By Ishaka Mohammed
Illusion. Yes, that’s what I see in many fellows who consider themselves optimists. Denying the existence of a sad situation doesn’t portray optimism; rather, it depicts a glaring loss of control in an ocean of illusion. However, believing that the situation will change for the better is optimism.
There’s no gainsaying that poor remuneration is an undeniable feature of a typical Nigeria’s workplace. Considering the conditions of service and state of the nation, one can irrevocably say that many employees are grossly underpaid in almost every organisation in Nigeria.
From media houses to fuel stations, schools and other organisations, you find journalists, pump attendants and teachers who work for no fewer than eight hours per day but go home at the end of the month with a paltry sum of N15,000 or something lower than that. In fact, I heard from a lecturer of mine who used to be a practising journalist (now a communication lecturer) that a certain publisher of a national newspaper told some of his employees that their identity cards were their meal tickets; he had nothing to pay them. This is one of the reasons why some journalists not only expect but also demand brown envelopes from organisers of events.
This underpayment issue is like asking a man to walk fast on an alley filled with banana rind. Considering the slippery nature of the rind, it’ll be a great achievement for such a person to avoid staggering, that’s if he doesn’t fall outright. As an employee, I feel your pains, but you need that achievement; you must stand tall. Avoid waiting for others to change things for you.
Many underpaid workers are forced into recording unsatisfactory performances. That’s one thing you must resist. Once you’re sure that your remuneration is poor, look for where you may attract more value to yourself; otherwise, consider upscaling your competence.
Martin Luther King’s speeches often inspire me. He insisted that we must be the best of whatever we are. As a classroom teacher, I become more critical of myself each time I read the following lines.
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper that did his job well.'”
So, dear teachers, being underpaid must never turn you into cheats. Instead, research, teach and evaluate your students appropriately. Those kids under your tutelage don’t belong to your employer; they’re future leaders. Even if they don’t end up in public offices, they’ll at least lead their families. And, as we all know, it’s difficult for banditry and terrorism to thrive in a society where a significant percentage of members possess quality education.
Beware, o you health workers. In your dealings with your patients, avoid being influenced by the unfair treatment you receive from your employers or the government. If you fail to control yourself, you may murder innocent people or cause them lasting deformities.
My dear journalists, we’re aware of the meagre sums you take home as salaries. But such should never be your justification to feed your society with false stories. A mass communication lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Dr Muhammad Hashim Suleiman, once said, “The deliberate mistakes of journalists…lead to mangled human bodies, orphaned children, burnt cities, poverty…and general societal retrogression.” I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be responsible for chaos in your society.
O fellow Nigerians, here’s a passionate appeal to you. Aim for excellence in whatever you do. Regardless of your workplace or salary value, make diligence and fulfilment your hallmarks and watchwords. If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Be mindful of posterity; do your level best today so that the people of tomorrow will mention you for good.
And in case it becomes necessary to resign your position in an organisation, remember to quit honourably. Even after submitting your resignation, make your presence noticeable by offering your very best until your last day there; such might make your employer feel your absence. Due to the unpredictability of life, avoid burning your bridges.
On a final note, dear Nigerian workers, bear in mind that your actions and inactions have earthly and heavenly consequences. Being guided by professionalism will do you a great deal of goodness. So, strive always to be the best version of yourself. On the above premise, therefore, as an underpaid worker, you’re expected to solve your problem. You’re the best person to change your situation for the better.
Ishaka Mohammed wrote from Kaduna State. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.