By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Members of the Trade Union Congress ( TUC) were in Benin , the Edo state capital for the 8th Triennial Delegates Conference, held March 18- 19 , 2010. The high point of which was to elect a new set of leaders to run the affairs of the central labour centre for another three years.
Its President-General, Comrade Peter Esele was returned un-opposed. The conference had three governors in attendance. They were, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of Edo, Dr. Olusagun Mimiko of Ondo and Alhaji Isa Yuguda of Bauchi, representatives of some others.
At the opening ceremony, two major issue; employment and electoral reform that could guarantee credible elections in the country in future elections topped the discourse.
Addressing his audience, Comrade Esele, said TUC said called the various arms of government to ensure, the electoral reform as envisaged by the Justice Mohammed Uwaisâ€™ led committee is given the attention it deserves to save Nigeria from another embarrassment in the comity of nations.
According to him, â€œAs we approach the 2011 elections, expectedly we have our anxieties and fears given the culture of rigging, god-fatherism, monetization, thuggery and violence that has become entrenched in our system.
Like in the past elections, all of these vices associated with our past electioneering process and elections might be a foretaste of what to expect in the 2011 general elections. Given the enormity of these problems, we cannot afford the luxury of folding our hands and watch the situation with stoic, nor can we surrender to the whims and caprices of moneybags, godfathers and election riggers who see the electioneering process and the elections as moneymaking ventures.â€
Emphasizing the seriousness labour attaches to the issue, in his post election speech, Comrade assured that the new executive of TUC would ensure that the peopleâ€™s vote in 2011 election would produce their desired leaders, saying, â€œ next year Nigeria will go to the polls.
We promise to protect the votes of the people to ensure it produces the kind of leaders they want. TUC would strive to ensure that electoral reform is put in place. We will also support all progressives to ensure a credible election. The Congress wants an election that would produce leaders who would work in the interest of Nigerians, achieve their needs and the development of the nation.â€™â€™
For Comrade Oshiomhole Dr. Mimiko, Alhaji Yuguda, Chief Falae, CNPP, Alhaji Musa and others, once the nation institutes the culture of credible election and gets it right at the leadership level, every thing including the issue of corruption would be dealt with . They called on organized labour to join the progressives to save Nigeria.
Speaking, Comrade Oshiomhole, posited that for him, the three major things in the nationâ€™s agenda today were electoral reform, electoral reform and electoral reform, insisting that it was the key issue in Nigeria today.
According to him, â€œIn Nigeria today, all the problems we are facing, like the poor electricity supply, corruption, bad roads, poor healthcare delivering and so on, have their origin from bad leadership. If we do not get electoral reform that will guarantee one man, one vote and ensure that our vote counts, we will never get it right.â€
On his part, Governor Mimiko warned that if the Nigerians failed to have an electoral reform where credible election was guaranteed in the forth coming elections, the continued existence of Nigeria as nation could be in jeopardy.
According to him, â€œthe only thing in the agenda today in Nigeria is electoral reform. Any other thing can wait, but electoral reform cannot. No effort should be spared to ensure that we have it. We must continue to fight for it until we have it. If we do not have it before the general elections in 2011, we may not have a nation we can call our ownâ€.
For Yuguda, the socio-economic including ethno-religious problems bedeviling the nationâ€™s problem is caused by lack of right leadership, arguing that if there is the right leadership, economic, ethno-religious and other problems would disappear.
Speaking on employment crisis, Comrade Esele, lamented that the reported marginal growth in the nationâ€™s economy has not translated into more jobs and improvement in welfare of the average Nigerian.
According to him: â€œUnemployment continues to be the number one problem in the nation. The challenge of national development is to manage the economy in such a way as to promote job-led growth rather than the present situation of jobless growth.
There are various ways through policy and direct intervention that one will expect the Government to create employment. This administration must put in place a more attractive business environment for the organized private sector to partner in the provision and expansion of infrastructure at all levels to enable it rise to occasion and drive the process of employment generation.
Dismissing the economic growth rate claims by the Federal government, Comrade Oshiomhole, said: â€œif the economy is growing at 8 percent or so rate, where is the sign of the growth? How many jobs have been created?â€
For his government, he said in the past 16 months of its existence, â€œnot less than 7,000 jobs had been created because we believe that labour creates wealth.â€ He also pointed out that his government has lifted embargo placed on employment previous government, wondering why should embargo be placed on employment where people are retiring among others.
Speaking, Governor Mimiko said, â€œhis government of Ondo state has provided jobs for several unemployed youths to fill vacancies in some essential cadres such as health workers, engineers, surveyors, architects, town planners and drivers.
Also, 1,000 youths volunteers were employed while 300 traffic control officers were engaged. At inception of my administration, 1, 450 workers were employed across ministries, department and agencies. As at the last count, 2,311 officers of the state civil service were exposed to both local and overseas training in 2009 which cost the government over N142 Million.â€