Monday, 4th December 2023

Let there be a moratorium on industrial actions

By Godwin Afam Nkemdiche
28 August 2023   |   3:00 am
In penning the first three words of the theme, I couldn’t resist being momentarily transported to the opening passages of the Holy Writ, wherein the mysterious Acts of creation were recorded: “Let there be…;” and there was, “Let there be….,” and there was, ad infinitum. Not even once did the commands fail – what awesome…

A female demonstrator waves a Nigerian Labour Congress flag (Photo by Olukayode Jaiyeola /

In penning the first three words of the theme, I couldn’t resist being momentarily transported to the opening passages of the Holy Writ, wherein the mysterious Acts of creation were recorded: “Let there be…;” and there was, “Let there be….,” and there was, ad infinitum.

Not even once did the commands fail – what awesome moments those must have been, to behold things that only existed in the imagination being called forth! Unforgettable! quite unforgettable moments, those. But reflecting on Nigeria’s present very dire existential situation, I should rather recall a pertinent passage of that Book of books, recorded at another place, and at another time.

Contemplating the challenges of his earthly mission sometime after it had commenced, the Great Rabbi of Christendom concluded that “the work is much, but the labourers few!” Please to tell how to convert a people who have dwelt in centuries of heathenish lifestyle, to be a God-fearing and God-loving people, he must have puzzled. A rather impossible task, unless, of course, the hand of God assists the conversion process. Exactly the conclusion anyone contemplating Nigeria’s growing developmental challenges would draw. Please to tell how to convert a Third-world country whose citizens have dwelt in decades of heathenish lifestyle, to a first-world country.

The heathenish lifestyle in the latter case is not to be found in the character of extreme debauchery only as in the ancient, but rather it resides in the wholesale abandonment of their designated roles by the citizens, in addition: the leadership converts the bulk of monies budgeted for national development to private uses; while labour embarks on a virtual back-to-back industrial action, thereby rendering the country to the plight of a withering oak in a desert.

Granting that ours is a uniquely prayerful country, (a former head of state has since made a second profession the nation, amidst tens, or perhaps hundreds of thousands of men and women of God) we rest assurance that that unfailing Hand would eventually assist in Nigeria’s conversion.

In the interval, however, mortal flesh must look for a remedy of sorts for the rapidly deteriorating emergency, if Nigeria were to continue as an entity. For my part, I couldn’t think of a shorter path towards addressing our economic disequilibrium than calling for an indefinite moratorium on industrial actions throughout Nigeria. And this for all the right reasons. Reason the first: strikes are likened to double-edged swords, hurting both government and labour alike – loss of production hours to government or management on one hand, and diminishing productive dexterity of labour on the other hand. Reason the second: strikes spike inflation and unemployment in one breath as the wages paid to striking workers are not appropriately aligned with available goods and services, as enshrined in the economics doctrine of “Monetarism”.

Reason the third: strikes are antithetic to human beings, who were evidently created to engage in regular productive activities – the devil finds yet work aplenty for idle hands!
Reason the fourth: Nigeria’s utter failure to optimally harness her natural resources in the previous six decades of Independence (to say nothing of her human resources) has constrained her GDP to an embarrassing hundreds of billions of USD, rather than multiple trillions of USD. Thusly, Nigeria simply is not a position to meet the incessant wage increases that are demanded of her treasury.

Reason the fifth: Labour is directly part of the cause of Reason the fourth. Our trade unions are diligently proactive in tracking the differences in the contractual terms between Nigerian workers and those of First-World countries, but curiously, they prove utterly inert in bringing the skills of their members to parity with selfsame countries (??). In the light of Reason, the fifth, has labour any grounds on which to make its fanciful demands on government/management?

Reason the sixth: In Nigeria’s context, there are no boundaries separating Management and Labour as we have witnessed since Independence. Past Labour leaders have continued to swell the membership of Management/government. Therefore, it could be reasonably stated that management and labour are equal stakeholders in the Nigeria Enterprise, or Project, as you please.

Reason the seventh: In recent years, the trade unions have thrown up broadly educated and articulate leadership cadre, making the aforesaid boundary – crossing a matter of course. Logically pursuing that sociological evolution, therefore, I should submit that the trade unions leaderships respectively are possessed of the requisite capacity to comprehensively and exhaustively engage Management/government in negotiating their welfare matters. On this momentum still, I should further submit that it is doubly counter-productive for the trade unions to insist on embarking on any form of industrial actions.

Let us be clear, I am not by the least stretch of the imagination, suggesting that members of the trade unions abandon their self-interests, of course not. I am merely proposing that those self-interests be pursued in an enlightened fashion. The 21st century is nothing even close to the master/servant relationship between management and labour of the Middle Ages, whence combative trade unionism is commonly supposed to have taken its rise.

On our day, members of both sides of the divide “see eye-to-eye”, and they engage in an atmosphere completely devoid of the “Us versus Them” mindset; well, at least that is the ideal expectation in our enlightened generation. In the countries whence we imported the culture, “picketing”, the preferred epithet for industrial actions in the UK, is overtly regarded as a prohibitive anachronism. Since the era of MargaretThatcher, a plethora of legislation has effectively neutralized trade unionism in the UK. In the U.S., labour (labor) does not even think about, let alone threaten management with industrial actions.

The leadership of our respective trade unions would therefore be doing their respective causes a world of justice by taking a radically novel view of industrial actions. They should restrain their impulse to disrupt production activities, put on their thinking caps, roll-up their shirt-sleeves and earnestly join heads with national leadership (executive and legislative), with the sole objective of arriving at sustainable solutions to Nigeria’s recurring existential challenges. Consequently, I should in all humility, request the trade unions to put an indefinite Moratorium on all forms of industrial actions in the country.
Mayst Nigeria’s tomorrow come in our day!
Nkemdiche is a Consulting Engineer.

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