By DONS EZE, PhD on 05/10/2020

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We heard the organized labour in Nigeria, fuming. There were very angry, furious. They outrightly rejected the new price regime introduced by the federal government for the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, and the increase in electricity tariff. They began to talk tough, to threaten fire and brimstone, unless the government reversed itself.

They firmly asserted that they were going on strike, to call workers out on the streets, in protest. Why was the government so callous and inhuman as to take such a wicked decision, and not considering the difficulties many people were passing through following the recent lockdown, occasioned by Coronavirus?

They shunned all entreaties by some well meaning Nigerians, pleading with them to shelve their planned industrial action. They equally spurned all court orders hurriedly procurred by the government, stopping them from going on strike.

In such a seemingly uncompromising position by the labour leaders, we took them serious. We saw them as people who would march their words with action, in mold of Michael Imuodu, Nigeria's Number One Leader, who lived by his words. Why did the government give us N30,000 minimum wage with one hand, and with another hand, took everything away?, we fumed.

Everybody was angry, annoyed. For long, the government has been us taking for a ride. This time around, they will not succeed. We will not succumb. We are going to align with the organized labour, to give them a fight. We are going to give them pepper, and show them that na we own the country.

Why is it that the government will always increase pump price of petrol without considering its effects on poor masses of the country. Do they want us to commit suicide? No, we will not. We will fight it to the end. We will face them squarely, we resolved.

As the D-Day approached, many people began to panic. They became jittery, worried, and apprehensive. There was tension. There was anxiety. There was restlessness. There was fear, and there was uncertainty. Envisaging a long battle ahead, since the government would not easily give up, and the organized labour would also not succumb, many people began panic buying, stockpiling food items and other essential commodities, including petrol.

We all were set for the battle, waiting for the break of light. On the eleventh hour, in the middle of the night, we woke up to hear that the strike had been suspended, that the organized labour had called off the industrial action. We were jolted, shocked and dumbfounded.

Why did the organized labour do such a thing? Why did they stab us at the back? Why did they sell out at the last hour? Why did they betray us? Why did they succumb? Why did they capitulate? Why did they surrender without firing even a shot? Many questions, but no answer.

What was this gra-gra the organized labour was doing, when they knew they were not going to do the fight, and that they were not going to sustain the struggle? Why did they deceive us, and made us to believe that they were going to cross swords with the government?

And why, in the first place, did they even come out to oppose the increase in the price of petrol? They should have kept quiet, after all, when the present administration came to power in 2015, and almost immediately, increased the pump price of petrol from N87 per litre to N145 per litre, the organized labour did nothing, and we bore the pains.

It was this their empty threats, this time around, that gave our President the boldnes to begin to mock us, in his October 1, 2020, independence anniversary speech, when he compared what petrol sells in Nigeria with what it sells in Saudi Arabia. But failed to tell us what workers in Nigeria receive as minimum wage, and what workers in Saudi Arabia receive as their own minimum wage, the unemployment situation in both countries, the exchange rate of their currencies, with the United States dollar, or the British pound, etc.

Our President knows that the organized labour in Nigeria are empty vessels, that their leadership is weak, compliant, can be easily manipulated. He knows that labour leaders in Nigeria do not have the will power or the courage to challenge his one-sided presentation of facts. He knows that majority of our labour leaders are opportunists, who always ride on the back of workers to feather their nests.

But this was not the first time that our labour leaders have sold out, have compromised. It had happened many times and over. For instance, when Olusegun Obasanjo was the President of Nigeria, between 1999 and 2007, he made a lot of deals with Adams Oshiomole, as President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

At that time, the pump price of petrol was N20 a litre, but through hide and seek games between the President of Nigeria, and the President of Nigeria Labour Congress, before Obasanjo left office in 2007, the pump price of petrol jumped to N75 per litre. It was the late President Umaru Yar'Adua that brought it down to N65 per litre, when he took over.

Specifically, during the Obasanjo era, the pump price of petrol was first raised from N20 per litre, to N30 per litre. Adams Oshiomhole made some noises, and it was brought down to N22 per litre. A little while later, Obasanjo raised it to N26 per litre, and again raised it to N42 per litre, to N50, to N65, and to N75 per litre. Adams Oshiomhole and his NLC,  would only make some noises, threaten industrial action, and then renege.

Thus, when Adams Oshiomole came out to contest the governorship of Edo State in 2007, not many people were surprised about how a common textile worker, not more than on salary grade level 10, had made the money with which he contested and won the Edo Governorship.

We may however recall that Obasanjo's late wife, Stella, came from the same area with Adam Oshiomhole. It is claimed that the current NLC President, also has marriage relationship with a key members of the present administration. We may therefore appreciate why the government always shows interest in who becomes what in every labour union elections, so that they can infiltrate it with their lackeys and revisionists.

Dr. Dons Eze

Posted 05/10/2020 08:55:35 AM


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