“Grey Power was searching for similar cases to Fiji and our FNPF predicament and came across this item about Nigerian pensioners in 2006. Grey Power thinks that clearly others have been where fijipensioners are now. We thought our readers and supporters would be interested in this story from Nigeria”.
Nigerians teachers at all levels are at the receiving end of an endless line of inconsiderate and uncaring government. Nigerian pensioners are like beggars on the streets. They are kicked here and there, asked to run, jump and appear, told to come today, come tomorrow; ordered to line up at this end of the building and suddenly told the line has been moved to the other end! They are the butt in the hands of an absolutely poor leadership and inconsiderate national leadership. While our retired university professors work almost for life and retire in their sixties with nothing to show for 35 to 40 years of solid contribution to national development, the peppersoup naval, army and air force generals, one to four stars who looted the treasury, raped the nation, served no one but himself, disrespected all of us and misapplicate a la Augustus Aikhomu our collective funds retired with full army pension. The General retired with a car attached to him, a driver and on his full last salary. One way or the other, the fat lowlife had succeeded in eating his cake and having it and he goes out there laughing at the rest of all, the mere school drop out.
I was shocked recently when I read the statement of the Chairman of the Association of Retired Professors, University of Ibadan Chapter, Professor Ayo Bamgbose when he addressed the press at the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Centre, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos. Accompanied by 14 other retired professors, Professor Bamgbose declared that pensioners from his university are owed an “equivalent of 23 months of pension arrears, totaling N1.56 billion”! I wonder how much is owed any of the retired Generals, probably nothing, because the boys always take care of one another. Is anything owed General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida in the way of pension arrears payment, the same character that destroyed the nation and its systems? What is owed to General Buhari, the same one who go around trying to destabilize the nation for his own selfish ends after helping to destroy the nation, mismanaged and abused his position at the NNPC and the Oil Ministry? Has the car attached to Mike Akhigbe ever been withdrawn or his payment delivered late even though this lowlife has enough starched away to life ten generations? So why must these professors, generals in their own right and by any standard be denied their miserable pensions? The pension paid to these professors and other teachers can not buy anything and it is not free for God sake, because they contributed to it; their salaries were regularly deducted. It is not a freebie and the money would have yielded 20 to 30% interests if placed with banks and locked up for 30 years! Is any one listening in Abuja: these are not the type of people you want to punish or allowed to suffer for the poor and roguish way men of the Nigerian armed forces, army of occupation for more than 30 years looted and stole from the nation? These are Generals who did their duties, paid their dues and over-paid to the nation in every imaginable way, pushing the frontiers of education to a standard that made the world lust after Nigerian graduates and professionals, the same hard working and restless researchers who made so much difference to the nation’s development and were greatly hindered by the madness inflicted on the nation by the likes of Major General Muhammudu Buhari, the evil genius and wayward Ibrahim Babangida and the evil one General Sani Abacha.
The Generals who made so much difference in our universities and struggled to make ends meet since Buhari and Babangida came to town with a master plan to wreck the university system should not be left to a life of misery; they should at least be allowed to spend the rest of their days in some dignity and with respect. Every retired professor in Nigeria has put in more than his enough shares to the nation while every retired soldier has taken out far more than his enough shares and should not be getting anything because he has taken for four, five generations. Just looking at the opulence and splendour the wife of the evil one, Mrs Mariam Abacha and the Babangidas lives will tell you these people do not deserve to get a penny more. The other day some smart staff of the Babangidas stole foreign currencies totaling more than 5 million naira from Mrs. Babangida’s bedroom. You wonder where that money came from, but where else but from Nigeria’s crude oil income. If the illiterate soldier can retired and have enough money to enjoy life and live in palaces across the nation, then why should the university Generals be owed a penny? Why was there even the talk of converting the professors’ pension into bonds? It is callous and reckless to even entertain the thought of converting a man’s contribution for rainy days into bonds. The rains are here and these professors must be paid.
It is to Nigeria’s disgrace that old people are getting senior citizens treatment, in fact star treatment in the advanced world. I was actually thinking of writing a letter to President Olusegun Obasanjo to consider paying special income support of N5, 000 to every senior citizen in Nigeria from the age of 65 and to also allow them to get refunds for all their drugs. This will mean the establishment of the Senior Citizens Department across the nation. Nigeria can afford it. Just imagine returning the N40 million limousine the Senate President just bought for himself and the convoy cars at the presidency, all these will go a long way to take care of our senior citizens. When we cut out all the wastes, remove the excesses, block the loopholes, learn to do things in moderation, then there will be far more left to take care of business. The legislative village of waste in Abuja where the legislooters reside and loot whatever is on sight must be looked into again and their expenses trimmed down to reality. The greed at the National Assembly is just unbelievable at a time when retired teachers from our primary schools, secondary schools and university are being denied their pensions, what the government helped them to put away.
