By Adeola Aderounmu.
Are you kidding me? I was just 35 years old on July 12 and you have been freaking me out with details of my pension for more than 3 years. Every other month you send me updates on my pension. Please stop bugging me! I am still a very active man and you are weighing me down with how much that I will get paid for the rest of my life if I stop working now. You have calculated how much my daughter or wife will get if I die now. Are you inviting homicide on me?
These insurance and pension companies are joking. Do they not know that I am a Nigerian? Why are they being so nice to me? Don’t I deserve to be treated like Baba Railuway or Baba P& T or even worse than them? I haven’t worked as much as these old men did in their heydays yet these jobless companies have summed up my life at 65. Where were these companies when Baba P&T worked for 34 years? Baba P&T was left a confused man when Post and Telecommunications (P&T) changed name to become Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST). That didn’t bring any progress to him at all. Has anyone observed the differences between National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) and Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN)?
I don’t know why Baba P&T retired voluntarily after 34 years in service. That was about 20 years ago. If I ask him that question now, in his old age, I may bring tears to his eyes. He doesn’t deserve any more of that. I can only imagine his pain and anxiety in taking that unusual decision. Just one more year to that golden number “35”. Thirty five years of service is the third stanza of the Nigerian National anthem. Why would a man not want to be retired by the government?
Baba P&T was lucky anyway. He spent his last kobo of his meagre wages on the education of his children. Baba has fondly described one of his sons as highly dependable. But the other children are doing the best they can as well. Everyone of them now has a family too. I am quite sure that this situation, no matter how imperfect, has helped Baba to survive to this day. How many pensioners in Nigeria can go for 20 years after voluntarily retiring from active service to motherland?
I will not be surprised if the problems in Nigeria are worsened by the curses of pensioners, especially those that have died without successfully getting their complete or befitting gratuity and entitlements. How can we redeem ourselves from these kinds of curses?
Post and Telecommunications (P&T) and the Nigerian Railways are two examples of government institutions that really used people and dump them later in life. There are other institutions where men and women gave their time, energy and abilities to keep the nation working. Many of these people gave 35 years of their lives. They stole nothing. They didn’t display disloyalty to the government. They obeyed their superiors. They are men and women of honour in the service to the nation. They kept fate with the system. The system simply turned around and offered them stones. Many of these men and woman waited in vain for bread. It never came. Some died like lepers.
Isn’t it appalling to carry out endless verification exercise on a man who served his country for 35 years? Isn’t it injustice and betrayal of the highest order to hold back this man’s gratuity and pension? Isn’t it also amazing that the face of public service has changed for the worse? Tell me, who wants to die on a queue waiting for his/her pension? Workers of nowadays (including you and I) do not have the excellent occupational traits that our fathers and mothers displayed.
Stealing and distrust in governance has rapidly permeated every sector of the Nigerian life. What we find nowadays are successful public servants. Even junior officers have discovered how to build houses and marry more than one wife. Since it is useless to depend on the government for affordable mortgage houses or provisions for their future, these men and women found the short cuts. Only a few honest people are left in public and private services in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, the efforts of the evil people have completely overshadowed the diligence of the honest ones among us. The results are staring at us in the face. The failure of governance, the insincerity of the pensions board (does it exist?), the self enrichment of the politicians and the melancholy tales of our pensioners (like Baba P&T) are parts of the reasons people have taken desperate measures to salvage their future. It is a sad situation.
It will take more than a miracle to wipe corruption away from government, places of public services and private enterprises. It will be a collective effort on the parts of all and sundry. It is not a job for the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) only. It is something we must all work for and try to achieve. It will take time but it is not an impossible task.