When I saw the news report citing NLC’s resolve to continue their current strike, I fell into a spasm of laughter. What strike? These people are really not just clownish but remain ridiculous while at it. They have failed to read the mood of the public, blinded by their shallowness and inflated perception of their role in present day Nigeria. They remain stark naked in the view of the rest of the world.
The Nigeria Labour Congress used to be a bastion of courage. The hope of the masses and the bulwark against misrule. An NLC strike was a concise weapon used to flog successive governments and move them away from tyranny. The NLC reached its peaked twice in Nigeria’s history. The first, during the Pa Imoudu era, when it fought the colonial lords to a standstill. In modern times, Governor Oshiomole led it with pride and stood face to face with the Obasanjo Administration . Fighting this same fuel increase ‘wahala’ with gusto and full support of the public.
However despite all of this, the NLC always came to the scene riding a narrow vehicle of parochial interest, pushing the need to increase wages and stabilizing transport fares hence their strong resolve to fight to a standstill fuel price increases. Their initial success prompted them to set up a political party which has failed to make any mark in the political landscape.
This total humiliation of the union is the beginning of the end of virile labour unionism in Nigeria, and this is very dangerous as we may have lost a virile opposition. The blame for this humiliation falls squarely on the feet of the NLC’s leaders. They have not realized the work environment is changing. With increasing globalization and increased access to better qualitative education, the work place has witnessed a revolution led by the increase in entrepreneurship. The number of independent employers of labour keeps increasing, while those within the employ of the government and similar organizations which make up the membership of the NLC continue to be decimated, although they still remain quite large. This has affected the cohesion within the labour unions.
Another reason is the changing issues that workers relate to. Today most workers are more interested in sophisticated issues beyond just wages and welfare. They look towards better competitive training, financial and career empowerment, entrepreneurship, access to technology amongst others. These are issues the NLC does not have the capacity to address, hence their resolve to remain in the darkness that is wages and transport fare politics.
Years of decimation by successive governments both military and civilian have taken their toll on the NLC’s ability to mobilize. Also the death in student unionism which used to feed into its mainstream has also led to its weakness. Students today are better mobilized by music, social media and other more powerful trends. The financial empowerment that comes with access to the Internet, the information at their fingertips raises the consciousness of the average student far beyond the mundane politics of student unionism and by extension Labour politics.
So today, what we have is a dinosaur. An effigy of the past and a crowd of adire wearing old men who are totally detached from happenings within the socio-political economic milieu.
I doubt that the NLC have a research team, I doubt that they have analysts who could help in guiding policy. If they did, this ill-fated strike would have been avoided, for they would have been told very clearly that we have no other option than to deregulate and withdraw government resources from this petrol wahala.
I doubt though that they would have listened because as I want to believe, drugged by ego, greed and self aggrandizement they would have ignored the warnings. They would have still gone ahead to dance naked exposing their shriveled privates to the continuous glee and laughter of the rest of the world.