By Ayo Olonode
They defied the scorching morning sun, holding banners and placards in their hands and raising solidarity chants and songs. Accompanied by trumpeters and drummers, they took over the gate of the State’s Secretariat, Abere, and the security personnel didn’t dare to restrain them.
The purpose of their outing soon became evident, as Governor Adegboyega Oyetola arrived the scene. It was on Monday, a typically busy day with lots of meetings, including the State Executive Council meeting. But this brand of demonstrators were not interested in upsetting his schedule for the day; they just wanted to show gratitude, and nothing more.
The previous Friday, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola had approved the immediate implementation of welfare packages for all categories of workers in the State, as well as the immediate implementation of Minimum Wage, lifting of ban on Annual Salary Increment and embargo placed on promotions and conversions since 2012.
This gesture by Governor Oyetola was what provoked the civil servants of the State of Osun to treat their “welfare-oriented Governor” to a jubilant welcome- to- work on Monday.
Oyetola expressed surprise at the reception because, according to him, he was just doing his job, part of which is to ensure that workers’ welfare is improved.
“As a responsible and responsive government, it is our belief that workers should be able to get whatever that is due to them. That was why we deemed it fit to do all these for them”, Oyetola explained.
But the workers didn’t see it from that perspective because these were people whose salaries had not improved for eight long years. They even had to settle for half salary for a lengthy period within that time frame.
Comrade Adekomi Jacob, the Chairman of the Osun chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress, while describing what the welfare packages meant for all categories of workers in the State, said: “We have experienced moments of wants, but now we are being launched into a season of abundance. The year 2012 was the last time we had annual increment in the State of Osun. That was also the last year workers were promoted.
“In 2018, we had a demonstration for three days before we could be granted a nominal promotion (without pay). At some point, we were even earning half salary. But today the narrative has changed. We have received five packages without any struggle or demonstrations under the current administration.
“With this agreement and subsequent approval of Mr Governor, he has succeeded in monetising the 2018 promotions which was not monetised, he has successfully lifted embargo on other promotions which are 2019 and 2020. He has implemented National Minimum Wage and also, he has lifted embargo on conversions for all categories of workers in the state.
“We are also not overlooking the fact that since the inception of this administration, we have received full salaries till this time. Before now, we were told that promotion is a privilege, but Oyetola has changed the narrative.
“In fact, a lot of goodies and packages for the workers which we have been agitating for have been attended to. As you can see, we are extremely happy for the kind gesture extended to us by the government.
“This new development would go a long way to re-energise the workers’ strength, stimulate their level of productivity and by extension register a significant improvement on the economy of the State”, Adekomi explained.
Moved by the workers’ show of appreciation , Oyetola couldn’t help but to celebrate with the ecstatic bureaucrats by joining them in a kilometre-long walk from the State’s Secretariat gate to his Office (at the White House), with his gentle strides during the walk being a subject of comparison with his art of governance – noiseless but progressively impactful, according to Comrade Laluwoye Adekola who appreciated the Governor’s gesture on behalf of all Permanent Secretaries and Directors in the State’s Civil Service.
Not bothered about the sun or the many issues awaiting his attention in the office, Oyetola joined in the freedom walk, to celebrate the eventual lifting of a long-term embargo on the workers’ welfare. Were the distance longer than a kilometre, his body language showed a man who was ready to go the distance with the people who have trusted him with the mandate of leadership. And indeed, it takes a man who has significantly covered existing gaps to be trusted to lead a people through the distance of the State’s development agenda.