by Chika Uwazie
Is this what leaders of the labor union call success?
For two weeks, the spotlight shone on Nigeria as the global community witnessed the massive movement against the recent removal of the fuel subsidy. Overnight, in the midst of a common enemy, former adversaries became comrades. Nigerians of all ethnicities, came together to fight not only for the removal of the fuel subsidy, but the corruption that was deeply intertwined with this decision.
The movement started with protests and was followed by the call via social media to #OcuppyNigeria. An economic shutdown ensued; ours was a protest quite reminiscent of Egypt and Libya. We witnessed Christians protecting Muslims as they prayed and people donating what they could in order to assist with the protest. After several negations made by leaders of the Nigerian Unions (NLC & TUC), it appeared the government and the unions reached an impasse. Suddenly, the people were informed that an agreement had been met. The fuel price would be lowered to 97 Naira; apparently we the people were supposed to regard this as a success. Truthfully, this agreement is far from a success and reveals that the leaders of labor unions were only thinking of themselves when this agreement was reached. We continue to settle for the easy route, the one that eases our pain temporarily. This begs the question: why would we start a journey to only complete it half way?
The premise behind the labor union is to represent the workers of a particular industry. When this decision was made, who consulted the people on this final price? How long will we continue to allow the government to believe that people can be bought to change their mind? Did people risk their life, and perish for 97 Naira fuel. In the official letter to call of the strikes union leaders expressed their gratitude towards those participating in the protests, and then assured Nigerians that the government will never take its citizens for granted again. This statement has not been adequately supplemented with action. Every day, the government continues to insult our intelligence. For example, up to today, there still has not been any compulsion by the government to inform the people how they will acclimate the nation as a whole to the sudden increase in price.
Is this what leaders of the labour union call success? It is not enough for people to hear rhetoric of what the government will deliver, when we have been hearing this same tall tales for decades. It is not enough to send reports of what Nigeria will be 10 years from now when the market woman is wondering how she will provide for her family today.
The leaders of these unions knew that there was no substance backing President Goodluck’s removal of subsidy as we saw the government continue to change their reasons. If leaders who represent the masses continue to settle for a corrupt government, then we will continue to live in this toxic mindset of “business as usual”. This movement started with the removal of subsidy, but has evolved to an outcry against corruption that continues to subsidize government pockets. Not only did the labor unions leaders fail to fight for the demands of the people, they also spread the news of “success” all over the media in order to slow down the momentum of #OccupyNigeria. Instead of these union leaders to fight for a true triumph towards the fight of corruption, we have been left with a feeling of dissatisfaction because people continue to put greed in front of the priority of a better Nigeria. Some call it selling out. I call this a dereliction of duty