Tinubu, Labour leaders’ hide-and-seek game by Bola Bolawole


For the umpteenth time, Labour leaders have suspended their declared strike action after an eleventh-hour meeting with the government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. They said the suspension is for a period of one month. If, at the expiration of one month nothing concrete comes out of the so-called “promisory note” the Labour leaders said they got from the government – as a result of which the latest threat of strike action was suspended – what happens? They will start mobilizing for another strike again! The government will wait for the new deadline to approach before calling them in again for another meeting and another “promisory note” ad infinitum, and ad nauseam!

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Who is fooling who? Or is this a combination of both the government and Labour fooling the people? How long will this game of musical chairs go on? That is one problem I have with the Labour leaders and their incessant threat of strike actions which they have been unable to carry through. Another is that I do not believe that strike is the proper weapon to wield at this point in time or that incremental wage increment is the solution to the problems at hand. N35,000, which the government has promised Labour, cannot buy a bag of rice and it cannot fill the tank of an average-size car with petrol that will last for more than one week. And this for only Federal Government workers and for only six months! What happens to other workers and non-workers alike? What happens after six months?

Nigeria’s problems are more structural and fundamental; the FG/Labour so-called MOU makes a mockery of a very serious matter. It’s akin to the so-called palliatives they claim to be sharing all over the place. The mockery of a palliative that palliates nothing apart, another is the callousness of those superintending the sharing in many instances, in that even this measly offering is not allowed to get to those who desperately need it. Our problems are more fundamental than Labour is making of them. For once, they should be patriotic enough not to allow the check-off dues they will cream off workers’ enhanced wages to be the main motivation. If the Labour movement is intent on helping the masses as well as seeing to the prosperity of this country, it has to change its focus and orientation.

There are more lofty ideas it should push forward. There are goals that will better benefit society at large that it should pursue than the tiny, tiny concessions it is disturbing our peace over again and again. This is not the time for the usual “aluta” grandstanding by Labour; our problems are very deep and demand sober reflection. It demands the putting together of heads by government and Labour – everyone, including those who have relocated to Chicago – to proffer solutions that will point the way forward in the right direction. Strike actions will further worsen an already bad economic situation.

The “promisory note” that Labour is gloating over cannot even make a dent in the armour of poverty that has enveloped the entire country. Labour was here when Muhammadu Buhari and his cabals cannibalized the economy and took the country back to the Stone Age. To now pretend and gallivant all over the place, making fiery but deceitful statements purporting that a four-month-old government will just wave a magic wand that will cause all the problems to disappear and usher in an El-Dorado overnight is not only unrealistic, it is also irresponsible.

I expect Labour to address itself to the core problems that need to be tackled and not play to the gallery. Getting the refineries to work so that the price of petrol, diesel and other petroleum products can climb down considerably is one such problem. The belated decision to jointly patrol ongoing work on the refineries by FG and Labour is, in my view, the right step in the right direction. Let the Labour movement keep a round-the-clock watch over the refineries and give the citizens blow-by-blow-account of what is going on there. Will the refineries be ready in December as promised? What of Dangote’s own refinery? Are we producing enough crude to feed the refineries? We must not wait until December before we start threatening strike action again over another botched promise.

Critical and fundamental issues such as restructuring, reducing the cost of governance and a probe of the Buhari administration are what I expect Labour to lead. Carry the elephant on your head rather than use your toes to hunt crickets! The groundswell of opinion is that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic (as amended) is defective and can only lead the country down the precipice. Does Labour share this view? If it does, it should lead the agitation for a better Nigeria but if it does not, then, it means that it is not in tune with reality.

While the people are demanding for a drastic reduction in the cost of governance, the government at all levels carry on as if nothing is amiss. Governors are appointing hundreds of aides. The National Assembly is buying bullet proof cars in a country that is the poverty capital of the world. If Nigerians have developed a thick skin to evidence of monumental corruption that was taken to dizzying heights by Buhari and his cabals, should Labour also follow suit? If Labour declares a strike over the humongous corruption perpetrated by the Buhari administration, Nigerians will salute it.

Education is being priced beyond the reach of students in our institutions of higher learning. Tears welled in my eyes when two youths in my church, both of them orphans, came to me to announce that they might drop out of LAG, as they call it, because of the increase in fees. Student leaders are in the streets demonstrating against the increase in fees but has Labour joined them? ASUU, an affiliate of the NLC, was at the receiving end of the big stick from Buhari for eight months without Labour lifting a finger. Is payment of the eight months’ salary arrears to ASUU part of the negotiation of Labour with the Tinubu administration?

If Labour partners Nigerian students to resist the commercialization of education; if it partners ASUU to arrest the rot in our institutions of higher learning and lean on the FG to respect its MOU with ASUU, the generality of Nigerians will be better served than the measly and selfish “promisory note” from the FG that Labour is waving in our face. One of the salutary effects of the removal of fuel subsidy, if I may call it that, is that more funds have been available for sharing to the three tiers of government – but will that not translate into more security votes for governors and more money in the pockets of our political leaders? Will it translate into the regular payment of salary and pension arrears, and enhanced salaries as at when due? Will it translate into drugs in the hospitals, good roads, employment of more teachers, doctors, nurses and other essential workers?

I can go on and on! Labour’s approach to Nigeria’s problems is embarrassingly pedestrian. Fortunately, we have had Labour leaders properly so-called in this country. We saw Labour leaders like Pa Michael Imoudu during the colonial era. And we saw Labour leaders after Independence. As a reporter, I covered Labour and I saw Labour leaders like Hassan Sunmonu, Lasisi Osunde and even Paschal Bafyau, Frank Kokori and others. Incidentally, many of the Labour leaders of today were pupils of those leaders but why are they not following in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors? Labour began to show signs of compromise during the time of Bafyau; Adams Oshiomhole as NLC president, though loud, did not fare better. Running with the hare and hunting with the hound; speaking from both sides of the mouth; leading workers on protest in daytime, making fiery speeches but dining with the “oppressors” in the night hallmarked the Labour activities of that period. In my view, Labour is yet to recover from the shenanigans of that epoch.

Inflation is at an all-time high. Unemployment figures are alarming. The “japa” syndrome has emptied the country of critical professionals; industries and capital are voting with their feet. Insecurity has driven farmers off the farm and food shortages have seen food prices shooting through the roof. Youth restiveness and heightened crime wave are turning the country into the Hobbesian “state of nature of the war of one against all, where life is brutish, nasty and short” A holistic approach to the country’s myriad problems is needed. Labour’s playing to the gallery obfuscates issues. They raise workers’ hopes but dash them at the eleventh hour. Is it not safe, then, to conclude that they are part of the problem and not part of the solution?

Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

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