The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), is a pan-Nigerian organisation that attracts lot of attention from Nigerians. The Congress recently elected Comrade Joe Ajaero, as it’s president. Below are some expectations of Nigerians from his leadership. CHRISTIAN APPOLOS, bring excerpts…
Mr Edmund Onwuliri, a Civil Servant…“The emergency of Comrade Joe Ajaero as the President of NLC is a good and welcome development. I believe that unions under the Congress found him suitable and good enough to lead them this time around. Yes, the expectations are high but I would like to focus on a particular aspect of what I will call an aggregate of the expectations of the majority of workers.
“Over time, it has been said that the leadership of NLC is an appendage or an extension of the government in power. I think that this notion is the aggregate of the views of a number of committed workers in Nigeria . The expectation is that NLC should be seen as being independent, being able to not just always be a watchdog but also work with government in making life of Nigerians better not otherwise, particularly those who are workers.
“We expect that new new leadership of NLC to position the Congress as an independent pan Nigerian organisation that does not need to tell workers and Nigerians where it stand, but whose actions will define and showcase it place and position in Nigeria. Protection of the interests of workers should evidently be paramount to this new NLC leadership.
“If you look at what is happening in Nigeria presently, one is tempted to ask, it is that NLC has lost its voice to call government attention to the sufferings of workers and Nigerians by extension, or that it can no longer take action with a view to causing government to ameliorating the suffering of workers.
“So the independence of the labour movement should be guaranteed, the independence of the labour movement should be sacrosanct. It must never be compromised. The new leadership of NLC must never be an appendage of government or an oh yes organization to the government.”
For Mr Ameh Ejekwoyilo, a journalist in Abuja. Hiss words are: “I think the new leadership of NLC has a lot on its table to do, in terms of rejuvenating public confidence and trust in Nigeria Labour Congress. NLC as the largest labour union in Africa, ought to live up to that space it occupies. I am convinced that within the last decade If not more, the NLC leadership has not lived up to the expectations of workers and Nigerians at large. The impression and perception of Nigerians rather is that NLC leadership often sells out at the most critical time.
“Look at the kind of mess that we have found ourselves in Nigeria lately. I am talking about the fuel scarcity and Naira redesign policy. Of course, if the NLC was up and doing, it would have been able to interface with the government and see how these issues can be resolved in the interest of workers who are suffering so much owing to these two issues.
“So we are expecting the new leadership of NLC to first rebuild the trust and confidence of all the affiliate unions on the Congress, as Mr Ajaero is his speech promised. Then chart a common front to tackle all the injustice that has deprived workers their human rights That should be the first thing he has to do. Of course, there is always room for dialogue and negotiations between government and the NLC, but it should not be at the detriment of the workers. These are some of the things that the new leadership must do to regain the confidence of Nigerians.”
Comrade Sylvester Nwaiwu, the National Chairman, Contribution Pension Scheme of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, said; “Our expectation from the newly emerged National Executive Council of NLC led by Comrade Joe Ajaero, is that they should lay emphasis on the contributory pension in Nigeria. It has never happened at any time that a country is running two parallel pension regimes. That is what we are having in the country today, different from the agreements government as employer reached with workers. And I have come to realise that Nigeria workers shows less interest to pension issues until they retire from office by then it is too late.
“We expects from Comrade Ajaero to emphasize the need to correct anomalies in the Contributory Pension Scheme sector. The pensioners there are suffering and as it is today the federal government hardly knows if there is anything called contributory pensioners. For instance, what we call pension increase that’s supposed to come every five years or when salaries increase, whichever comes first; from 2007 When retirees started emerging under the contributory pension scheme, federal government has not paid a dime to any contributory pension. But from 2007 till date, including the 2019 increment arise arising from the national minimum wage, every pensioner under the old defined benefit scheme has benefited from that, leaving those of us under the contributory pension scheme un-catered for.
“So it a very big job before the new leadership. And the earlier they start paying attention to that, the better for everyone because those are them in the office today will become pensioners tomorrow, including the President himself. So that’s our expectation.”
Mr Emenike Ikedichi Ubani, a Senior Lecturer said; “As a Nigerian and a worker, I expect the new leadership of NLC be be more committed to protecting the rights of workers both in public and private organizations. It a Congress that is expected to look out for workers’ interest and wellbeing. But I cannot say how much the efforts of the recent past NLC leadership impacted to reducing the suffering of workers arising from government’s policies.
“We are bombarded by terrible policies that caused fuel price to increase and now scarcity of naira notes, electricity tariff is another one and so on. In all of these that affect workers so much, all you hear or see is press statements and empty words from NLC.
“So i expect that the leadership who our monies will be given every month in the name of checkoff dues to work for our interest, should be seeing to doing that they are elected to do. That is protect workers’ interest and welfare. Resist policies of government that makes us poor even though we are working hard.”
A Senior Journalist, Mr Collins Olayinka, on his part said . “The Joe Ajaero-led national administrative council of the NLC has only one job. This most critical job is just one and its to reconnect NLC to Nigeria once again. Because since 2007 NLC gradually moved itself away from the Nigerian people and its allies in the civil society groups.
