By Naomi Uzor
The Zambian Minister of Labour, Comrade Fackson Shamenda says Nigeria is now the true leader on the African continent having taken the back seat for so many years.
Speaking during a visit to Governor Adams Oshiomhole in Benin City, Wednesday, Comrade Shamenda said it was a shame that Nigeria which all the people on the continent looked up to had to get foreign telecoms companies to spearhead the GSM industry in. the country.
He said: “the first time I came to Nigeria, I saw a big plane with an elephant painted on it, and I wondered because elephants do not fly. Nigeria is supposed to be the big brother of Africa but the first GSM company came in from Zimbabwe when you are supposed to take development to Zimbabwe.
“This time, Nigeria is different. A Nigerian went to Zambia and established a branch of his cement plant in our country. It is gladdening, because it shows Nigeria is now truly taking up its role as the leader in Africa. I am proud of the son of the soil.
“We shall always cooperate with this great Nigerian son, Dangote. I was impressed when this leading investor in Nigeria and Africa came to Zambia to locate one of the largest cement plants in Africa there. We are a proud to see a Nigerian taking the lead in Africa, unlike the way it used to be, you cannot help the developed if you don’t help the underdeveloped, you cannot help the rich if you don’t help the poor.
“It is for Africans and ourselves to develop our continent, it is for us to do it ourselves, you don’t expect others to do it for us. It is time for you and me, coming from our labour background to play our role so that we leave the continent better than we met it.”
While applauding Governor Oshiomhole, the Zambian Labour Minister said: “I was very delighted when I heard that you were elected the Governor of Edo State. I have known you, my brother, for a very long time; we used to be in the trenches together and I am happy that finally you have stopped causing trouble for the government and the employers but to be able to be part.
“I have been following your activities, you are the same Adams that I have known for so many years and I have no doubt in my mind that the people of this state made the right choice and will not be disappointed and I don’t think they have been disappointed so far.”
On his part, Governor Oshiomhole thanked the Minister for the right policies which attracted a Nigerian businessman to invest in Zambia, saying African countries should have policies to promote the unity of the continent.
According to him, “I want to thank you for the policies which the Zambian Government has put in place not only to encourage foreign direct investment in their sector but to give necessary incentives to an African to penetrate the market, to locate the plants and provide the security they needed to establish and to do a lot of things they have to do to get the plant in operation.
“We should have policies that promote African unity and the best way to promote African unity is not for politicians and political leaders to meet in Ethiopia Addis Ababa once in a while and make bold statements about the continent and thereafter bring underdevelopment but they should make bold statements to create jobs and use the resources they have for the continent and not export them to Europe and then bring a fraction back in the name of direct investment.
“So I think your government and President have the credit for attracting investment and creating an enabling environment”.
Oshiomhole said, “African countries should have policies that are predictable, that are stable and some coherence in our industrial policies by focusing more on attracting people to produce rather than exporting and that is why Dangote has achieve what he has achieved.”
He explained to the Minister how as a former leader and now as Governor, he has been able bring unparalleled development to the state and how he has introduced worker-friendly policies in the state.
He said: “we have made a couple of progress and people are happy with what we have done and we are confident that once we remain on the part of the people, our party will continue to preside over the affairs of the state.
“It has been very interesting and I have taken some decisions which I did deliberately to show the Labour here that there are things that we cannot achieve through protest, persuading the oppressor to stop oppressing or using collective bargaining as a tool to perfect the distribution of national income in a way that will ensure a more egalitarian society or lobbying parliament to pass legislation that will guarantee job security.
“The best way to ensure this is to seek power and it is possible and we have certain skills which the conventional politicians don’t have. We have removed some of the restrictions on levels which State employees can rise to, equalizing it with those of the Federal Government employees.
There used to be this discrimination between State and Federal Workers. The Federal worker can rise up to what we call Grade Level 17 and the state employees cannot rise beyond 16.
“We removed the barrier and said Edo State workers are not inferior to federal workers. They may have more money but they don’t have superior brain, it is just a factor of political arrangement and we also abolished an obnoxious policy that have been put in place during the Military government which says that ‘workers who have put in 35 years must retire even if the worker is only 50 years old and started working at the age of 15’. We reviewed the entire policies and we insist that nobody retires until you are 60 years old.”
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