Labour and burden of reconciliation within
HE became so popular in Nigeria at a time that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had to cry out that he was about taking over government.
That was Adams Oshiomole, call him ‘Mr Labour’ and no one will begrudge such assertion. He indeed became a household name in every corner of Nigeria due to his leading labour popular resistance against increment in the fuel price of petroleum products more than 10
times under the administration of Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007.
Little wonder, therefore, when he joined politics and later became the governor of Edo state, most Nigerians forget that he is no longer the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) .
In fact, when the election of the NLC was at feverish height in January and February this year, it was insinuated that Oshiomhole’s support for NLC presidential candidate was hinged on who was likely going to pledge the patronage of the workers to his party – All Progressive Congress (APC).
And when the election was disrupted due to allegation of electoral fraud which necessitated another round of election, accusing fingers were pointed at only one direction – Adams Oshiomhole – pulling the strings of disaffection was loud and reverberated well beyond the labour movement.
It was hard to sell his non-involvement to those whose minds were already made-up. Indeed, those opposed to the emergence of Ayuba Wabba as the elected President of Congress at the re-run election at the magnificent Eagles’ Sqaure in Abuja, were labelled “Oshiomhole boys’.
In all of these, Oshiomhole was mute until he told the NLC he was coming for a courtesy visit to the President. Curiously, the visit coincided with the meeting of a reconciliatory parley taking place in Abuja. So, instead of Oshiomhole attending the meeting, he opted to pay a solidarity visit to the victorious Wabba.
Commenting on the attempt by some members of the NLC to factionlize the movement, Oshiomhole, who was President of the NLC between 1999 and 2007, berated their action. He opined that he cannot intervene in a matter that produced credible leadership at the end of which some losers decided to form parallel movement.
His words: “I am aware of some persons who are not happy about the outcome of the election. That is the way democracy works. The only way you can avoid defeat in a democracy is not to participate in an election in which there are more than one contestant.
Once you submit to an electoral process in which there is more than one contestant, the electorates have only one candidate to choose from those contesting. I will stand by the truth anytime, any day because the truth does not require supporters club.”
Oshiomhole wondered why it is difficult for the dissatisfied persons to concede defeat and also refused to learn from former President Goodluck Jonathan to conceded defeat even before his defeat was officially announced.
“If former President Goodluck Jonathan, the Commander of the Armed Forces could concede defeat even before Jega pronounced him defeated, how can labour people refused to accept the outcome of an election? My view is that we must stand in unison to condemn what is wrong. People must be told the truth that they have lost and they can come back next time to contest; that is the logic of democracy,” he stated.
While justifying why he was not keen to assuage the egos of election losers, Oshiomhole declared that he was not going to be a party to persuade those that lost election to accept their fate saying, “it is only natural that those that chose to contest election accept the result of the election in which they freely participate. Those who failed should not be persuaded to accept their failure.”
While this hardline posture has not pushed the opposition into submission five months after the election, Oshiomhole recognised that the time to re-examine his earlier position had come. So, Oshiomhole and some elders of the Congress staged a return to the negotiation table.
The renewed negotiations culminated into nomination of founding president of Congress, Hassan Sunmonu as Chairman of a seven-man committee to bring the opposition back into the fold.
The President of Congress, Wabba Ayuba led member of the NLC to the meeting while the dissatisfied group was led by the General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Joe Ajaero with General Secretary of the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), Issa Aremu. However, the President of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Igwe Achese, who emerged a Deputy President at the Lagos special convention, was conspicuously absent at the parley.
But there is some disquiet in the movement about some of the signs that emerged at end of the preliminary stage of the reconciliation meeting.
Two critical issues agitating the mind of some labour watchers in the country included: why did Sunmonu return as the Chair of the committee and why was President of NUPENG, Igwe Achese absent at the parley?
First, it was the same Sunmonu that chaired the reconciliation parley that failed to resolvreconciliation at occasioned the exit of the immediate past General Secretary of Congress, John Odah and the crisis that engulfed Congress after the 2011 delegates’ conference.
It was also Sunmonu that instigated the election of Owei Lakemfa as the General Secretary of the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) without the endorsement of Congress unde the leadership of Abdulwahed Omar. In all of these, it was believed that most labour activists silently called for a change this time.
Indeed, upon assumption of office, Wabba had pronounced Aliyu Dangiwa, the founding General Secretary of NLC between 1978 and 1984 but that committee was not allowed to function.
Now, it was also gathered that the committee may not even have much to do as Joe Ajaero may have decided to ceasefire. The Guardian learnt that a soft landing is under a consideration for him. He cannot join the 16 members’ National Administration Council (NAC) till 2019 delegates conference. By the resolution of the last delegates conference, even if there is a vacancy by the reason of death or any member getting another job elsewhere, such vacancy can only be filled within the present NAC.
With staging a return to NAC foreclosed, it is believed that Congress leadership is presently considering offering him a board member in one of the agencies of government where NLC is a member. What would be offered to Issa Aremu, who was ‘elected’ deputy president at the Lagos special delegates coconference is still unclear.
But the decision of President of NUPENG to boycott the negotiation may have ruled him out of any patronage. It was gathered that being the only President of a union whose second term tenure would soon end; Achese is disappointed at both Ajaero and Aremu who are General Secretaries of their respective unions to accept reconciliation.
Previous moves in the past including the setting up of a reconciliatory committee that failed to bring the feuding parties together but both Ajaero and Wabba agreed at the meeting headed by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and veterans of the labour movement to work for repositioning of labour movement in the country.
Speaking after the meeting, Oshiomhole, announced former NLC President, Hassan Sunmonu the Chair of the reconciliatory body.
He said: “A couple of things definitely went wrong; there is no question. We identified a lot of things and we agreed that the way forward is to put a solid movement. That all these issues have to be addressed one after the other and we have to have an all-inclusive congress in which all shades of opinions are involved in decision making.
“We agree to have three members from each of side the divide if you like to be chaired by our founding president Comrade Hassan and to ensure that he guides them through so that whatever they do they are guided by the core values of organised labour.
“Those rich traditions and ethical issues must be observed and we must ensure that the morality of the labour movement is always reflected because organised labour is always ruled by sentiments about justice, fair play and what is proper more than any other thing. I think everybody agreed that we must find a way to get on with the job. We are now going to see everybody working together in dealing with all the issues that are on the table and other issues that might be raised in the very near future.”
While it may be premature to say, at least for now, that NLC is united again, the road to achieving an all -inclusive Congress may be near.