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Minimum wage: I won’t sack civil servants in Taraba State- Gov Ishaku


Taraba State Governor, Arch.. Darius Dickson Ishaku during an interactive  session with journalists in Jalingo, spoke on his activities in the last six years in office as the governor of the state and give reasons why his government  cannot afford the payment of 30,000 minimum wage at the moment


Can you tell us the story so far? the good, bad, sour experiences  in your six years of leading Taraba State

Thank you for the opportunity. You are right to have mentioned the good, bad and the ugly or bitter, sour and sweet, whichever way it catches your fancy. It has been a tortuous journey which is expected for any leadership that assumes office and met cases of insecurity in different ramifications from ethnic violence, religious violence, banditry and cattle rustling among others. But they come in phases, degenerated more or less to insurgency and that we have substantially surmounted the evil days and we still have challenges security wise but then not like what it used to be in 2015, 2016 and which later escalated in 2017 when we have issues in Mambilla and later subsides but I will say now that we are faring better but then we all know that all over the country we are battling with issues of insecurity .

On the developmental side in terms of infrastructures, I will say we have done a lot and I will score myself more than 80 percent and anything less for me is a failure. You see in politics, there is a development that is finite and infinite. The visible and invisible and they are all complementary to one another. Now let's start from development which is the one people see and appreciate and we have done a lot in that regards. In terms of infrastructures, water, roads, hospitals, education, agriculture among others.  And on infinite, that is about dealing with things you don't see, things that are component of society and also very essential. For example, chieftaincy crisis, reducing the tension in the villages and getting people to accept living with strangers or others from different ethnics. All these are intangible and not something that can be seen  or touched but they are component of human society and these are things that must be addressed as a component part.

In summation, the six years have been a success but also a success with pains. Pains in the sense that I wish I had more resources and quite an enabling environment because if you have the resources and all that it takes and you don't have peace, then the development in such area would be useless as nobody would enjoy it because of the absence of peace. So, we have in that circumstances done our best and like I said, we have justified our mandate and I can assure you that in the next two years we would accomplish and finish all the projects already on the pipeline and by the time we are handing over, we would hand over completed and successful projects as part of measures to allow those coming in to build on the next stage.

In the last few months, issues of killings in Bali and Gasol Local Governments have been in the news, what is your administration doing to ensure it does not escalate?

The situation is a bad news and I can confirm to you that the crisis originated from Benue. The Tiv that are in Benue side killed some Fulani in Dogodanwa Donga and axis and they burned Fulani tanker drivers and went ahead to kill some of the Fulani and that was done in Benue but unfortunately, some Fulani in Taraba state decided to retaliate by maiming Tiv settlers in Bali and they killed about 18 people but we moved in immediately by stationing army and police officers in the troubled axis to make sure they cordoned off anybody coming from Benue and those that are in Taraba, particularly in Bali. A lot of people were arrested. And you know, some of these things happen in the hinterlands and before the news get to government officials or law enforcement agencies, the damage has been done.

For example, three days ago, we understand that there is an accident involving two Fulani on motorcycle but then people went and spread rumors that it was a Tiv that killed them and unfortunately for some of the Tiv who are in the area are armed and ready to attack before the intervention of security agents that prevented the carnage. Let me tell you, a lot have been done but government would not go and take the actions it has taken to the press, newspaper houses, Television stations, Radio stations. We do these things quietly to get maximum and effective result because the government, including the governor, deputy governor, commissioners and appointed aides cannot be going to the press every time in giving information to the press on all measures been taken. So, it is unfortunate that some people will be talking on situations or happenings that they have no knowledge about. We have contained it and if not for the recent incident, which in fact, was an accident and it has been calm after intervention of security agents. So for now, things have calm down and I don't anticipate things would come up again.

 Workers and Labour unions in the state are looking forward to the payment of minimum wage, how has this affected your relationship with the workers  ?

I am from the beginning been a labour friendly governor and I have been very friendly with the unions and I have been paying salaries of civil servants up to date and I have had no problem with civil servants and employees . Now what the unions must take cognizance of is that you do not go into strike for the sake of it. If you want to demonstrate that you want minimum wage as an employer, you have to wait and get things done properly. It is like anyone having a cow that has not been fed in last six months, can I go and be struggling to milk the animal? what milk will you get from such? Nothing. Instead, you will get blood out of the animal and not milk.

Now, if we say labour union wants to fight for minimum wage, when the minimum they are fighting for is not even realized? so, the union must sit down, articulate itself and ask itself if what they are bargaining for is possible, will it be achievable? can our employer afford this? or can you just go to a rock and want to squeeze water from it? you are not been realistic and won't be able to achieve what you want. Whereas, when you sit down with your employers, take time to know the problem on ground which generate the challenges been faced, it is through that that a common agreement can be reached. Look, this is what we are facing and even the N30,000 I cannot afford it, what do we do? Some states reduced their workforce to be able to meet up. But for someone like me, I will rather maintain 100,000 people I have in my workforce than sack 60,000 of them for me to be able to pay other 30,000 still working.

I will rather continue to manage the 100,000 workers than sack larger chunks whom their families depended on. I will rather speak to the workers, unions and explain to them that I cannot afford any increment and we should maintain the status quo for us to still keep people employed than to sack them. Let the union do something that is workable and can be applicable and not try to arm-twist the government into doing what is not feasible after they rejected feasible options. We need dialogues because it has been proven that demonstrations every time cannot bring about lasting solutions.

Now let's talk national politics, there have been cross carpeting from PDP to APC at the national level, are you worried about the situation?

I am totally not worried because most of the decisions that are taken which led to defections you are talking about are personal decisions and those who are leaving knows best. Democracy is about having an opposition and if you don't have a vibrant opposition in any democracy, then such will fail. I was in a meeting that the PDP offered solutions to the APC government on insecurity because we believe we are all Nigerians and if Nigeria crumbles, we have all crumbled together. If the country is in mess, let us solve it here, APC is not the owner of Nigeria, we are all stakeholders and if Nigeria is facing challenges security wise, they should come and approach us, we have some knowledge about possible actions that can lead to long lasting solutions.

In some places, appointment to federal cabinet is done by opposition and it has happened in this country before, did the country collapse? Sometimes you see some materials in the opposition, you have no option than to bring the person in to serve because he or she is serving the country and not a political party. And this is what Nigerians should be. We should be patriotic, passionate about the country been in a stable form and if the country is doing well, people will be struggling for our visa like we are struggling for that of America.


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