By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC’s new General Secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, was in Lagos where he had an interactive meeting with a cross section of journalists. In this piece, Labour Vanguard brings to you what the new scribe says is his mandate, among others.
WHat is your agenda in NLC?
The agenda that I have arose from the terms of reference which the National Executive Council, NEC, of the NLC gave to me on my appointment. The NEC gave me mandate to reposition, reorganize and revitalize the secretariat to play its proper role in NLC.
These were included in my letter of appointment and that therefore sets for me the framework for my agenda. My agenda,first and foremost is to focus on the secretariat. You know the secretariat is the engine room of the congress because it is the executing organ of the congress. Decisions taken by organs are translated into action by the secretariat and so, for me, it is to look at the secretariat and identify what I see as problems and how to overcome those problems.
One is that we want a secretariat that will work in unity because part of the problem we noticed that has bedeviled the functioning of the secretariat over the years is that there was lack of cohesion, there was lack of unity of purpose in the secretariat. Partly because of either the way things were done by the leadership of secretariat or by the way departments were not allowed or empowered to function effectively.
Departments are charged with specific responsibilities and today you find that some functions of that department had been performed without even the knowledge of the department’s key officials or the head of the department. Those things undermine the way you work effectively. Part of my goal is to ensure that we have a structured secretariat where departments are allowed and empowered to perform their functions under the leadership of the general secretary and the collective decisions that are taken by meetings of the heads of the departments.
Also, apart from just the administration and executing decisions that are taken, the secretariat of the NLC is the anchor point and the engagement point with the industrial unions. We need and we hope to be able to relate to the leaderships of industrial unions in such a way that when they have problems and they want our intervention or assistance that we are there and we work with them effectively.
Another challenge to me is the relationship between the secretariat and our state councils. We have our state councils but whatever they do is regarded that the NLC did it.
So, the image of the NLC is affected majorly by the way our state councils functions. We need to be able to work with our state council in a way that projects a positive image of congress. I don’t want to go into details but I do know that in some cases, there are problems, some of them intermingled with politics. We are hoping that we will find a way to work together to find a way to improve on those things.
The second is seeking to revitalize the labour movement and I take that very seriously.
When we see for instance, problems in the students movement, because of the very positive role the students movements had played in the labour movement over the years. We want to reach out in advisory and other capacities to try to see if we can bring ideas and ideology back to the functioning of a contestation within the movement.
In the same way, within the labour movement itself that we want to try and bring back some logic of ideology driven work in the unions so that we do not have unions that completely lack a working class consciousness. We know that the labour movement is not made up of socialist ideology only or people with socialist meaning, but we need to at least, be conscious of the fundamental role of the working class consciousness in defining the things that we do.
So, through education programmes, we have always had education programmes but we need to relook at the content of our education programmes to see over the years where we lost the ideological touch that is then weakening this working class consciousness. So, for me if within my tenure I am able to achieve even 50 percent of these two broad platforms I will be happy that we started something, that’s for the first part of the question.
How does NLC see the austerity measures announced by the Federal Government recently?
We are convinced that the starting point for austerity should be a cut-back in the cost of governance. We’ve always argued that the cost of governance was excessive, there was a lot of waste and that government can efficiently function with a much leaner expenditure pattern. There are those who interpreted that to mean that in order to have a leaner expenditure pattern, it is to shed either institutions or to shed workers. We disagree with that position.
Our position is that with the employment position in the public sector today, most of the costs that are running and weighing heavily down on the finances of government, have nothing to do with the remuneration of the workers.
It is to do with the bloated prerequisites attached to the management people who are paid under the political officers’ scheme; both in the ministries – like Permanent Secretaries, for instance, come under that, Directors Generals and that ; and of course, the National Assembly, itself. There is a lot of waste going on. So, this period of austerity, should avail us the opportunity to revisit and streamline the cost of governance.
lTO BE CONTINUED.