Nigeria is presently playing host to so many drama sketches with actors that are ready to take up roles to make the end product somewhat edible. The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, is gradually becoming directionless, selfish, unpatriotic, and almost becoming a movement and or a mob.
The current President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, is pushing to become an alternate “president” of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; as he now dishes out orders that must be obeyed. His weapon is “strike action.” He is always calling for a strike. At the slightest provocation, he calls for a strike. The NLC and her affiliate unions are gradually becoming lawless.
If only they fully appreciated that the extent of the economic loss caused each time a strike is executed, and how those strikes compound the very problem they intended to solve, I think their leaders would act differently. Their workers don’t work, but they want to be paid. They downtools, and tell their employers to pay them; I guess pay them for work done with their hands folded.
I understand from my friends in the labour movement that strike action should be the last option; when discussions enter the monologue mode. But when the authorities are still open to and welcome dialogue, it is pertinent to dialogue through and through, to achieve the desired results. It is all a matter of mediation, if they traded off certain demands to accommodate other gains. But these days, especially under the new organization created by the Obi-dient movement, using the Labour Party as his political platform, NLC is behaving like a political party by the way, possible virtue of its partisan role.
First, let the point be made that every member of the NLC cannot and must not be a member of the Labour Party. It is not tenable. Also, Labour Party cannot wear the toga of the NLC especially as its conduct has not been exemplary. In recent times, the NLC behaves as though they own the country. As regards the protest that was badly managed in Imo state, the NLC president was attacked and injuries were inflicted on him by persons that are not clearly identifiable. The NLC president himself painted a gory story of how he was manhandled and beaten to stupor, while pointing accusing fingers at the Police. In response, members of his own constituency, the Electricity Workers Union, plunged the state into total darkness for two weeks running. Such economic sabotage vitiates the very essence of the existence of Labour Unions. Innocent citizens of Imo state who do not have a whimper of the crisis, are being made to suffer weeks of power outage. The union is acting in bad faith; in their infantile minds, they thought they were doing Governor Hope Uzodima in as the elections were approaching. Actually, they are hurting the people more. Government’s business cannot be halted by power outage. The consequence, is that the state resources that ought to be ploughed into productive venture for the benefit of the workers and other citizens, would instead be used in buying fuel for the business of government to continue. Such huge wastage is what NLC causes when they try to extract a pound of flesh from the government, unwittingly . When government has to create a working environment she will prioritize buying of diesel over and above paying workers salaries. This will lead to severe pain on the part of the workers and soon after, the same NLC that impeded the activities of government will roll out tanks to ask for the governor’s head.
Rational behaviour is an essential ingredient in human relations and in decision making process. It is what moderates the individual when faced with different scenarios. Ajaero’s NLC, with due respect, is gradually becoming notorious and infamous. This is not the NLC we used to know. Its unbridled appetite for strike is becoming worrisome. Nigeria is going through its own economic challenges, but NLC is not helpful. The ordinary person out there suffers the deprivations and economic dislocation which the NLC often parrots as the motivation for going on a strike action. Why should they turn the switch off in a state with so much on its plate? Hospital patients are dying because of power outages; the equipment needed for their treatment run on electricity, small entrepreneurs are unable to power their businesses: barbers, hair-dressers, small hoteliers, students, and many others. The economic loss is huge. And someone will want me to clap for NLC for taking such a precipitate action simply because her president, Joe Ajaero, was attacked. For sure, it is utterly wrong for Joe Ajaero, to have been attacked but two wrongs do not make a right. Using the Israel-Gaza template, it is inconceivable that the workers’ union would go to the extent of putting out power supply as a way of venting their anger; that’s too much of a pill to swallow. As humans, we must try as much as possible to exhaust the opportunity of dialogue instead of hastily taking decisions that we may fall victim of. Power supply is a huge resource and the action of the NLC is outright treason.
The elections in Imo state are now over and the governor to whom most of the sabotage was directed has been voted into office a second time. Agent provocateurs incited mayhem during the election, naysayers had predicted doomsday for the average Imo voters, some commentators and political players who are partisanly inclined had painted a war-like situation, but the seamless conduct and outcome of the election, proved doom-makers wrong; that in it all, people still saw through their propaganda. The Labour Party of Peter Obi has just been told in very plain language that it has no grasp of the reality in Imo state. It came a distant third in the election. I am yet to read a comprehensive report that would suggest the election was rigged. So far, the joy and jubilation in Imo state point to the fact that the right man won the election even under NLC’s affliction. The state must move on and the infrastructural development of the state has to continue, to give Imo state a face-lift from the ashes of inherited decay before Hope Uzodinma’s administration. My last visit to Owerri was an eye opener; quite a few of those terrible intra-city roads have been fixed. The major roads leading to Orlu, Okigwe and others are now motorable. I was pleasantly surprised that Governor Hope Uzodinma had surpassed all expectations. I am pleasantly surprised by the much he has done. And now the people of Imo state have given him the nod to continue running the state over a second term. His landslide victory is an indication of widespread acceptance, having scored majority votes in all the 27 Local Governments of the state.
Now, let us speak truth to power. The NLC must separate the Labour Party from it as being one and the same. It will rub off on its sanctity as a worker’s Union. The Labour Party is a political party, while the NLC is a Congress for Nigerian workers. Association with a political party is voluntary even for worker’s union members. Nobody should impose his whims and caprices on workers or force them to swallow the bitter phlegm of their activities against their own will. The moment the NLC is perceived as partisan, as it has obviously become, the worse for its acceptability across board. The NLC under Joe Ajaero has become rambunctious of late, seeking strike action per time, and pronouncing downtool action, indeed alluding to a preset unwillingness to work. When the government removed subsidy early in the life of this administration, the NLC even before discussions commenced, had called for a strike. At every point, their calls for a strike were premeditated to distract the government of the day and seek public support for the litigations of the Labour Party. After the verdict was given against the Labour Party, it does appear the NLC wants to continue on that route of perfidy, to blackmail government at all times. Joe Ajaero can choose to be a member of the Labour Party, it is his inalienable right, but he cannot portray his selfish interest as the aggregate interest of all workers. Not all members of the NLC are members of the Labour Party, so he must know where and when to draw the thin line between political partisanship and struggle for workers’ welfare.
When we talk about economic saboteurs, and the issue of subsidy scams, we cannot exonerate the petroleum workers; especially those in the Petroleum Equalisation Fund. That is where fictitious memos and LPOs are generated and perfected to claim money for goods and services that were never supplied or rendered.
Subsidy racketeers ply their trade in collusion with workers there. It is a systemic rot that has gone on for too long. Now that we have a president mustering the courage to step on toes, he should be encouraged. The NLC should please apply caution and live within the labyrinth of the law. This idea of strike and strike all the time does not help the workers plight. Also, plunging Imo state into avoidable darkness in a sharp response to the action meted to Joe Ajaero did not solve any problem. It will further erode the confidence in the system.
NLC is battling so hard only to end up being named economic saboteurs and treasonable felons. This should not be the pre-occupation of the NLC in this fragile period of our democratic growth. They cannot get results by deploying measures that are unlawful.; but they can make a strong point by being lawful. If there is a breakdown of law and order, the society suffers. The NLC should tarry awhile, do an in-house introspection and act in the best interest of the state; the workers. This is my honest advice.