Pensioners in Edo State had an interesting uniform in 2016 when Governor Godwin Obaseki just took office. It was an all black outfit which indicated that they were perpetual mourners.

Their place of convergence, almost on a weekly basis, was the King’s Square at Ring Road in Benin City, the State capital.

It was always a sore sight when they gathered. It was difficult to watch.

Senior citizens who had given their youth to their State with the hope that when they are old and frail, their State will in turn fulfill its obligation of prompt payment of their pension had been let down.

Each time they gathered, they sat under the sun; they prayed and chanted war songs. They lost their voices. Some of them collapsed and lost consciousness and had to be revived by good Samaritans. Others who were not so lucky paid the ultimate price. They died on the streets protesting for a wage they had faithfully earned after working for the State for over three decades with the most useful dispensation of their lives.

Obaseki inherited this huge embarrassment and didn’t shy away. He deployed a strategy that entailed the batching of these pensioners and clearing government liabilities to them batch-by-batch. He set aside hundreds of millions on a monthly basis to clear the debts.

He also broke down the problem with pensioners into three categories. Category A was pension arrears. Category B was the complaint about the unharmonised pension for almost 30 years, and the third Category was the gratuity liabilities.

Today, the pension liability is cleared completely. The harmonization of pension has been effected spanning a period of nearly 30 years. Obaseki is now at the stage of clearing the gratuities and has also been doing this in batches, beginning with the most frail and ailing retirees.

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Should all these funds deployed to save these elderly people who have given their vitality to the State have been given to only a few politically connected people with access to power?

Today, our pensioners are happy that their dignity has been restored and that they get their pension payment alerts on the 25th or 26th of every month.

Even though like Oliver Twist, they want more and indeed they deserve more, but at least they have now put aside their mourning outfits and wear the bright smile of hope again.

Will these pensioners, their children, grandchildren, friends and well-wishers sit idly and allow the avaricious few return them to the dark days?

The jury is out and the battleground is the gubernatorial election on September 21, 2024.

Sadly, not many will read this. Our people are inundated by a deluge of tall tales and they can hardly find space to accommodate the Primacy of Truth.

Watch out for Part 7.

Osagie, a journalist, is the Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Media Projects