By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Daniel Emeribe
THEÂ 8th triennial National Delegate Conference of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, is taking place between today and tomorrow in the ancient city of Benin, Edo State, to elect new leaders to lead the umbrella body for senior staff associations in the country. Incumbent President-General, Comrade Peter Esele, who is seeking a re-election, in this interview with Labour Vanguard, gave insight into the transformation going in TUC.Â Excerpts.
Between March 18 and 19, members of the Trade Union Congress,Â TUC members will be going for an election how will you access the congress since you assumed the mantle of leadership?
I think if you ask me to access the performance I think I would be biasedÂ because you hardly hear any body scoring him self low or poorly in terms of politics.Â Â I will leave that to you as a media, because you are in the media, you have always been covering what the congress has been doing and you have been around for over 10 years, you know the congress before I became president and you will also know the congress after I am gone.
So, the bottom line is that you are in a better position to look at my score card and tell me whether I have done well or whether I have not done well. You and the members of the Trade Union Congress who are the delegates for the election are in a better position to score me.Â So,Â if they feel I have done well fine, and as I will seek forÂ re-election, if they feel I have done well they can return me, ifÂ they feel I have not done well they can give me a sack.
Suppose I am a delegate, convince me why I needÂ to vote for you for a second term and not a new President-General?
One very thing that you will look at,Â I willÂ only say three things, I keep my word, that is number one. In the last election,Â I just said three things thatÂ I was going do. First, I was going to re-brand theÂ Trade Union Congress.Â I said I will have toÂ send into the consciousness ofÂ the Nigerian people what TUCÂ represents from what they think it represents. Number two, thatÂ I was going to look into the issue of the secretariatÂ andÂ make sure it isÂ I.T compliant.
I will tell you before I came in,Â the secretariatÂ was down in terms of being I.T compliance. Thirdly, the women. We talked about training for the women and also giving them exposure. IfÂ you were privileged to have attendedÂ our international women day programmeÂ for this year,Â you would find out thatÂ it was unique. . Within areÂ little resources, we areÂ ensuring training for the women. Right now we are also having another one with the International Labour Organization ILO for our women in Abuja.
That is also coming up some time this month. We have also gone ahead to also ensure that no matter what we do at the National Administrative Council, NAC,Â at any point in time there must be a woman on the board. The minimum requirement is that there must be a woman,Â but we can increase that capacity. So if you judge me based on these three things that I told the congress or I told delegatesÂ at airport hotel in 2007,
I could confidently say yes I have kept my word for the three things that I promised. So if I can keep my word in 2007,Â I think if theyÂ renew my mandateÂ in 2010,Â I would also be glad. But the choice is theirs.Â I have always looked at public service as an opportunity to serve.
I look at it from two ways.Â If I am elected fine,Â I will serve, but if I am not elected,Â I would also say thank you. Whether I am elected or not I will be happy and I say thank you, because I always tell people that if you are not elected,Â please go and do thanks giving, if you really want to serve. I was shocked when the women said they were going toÂ give my wife an award at the womenâ€™s day.
I said no, because I do not want it to look like thatÂ I donâ€™t want to bring my wife here,Â just leave us the way we are.Â They said no,Â and I said,Â give me the reason why you want to give her an award.Â They said we want to give her the award for accommodating your truancies . They saidÂ IÂ traveledÂ a lot and the wayÂ Â they it shows thatÂ ourÂ house is stable.
For you to be delivering these services it shows that you have a stable home and that is why it is possible for you to perform. So as a result of that,Â we want to commend the woman that is givingÂ you that environment and it made sense to me.Â I saidÂ fine.
IfÂ today the delegatesÂ say okay,Â do not serve us any more, I will be very happy because I will have so much time for the family and I will also have more time for my job and some other things.Â That is the way I look at it,Â win or lose,Â it does not take anything fromÂ meÂ but the bottom line again is what will I be remembered for ifÂ amÂ no lon
ger President-General of T.U.C..
That is the question, what would you be remembered for?
What I want to be remembered for at the moment now is that one, structurally T.U.C. is on. Secondly,Â people no longer see T.U.C. as antagonist ofÂ the Nigeria Labour Congress, and I have also been able to ensure that the rapport between the NLC and the TUC has also improved.Â That dose not mean we do not have disagreement with the N.LC.Â Yes,Â we still have disagreement on certain issues but we are also able to manage it in a manner whereby we keep our eyes on the board that,Â yes our interest is actually the interest of the workers. So for me I think those are just some of the few ones I would want people to remember me for that I came I saw I conquered.
How have been able to address the issue of membership duesÂ or what others call check-of-due, because information has it many affiliates do not pay ?
If you also want to talk about that one I think that would also be another legacy in the sense that I have always believed that it was a big problem,Â but one thing you cannot take away,Â is the factÂ I believe that ifÂ you rendered service,Â you will make your self more attractive. What we have done over time is that, we have also imposed stiffer sanctions through the National Administrative Council, NAC,Â and the National Executive Council, that ABC,Â if you do not pay your dues certain rights and privileges are denied. Formally in the congress,Â you may not pay your dues and you will still enjoy some rights and privileges. What we now did, is to say no that is not possible and that has to be enforced. But again,Â I would also be happy to tell you that so many of the affiliates have also increased their dues.
Some have increased their dues as high as 300% ,Â some 50%, some 20%.Â .Â So,Â every body has raised up his contributions because they always feel that yes, we are delivering service.Â I have always told them that if you want us to deliver or you think our service should improve in terms of service delivery you must pay for it. If you want a good media officer, you want quality staff, you will also pay quality money. It is like a computer,Â garbage in garbage out.Â It is what you put in that will come out. So,Â I think in the short term we have had a very serious improvement in that but we can get better.
What willÂ T.U.C. of yourÂ dream be like in the next 10 years?
Well, the T.U.C. ofÂ my dream in the next 10years will be a T.U.C. that will be socially responsive to the yearnings and aspirations ofÂ its members in particular and Nigerians in general. The fundamentalÂ duty of a trade union is to defend and to protect the welfare ofÂ its members. I want to see a T.U.C. that will also move beyond that to also now look atÂ legislation,Â and get intoÂ into politics.