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The troubled road of Trade Unionism

After the poor coordination and lackluster performance of ComradeAyuba Waba-led NLC on Wednesday, May 18, unabashed broadcaster and situations analyst, Mr. Jones Usen in his popular programme, Kubanji Direct, had good reasons to take the NLC leader and Nigerian workers down memory lane, so everyone short of memory would hear, consider and think.

Below is his prologue titled, ‘NLC, a matter of belabouring the matter of labour’.

His reign as NLC leader was just before and in the General Yakubu Gowon years. It would be recalled that he was almost mould to death by soldiers following a trade dispute. His long walk to violence had started in 1964 during the general strike of that year. One recalls with condor that Wahab was defended by the same FRA Williams, Bode Thomas and Remi Fani kayode in the court. The fire of defiance by labour was heavily doused in post independence Nigeria; no thanks to a succession of military rule. Perhaps the Babangida years spelt death for trade unionism in Nigeria.

Now, trade disputes became ten for a dime and made the Nigerian worker easy pickings for government agents. A case in point is the Frank Kokori June 12, 1993 struggle that pitched him against the goggled General Sani Abacha. Kokori became an instant folk hero and almost brought Abacha down to his knees, until quislings among labour ranks betrayed him. From thence on Labour lost its bite and may be its relevance, moreso in a 21st Century Nigeria where ideas ruled the space.

Today’s labour union in Nigeria baggers tons of conviction and principle that I make bold to say only a handful of Nigerians are surprised at the reported split at the Nigerian Labour Congress. Sixteen years of the PDP (1999-2015) witnessed a lame duck NLC that did not lift a finger when President Obasanjo spent $16 billion supposedly on electricity. The NLC was reticent and immobilized when the Petroleum Industry Bill PIB was suffocated at the National Assembly for the best part of 16 years.

Only on Tuesday the National Assembly made quite a meal of buying 36 expensive jeeps at twice the showroom price much against the grain of logic. So what did labour do, when pro and anti Saraki sentiments rented the air the National Assembly complex? So calling the Nigerian worker out on a strike on account of the new pump price regime of petroleum product is…fiscal(?) in that in our estimation and diverting, as a matter of fact, is belabouring the matter of labour.

In progressive jurisdictions, labour is directed towards producing some effects; the false knowledge bandied about by the organised labour is much more dangerous than ignorance. Ethics we are made to believe is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. The mood in the country at the moment is a subdued one; labour is depressed because the critical mass of angry and angered Nigerians are missing in action and the Nigerian worker is restrained.

According to an American writer and novelist, Mac Twain, “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

That is what is Nigerian workers require from organised labour now.

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