During the swearing in of the Ayuba Wabba faction of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Governor Adams Oshiomole of Edo state, who is a former National President of the NLC, made a statement that rings true now more than ever.
Oshiomole had said: “It must be obvious to you by now, Comrade President, that the Nigerian Labour Movement, and in particular, the Congress, has lost a significant amount of prestige and influence in the eyes of the Nigerian working people and the Nigerian public at large.
“The Nigeria people no longer see the congress as the ‘voice of voiceless’, and a bulwark against socio-economic and political oppression and injustices in the polity. The congress is essentially viewed as either being complicit, or at best, indifferent to the cries of the working class people and the middle class citizens who are daily at the receiving end of an unjust social order.”
Oshiomole said it all and even went on to tell us that the NLC has become part of a system that is oppressing and working against the Nigerian workers.
To some extent the Comrade Governor said the truth.
And here’s why we think the NLC is losing its influence:
1) NLC is a house divided against itself
The congress is currently in talks with the federal government for a reduction in the pump price of fuel and an increase in minimum wage. But the talks might not come to much as the union has two totally different factions tahat are fighting each other for power, both factions negotiating with the federal government.
While the Joe Ajaero-led NLC faction is said to have come to an agreement with government, the Ayuba led faction has remained resolute and have embarked on industrial actions -despite a subsisting court order restraining them.
The federal government, as any sensible institution should, will most probably take advantage of this division in NLC and drive home its agenda.
Nigerians, on the hand, are wary of the union. Some are unsure of which faction to pitch their tent with while others, like this,
Read. Stay at home tomorrow, ignore the NLC, I don't want to lose you, do not die for their yeye dreams! pic.twitter.com/ENfbDmBjwY
— Pa Ikhide (@ikhide) May 17, 2016
do not really care about the union.
2) When Nigerians became political tool
In 2012, a vast majority of Nigerians came out in droves to support the NLC and press home their demand for a reversal of the fuel increase by the Jonathan administration.
The 2012 subsidy protest, popularly called Occupy Nigeria, was the first time in many years that Nigerians, regardless of political, religious and ethnic affiliations, came out to massively protest government decision.
And it worked, Nigerians were satisfied. Fuel price was reduced. Hurray!
Fast forward to 2016, fuel price has been increased and its removal supported by same people that protested its increase in 2012.
Nigerians are betrayed, deeply betrayed, by the simple fact that they were used as political tools to achieve the agenda of a select few.
The fact that NLC isn’t a political establishment doesn’t matter, their involvement in the 2012 protest was more than enough to discredit them in the eyes of Nigerians, who at this time have little or no faith in any public institution or civil society that took part in the Occupy Nigeria protest.
3) The union is a shadow of itself
There was a time when the NLC called and Nigerians listened. In fact, the union was such a terror to government at all levels that Nigerian loved them for being legal terrorists. The NLC during the military regime and the Obasanjo administration constantly had confrontations that often ended with NLC leader either getting arrested, jailed, tear gassed, and even beaten.
Till date Oshiomole is remembered and respected for his role as NLC president -despite his several shortcomings as a politician.
Every other NLC executive, including the present NLC, have walked in the shadows of Oshiomole and his predecessors. And are not making any move to step out of their shadow.
Today, more than ever, and what happens with the strike will determine how lont the NLC will last, and how.
So far, with Lagos, Abuja and more than half the states of the country ignoring its strike call, the prognosis doesn’t look good.