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Pragmatic, reserved and a deep thinker who loves family, sports especially football where am married to two wives: the first, AC Milan who has my loyalty and the second wife, Manchester United who has all my undying love and pampering, lifestyle and society parties. Need I say the law is more than a profession but a lifestyle for me.

Adekanye Adeyinka Olajide.

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You are here: Home / SOCIAL/RACE INEQUALITY - A CONTINUING STIGMA IN 2013.

SOCIAL/RACE INEQUALITY - A CONTINUING STIGMA IN 2013.

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The world received with great astonishment devastating news of alleged racial slurs, discrimination and harassment by #PaulaDeen, 66; a renowned international chef and celebrity chef on #FoodNetwork on her most loyal and longest serving employee cum friend of over 22 years; #Mrs. Charles, 59 . This surfaced when #Mrs. Charles finally decided to open up on torrid relationship she has been enduring with Ms. Deen. Over the years during her working experience, she had been paid ($10) per hour despite the cancerous growth of Ms. Deen’s wealth spanning up to about $17million dollars with a robust resume of 4 top executive restaurants, 14 cookbooks, independent TV appearances, book deals, endorsements with #Walmart, #Smithfield cancelled as well as #Novo Nordisk suspending a healthcare deal. It is worthy of note to say that Mrs. Charles who can hardly read or write, had contributed her enormous wealth of experience immensely to the rapid success of her boss; through her unique Southern recipe’s and training of young chefs. Indeed several times, Ms. Deen had owned up that she is a vocal point to her business. In 2007, she said she would be crushed if she ever lost Mrs. Charles

It is therefore baffling to hear that a woman who has diligently served Ms. Deen’s business (for about 22 years), family and indeed her vast empire with utmost loyalty would still have her abode as a trailer house. A woman who has appeared severally on the Food Network, the southern dishes expert and has dedicated her life to the job will still live in penury. When Ms. Deen employed her 22 years ago, after an audition at her first restaurant; she had promised Mrs. Charles in her word, “If you stick with me, I promise we would both be rich.” This no doubt, is consideration furnished even though there had not been a written agreement to that effect, which Mrs. Charles regrets; there had been a valid agreement upon which her motivation was built.

I cannot stop wondering how a business owner in a country like America that so gloriously promotes her Declaration, the country that builds its nation on the pursuit of happiness with the first black president in a modern country can still accommodate in its workplace discrimination and racism. Lately, after the complaint filed at the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Ms. Deens wealth has since been crashing down like the walls of Jericho, when she admitted to racial slurs and social/ethnic discrimination against her to another employee. This has led to an instant withdrawal of various companies which have endorsed Ms. Deen and others rescinding contracts with her which will cost her at least 70% of her net worth although #Forbes have predicted if her restaurants survive, she will still rake in $7million. During this startling revelation Mrs. Charles identified that after 22 years her money was upped in 2010 following complaints of pay discrimination among other white employees who had less years of service in the Deen’s empire but earned more. Also, Ms. Deen’s son promised to refurbish floor of her trailer home.

No doubt as racism is rearing its ugly head the world over in our work places, it seems to be a menace we can not overcome. The sad thing however is that: jobs of today seem to be the modern slavery. In third-world countries like Nigeria, the situation is more despicable. Though we are all blacks; the discrimination is deeply rooted. Employers of labour under-pay and use employees like slave. A number of employees do not have employment letters to prescribe terms of employment. Hence, they are at the mercy of employers. It is also no news that employees do not usually have job scope; they are drafted to different departments as the employer deems fit.

 Furthermore, we have had scenarios whereby our women suffer various forms of sexual harassments before they get employed. Employees work for years without promotion or advancement at work. I have a friend who has worked for the same employer for four years without promotion. In fact, he had no salary increment except once when a meagre #2000 was added to his salary. In addition our senior colleagues in the legal profession are guilty of under paying baby lawyers; still in their teething period and use them mostly to run errands and clerk jobs. Numerous employees work even at weekends without money for inconvenience paid. They are literally used as slaves and made to work like donkeys with no adequate remuneration.

 It is also not news that there is no workplace protection as employers do not provide safe and conducive work environment. Many of construction workers are not adequately equipped neither are they insured against work injuries. I remember the news of a casual worker who lost his arm during the railway refurbishment years back. I doubt he got compensated as they had argued then that it was his negligence. This happened because they had no union to represent their interest.

 The rate at which the Indians, Chinese and Lebanese enslave our people is on the rise. They employ them and ensure that they toil rigorously for hours at stretch without break. Usually, they employ unskilled workers for jobs that require expertise and short-pay for their services. They pack our people into buses like sardines. They lay them off without benefits or severance pay. Many of the sweet industries managed by them ill treat workers while they enjoy top positions, and ride in choice jeeps. They go out for breaks frequently while our people are put inside to work from 6am - 7pm. Similarly, most of the textile industries are responsible for most of the amputations that their workers suffer during work. They do not insure their employees and once they lose limbs, they are disserted. We also cannot forget the pomade industry in the northern part of Nigeria that camped workers like prisoners only letting them out at closing ours tired and lifeless. These workers get home and are useless even to their own selves.

One cannot fail to mention the corporate form of slavery. In the blue chip companies, they even make you enter into preposterous agreements of secrecy before employing you. Banks equally use female staffers as corporate slaves tagging them marketers when all they are marketing is their body rather than products; providing them with special funds for purchase of skimpy outfits and setting outrageous targets to be met before stipulated terms with a list of top business tycoons to chase after. I have met a few who share their experience of unprintable events. It is trend so annoying that if you do not belong to a particular cadre at work, you will lose your benefits. The painful thing is they lay them off in the most infuriating way; either via text messaging or you are refused log in permit at your desk.

Let us not bother ourselves with the in-depth story between the chefs. But this got me thinking, and I have had to question: what was the purpose of Martin Luther King Jnr’s fight? What did he live for? What is the state of other organisations in the almighty America? Is there really social rights and equality? Did Ms. Deed ever watch any of the Barack Obama’s debate before he ever became the president of U.S.A? I doubt NO! With so much to ponder on, let us bring this home…. Yes home down to Africa, then closely Nigeria… do we have social equality at all, errm pardon me but this is not about race anymore.

This has to do with class: the superior, middle and low class; all of which fall within the definition of inequality. From our president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) blocking of road/access: to inconvenient the same citizens who voted him in; all because he makes a courtesy visit to any area. David Cameron takes the public under ground train in the United Kingdom, to no harm!

Then the question is: what are we running from or fighting against? To the lawmakers, imagine what they have turned into with the recent saga in the Rivers State House of Assembly where a house with no quorum tries to impeach their sitting governor. Similarly, we have the executive gallivanting around the world; using drive for investors as a charade to abandon a country with conflicts and bloodshed where lives are lost like fowls.

What equality is in a society where the interests of churches no longer lie in being a tool of admonishing and spiritual guidance? But bother mainly on purchasing and owning fleet of private jets for their pastors. Even the whole society at large, we all fight inequality; to secure employment: it is all about who you know.

Humility and love has been flushed down the drain. The 21st century is still very bitter with inequality and social injustice in all spheres of life.

As disparaging as it might seem that Mrs. Charles accuses Ms. Deen of racial slurs and terrible work conditions, the truth is racism exists not only in the colour of our skin or discrimination against beliefs. We are guilty daily of suffering far worse situations in our places of employment in Nigeria.

God help us all.

- ADEKANYE ADEYINKA OLAJIDE and BARRISTER BAMGBADE OLUYEMISI.