On our working class
I was going to give a follow-up gist to what I released here last Friday relating to my scholastic visit to Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. where I was the only African in a gathering of more than five hundred egg-heads of white colour and near-white colour from different parts of the globe. Of course, I ostensibly was a black star from Africa who did well for Nigeria and Africa. Well, let me skip the art of self-praise for another time in the hope that I may come to it, so let me skip it for the attention I am paying to our country’s working class that two days ago celebrated the yearly ritual of “Workers’ Day,” a global event workers everywhere remember every May 1st.
In times past I used to look forward to May 1st in the hope that our work folks and their leaders, I mean our leaders of the working class, would use it to galvanize us to stay together in tight and strong unity if we must end forever the exploitation and oppression we suffer and bear in our land. Year in year out we hear words and words without concrete actions to banish our exploiters and oppressors from their fake thrones of political and economic power. In fact, on Wednesday I bluntly refused to witness the event even on television! I am tired of “solidarity forever” that has since become a chant and anthem that can’t fetch us three square meals per day not to talk of giving us hugely ambitious working capital our exploiters and oppressors get with ease even though they know very little or absolutely nothing about workmanship which is characteristic of our working class.
But I don’t blame the exploiters and oppressors. Our working class leaders we call labour leaders are the betrayers, the real betrayers, of our hope and dream. This submission is seen in their mind-set which can in part he explained by the fact that many of them eye what the exploiters and oppressors of the Nigerian working class enjoy, but which are denied us all. We have a very good example of an erstwhile labour leader who has amassed solid wealth at the expense of the suffering proletariat. He has since been speaking and smiling from both sides of his mouth and face. In real truth he now speaks and smiles from only one side of his mouth and face which are the mouth and face of his new class of upper and uppermost persons. Other labour leaders are following his example, and taking their time until their time flows to them in the stream and river of time. Our labour leaders are not union leaders as their attitude ostensibly reveals. They don’t bark and bite when they are supposed to bark and bite as union leaders.
Many happenings in the land which demand urgent steps from the working class become objectives our workers are silent about because our union leaders champion the interest of the oppressors well and above our own. Thus today we can speak of both small and big silences in the land when we want to mock the attitude of union leaders who are clearly both the personal and public property of their bosses in the seats of political power outside our working class’s own. Perhaps we can say that these bosses boosted them one way or the other when they aspired to lead the respective Nigerian work forces which culminated in our labour system as we have it now.
Why these utterances? The answer is simple. We are in May now. Where are the jobs and security for our mays that need men who equally need jobs and good wages to marry them? The average male school leaver wants to be a happy worker who will be happy to be paid a wage that is decent because it would enable him to enjoy good advantages which would include his caring well for his beloved may who would give him healthy, strong kids that will profit him and our country. Good economics, I must say, that must profit the Nigerian worker and our country.
And what has become of the so-called minimum wage negotiation between our federal government and our working class led by our union leaders? If our working class had taken appropriate actions when appropriate actions needed to be taken, would we not have since been enjoying a new minimum wage regime that would have benefited us immensely? When is the true and correct effective date of the new minimum wage? One year ago? Two years ago? If the answer is yes to either of these questions, are arrears going to be paid in full to our work folks who have suffered seriously all those years in the hands of the financial and business crooks in our respective government houses? If the answer to either of these questions is negative, then our labour leaders have failed us “big time,” as the saying goes.
Our working class must take the bull by the horns and say enough is enough and more than sufficiently enough. Or are they not aware of what is happening elsewhere? Are we not aware of happenings elsewhere outside our shores? Of course we are, but our leaders are not our leaders any more. They are leaders of and for themselves and boy-boy of those who have changed their character several times and several times over. At the risk of repetition pressure from above has obliged them to climb up the leader.
It is also surprising that our civil society organizations seem to have been cowed or compelled to forget the Nigerian working class. The plight of the Nigerian worker is no more their concern. The plight of the Nigerian masses is no more of interest to them. The leaders of the civil society organizations have also been induced to climb up many rungs of the social or economic ladder. If this is not so, why are they mute on the question of the wages of the Nigerian worker that are below the poverty line? Why, also, are they seemingly dumb and deaf with respect to other infractions against the Nigerian worker by terrorist lords in political power?
Very recently a man and a labour minister called Chris Ngige, a medical doctor, opened his mouth wide on television to say we have “surplus” medical doctors – meaning, according to him, that the few doctors we have can go abroad – to Europe, Canada and America – to sharpen their “skills” and bring back home the long-sought foreign exchange. Of what benefit is this to the Nigerian worker who cannot pay his hospital bills conveniently? Up to now our civil society organizations and labour and union leaders have kept quiet instead of deflating the labour minister who once-upon-a-time deceived us as a champion of our working class and masses. By the way, the man Ngige tried to re-qualify his “surplus” doctor’s hocus-pocus by allegedly saying that he had native doctors as well in mind when he uttered his mystifying jargon. Now we must understand why he went to Okija shrine to take the oath he was supposed to take as a supposed governor of Anambra State. Tufia!
To finish up, I hope Dr. Ngige did not grace Workers’ Day last Wednesday. If he did, on our labour leaders’ invitation, the Nigerian worker is truly done for! If he did the ultimate victory lap of our working class is far way! And thanks to our medical doctor’s bodies – Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) – for putting the loquacious labour minister in his proper place. The medical bodies are not yet proper leftist organizations, but they seem to be good champions of our workers’ medical welfare that our labour unions have abandoned.
•Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059 (SMS only).