“Note that for the nine times that President Obasanjo increased fuel price, labour resisted nine times when Adams Oshiomole was NLC President. And within 1999 and 2007, the resistance of labour unions always led to a slash reduction in the price of petroleum motor spirit (PMS) in Nigeria. The moving away from that happened under Abdul Waheeb Umar leadership when labour failed to influence a reduction in the price of petrol. And from then, NLC systematically alienated Nigerians from labour union struggle, and the trajectory continue tragically till now.
“Therefore, Joe Ajaero will do himself and his team a lot of good if he find away to reconnect NLC with the Nigerian people.
So the task befor Comrade Ajaero is to reconnect the Congress with the Nigerian people and struck that cord again, where Nigerian people will be proud to join NLC to the streets whenever it calls for action.
“I’m very pleased that in his acceptance speech, he made an allusion to this is, that one of the things that he will prioritise is to reconnect with the Nigerian, knowing that that is very important. No matter the achievements of Joe Ajaero, it will not matter to Nigeria until he rise up in defense of the working poor Nigerians against poverty engendering policies of government.
“So history beacons on Comrade Joe Ajaero to take the Nigeria Labour Congress from the ashes it is today into a glorious future. I’m not too sure if history will be kind to Ajaero if he fails to do this. This is a position he had labour, struggled, seeked, now he has gotten it. He cannot let Nigerian workers and people down. Most importantly he cannot afford to let himself down.”
Joshua Onoshoho, an Interior Designer, said; “NLC in recent past casted a lot of doubts in the mind of workers and Nigerians at large. The romance with government and quick acceptance of government policies that have taken workers below poverty line, made a lot of workers and Nigerians lost interest in the Congress. People no longer believe and trust NLC. Seeing they say is believing, and workers and Nigerians saw nothing serious in the recent past to trust NLC. It is either they don’t understood some polices of government and how terribly they are affecting workers or they collected their share and decided to let workers carry their cross on their own.
“Yes NLC is not government but it’s has the legitimate right to protest against polices that are against the interest of workers. I expect the new leadership to cross check government policies very well before any form of negotiations. The new president and his team must not take any decision or stand to go on strike if it is not sure of seeing it through. They must not ridicule NLC by backing out when nothing has been achieved.
“Again, NLC need image redemption from a lot of workers who are unfortunately their members but doesn’t trust and believe in the leadership, and of course the Nigerian masses. In the past, when NLC call for strike, people troop out but such a thing has not happened in the recent past. So the new leadership must fix that trust and believe the ordinary Nigerian had on the Congress so that when NLC call for strike, Nigerians will come out and support their course.
“Because the mind set of Nigerians after a number of call for strike is that NLC now plays game with workers like politicians do. They call for strike, go behind to settle with government and then come out to say one thing for the other. That must change if NLC must once again take its rightful place in Nigeria polity.
“The leadership must ensure that anything faction does not ruse it head again, so there must be serious reconciliation of different interests and that NLC will truly be one body that speaks in one voice.”
Comrade Ofomhi Christopher, Executive Director, Integrity Advocacy for Development Initiative, said ; “A lot is expected of this new President of NLC and his team unlike before, because people believe that NLC now is just like a toothless bulldog. In recent past, when they raise issues and call for strike, Nigerians will be expecting serious action but before you know it, they will align with government.
“For me, I think Comrade Ajaero will do better. I saw the energy and the sincerity with which he tackled government against the electricity tariff contestation. So I feel we will see something different.
“So the expectation from him is to always stand by workers and Nigerians at large and look at issues before he dive into it. Because we have had past NLC president that showed that they rather ago with the leadership of the federal government , than standing with the masses. He should not agree with government policies that metes hardship to the masses.”
Habeeb Kamal, a University Non Academic Staff. Had this to say: Comrade Ajaero must galvanise the trade unions under its umbrella and strengthen them to be a serious force in the Nigerian polity. NLC under this new leadership should make itself relevant again in Nigeria as a major stakeholder. It should be a serious watchdog to all the organs of the government.
“Labour is not longer speaking for the interest of workers and Nigerians who are suffering from the bad policies of government as expected. NLC as pan Nigerian Organisation can help in ensuring a free and fare election in Nigeria if it get its act together. So the new leadership should serious look into this direction.”A Senior Media Practitioner,
Mr Friday Olokor, A Senior Media Practioner and Group Politics Editor of The PUNCH… said. “I have known Mr Joe Ajaero since around 2003. From the newsroom to being the General Secretary of the Electricity workers Union and the leadership of a labour centre; the Nigeria Labour Congress. It is expected that for somebody who has learn those ropes, he should be able to use his experiences to fight for Nigerian workers.
“It is expected that he should fight for the oppressed and the masses. He should not join the bandwagon of some people who got there and sacrifice the struggle on the altar of personal interest and aggrandisement. I believe that Comrade Joe Ajaero will set a better pace for others to follow. I believe he will do more to champion the course of Nigerian workers.”