By: Denja Yaqub
It was clear by Sunday, 8 February 2015 that the build up to the execution of attempts to silence Nigerians had heightened, perhaps the executioners were unaware of the mortgaging effect on individual and collective future of not just the immediate environment and circumstances, but the people, the movement and the country.
The obvious resolve to ensure the Nigeria Labour Congress is disorganised became evident from the pre-National Delegates Conference’s National Executive Council meeting held on Sunday 8th February 2015 at the headquarters of the NLC, culminating in the 11th National Delegates Conference of the congress from 9 to 11 February 2015 at the International Conference Centre, Abuja and the rescheduled conclusion of the conference that successfully ended with the election of new leaders in the early hours of Saturday 14th March 2015 at the Eagle Square, Abuja. Some post conference incidents have however brought out the hitherto unthinkable exposé about people no one ever thought would prefer to sink in opportunism.
If anyone was in doubt that there were serious attempts to destroy the only organisation left to speak and act in the interest of the Nigerian people, that Sunday meeting of the pre-Delegates Conference NEC clearly point the way. There were lots of debates and clearly, the trend defined what eventually happened, first on Thursday 12th February 2015 and late night of Friday, 13th March 2015 when ill health was feigned and the “sick” preferred to be taken to the arena where votes were being collated rather than enter an ambulance to the hospital.
Before now, vibrant mass organisations have been destroyed by opportunists who converge in the crowd of patriots that are committed to the struggles of our people.
A major victim and perhaps the first in contemporary history is the students movement which have been totally annihilated by a combination of state attack and ideological contradictions.
Other mass organisations like the Campaign for Democracy, which was a major rallying centre for serious pro-democracy activists that fought military dictatorship until the advent of civil rule but now dismembered, leaving just a little of it on the shoulders of a few who believe its legacies must not be dimmed in public space. We had the Women In Nigeria, a leading voice in gender equity struggles in Nigeria, now laid to rest as a result of contractions and opportunistic drives.
Despite all these, the NLC has sustained the struggle alongside what is left of progressive civil society groups, but there have been attempts to destroy the NLC either consciously or unconsciously by people who through opportunistic excuses have also offered themselves as the ready agents on a mission to destroy an organisation that remain the only voice left, not just for Nigerian workers but the Nigerian people.
It is though not the first time an attempt would be made to destroy the NLC, it is the first time the attempt lacks any ideological motif. The first attempt in 1988 by a group led by Takai Shamang, who incidentally was of the National Union of Electricity Workers, was a struggle between the Progressives and Democrats in the labour movement. While the former was Marxian inclined, the later was obviously in support of the status quo Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP and other neo liberal interests. That attempt led to the intervention of the Babangida regime in the affairs of the labour movement by the sacking of the NLC leadership under Comrade Ali Chiroma.
The trade unions remain the only organisations anywhere in the world with the best tradition of effective internal democracy. There are several issues on which members disagree, but through internal democratic structures, the issues would be debated and a common resolution would be agreed on, in the interest of the unity and strength of the movement. Anything different from this, would mean either that an external factor has propelled discord with the ultimate intention to destroy the movement or that the actors want self-interests attended to against the collective interests of workers and the people.
That some Comrades decided to step out of Congress to announce themselves leaders of Congress after losing at the constitutional National Delegates Conference of the NLC exposes them as opportunists who have allowed themselves play into the wrong side of history and rubbished their commitment to the movement.
Unfortunately, these are not comrades that anyone would wish away. They have evidently committed themselves to the growth of the movement. But, the path they have taken is clearly self centred, anti-workers and unconsciously on the side of anti-people policies and their agents. They have simply offered themselves voluntarily to the service of anti-people elements who will celebrate the silence of their opponents, if they had succeeded in destroying the NLC.
The NLC, the largest labour centre in Africa, is faced with several more serious challenges locally and internationally than for any conscious comrade to offer himself as a driver of unnecessary discord, arising from a conference that was conducted in an atmosphere of transparency, fairness and undisputable credibility. All the three key actors who stepped aside after losing the election know everything in the NLC constitution and other extant rules and procedures.
Being the highest decision making organ, the National Delegates Conference in Session gave everyone the opportunity to speak and move motions on any contentious issue(s). Each of them did. Each of them agreed on procedures on all aspects of the conference.
So, you would wonder why ballots were destroyed on Thursday, 12th February even when they could easily have raised objections and agreed on correcting whatever was wrong. They were not interested in towing this path because of their determination to ensure the conference won’t hold. Even before the conference, there were strange campaigns under ethnic banners, which is clearly anti worker as workers can’t find the role of ethnicity in their working lives or in the struggle for better conditions of service. The campaigns merely exposed the sponsors as befuddled elements with limited understanding of the working class – a non-ethnic class of exploited and oppressed people whose ethnic origins cannot be held accountable for their socio economic conditions.
The crisis of development in Africa; the negative effects of globalisation; job losses; political turmoil; severe economic crises; mass poverty; decline in human values etc., are enough worries for trade unions, and the quest to hold offices shouldn’t be the excuse for abandoning the collective struggle against these crises.
It is significant that the attempt to destroy the NLC came soon after the second largest labour centre in Africa, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU, allowed its tripartite alliance with the ruling party, the African National Congress as well as the South African Communist Party to deflate its strength, committing more time to all sorts of internal wrangling than forging cross border coalitions against attacks on our peoples by global anti people economic policies blindly adopted by our visionless governments.
Today, the biggest trade Union in South Africa, affiliated to COSATU, the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa, NUMSA, has left COSATU. The General Secretary of COSATU, Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi has been edged out of office for upholding his critical views on the Jacob Zuma led government’s anti-people economic policies. And now, the South African labour movement has been weakened. Its fighting spirit reduced to ashes.
Perhaps, our comrades should reflect on the future of our continent when the two main labour centres in Africa are under attack, which may have been state sponsored in collaboration with multinational neo-liberal interests.
The NLC remain united, strengthened by the success of its 11th Delegates Conference which produced the Ayuba Wabba leadership, with a record of pro workers commitment and capabilities to fight for the general interest of the entire Nigerian people. And Nigerian workers will never allow their labour centre destroyed by opportunistic individuals who derive joy in mortgaging workers interests.
Yaqub is an Assistant Secretary at the headquarters of Nigeria Labour Congress, Abuja.
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