Tataafo.com – 30th July, 2020


(Photo source: Pngitem)

“Salary is sometimes synonymous with slavery” is one of the most controversial quotes I have made. The day that quote was made, it attracted criticisms from all quarters which are graciously and righteously welcomed. This expose is an explanatory note to the quizzing that radiated from the curious dice of eagerness and inquiry that was gambled on a garment of lot. Hope, I have polished some itching ears? Yea? Yea!


Here we go! I have often time encountered some amigos who for some reasons feel that men like me should do away with innuendoes, rhetorics, puns, sarcasms, and any other form of figurative miens which are antagonizing anything unvarnished. I would say, they are ruled by the pure philosophy of “Be simple as the dove”. May your bean be beautified with a complex-free lock! Yea? Yea!

That is, I become a sinner of suspense if I sight any sermon like the sonnets of Shakespeare full of mad runes and rhymes. But just be simple as the dove remains the philosophy. As much as every reader wishes to satisfy his ignorance, this poet has some figures begging for our temple brain, and as God helps him pen his scrolls, his ink may flow to a strange shire. Yea? Yea! Enough of myself!


Now to the quote! I realized that readers quickly forget that some words, if not all words, have more than one meanings, and writers are justified travelling the route of concord depending on what context it (they) is used. Slavery is one of such ugly alphabets. The Encarta Encyclopedia defines Slavery to mean the practice of, or a system based on, using the enforced labour of other people. Google Online Dictionary also defines slavery as the state of being a slave. It further means the practice or system of owning slaves. The definitions so far given suggest that where someone uses the labour of another person by force without the express consent of the person, it amounts to slavery. By this definition, one may begin to wonder why salary so earned for work voluntarily done can be said to be slavery.

Let us take one more definition. Shall we? We shall! Remember, I had earlier said that words have more than one meaning. The Encarta Encyclopedia also defines slavery to mean (very hard work), especially for (low pay) and (under bad conditions). This definition shows that slavery as a term also interprets a case where someone is paid, and working with his full consent. So when exactly is salary synonymous to slavery? Readers must understand the key words used in the quote. Videlicet: salary, synonymous, and slavery.

Salary here is not necessarily a monthly pay in this context – it means any kind of pay in monetary kind which one receives under an employment. So, first, the person must be receiving a pay. Secondly, the person is under an employment.

Synonymous, here, connotes that salary is like slavery. Explicitly, it is not exactly a case wherein a slave is in chains, but that, salary can make out a slave who is a slave, but not in chains. The word, ‘Sometimes’ in the quote means that it is not all the time salary is synonymous to salary. In order words, there are cases where people work and earn a pay and are not considered slaves. This is because, they work under very good conditions, and are paid adequately for what work they do. There is dignity in labour. The quote is not despising those diligent folks who work hard to earn a living neither does it make shame of those who do their work with passion even though they do not receive as much as they wish. This quote rather explains cases where a person works and yet, he is just a little different from the one who is in shackles.

Let us consider the key elements:

a). A person is under an employment;
b). The person receives pay;
c). The person works so hard below the pay;
d). The person works under a very bad condition.
e). The person often times, has no choice, even if he has the right to quit.


Mr. X is a graduate. He is unemployed. He has been searching for job, none is forth coming. Mr. X has some needs to take care of. He has an aged mother who looks up to him. He really does not have the strength to do the famous uguaja work and even if he gives it a try, there are less of such jobs around. He does not have the money to start a small business of his own. No loan is at hand. Life must just go on else, he may end up stealing. He sees a job vacancy advert, and he applies. He is asked to teach, Primary, 5 & 6, J.S.S.1, 2, & 3, and also S.S.1, 2 & 3. He must teach Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. He also must teach Agricultural Science as well. He must arrive the school premises by 6:30 am, and close by 4:00 pm every day. He practically teaches all day, and every day. Guess his salary? N15,000. That is less than the minimum wage. Not only is that the case, any day he arrives school a minute late, he will pay the school N500 out of his salary. The proprietress (tor) doesn’t care whether he has an aged mother. Not only is this the case, the proprietress uses all manner of vulgar abuses on him at the slightest provocation. Mr. X does not like the working condition, but he feels he has NO CHOICE. That salary which is meanly symbolizing his job is like the case of a man in chains. This is the slavery I speak of.

The scenario painted above has many shapes and forms as it plays out in other kinds of professions or trades. You know, even lawyers and other professionals experience cases that are worse, but they always console themselves with the statement of “GAIN THE EXPERIENCE”. Little wonder why quitting some jobs, sometimes, seems to sound like some form of salvation for many. Aye? Aye!

I speak of this epileptic situation in places where enough can be done to put workers in better conditions, but because of the capitalistic element in the working environments, workers have been subjected to such harsh and unpleasant experiences which is akin to slavery. So you see? Chain is not always for slavery. A chain can beautify a lass; there is also a chain that cages a criminal. Chain is not always the symbol of slavery. There are other symbols other than chains.


In all, I am not making mockery of those who work hard to make a living. I have only made a move to justify the controversial bitter quote. Workers must be treated with respect as people who contribute to the success of every establishment. It is wickedness to pay a worker far less than what he works while the employers go home with the fat sack. Employers should not take advantage of the vulnerability of employees to exploit them. Some employers do not care for their workers’ welfare, they just believe in the “use and dump” syndrome. Salary is a good thing, but when it is gotten in a very harsh condition, it becomes just like the little piece of bread given to the slave to sustain his breathe. You care to ask for more like Oliver? A man needs not be on chains to be a slave. There is dignity in labour, but a labourer is worthy of his sound wages. Aye? Aye!

By Ebi Robert (The Lord Of Ink)

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