This piece was first published mid May, 2014. It’s very timely this week given the fact that the central labour movement in Nigeria, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, 11th national delegates conference held in Abuja last week was inconclusive. What was surprised to be the climax of the conference, election of officers was truncated mid way due to mutual suspicion amongst the gladiators. But they blamed it on external forces. What external forces? They shamefully turned the conference venue into a battle ground. Sad, the outgoing leadership of the NLC has made the labour body a laughing stock! Nigerian workers need a redeemer.We have never had it so bad since the inception of organised labour in Nigeria..As the NEC of the NLC meets in Abuja today to possibly fashion out the way out of the logjam, past leaders and well-meaning Nigerians must not allow this labour body to go down, because some persons seem to be bent on trading it off for their selfish gains. Whenever another opportunity beckons to elect new officers, delegates must shine their eyes to put in place vibrant and purposeful officers with lIver.
As a trade unionist cum activist I was pained watching leaders of organised labour dancing and rejoicing in celebration of May Day 2014. I was particularly nauseated listening to their empty speeches, laced with the usual condemnations of government’s actions or inactions. I asked myself of what has become of labour movement in Nigeria.Where are the Atkokhaimen Ominous Imoudus,where are the Hassan Sumonus, where are the Ali Chromas, the Pascal Bayfous and of course the irrepressible Adams Aliyu Oshiomholes? The present crop of leadership have thrown active trade unionism of socio-economic relevance to the dogs for their personal comfort. It is fashionable today to grow pot belly as a sign of feeding fat on workers’ welfare, their past time is peppersoup and liquors and of course hobnobbing with the oppressive government agents and the mean capitalists who are out to maximize profits using the blood of hapless Nigerian workers. I am sure the Imoudos who suffered to lay the foundation of organised labour in this country will be livid with rage and highly disappointed where ever they are today because of what has become of their efforts. This is definitly not the seed of organised labour they sowd in February 28, 1978 in the ancient city of Ibaden. To say the least, the colorless leadership as led by Abduwaheed Omar has disappointed Nigerians and we are in a hurry to see it park it’s bag and baggage out of the Labour House come 2015. Where is the aggression, where is the vibrancy where is the pragmatism which are the hallmarks of labour movements in Nigeria? We want a return to that golden era of where labour will look government and and other capitalists strait in the eyes and tell them what they hate to hear., We want a return to the era of dignity for the toiling Nigerian worker.
if there was any reason for the Nigerian workforce to come out on that fateful Thursday, May 1, 2014 it was to protest the shedding of innocent blood of toiling Nigerian workers in the name of insurgency, their pauperiization and dehumanization by the system. And of course, the collateral betrayal and deceit suffered in the hands of the spineless leadership since year 2007. I expected nothing short of a boycott of this year’s May Day by organised labour in the face of the general insecurity in the country where scores of Nigerian workfers have fallen victims, either killed or maimed. If the leadership of organised labour had taken this reasonable stand, it would have succeeded in driving home a very strong message to the government and nay the international community, given the fact that most of the victims of the first Nyanya blast of April 14, 2014 were workers struggling to catch cheap mass transit buses to their work places in the early hours of that fateful day. About 77 were callously sent to their early graves and over 100 others with broken limbs or severe burns. As if that was not bad enough to make the NLC leadership put on its thinking cap, barely two weeks after, specifically, on May Day, another deadly blast claimed 19 lives, leaving many others with serious injuries. Again, a good number of these victims were said to be workers who were on their way home from the May Day rally. Unfortunately, it occurred on the same spot as the first one despite the heavy security checks mounted by security agenices, causing alot of traffic jams with the attendant discomfort to human movements. Unfortunately, the NLC seems not to realise that an attack on the toiling workers that lubricate the wheels of the nation’s economy is a direct attack on productivity and of course, the economy.
The present officers as headed by colorless Omar seem to have forgotten that the primary responsibility of organised labour, among others, is the general improvement in the socio-economic condition of the workers and to promote, defend and maintain the rights and interests of the worker. Unfortunately the present leadership cannot beat its chest to say it has so far delivered on this universally recognised mandate. For instance, the crude recruitment exercise carried out by the Immigration Service remains a sour taste in the mouth. How else would one describe an organised labour who keeps criminal silence in the face of deaths of young job seekers arising from the carelessness and insensitivity on the part of government agents? Official figure puts the death toll at 20 with over 50 others injured in the shoddy job excercise laced with corruption.About three months after, the head of the ministry is sitting comfortably in office despite the public outcry. One should have expected the NLC to seal off the immigration premises as a way of forcing the sit tight minister to resign. Again, we have the NLC, yet, the PHCN was fraudulently sold with the workers still in the cold having been shortchanged by these heartless capitalists. The nation’s refineries are on the line ready to be sold as peanuts. Different figures are being bandied as missing from the NNPC and the whistle blower, Sanusi, has been thrown out of office in a very crude and callous manner, yet, the NLC is afraid to act as the conscience of the Nigerian workforce. What a criminal silence! By now, a vibrant and pragmantic organised labour would have mounted pressure on government , forcing it to do the needful. Away with these verbal condemnations and resolutions. Nigerian workers deserve more than these mere rhetorics and nothing but action with results. Enough of this docility. Nigerian workers must shine their eyes as they go to the polls in 2015 to pick another set of national leadership for the central labour body. Government will be ready to do anything to influence the successor to Omar. Government enjoyed his tenure to the detriment of the toiling workforce, so, it will most likely go for another spineless Omar. Nigerian workers must not make another mistake as it will be very costly, 2015 is an election year.

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