The dimming relevance of Nigeria Labour Congress
The acclaimed role Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) plays in protecting the interest of workers and citizens in governance structure is fast eroding. The guiding popular aphorism that, “what affects one affects all” do not seem to apply anymore. NLC known for its active, consistent, dogged, tenacious and focused activism has since turned out a 21st century lame duck.
The generational people-centric and socialist disposition of protecting the interests of workers and strongly advocating for living wages and general citizens’ welfare is completely lost in recent times. NLC is now a shadow of itself – a toothless bulldog.
With the crop of leaders at the helm of affairs of the congress, no Nigerian worker is sure of his deserved wages at the end of every month. Thirty days no longer makes one salary as workers are owed in arrears months and years of salaries and arrears. The last NLC’s major effort and demand aimed at raising minimum wage ended with the tenure of Adams Oshiomole. Other NLC leaders after Oshiomole were neither courageous to stand with the masses or genuinely concerned about the welfare of the workers.
It is now difficult to clearly understand what NLC stands for. Who can point at any other improved reviews made on wages or benefits of workers since Obasanjo raised it to N18, 000? From 2015 when the economic fortunes of the nation began to witness a progressive downturn, NLC which should stand as the bastion of hope for the workers and Nigerian masses looked on helplessly as citizens suffer unbearable and untold hardship.
On account of President Buhari’s clueless economic and governance policies; the purchasing power of an average Nigerian plunged deeply. Still, for over eight years and still counting, the minimum wage of the least paid Nigerian worker remained N30, 000 while a bag of rice costs above N45, 000.
To make matters worse, on May 29 after the inauguration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he announced immediate removal of fuel subsidy on petrol after calling it a fraud. The removal made no plans for the after effect on the lives of citizens. That singular decision of government has pushed the price of petrol to as high as N620 per litre. The ripple effect of that announcement has led to an unprecedented 24% rise in inflation, high cost of living and others. Every facet of Nigerian economy was negatively affected. Costs of virtually every goods and services have increased to a minimum of 100% while minimum wage remained the same.
This has opened another vista of hardship on an already impoverished nation. That was too much a price to pay by the poor workers and citizens. Unfortunately, we are all left to groan under an austerity created by failure of those in leadership. It is a miracle how Nigerian citizens and workers survive in this current difficult situation.
Honestly, people are silently going through a lot in this land of plenty. One expected the NLC to rise in solidarity and in defence of the defenceless. A massive protest against subsidy removal and it’s attendant negative consequences with the little strength left at the disposal of NLC would have sent the desired message. The sluggish attitude of NLC to the issues at stake does not seem to tilt towards defending the will of the people. What people saw was empty threats to lock down the economy leading to delayed meetings with government officials and promises to provide palliative. Providing palliatives we must all know is akin to massaging the symptoms of the disease instead of treating it.
In the midst of all these, it took the president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu another three months to address Nigerians and yet offered more promises. The NLC was one group which citizens look up to in fighting on their behalf for justice, equity and fairness. Labour in times like this is known to be in their best form – pressurising government with every industrial action tools available at their disposal to accede to their demands. However, NLC is seen to be completely lost and incapacitated to defend the interest of workers and that of the masses.
Do we still have NLC? Is the place of NLC in defending the rights of workers and the masses still subsisting? The docile disposition of the congress since 2015 regarding the poor state of the nation and the stark economic reality on ground is evident.
The dimming relevance of NLC is felt almost everywhere. The ENDSARS protest of 2020 should have served a notice to those in government that Nigerians are tired of condoning the excesses of the ruling and political class. Citizens are keenly watching the life of opulence currently lived by those in position of authority in a nation where poverty and unemployment is very high. It is already a public knowledge how a larger chunk of palliatives meant for subsidy removal proposed by government for citizens was allocated to a few individuals and institutions in government. Federal government has recently allocated a paltry sum of N5 billion naira in addition to a laughable five trailer load of rice for each state of the federation as palliatives.
Nigerian people have been taken for granted for too long by their leaders. Many are also aware that politicians only use the ordinary people to play both ethnic and religious cards in order to remain relevant and in power.
Citizens are aware that politicians have become more powerful than institutions of governance. They use and manipulate these institutions at their beck and call to achieve their selfish desires, while the people have been reduced to new era slaves. Patriotism according to Mark Twain “is supporting our country all the time, and our government when they deserve it.” However, “when stupidity is considered patriotism, it’s unsafe to be intelligent.” – Benjamin Onyeneke. There is a time in the life of a nation when citizens will no longer tolerate deception, ineptitude and leadership failure.
Eze, a Media and Development Communication Specialist wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org and can be reached on 08060901201
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