Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni
Nigeria Labour Congress
Comrade Paschal Myeleri Bafyau House
Central Business District
Dear Comrade President,
OPEN LETTER: ADVISORY ON NATIONAL AND LABOUR ISSUES
I hasten to respectfully convey my usual warm salutations and compliment of best wishes.
The decision to write you this brief missive is informed by my deep concern with the frightening dimensions of destitution and insecurity surreptitiously and ominously ravaging the entire length and breadth of our dear country.
I am equally worried, by the alarming rise in the rate of violent crimes, which is being fueled by among other things, the criminal proliferation of dangerous weapons and huge quantity of light arms in the hands of our increasingly frustrated youths coupled with the hovering bleak climate of mass unemployment, hopelessness and the unprecedented level of lawlessness which are also combining to create an ongoing eerie atmosphere reminiscent of a failed state.
I hardly need to stress, that, the raging war against the Boko Haram insurgency in Borno State and the wider North East, is also still continuing to claim hundreds of precious lives of our gallant soldiers and innocent civilians, just as it is sadly and painfully recording huge losses in small businesses and poor peoples properties without any sign of abating.
Millions of people have been mercilessly uprooted and violently dislocated, forcing them to live in endless squalor and misery in shanty and dilapidated dwellings, where they are cruelly herded and pejoratively referred to as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery have become commonplace throughout the whole of North West, but these rather expanding and untamed social vices are now fast spreading to all parts and remote corners of our beloved but terror infested bleeding nation.
This cocktail of societal calamities has been compounded by the rapaciousness of our ruling elites who have become so reckless and insensitive in mismanaging the affairs of the nation at a difficult time such as this.
At this stage, I must readily admit, that this rapacity and insensitivity were more or less callously displayed with reckless abandon in recent time, partly because of the ill-informed position the country’s clueless leaders hold about their seeming political omnipotence.
To your eternal credit, the Nigeria Labour Congress, which is the leading umbrella for all the Nigerian Trade Unions under your able and dynamic leadership, has been very patriotic, mature and flexible in extending its hands of fellowship, and the sincere desire for constructive partnership with governments at all levels.
Yet, the disconcerting signals emanating from the catalogue of bad policies and series of obviously anti-people decisions which are being rammed through the starving mouths of the hard working but exploited masses by these so-called partners, seem to show very sadly, their well known class contempt, disgusting snobbishness and total unwillingness to reciprocate this reasonable labour gesture.
It would therefore appear to any close observer or fair minded person, that this aforementioned strategy, which I want to believe was debated, articulated and adopted by the Organs of Congress to be spearheaded by your good self, has now certainly become counterproductive or to put it mildly, has outlived its supposed usefulness.
In the circumstance, the time has now come, for you to effect a comprehensive overhaul and complete re-evaluation of your tactical and strategic goals/objectives, and to also be fully prepared to urgently, proactively and effectively inject and retrofit the dormant trade unions movement with the sufficient mental and psychological readiness for tackling the formidable challenges facing the nation, head on.
Without wanting to appear as a prophet of doom, it is my candid opinion, that any slight hesitation or failure on your part to read the somber reality enveloping our country correctly and rise up to the very challenge demanded by it, may spells an unpleasant disaster which would be too hazardous for anyone to predict or even contemplate.
I even became more convinced in holding tenaciously to the above stated position, after taking my quality time to go through your recent statement issued on behalf of the Congress, in response to the Federal Government’s provocative, senseless and precipitous announcement of yet another very quantum increase in the pump price of petroleum.
Against the background of the macabre feelings of disappointment and deep-seated anger, which pervaded the nation following the suspension of the strike action called by the NLC and TUC sequel to an increase in the costs of ever illusive petroleum and electricity, the latest press statement from the Congress released by your good self, was obviously received with open derision nationwide, as a face-saving apologia.
The statement is not only nauseating for its tasteless buffoonery, but, it is also a poor imitation of the condescending sambo mentality, usually associated with the repugnant behavior of our docile but fantastically corrupt civil service.
