Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State says for any government to make progress, it must maintain a national minimum wage.
Oshiomhole said this in Abuja on Wednesday during a forum tagged: “The Podium,” organised by The Kukah Centre in collaboration with the Ford Foundation.
The programme, which seeks an interface between the electorate and policy makers, had the theme: “From Activism to Political Power: The Challenges of Democratic Governance in Nigeria.”
According to Oshiomhole, a labourer is worthy of his wages, meaning if an employer is owing, he is breaching a contract.
He said: “This is where I’m different.
“I still insist any government who wants to be taken seriously must have a national minimum wage.
“We must maintain a national minimum wage, look for ways to increase it.
“That is what I still advocate for.”
Giving an informal account of his stewardship and why he carried out most of his actions, the governor said he stayed true to his activism years by not owing salaries.
Oshiomhole explained that as a former factory worker himself, he understood the importance of wages and that was why he increased workers salaries in Edo State by 38 per cent.
He said: “Activism is not synonymous with being progressive.
“I believe we should all be idealistic and not dismiss the possibility of an ideal society.
“One man’s idealism is another man’s reality.
“Wages paid to people is not burden.
“In Edo, we increased it by 38 per cent and I’m proud to still pay before the last day of every month.”
Oshiomhole explained that complaints about salaries from the state were mostly about the 18 months pension arrears he inherited and the inability of local governments to pay their staff.
He said: “We respect the autonomy of the Local Government but we insisted that if they cannot do environmental sanitation, waste management, grading rural roads, cleaning up the market at least you must pay the teachers’ salaries.
“So I am not responsible for non-payment at that level.
“Non-payment of wages is a criminal breach in the law of contract.
“You can pay daily, weekly, monthly, but not in excess of 30 days.
“You are breaching the agreement.”
Oshiomhole said as an activist, he was in governance to know the ropes, know how to help people and counter concepts like god-fatherism in politics.
He said: “I have been militant, will remain a militant and retire a militant, not with guns.
“I don’t burst pipelines, but we must react to sayings like: ‘If you can’t beat them join them.’”
The Chairman of the occasion, former Governor Donald Duke of Rivers State, said he advocates improvement in society.
Duke said: “Sadly, politicians in our society are merely jobbers and budget padders.
“We advocate improvement and not change.
“We had a violent change in 1966, so change is not necessarily the way to go.
“Improvements however makes things happen, develop societies and affect the people positively.”
Bishop Mathew Kukah, the Convener of the event, said the essence of the forum was to design programmes that encourage debate and free exchange of ideas.
Kukah said: “To serve as a mediating platform between the government, citizens and communities.
“Also, to enhance the quality of leadership training at all levels both in the public and non-governmental sectors.”
Activists from all sectors and relevant stakeholders attended the event.