Labour: Divided you fail

NLC, TUC during a protest.

NLC, TUC during a protest.

Sir: Many Nigerians believe that the main reason why the nationwide strike over petrol price hike called out by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was not
effective is that Nigerians are not interested in the strike. That might be true. But we have overlooked the role a divided labour union has played.

Nigerians will recall that last year during its rescheduled 11th National Delegates Conference at the Eagle Square, Abuja  to elect national officers, the NLC split into two factions. That election saw Dr. Ayuba Wabba of the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria defeating Comrade Joseph Ajaero of the National Union of Electricity Employees to become the new President. But, Ajaero, together with Issa Aremu and Igwe Achese rejected the result, finding fault with the whole electoral process, and going on to form another faction. That singular act which labour as a whole  has pretended to have forgotten is what has come back to haunt it.

Labour has lost its unity. For the groups under labour it is now, “To your tents, oh Israel.”  Labour does not understand one another’s language within it anymore. It is now come hither, don’t come hither. Go hither, don’t go hither. When you don’t get a clear direction better to stay put. That is what Nigerians are doing. There is nothing much a group or organisation or people can achieve if they are not united.

A broom is more effective than a number of separate straws. Good thing for the Wabba-led NLC that it has saved face by calling off its three-day strike. Even on television as they announced the call off they looked like tired men, only after three days! But this is a wake-up call to labour to put its house in order. As it is, it is doing harm to itself.

If there was injustice then justice must be allowed to prevail. Nigerians should not think the way labour is today it can fight effectively for them. That is why Nigerians should pray for labour. A viable, vibrant and united labour remains a critical component of any democracy.

Cosmas Odoemena,

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