There was nothing in it that inspire the ailing nation or that could remotely serve as a catalyst to restore the fast dwindling trust which workers in particular and Nigerians in general used to implicitly repose in the great leaders of the trade unions movement in the days gone bye.
This somber turn of event, is indeed pathetic, as it is also quite unfortunate.
The observable general belief most Nigerians firmly hold to, about the strategic position and relative power of the NLC, particularly, in terms of the organization’s capacity to champion their interests and protect them from gross governmental excesses and such other sundry injustices, may appear misplaced or overly exaggerated, but, the checkered history of Nigeria confirms, and is indeed replete with the heroism and selfless sacrifices of labour leaders that provided solid and concrete basis for Nigerians always putting their hope in the fighting ability of the NLC, more so today, when they are everywhere inundated with daunting national obstacles and gargantuan challenges.
Therefore, it must be fully understood that our responsibility as leaders is to continue to devise new and better ways of fighting to protect these highly cherished legacies, and not to resort to or engage in any futile escapism.
In a period of great turbulence and profound crises such as the prevailing one in our dear country today, extra valor and patriotic vigilance are required on the side of our current crop of labour leaders, so as to unitedly and heroically pilot the working classes away from the deadly booby traps being mindlessly planted everywhere by their class adversaries.
The history of trade unionism in Africa, is highly dotted with the worrisome and unpleasant cases of labour leaders who found themselves at the receiving end of workers’ rage and uncontrolled labour unrest. The two classical examples of the then leaders of Ghana TUC and the All Federation of Ethiopian Trade Unions, readily come to mind.
Thus, it should not be forgotten so easily that at the time of the Ghanaian crisis in the early 1980s, notable labour leaders at the helm of affairs in the Ghana TUC had to escape the wrath of the rampaging workers by running outside the country to save their dear lives.
The then NLC leadership compassionately offered safe heaven to the former General Secretary of Ghana TUC Comrade Yessifu, who was declared persona non grata by a section of the restive labour force. His lamentable story which ended on a positive note, is far better to recall, than that of the leader of the All Federation of Ethiopian Trade Unions, who tragically was found dead in his room, by committing suicide rather than submit himself to the wrath of rioting mobs.
Barely a decade after the Ghanaian and Ethiopian episodes, we, then at the apex of NLC leadership, found ourselves caught in the eyes of the roaring June 12 political storms. The public anger against NLC’s perceived reticence and lack of support and sympathy for the June 12 struggles, was so overwhelming that for some of us who are supremely fortunate to survive it, I strongly feel, we owe both the present and future generation of Nigerians the debt of uncompromising fidelity to their cause.
Truth be told, in those days of profound national upheavals, we didn’t handle the social contradictions that were triggered by the aforementioned crisis, correctly. That we managed to swim with all the powerful flows and eves of such historic political currents, should rather be seen and counted, especially by some of us who believe in God, as nothing, but His divined grace of providence.
But, still our great organization and its well built reputation suffered immense loss of respect in the eyes of the Nigerian public which culminated in the tragic dissolution of the then NLC’s National Executive by the late General Sani Abacha’s military junta.
This is why it is impermissible for some of us that are still alive to keep quite, as our hearts are full of trepidations anytime we contemplate on the inevitable negative consequences that could as well emerge from the perceived incorrect handling of the prevailing social contradictions, by those of you now at the mantle of labour’s leadership.
In conclusion, though it may be bitter to state, but my good conscience is very clear in reaffirming to you, my dear Comrade President, that, neither the noble cause of the exploited Nigerian workers nor that of the ailing Nigerian nation will be served, if the existing backsliding style of leadership is allowed to maintain its unacceptable trajectory and eventual hegemonic ascendancy in the Nigerian labour movement.
Please, accept dear Comrade, my sincere warm greetings and unflinching solidarity.
Comrade Salisu Nuhu Muhammad
Labour Veteran & Former Acting General Secretary
Nigeria Labour Congress
November 19th, 2020.