The confirmation provided by the Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that the Federal Government is owing pensioners N1 trillion is sad and unacceptable. It is sad because a trust has been breached. The money was to be kept and held aside for the pensioners and now that the owners came forward for it they are told it is not available. It is unacceptable because the pensioners are now made to suffer and lack at a critical moment in their lives when they should be enjoying what is left of their time. I know how professors work. They work endlessly and teach as well. They are a busy bunch who can only progress on the job through dint of hard work, research, published papers and the like. Theirs was a calling that is so structured that you just must pay your dues to get on and progress. It is not the number of coups you got involved in and the appointments you lobbied for, stealing and looting along the way. The late Professor S.H.O. Tomori taught at the University of Ibadan. He also taught at the University of Jos when the University of Ibadan midwived the newly established University of Jos Campus. Professor Tomori was later involved in the establishment of the Ogun State University and was driving from Ibadan to Ago Iwoye to teach at the new university. At the same time he was active writing books and engaged in other research activities. His Lexis and Structure was a must-read for secondary school students. S.H. Olu Tomori like a few others died in service. Professor Akin Adesola was a professor of Medicine and later Vice chancellor at the Univeristy of Lagos where he left his mark as a great administrator. He is probably being owed pension now. Profgessor Jacob Ade Ajayi, no relation of mine, was my teacher at Ibadan. I looked at the man with great awe, a man who dictate 25 to 30 pages extempore week in week out! I used to marvel at the way he tie the loose ends together, history facts and reasoning firmly tied and delivered with precision and authority. I cannot believe Professors Ade Ajayi, Bolanle Awe, Bambgose, Obafemi Kujore, J.P Clark, Ogunseye, etc. are being owed pension. It is a shame.
Why is it that we tend to reward laziness and idleness (the big-bellied buffoons in uniform) and deny hard work and productivity as represented by the teachers and other public servants? The hope that came with a return to democratic governance has not been translated into any meaningful and positive change. The message we tend to be getting from this government is that hard work does not pay; it is better to loaf around, walk the pepper soup joints at Officers Mess, eat fat and grow pot belly, gun your way to power and wealth, and then retire with all trappings of state and luxury. In the mid-eighties when Ibrahim Babangida was sharing out the so-called “spirit of IBB” cars to majors and other senior ranks in the nation’s armed forces, most university professors could no longer replace their tyres and most could no longer keep their cars on the road. And forget about the dream or idea of any of them buying a new car because it was just impossible. I knew many in Ibadan whose cars were suspended by building blocks because they could no longer afford tyres, even the fairly used tyres. The rickety Peugeot 504 car in the department of English and most of the other departments and faculties could no longer travel outside Ibadan, but keeping the boys happy was IBB’s agenda, and bribing them to look the other way while the international bad boy (IBB) loot and plunder the treasury was a major goal. Now that we have a civilian (only in name?) government there is still no difference.
I mentioned in an earlier article about a year or so ago that Mrs. Sheila Solarin, an educationist and widow of the late social crusader and teacher/college founder, Dr. Tai Solarin is finding it difficult to get her pension! Mrs. Solarin who served our nation meritoriously as a school teacher at May Flower for over 40 years can’t get regular pension! I just cannot get over this pension matter because it is just unbelievable and wicked. A woman who brought hope and promise to several generations at May Flower is made to queue up for hours in the sun and in the rain. She is dribbled here, pushed there; she is denied and told to come today, come tomorrow, and at her age! Aunty Sheila had to travel to Abeokuta from Ikenne each time there is a sudden call requesting all pensioners to appear in person. Why must pensioners be punished for whatever corruption is in the system? Why shift these old people from their homes and push them up and down because government wants to avoid being robbed by some corrupt civil servants? When are we going to learn to do things right and follow the right path as a nation? It is unfair to make these teachers regret their decisions to serve the nation to the detriment of themselves. The true heroes and heroines of our time and of Nigeria are being treated shabbily, denied respect and dignity, and made miserable to a point where many of them contemplated suicide. This is surely an evil time and very unjust. The Obasanjo government has been unkind to teachers and civil servants. It has been insensitive by suggesting that pensions be converted to bonds. This is the time to reverse this ungodly plan. The Federal government should take money from the excess crude oil sales income accruing to the nation and pay all pension arrears in full today. Pay the arrears in full and take two additional steps: tender a public apology to all pensioners and establish the Senior Citizens with Dignity Agency that will ensure the payment of a monthly allowance of at least N5, 000 to every senior who is 65 and above and to also reimburse all seniors’ prescription drug purchases. This is the right thing to do and it is a collective debt the nation owes its retirees and senior citizens. This is a nation where life expectancy is way below 50 years and the money is there to support this program.