FG/Labour Faceoff And The Real Issues Confronting Us

Adeboye 'Fall My Hand'
The cat and mouse relationship between the Federal Government, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, and Trade Union Congress is, to say the least, preposterous. On all sides of this dispute, the fact one can deduce from it all is that these men and women have just not come to terms with the real issues facing Nigerians and the real problems the ordinary man on the street faces every day.

To say Nigerians are hungry and angry is to say the obvious. But how can we be talking of the existential threats of the people and some obviously over-fed and conceited group of people from time to time be toying and compounding the woes of the masses with so-called threats of strikes, meetings, and chit-chats that are of no relevance and consequence? It appears more like showboating and shadow-boxing or circus shows.

Last week Wednesday, labour leaders called off their two-day-old strike after a meeting with the Federal Government led by the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu. While some have questioned the rationale behind the strike when, according to them, the reason labour embarked on it was as a result of the manhandling of the NLC president, Joe Ajaero, in Imo State.

Labour, on its part, had debunked this assertion, saying the maltreatment against the NLC leader was just the culmination of several complaints against the state government of Hope Uzodimma.

The National Deputy President of the TUC, Tommy Etim, explained that the strike was suspended based on the trust the unions had in Ribadu.

He said, “The NECs of the NLC and the TUC have suspended the strike. We did this based on our trust in the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, who gave us his word. We also saw that he wasn’t playing politics with our demands and he was ready and promised to follow up with everything.”

Thank God that it was called off because already, schools across the country were beginning to send their pupils home, and if you realise that students of our public tertiary institutions who suffered the setbacks of COVID-19, ASUU, Labour and TUC strikes as well as EndSARS crisis and many more like the confusions over currency change and election period lockdowns have already wasted more time at home than required for their programmes, then the reality will be better appreciated. Yet, the way things are going, it may not take long before we have another crisis on our hands again.

But you know what, these men think they are out to serve the people, unknown to them that Nigerians are not impressed or are unfazed. Nigerians are unfazed because the problem before them is life-threatening. They are worried about how to provide food for their children and meet the increasingly high cost of living with spiralling inflation. Nigerian traders are protesting on the streets over low or no patronage and their inability to eke out a living from their daily toils and labour in the market.

Nigerian workers are worried that the ludicrous minimum wage of N30,000 that was ab initio grossly inadequate has now become completely useless and meaningless.

How can a nation bogged down with depleted foreign reserves and diminishing earnings from its mono-product economy that relies only on oil to run its budget be preoccupied with extravagant spending from borrowed funds?

Recently, there was an open discussion between a man and some women who had heard the man speaking about his spat with his wife before leaving home. He spoke self-assuredly of how he takes care of his family and how the N5000 he gave to his wife for a pot of soup had led to the quarrel between them.

When the obviously agitated woman, after listening to him, told him that his N5000 could barely afford a kilogramme of fish, the man’s bloated ego was deflated.

A few days ago, market women went on the streets in Abeokuta to protest poor sales and the high cost of fish, which they said had risen to a level where their customers have simply disappeared because they can no longer afford it.

The experience of Ajaero was completely condemnable as it speaks to the worrying state of intolerance by political officeholders. Some governors have been known to have arrested journalists just for holding contrary opinions or for criticising them. That the Imo State government could allow that kind of treatment to Ajaero by the police, makes it impossible for the state government to extricate itself from this unfortunate incident. What fate therefore awaits an ordinary citizen who may have a dispute with the government? Or is the state saying that the police could have boldly done that on Ajaero without its consent?

Compared to the increasing hardship and cost of living of Nigerians, Ajaero’s ordeal pales into insignificance. Where were the leaders of Labour when our legislators were approving hundreds of millions for themselves to buy cars? What’s the official reaction of labour to the proposed allocation of billions of naira for the purchase of a luxury yacht for the President? What is the official position of labour on the proposed billions of naira earmarked to buy the First Lady’s official car as well as renovatiòn of the official residence of the president in Lagos and Abuja?

Has labour heard of the call on federal universities to remit 40 percent of their grossly inadequate internally generated revenue to the Federal Government and what is their position or should that be left for ASUU?

Where was organised labour when this government and its predecessor were borrowing for consumption?

And more importantly, is labour aware of the pervading hunger and excruciating pains Nigerians now face, and to what extent have they been a part of the distribution of the so-called palliative by state governments?

Somebody should help to tell these gladiators, FG, and labour, that an alarming population of our people is now begging just for food and a lot of them can no longer send their children to school. The feeling of dejection, despondency and hopelessness is palpable. These are the major concerns of the people.

Granted that President Tinubu’s administration is still familiarising itself with the daunting task before it, and six months in the life of a government may not be enough to draw conclusions about that government. However, the optics and early signs and decisions of the government need to be right for the people to keep faith in the government. However, making outlandish expenditures at a time when the same government is asking people to fasten their seatbelts to match the economic reality of the day cannot be the right way to go.

Therefore, it will take labour, opposition parties, and civil society groups to help ensure that the government remains on track for the good of the people.
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