Sunmonu: History will judge those trying to derail labour
• ULC Died Since 1977
Having held a special delegates’ conference in Kano, in December 1977, where it submitted its certificate of registration and dissolved into the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), founding president of the NLC, Hassan Sunmonu, told COLLINS OLAYINKA that whatever the so-called United Labour Congress (ULC) was doing today remains an exercise in futility, as there was no such labour centre known to the law.
What do you make of the unregistered United Labour Congress (ULC) that recently got a section of the country’s workers to down tools?
First and foremost, no one can use the name United Labour Congress (ULC) again and I will explain why. ULC was one of the four labour centres that formally dissolved after their congresses for the current Nigeria Labour Congress to be founded in 1978. Anybody/group can bear any other name, but not ULC because ULC was one of the four trade centres that melted to form the NLC.
In conformity with the law at that time, each of the labour centres had to call special congresses to formally dissolve themselves, surrender their certificates before NLC for the NLC to be founded. So, maybe those who do not have a sense of history are the ones that are saying they want to bear the name United Labour Congress (ULC). So, today in the country, nobody/groups can bear the following names- Nigeria Trade Union Congress (NTUC), Labour Unity Front (LUF), United Labour Congress (ULC) and Nigeria Workers Council (NWC). Those were the four centres at that time that dissolved themselves in order to form the Nigeria Labour Congress.
Is the law that gave legal backing to the formation of the NLC in 1978 still the same law as we have today?
Nobody can tell me that the law that led to the founding of the Nigeria Labour Congress in 1978 is no longer in existence. What I am saying is, and I still maintain that the four labour centres that formed the NLC on February 28, 1978 are ULC, NTUC, LUF and NWC. These four labour centres were not only registered national labour centres in Nigeria, but in conformity with the law at that time, each of those centres had to call special congresses to ask for resolutions to formally dissolve before NLC could be founded.
After discountenancing the ULC initially, the Federal Government held consultations with its leadership. By implication, has legitimacy not been conferred on the body already?
Well, I don’t know what is happening in government because I am not in government. But what I am saying as the founding president of the Nigeria Labour Congress is that there are some labour leaders in this country today who do not have a sense of history, on how the NLC was founded and how people struggled to found one trade centre or the other. Now see the way some of them say they have trade centres, and I ask, under what circumstances did they establish theirs? The way they said they organised their congress was questionable and laughable. But I don’t need to go into all that. All I am saying is that even in the history of political parties in Nigeria, there were NCNC, AG and NPC parties in those days, why is it that today people do not take up the names of those old parties, despite the fact that over 100 parties have been formed after the demise of the earlier ones? If this has not happened in the political arena where anything and everything can happen, why would it happen in the labour movement? Why would anybody among the trade union leaders of today say they are now United Labour Congress? They can bear any other name, but not ULC.
The ULC was formed in 2015 by aggrieved unionists after an acrimonious NLC Delegates’ Conference. What has been the role of the labour veterans like you in resolving the crisis?
The trade centre they said they formed was not democratically founded by any known standard. I think you should ask those that formed the so-called centre why they chose to do that. Don’t ask me that question; you should ask them.
How do you see the labour movement of today, in comparison with what held sway during your days?
We have played our part. Those that are there now would also play their part. I know that history is there to judge everyone by whatever he or she has done in the labour movement. I have done my part and I am not a judge. People can judge our time and their own time would also be judged. Those, who also want to fragment the labour movement because of their inordinate ambition to be leaders at all cost will be judged by history.
What is your advise to younger labour unionists on how to conduct themselves in election matters?
Well, the NLC election took place two years ago and the outcome was followed by a lengthy crisis. I am among the trade union veterans that formed the reconciliation committee. It also included Adams Oshiomhole, Oshindipe, and Ejiofor, amongst others. But all I have to say on this is that those who think they can manipulate history are deceiving themselves because history is the most impartial judge. I don’t want to say more than that.
Is the reconciliation committee disbanded now that the other group has gone ahead to form ULC?
We did the reconciliation since it was proven that Ayuba Wabba was duly elected as president of the NLC. However, the other people refused to accept the terms of the reconciliation even as the reconciliation process lasted for over 15 months. The other group insisted that it has evidence to prove to us that vote counting was manipulated, and through the 15 months no one was able to come up with any credible evidence. Up till today, there is still no evidence to show that Wabba was not duly elected. We even agreed at some stage that Wabba and his team should bend backwards to accommodate the other group in the spirit of reconciliation, and that they should be patient because there would be another election in about two years from now.
Did Wabba and his group actually bend backwards to accommodate the other group?
Yes, yes and yes. One of the points we reached at that time was to tell the two groups to sit down and find a middle ground; where the other group would be accommodated at the state council level. But the other group insisted that I should lead the team of seven people – three each from each side – on a tour of the six geopolitical zones of the country.
That would have gulped millions of naira, which was needless. We believed that the two groups could sit down in Lagos or Abuja to decide what to do as far as the state councils were concerned. The other group claimed it had its state council elections and even came up with a sheet of paper that contained the names of chairmen and secretaries of state councils. But while the NLC led by Wabba showed how all the state councils’ executives emerged, the other group could not give us any substantive evidence that it held any state council election, apart from presenting a list of state chairmen and their secretaries. So, we concluded that it did not conduct a single election anywhere.
The summary of all I am saying is that ULC died as far back as 1977 because it called a special delegates’ conference in Kano in December 1977 to pass a resolution to formally dissolve itself into the NLC. In fact, ULC was the last to formally dissolve itself because it did that in December while other three centres did theirs much earlier. So, nobody or any group of persons can now say they are ULC. The Federal Government should be well guided on this matter.