges in not only the United States but the United Kingdom who recently wrote to the Inspector-General of Police asking for his presence there to clear his name and is even yet to take his seat in the Senate. Why the silence from the Bureau as his donation throws up a grave moral question especially under the APC that has chanted the slogan for change and whose public face – Buhari has been sold to the public as the model for anti-corruption and even executed some drug offenders in his first outing as a Military Head of State? The Church was also not criticized for stepping in where the government had failed in a monumental way. Many Muslims benefitted from the gesture but it was accepted. Why should Murray-Bruce then get all the flak for following suit in an altruistic bid to put a smile on the faces of the people in a state that ought to be the preferred hub of tourism destination if a more visionary and responsible government had been on ground?
Ever since Murray-Bruce became Senator-Elect, he has waged war on behalf of the proletariat and this has elicited mixed reactions. For a man who has always been a capitalist all his working life and has been known to be a friend of the ruling elite, this turn around was rather surprising. His critics contended that his performance as the helmsman of the Nigerian Television Authority was rather abysmal and wondered how he got the funds to embark on the massive expansion of his Silverbird group after he was booted out as the boss of the government’s propaganda machine.
Some pilloried him for keeping quiet while his kinsman, former President Jonathan fumbled and wobbled and was ‘bribed’ with the Chairmanship of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria for being a good boy by not openly blasting the PDP leadership in his controversial disqualification in the 2012 PDP Primaries in Bayelsa State. A popular twitter activist, Kayode Ogundamisi asked him to tell Nigerians of the disappearance of eight billion naira while he held sway. Some criticized his sacking of workers at the NTA which in their opinion was grossly unfair. Some other critics dismiss his new activism as one of his showbiz antics that made him rich and famous in the 1980’s.
This reminds us of the dilemma the late environmental activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa had when he went into activism at the rather late age of 48 in 1989. The diminutive writer had hobnobbed with the ruinous military elite by getting juicy political appointments, contracts and even going into a partnership with the allegedly corrupt Chagoury Brothers which enabled him parcel off his children to expensive secondary schools in Britain and acquiring a massive house in Surrey. It was difficult for skeptical minds to accept his new found status and that is the quagmire Murray-Bruce is currently facing. It is up to him to prove his critics wrong by lending his voice to pro-people bills in the red chamber of the National Assembly no matter how unpopular he may be. He has already started a campaign to conserve energy by using electric cars which he has already purchased. It is hoped that his tentacles will expand and he doesn’t lose focus as he will be up in arms against the parasitic elite who still form the bulk of his friends. He has already indicated to pay the ultimate price on twitter for his new found love.
Let us see how far he goes.