The 13th National Delegates Conference of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) will come up on 7-8 February. This is a period for workers and pro-labour activists to reflect on the state of the NLC and the tasks before it in the unfolding future.
Haven served for two terms, Ayuba Wabba from the Medical & Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) will be handing over as president. And we already know that he is handing over to Joe Ajaero of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), who contested against him in 2015.
The fallouts of that contest led to a temporary split. Ajaero lost and established a short-lived United Labour Congress (ULC). He returned to NLC as a Deputy President in 2020. And now, there will be no contest in February. The trade union bureaucracy has arrived at a single line-up.
This will help avoid such schisms as in 2015. But it also reflects a gradual stunting of the contest of ideas and sharpened policy debates that would go with contests of platforms.
The past eight years have been terrible for workers. Economic hardships and insecurity of lives have become the norm.
NLC has barked a lot, but always stopped short of biting, to defend the workers.
An NLC/TUC strike against hardship fixed for 28 September 2020 was called off at the last minute, without any significant concession. This was because the two federations were afraid of opening the Pandora’s Box of revolution.
But this did not stop #EndSARS bursting out a few days after, or waves of strikes, some of which were organized in defiance of union leaderships in Enugu & Kwara for example.
Workers are likely to face worse attacks in the coming years, as the capitalist crisis deepens. To fightback, we need more critical debates and radical actions in the trade union movement, not less.
To start with, we all know that there will be a sharp hike in fuel pump price by the middle of the year, irrespective of which of the capitalist parties wins the presidential elections.
The Maj Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd) administration has assured the IMF of this and written it into the budget. And all thee leading capitalist presidential candidates have endorsed this as their line of action as well.
Moblization must start in earnest to stop the Nigerian state and its imperialist overlords in their tracks on the matter.
But the massive struggles ahead include several other issues as well. Nigerian workers need a new national minimum wage that is a living wage. The new NLC leadership will have to fight, for this to become a reality.
One of the key lessons learnt from the struggle against military dictatorship and working class struggle in 21st century Nigeria is the importance of organized labour’s alliance with the radical left of civil society.
It is time to resuscitate and expand the Labour Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) as an inclusive united front of all organized labour federations in both the formal sector (i.e., NLC and TUC) and the informal economy (i.e., the Federation of Informal Workers’ Organizations of Nigeria, FIWON) as well as all left coalitions in the civil society movement such as the Joint Action Front (JAF), the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) & the People’s Alternative Political Movement (tpapm).
by Yusuf LAWAL