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NLC and burden of succession


IS it correct to say that the 11th delegates’ conference of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has been concluded with Wabba Ayuba emerging President or there is another delegates’ conference in Lagos this week?

Well, it depends from which of the divides or perspective one looks at the matter.
In this latest imbroglio, there are three sides to the NLC quagmire – NLC secretariat, the ‘Restoration group’ and ‘Redemption group’. The secretariat organised the two elections in Abuja, the ‘redemption group’ led by the new President and immediate past Treasurer of Congress, Wabba Ayuba believed that the 11th delegates’ conference has been concluded with winners emerging while the ‘restoration group’ led by the General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and a Presidential Candidate in the election, Joe Ajaero thinks the election were ‘inconclusive’ hence the need for yet another round of election this time in Lagos this week Friday and Saturday.

The question begging for answer (s) is: “why this high-level of intrigues and interests in the NLC elections?
In an attempt to provide answer to this poser, many permutations have emerged. Some of the issues that are associated with this hyperactive interest are closely linked to the prevailing political activities in the country. Some observers are of the opinion that both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Congress (APC) have a hand in swinging the pendulum amongst the two candidates. The same line of thought is also associated with former President of the NLC and Governor of Edo state, Adams Oshiomhole as playing more than passive role in the unfolding event.
Now, to the specifics in an attempt to unpack this puzzle. First, Oshiomhole belongs to the APC and has been canvassing votes for his party. So, who is he likely to support amongst the two candidates to woo votes for his party?
Scenario one. If Oshiomhole is believed to be supporting Wabba, will the posters of him embracing Ajaero that littered the venue of the election justify this? If he is accused of supporting Ajaero because of the posters, is it plausible that Oshiomhole will support a factionalization of the NLC as the planned Lagos ‘special delegates conference’ suggests? Will he willingly destroy the very platform that he served so faithfully and was duly rewarded on the political turf?

Can the PDP be supporting Ajaero? While it is public knowledge that percentage of the severance package of the disengaged electricity workers was given to the two electricity workers’ unions by PDP-led government and should therefore expect a payback in form of electoral gain especially if Ajaero wins, his closeness to Oshiomhole paints this scenario unviable. Will the PDP use the destabilization of the NLC as a ploy to deprive Oshiomhole of electoral influence from his constituency? The unfolding events may be kind enough to reveal the factors that have been pulling the strings behind the scene in no too distant time. 

Even though the Ajaero group had clear three weeks to point out any perceived anomalies in the re-run election, it chose to wait till after the results were known to point out irregularities and observations.
On Saturday, the group of 18 unions conveyed a joint Central Working Committee (CWC) and National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the NLC at the Grace point hotel in Abuja made up of Presidents and General Secretaries of 23 affiliates of the NLC. The secretariat was not involved at any stage.
The communiqué issued at the end of the parley was signed by Joe Ajaero, General Secretary, National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE)/Former Deputy President, Igwe Achese, President, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG)/Former Trustee and Issa Aremu, mni, General Secretary, National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN)/Former Vice President of NLC.

The communiqué was also copied to all industrial unions, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Labour and
Productivity, Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), Labour Veterans, International Labour Organization (ILO), OATUU and ITUC.

While rejecting the outcome of the reconvened election at the Eagles square, the group said it regretted that what was supposed to be a single item agenda and therefore not expected to last for more than one day sadly took two days. Indeed once again it turned out to be another show of shame with all the challenges and inconveniences to the delegates in particular and the labour veterans present.

It declared that just like the previous failed election, there was an unacceptable disregard for rules and regulations in the latest election. It added: “Rules were changed midway into the elections. The credential committee wrongly validated the Ballot papers found in boxes not meant for the position being contested for contrary to the rules. These ballot papers ought to have been invalidated. There was a scandalous deficit of basic electoral materials such as tallies. As a result, counting of votes was stopped for 3 hours to allegedly enable the General Secretary of NLC and his team to go to the market to buy some electoral materials. In the process there was a crisis of confidence and legitimate suspicion of manipulation. It took two working days for an election fixed for only one day to count the votes of 3,119 delegates from the 43 industrial unions affiliated to the Congress. Due to poor electoral arrangement, sorting of ballot papers turned to be cumbersome and opened to manipulations and distortions with non-members of the Credential Committee dictating the patterns of counting. For instance, there was an unacceptable direct involvement of former NLC President, Abdulwahed Omar in the election process particularly in the sorting and counting of votes well after the dissolution of the former National Administrative Council (NAC) he headed against the best practices of the past. The Former President also ordered the delay of counting of votes for over 12 hours after the ballot papers were sorted out in order to manipulate the process to suit his candidates. Indeed the polling agent to Comrade Joe Ajaero, Benson Okorodudu protested to no avail, the long delay in the counting of ballot papers after sorting. When counting eventually took place, there was an intermittent light outage during which the polling agent to Comrade Joe Ajaero inexplicably fainted and rushed to the hospital apparently paving the way for manipulation. Also former disgruntled General Secretary of NLC, John Odah was directly involved in the conduct of the election even after he had expressed partisan position during the botched election. This is clearly unacceptable.

