When the controversial Mallam Sanusi took his habitual goof a step further by insulting the intelligence of the Nigerian masses at the Second Annual Capital Market Committee Retreat in Warri, Delta State last week by stating that ‘at least 50% of the Nigerian entire workforce should be sacked’, many people believed that the Mallam had touch the tale of a tiger and he must pay for the consequence. Immediately I read it in The Punch Newspaper of Wednesday 28th, 2012, I thought I could predict what exactly the reaction to his comment was going to look like: NLC leaders will immediately come up with a press statement castigating Sanusi and perhaps call for his removal, the civil society will rise up in their numbers to reprimand the capitalist’s hit-man, our ever-zealous Femi Falana and other concerned learned ‘comrades in gown’ will caution this agent of destruction to watch his statements, our ever-articulate pen-pushers will begin to open our eyes to the high level of corruption and money that is being accrued to the institutions such as the Central Bank under Sanusi and the National Assembly will advise him to stop overheating the polity. Then, everybody, including the NLC, will go back to sleep and Sanusi will continue to enjoy all the luxury that his office attracts. After all, this is Nigeria where every citizen is expected to have a short memory.
In all the events that have happened since the Mallam’s provocative and anti-people statement, this writer has been proved right. Strangely, the only unexpected twist that has since been added to the drama was the entrance of the CPC who lambasted NLC leadership over its call for Sanusi’s removal. To the party, the CBN boss is just an individual who cannot influence any policy within the Executive! This statement only shows the level of intellects of those that made up the CPC and it also indicates that in terms of policies, all the present capitalist political parties in Nigeria are birds of a feather. But how could anyone fault the CPC’s position? After all, its leader is Muhammadu Buhari, a man who declared in one of his 2011 Presidential debate that there is nothing wrong with the Nigerian Educational sector. To him, ‘everything is just perfect’.
Beyond this, however, Sanusi’s tirade and the CPC’s diatribe are reflections of the erosion of NLC’s leadership hypothetical intimidating credentials. It portrays them as the paper tiger that only appears scary but cannot exhibit the real traits of a true tiger. In a sanity capitalist’s clime, the name of organised labour is enough to intimate any oppressive strata of the ruling elites, even the President of a Country cannot just say that workers are irrelevant not to talk of a bourgeoisies economic handbag such as the CBN Governor. Ditto for political parties, the control that the Labour leadership has over the masses electorate is enough to compel these political parties to always hold the NLC Leadership in such a high reverence.
In our case, reverse has been the case. That a political party who is still relying on the goodwill of the people to climb the mantle of relevance could tell the NLC leaders to go to hell and ‘stop being hypocritical’ shows a sad reflection of NLC’s popularity. Sanusi may be anything but daft, he knows that Nigeria is the only country where a government agent could make such a statement and still be allowed by the labour unions to remain in power. In a sanity clime, his tenure would have become history by now. But our own NLC is just a paper tiger whose threat doesn’t go beyond the pages of newspapers.
In its hey days, Trade union leadership played an inestimably productive task in the progression of Nigerian society. It organized masses and promoted their interests in the framework of exploitative, manipulative and unfair civil relations. It participated vigorously in the decolonization process, and it struggled against neo-colonial regimes to gain concessions so as to protect the socio-economic interests of the downtrodden. It often opposed laxity, negligence and corruption in the management of the affairs of the state, and pursued a relatively nationalist and unifying project in contrast to the highly divisive politics of the post-colonial Nigerian ruling elites.
Ironically, the same cannot be said of the current crop of leadership. As Nigerian situation continues to get worsened by the day, the little gains of the labour movement to improve the living conditions of the Nigerian workers have become eroded; workers are now more agitated, disconcerted and perturbed, and they are looking forward for their leadership to proffer a concrete way forward but the leadership are either not just there or are busy romanticizing and dining with the ruling elite.
The disappointing manner in which the NLC ended the mass protests of January is still very fresh in the minds of the masses as the Union leaders maintained that it agreed to this as the Jonathan administration had promised to implement some programme that would ease the plight of the working masses. Unfortunately for the Labour leaders, the outcome of the whole drama points out the futility of being a gentle-compromising man in an encounter with a rascal. For barely two months after, the same government openly suspended the implementation of the limited ‘palliatives’ proposed in this respect while the fuel price is presently being sold, albeit unofficially, at the rate of #120 in many states across the land.
The result of such betrayal is the declining authority of NLC over industrial unions, stirring of discontent among the rank and file, declining popularity of labour officials and increased workers apathy and droopiness. When a sizeable number of State NLC were locked up in battle with their state Governors over the non-implementation of #18, 000 minimum wage, there was no concrete response from the National Leadership; when the workers’ casualization became the major policies of many state across the South West and even the Federal Government with its proposed U-win, the National leadership bluntly refused to fight against this evil of capitalism and while the university administrations across the land are raising their school fees to an astronomic levels that is beyond the means of the common masses and the progressives Unions are being proscribed, the NLC, with its TUC counterpart, is simply looking the other way.
Compromise under the guise of Consultation is rapidly replacing the Labour’s established method of Confrontation; the Specious Strategy of Settlement is Speedily Supplanting the ideologically rooted principles of Struggle as a Tactic, the social relevance of trade unions are becoming lowered to zero and the political relevance of Labour Union leaders have been whittled down. The condition and situation is even more disconcerting at the state levels as many Chairmen are simply parading the state parastatals and the Governors’ houses seeking appointment and contractual slots to make their personal purse swell and engorge. Arguably, the Nigerian Trade Unions has never had it this bad.
The workers’ goals cannot be realized by a set of leaders who will say one thing in the open but say something else in the secret; it cannot be actualized by those set of leaders who will yell all the principles of socialism to the rooftops only when they wanted to acquire a pecuniary affluence. The present NLC and TUC leadership are no more giving direction, if it has not lost direction itself.
And now that the Financial Hit-Man of the Nigerian ruling elites has spoken, NLC must not be deceived that Sanusi is speaking all alone. He has tactically revealed what the Jonathan government has in the pipeline for the Nigerian masses after 2015 election: Labour and the masses had better get set for the battles ahead.
That NLC’s intervention is pivotal to the growth and sustenance of genuine development of Nigeria is not in doubt. But, NLC’s ability to play active roles in promoting these principles as well as serving as a genuine mouthpiece of the masses have been severely circumvented in the last five years. For the NLC and TUC to be taken seriously by both the state and the employers, their leaders need to reflect seriously in their actions.
Finally, while it is envisaged that the current leadership of the Union will learn to do things better with time, a deliberate inconsistence which is almost becoming the order of the day will not only spell doom for the Union, it will erode the confidence which the entire masses had in it. The present leadership of the Union, therefore, needed to shape up or in the alternative remain stagnant, not only to its peril but also to the peril of the masses that are looking forward to the Union as their Saviour. Whatever be the situation, one thing that is clear is that it must not continue to be business as usual at the stable of Labour.
Department of History,
Obafemi Awolowo University
Ile Ife, Osun State Nigeria
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