When people think about slavery, they have a picture of a black man in chains working on a corn field. This is the original picture depicted of a slave. People fought for the liberation of these slaves, however, we have chosen to become willing slaves. Tyrion’s words in the Game of Thrones sitcom, which is the film version of the book of George R. R. Martins titled ‘A SONG OF FIRE AND ICE’ sets the backdrop for deep meditation on this issue. He said. “There has never been a slave who did not choose to be a slave. Their choice may be between bondage and death, but the choice is always there.”
Like any debtor in historical times, Nigeria is a slave to her Lenders, and we its citizens choose to be willing slaves to our employees. One begins to wonder if the law did not envision a situation where hunger and economic desperation are used as the instruments of slavery. Labour laws clearly debut these views as they are meant to ensure humane treatment for the employee. Are they enough? The answer lies in the power of the human will versus the need to survive.
Abraham Lincoln in 1865 said ‘Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.’ However, this statement does not hold true in the case of economic slavery. It is more common to see those who have passed through the dregs of economic slavery and have managed, through hard work and good fortune, to find themselves on the other sphere of the spectrum enforcing more inhumane treatments on their former counterparts. Why!!!
In Nigeria, our labour laws set down standards for and employer/employee relationship, many of which are flaunted often. The word ‘overtime’ has become synonymous with free labour to employers; verbally abusive words are synonymous with the private sector. Companies now use the concept of ‘a contract staff’ as an excuse for cheap labour, and the high rate of unemployment encourages this acts with everyone scrambling for whatever crumbs that falls from the employers table.
In the words of Martin Luther King as long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery. What is the solution and how do we change the narrative?
History has not recorded a single fight for freedom that did not come at a price, the decision to value your self-esteem over all else can only come from you. Stop Complaining! Do Something! Liberate Yourself!