By Funmi Komolafe
Just before the nation goes the polls for the national elections, members of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, will go to the polls to elect national officers to run the affairs of the central labour organization for four years.
The conference is however not about elections, it only provides an opportunity for the leadership of the NLC to review its activities and set an agenda that would be beneficial to the working class.
However, the NLC in the last four years seems to have lost its ideological focus completely.
Unlike 1988 when the NLC was polarised along ideological lines and its subsequent harmonisation, which produced Comrade Paschal Bafyau, as a compromise candidate, no one is clear of ideological focus of the NLC in the current dispensation.
Thousands of workers are in distress as salaries are unpaid even by the federal government. Some state governments have not paid their employees for months, yet they mount the rostrum to campaign for re-election.
What has the NLC done in the area of voters’ education? Not much if you ask me.
Rather, what we see are desperate moves to get elected into the National Administrative Council, NAC, of the NLC. There cannot be a better time for Nigerian workers to elect a leader with a vision. A leader who is genuinely committed to the working class struggle.
Workers need a leader who is well informed on issues of economy and politics.
How will the leadership of the NLC tackle politicians on the issue of security of lives and property beyond mere press releases?
Many of those who have been killed are either workers in the informal or the formal sector. These are the issues which require urgent and informed position from the Central Labour Organization.
On January 6, the list of contestants were released and it is clear that the main posts to be contested are that of the Presidency which is being contested by Joseph Ajaero of the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, Igwe Achese of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and Wabba Ayuba of the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN.
The other post to be keenly contested is that of Auditor where eight candidates are vying for three seats. The deputy and vice presidents have been elected unopposed.
With the current state of the economy where the take home pay has failed to take workers home, the leadership of the NLC must be ready to respond to the needs of workers.
Can NLC leaders move beyond demand for increases in wages? What are the options proffered by Labour?
It has also been that of their 16 posts being contested; only one is being contested by a woman. So where are the women? Is the non participation of women due to some frustrations by the leadership of the trade unions? Does it mean that women are deliberately shut out of the election?
The NLC and its affiliate unions are aware that the International Labour Organization is interested in seeing women in positions of authority in the trade unions. So, wither Nigerian women workers?
Perhaps more disturbing is the allegation that unions have been rushing millions of money into the coffers of the NLC to boost the number of union delegates to conference.
The question should be asked, why these unions have held back their contributions to the NLC.
Could this be due to a lack of faith in the out-going leadership? Are such union leaders rushing to finance due NLC for personal gains?
The February 9 to 11 election is one in which workers have to be vigilant. Though representation is by delegates, how were they chosen and whose interests do they represent?
More and more questions.