We recall that earlier there was a crisis of confidence following the alleged marginalization of delegates from some parts of the Country notably South West, South South and South East by some unions notably Medical and Health Workers Union and Nigeria Civil Service Union.

“In terms of female participation, some of the industrial unions failed to comply with the Congress affirmative policy according to which 30 per cent of the delegates from the industrial unions should be women. The entire process was not transparent and clearly designed to favour some particular candidates. As a result, some of the polling agents refused to sign the manipulated result sheets thus rendering them invalid. Again this election like the previous one was divisive, not transparent and fundamentally flawed.”

Base on the flawed process, the group said it rejected the outcome of the election in its entirety.  

“Precisely because of the flawed process that characterized this election and the malpractices that characterized it, we hereby reject the outcomes of the so-called election.  This has again denied the Nigerian workers the moral authority to pronounce on the national election. Nigerian workers cannot subject themselves to people who have remained in power in their unions two years after their tenure is due.  We cannot subject ourselves to people who have retired only to come back to want to lead the NLC.  We cannot subject ourselves to people who abandoned the movement and the struggles four years ago only to return back and want to assume leadership positions. We are determined and ready to reclaim our movement.

Accordingly, we hereby dissociate ourselves and our unions from the elections. We salute all the delegates for their patience and endurance.”

The group said they were resolved to forge ahead under the banner of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and in line with the provision of the NLC Constitution, it is reconvening a special delegates’ conference come next Saturday March 21, 2015 in Lagos based on equal representation of affiliate unions.
It added: “New members of the national administrative council of NLC will be elected at the Special Delegates Conference as it was done in the past credible delegates’ conferences of NLC.  A Conference Organizing Committee has therefore been duly constituted.”

The 18 unions that attended the meeting are: National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), National Union of Petroleum and National Gas (NUPENG), National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institution Employees (NUBIFIE), Metal Products Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (MEPROSSAN), National Union of Post and Telecommunication Employees (NUPTE), National Union of Printing, Publishing and Paper Products Workers (NUPPROW), National Union of Shop and Distributive Employees (NUSDE), Nigeria Union of Civil Service Secretariat Stenographic Workers, Nigeria Union of Mine Workers (NUMW), Nigeria Union of Railway Workers (NUR), Steel & Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria (SEWUN), Iron & Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ISSAN), Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and financial Institution (ASSBIFI), Nigeria Welders and Filters Association, Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions, Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria and Lottery Workers Union.

Not minding the intrigues and disaffection trailing the election, the Supervising Minister of Labour and Productivity, Kabiru Turaki has congratulated the new NLC President, Wabba Ayuba.

A statement by the Deputy Director (Press) in the ministry, Samuel Olowookere described the emergence of Wabba the newly elected President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) as a step to further unite and build the Nigerian workforce, through social dialogue which is considered as a veritable tool in national development.
Turaki extended his Ministry and Parastatals’ warmest felicitation to the newly elected executives of the NLC while assuring them of his readiness to continue to partner with the union in line with international best practices in the labour sector.

Speaking further, the Minister urged the Wabba-led administration to toe the line of established paradigm shift in government/labour relationship which emphasized a move from confrontational government/labour relationship to a dialogue based approach in resolving all labour related impasses.

Turaki added that the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan is a pro-workers regime as demonstrated by its workers’ friendly disposition and policies. He solicited the continuous support of the organized labour union for the transformation agenda, which is aimed at job creation and national infrastructural development.

The Minister added: “Wabba is a man I have come to consider as a pragmatic leader in national development. I wish him success in his new position as the NLC President.”

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