BY A.D AMANFO Esq.
The phrase ‘Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face’ is known to have been used in the 12th century. It may be associated with the numerous legends of pious women disfiguring themselves in order to protect their virginity.
As opaque as this may sound, history is however repeating itself in Nigeria as depicted in the NLC versus FG imbroglio, with the Nigerian people being sort for as the beautiful bride.
I am in shock however to find out that Most Nigerians are mocking the Nigerian Labour Congress because of the semi-failed indefinite strike action. I hear there are counter protests in parts of Lagos, Abuja and even Bauchi. In parts of Jos, there were reports that labour union leaders were even stoned and shunned at the market place.
This in my opinion is the height of crass foolishness and show of ignorance by the Nigerian people and as such is tantamount to making merry and dancing ‘Azonto’ on the graves of our unborn children. Pardon my choice of words but It is a needless self-destructive over-reaction to a problem that can ordinarily be solved. This is because the NLC has always been there for the Nigerian people. They may have faltered sometimes but when we look at the flip side, they are a necessary evil in the sense of the word. And as the African proverb puts it, ‘Caution is needed to kill a tse-tse fly that perches on the scrotum’.
For those who exhibited such unruly behavior to our NLC suitors and those in support of same, it is imperative to refresh our minds and take a cursory look over the history and functions of the NLC. And to understand that what the government of the day is attempting to do by causing division, chaos and disaffection amongst the labour Union and between the people for whom the NLC represents and the NLC itself is a subtle attempt to shed a very important aspect of checks and Balance by painting the NLC with the tar of over zealousness and insensitivity to the plight of the people. What the government fails to recognize is that the people always win and it is not today NLC has faced such struggles.
In the 1980s, the NLC was torn apart by leadership struggles, ideological differences, and ethnoregional conflicts. The NLC nearly broke up in 1988 after disagreements over elections of its leadership, resulting in the federal government’s appointing an administrator for several months. The NLC organized a nationwide workers’ strike in 1986 to demand the retention of government subsidies on petroleum products and continued to articulate workers’ demands on matters such as minimum wages and improved welfare conditions. Several other trade unions were also active. A few, such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities, were proscribed for alleged antigovernment activities. But the NLC has remained relevant even today.
The role and functions of the NLC cannot be over emphasized. It is a union that government cannot even do without as it has acted in the capacity of the mouth piece of the people world over to a reasonable extent.
“The main objective of a trade union is to promote the interest of its members, due regard being paid to the interest of the total labour force and to the greater national interest. To achieve this aim, trade unions have a duty to maintain the viability of the undertaking by ensuring cooperation with management in measures to promote efficiency and good industrial relations.
It’s basic roles include;
1. Political role, using collective power to influence decisions on behalf of members and the wider society;
2. Market role, by intervention wage bargaining and thus impacting on the economy;
3. Regulatory role by setting standards in relation to jobs and terms and conditions;
4. Democratizing role, in creating industrial democracy at the workplace;
5. Service role, in promoting the intervention of members;
6. Enhancement role in helping to develop the human potential of members; and
7. Welfare role in providing assistance to particular groups.
With the above in view , it is clear that a people without a trade or labour Union in place, practically short changes itself and as such it’s role and functions are a necessity.
Workers who do not want to stand with the NLC have all of a sudden forgotten than the minimum wage of 18,000 Naira enjoyed by Nigerians was as a result of the negotiations brokered by the NLC. It is true that so many governments use or attempt to use the NLC atimes in causing division among the people with the aim of brokering Peace, in as much as this nefarious action is frowned at, it has always helped in keeping the peace when the government needs it. An example is the 2012 mass protest. The government cannot deny that fact.
The Njgerian people should understand that it is foolishness to throw away the baby with the bath water simply because the baby defecated in the bath…. We should also know that it is an act of insanity for one to cut off his nose, just to spite his face this is tantamount to the action of the numerous Nigerians who have been mocking NLC with their actions and inaction.
The school of thought that the Nigerian people trust the Buhari led administration so much that they are ready to do away with the NLC doesn’t hold water and doesn’t make sense in the same vein. My reason is this, Do we know if we will trust the next government as much as we trust this one. We should at this point in our Democracy begin to build strong institutions and not hold unto an unsubstantiated mirage of trust around strong personalities that has over time disappointed us.
It is a shame that a democratic government who was voted in by the people will go to court to seek an injunction against the same people , simply because they want to protest and air their displeasure against a government policy which the government claims is for their benefit. This reminds me of the twain African proverbs that says…. ‘ you cannot beat a child to take away its tears’ and ‘ you cannot beat a child and expect him not to cry’.
The government of the day has proven to have a knack for duplicity and living in denial, as evidenced in the fact that this same NLC was backed by the APC during the popular 2012 subsidy protest, only to turn around to bare its claws on them. It is also a known fact that this government supported and recognized this same Faction of the NLC on Workers Day only to turn around to support the other group simply because it doesn’t support its uncoordinated policies. This is the same government who has encouraged us to tighten our belts and sacrifice our very lives when they have refused to sacrifice the use of 11 presidential jets as inherited by the previous government. It is a sad situation when a supposedly authoritative government bares its Janus face at every given opportunity showing us a different face whenever we turn our backs. In all of this ,if this trend and negative precedent isn’t nipped at the bud, posterity will judge us when the NLC decides to become another arm of the government. In all of these the Nigerian people will remain the ones who will bear the brunt and bite the bullet.