By FUNMI KOMOLAFE
THE re-election of Governor Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party, LP, by voters in Ondo State has brought to the fore, a number of issues.
Not a few people believe that the Governor deserves to win and this was confirmed by voters who with their mandate called on Dr. Olusegun Mimiko to serve them for another four years. The people have spoken.
For organized labour and the working class, though a sweet victory, but it has also thrown up a number of issues.
Emergence of labour party
However, first, let us put the victory in historical perspective. During the centenary anniversary of May Day; precisely May 1st 1986, the then president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Ali Chiroma, presented an address, titled “Labour in Politics, Politics in Labour”.
Chiroma used the opportunity of the May Day rally held at the then National Stadium Surulere, to express the desire of the working class to float Labour Party. It should be noted however that before Chiroma, heroes, heroines, activists in the labour movement had expressed this wish.
Late Paschal Bafyau as president of the NLC was passionate about achieving this goal. Many times, the labour movement tried to float the party, many times the ruling class in Nigeria worked against this objective.
Organised labour got it right during the tenure of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as president of the NLC. The international community shared this vision of the labour movement in Nigeria and quite of number of international non-governmental organizations including Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, FES, and the American International Labour Solidarity Centre, gave moral and financial support to the NLC to put in place a Labour Party.
The leadership of the Labour Party was put in place during the tenure of Adams Oshiomhole as NLC president.
Pro-labour individuals work against LP
However, the governorship election of Ondo state was fought bitterly by the parties involved. People who ordinarily should be supportive of the working class vehemently opposed the LP launching their missiles from other political parties.
It was difficult for people familiar with the labour movement in Nigeria to find ex student activists, a former General Secretary of a senior staff association, individuals mentored by late Dr. Ola Oni and other true progressives launched such vicious attacks on the LP on whose platform, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko contested the governorship election.
The campaign was so bitter that people who ordinarily should be working together in the interest of the masses viciously antagonized one another.
Critics of Governor Olusegun Mimiko claimed there was nothing ideological about his government yet Dr. Mimiko was a radical student activist. Though, they claimed that some of his projects should have been executed by local governments, the Mimiko administration is credited with the introduction of the Abiye project; a maternal health programme which has reduced the maternal mortality rate in Ondo state.
The Abiye project has earned the state government the recommendation of the World Health Organisation, WHO.
NLC, TUC support
While campaigning for Mimiko , the NLC and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC commended him for paying the national minimum wage and ensuring job security.
According to NLC president, Abdulwaheed Omar, the Mimiko administration had not had cause to right-size or down-size workers.
Putting it bluntly, he had not retrenched workers.
The administration is also credited with the establishment of mega schools.
Lagos and Edo both Action Congress, ACN, states also have mega schools just like the PDP government in Rivers state.
However, this is not all there is to a pro-working class government.
Youth employment remains as issue. The youths have to be engaged in sustainable jobs. Efforts should be made to boost the economy of the state. Housing, Education, Health care, new roads, infrastructural development and other pro-people programmes must be priortized by the Mimiko administration.
Task ahead of Mimiko
For now, Mimiko in his post election speech promised to focus on youth employment programmes.
The election has been won and lost It is time to move from contestation to consultation and cooperation. True progressive elements must be seen to be working together and not at cross purposes. The re-election victory of Olusegun Mimiko is a dream come true for organized labour which marks its centenary anniversary this year.
What is expected of true progressives is cooperation. The support that progressive individuals in ACN) gave to Mimiko during his struggle to reclaim his mandate remains commendable and should encourage the politicians to work together rather than work bitterly against one another.
No doubt Governor Mimiko popularly called Iroko was rattled. Though, the Iroko could not be uprooted, it lost some of its branches to the election.
The Governor is reminded that even an Iroko tree as gigantic as it is, cannot make a forest.
For Governor Mimiko and the Labour Party, the struggle must be intensified.
The dream of the labour movement is to have a party that would stand the test of time. A party that would be ideologically focused executing pro – peoples’ programmes and not one that provides a platform for any disgruntled politicians who merely use the Labour Party as a platform win elections.
For now, the people of Ondo state have made a choice with their votes with great expectation from Olusegun Mimiko and the Labour Party. Neither the governor nor the party can afford to disappoint the people. The struggle continues. It is time to work harder.