Today is Workers’ Day and like their counterparts all over the world, Nigerian labour unions, activists, rights groups and all who labour, in both public and private sectors, will spend the day on parade in its commemoration.
As they observe this yearly ritual, workers must reflect on their plight, renew their fight for economic security, better life, defence of human dignity and peace in the nation. Workers’ Day, otherwise called May Day or Labour Day, is also an auspicious moment to reflect on the inhuman and dispiriting conditions in which many of the Nigerian workers strive.
In practical terms, the Nigerian worker is a living testimony to the disconnect between the ruling elite and the masses. For many years, and especially since the advent of the current administration, Nigerian workers have been in the shackles of a rudderless political machinery, that sacrifices the welfare of the people on the altar of other interests.
This administration has a Transformation Agenda that, every Nigerian agrees, is full of good intentions but backed by little action. Hence spurious claims of growth, unreliable statistics on looming prosperity, mendacious forecast of development, imprudent management of resources, unrealistic and non-feasible proposals and unimaginable corruption have made the transformation agenda of the Federal Government a mirage.
The inability of the ruling elite to fashion out sustainable policies for human development has plunged the working masses into the abyss of poverty. With the grinding poverty and low premium placed on life as well as apathy towards youth employment, the nation has been bedevilled by pervasive insecurity. All this is exacerbated by a systemic corruption that has crippled the country.
Nigerian workers under the umbrella of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and other workers’ coalition should therefore use today to reiterate their resolve to insist on genuine reformist ideas. For the good of the hardworking people of Nigeria, labour unions and activists may wish to stress the importance of today by engaging government on the plight of the people.
They should use the sanctity of the event to familiarize Nigerians with the fact that obnoxious policies favourable only to entrenched interests have made a living hell out of Nigeria for workers.
Beside the decrepit infrastructure, moribund institutions, harrowing bureaucratic obstacles and other maladies in the public sector, many organisations in the private sector have turned their workers into slaves with no choice.
In disregard of Labour Laws, casualisation of workers still thrives in many organisations, while young ladies are sexually exploited and commoditised as a result of little or no opportunity for employment. As typical of a government caught between confusion and deception, the much advertised N18,000 minimum acceded to by the government is still a mirage. And in the absence of diligent implementation, there is a sustained slide into modern slavery.
For the vulnerable senior citizens, who have toiled and are expectant of a rewarding life as pensioners or retirees, a problematic and weakly administered pension system has not only been a failure, a grand theft of the pensions by government officials charged with the funds safe-keeping and management has been one of the most spectacular tragedies of the nation.
The harrowing experiences of pensioners over the collection of their paltry gratuity, as well as alarming stories of fraud perpetrated on the pension accounts are testament to a nation fast losing its soul.
This is also a period to think deeply about the unemployed and the incapacitated. In a country where about 42 million youths are allegedly unemployed, and some unrecorded millions are incapacitated, Nigeria totters on the brink of a precipice if this national crisis is not addressed.
It is for this and other reasons that the Workers’ Day should neither be for a parade with no message of social relevance, nor one day in the year when government officials, oblivious of the plight of the masses, sardonically claim solidarity with the workers.
To address workers’ plight, government must go back to the basics: Provide conducive environment for citizens to expend their energy, time and skills through work for their own self actualization and optimal development of the society. The need for government to provide power, security, infrastructure and other desserts necessary for integral development of society cannot be over-emphasised.
Government should focus on tangible transformation through policies and concrete capital investment in the lives of the people.
Source: The Guardian
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