By Victor Ahiuma-Young
BARELY one week to the March 12 rescheduled election of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, tribal and ethnic sentiments have torn Congress apart, as some of the affiliates and state councils have alleged that the processes leading to the election have been tailored towards ensuring that the president and key officers emerge from the North.

As part of the processes, unions such as Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, with 527 delegates and Nigeria Civil Service Union, NCSU, with not less than 300 delegates to conference were alleged to have picked over 90 percent of delegates from the North. It was alleged that while Kano has close to 60 delegates, Lagos, Oyo, South-East and South-South states were given one each. In the same vein, NCSU has no delegate from Kwara, Plateau and most states in the South.

While the president of MHWUN is contesting for the president of NLC, the president of NCSU is contesting for deputy president. Similarly, the general secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, has been accused of a hidden agenda and favouritism. He is also accused of failure to abide with NLC rules and guidelines which led to the reopening of nomination on the floor of conference-in-session after the Credentials Committee had finished its work.

sa Aremu of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN (m) with other comrades briefing newsmen on the state of the NLC election in Kaduna. Pic: Olu Ajayi
sa Aremu of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN (m) with other comrades briefing newsmen on the state of the NLC election in Kaduna. Pic: Olu Ajayi

Conference in session

Speaking on the processes being skewed towards favouring northerners, chairman, Kwara State Chapter of NLC, Alhaji Umar Faruk Akanbi, told Vanguard that it was unfortunate for the movement, lamenting that some of the labour leaders were behaving like tribalistic politicians by projecting ethnic tendencies ahead of the rescheduled election.

He alleged that 90 percent of delegates of the MHWUN to the Conference were from the North, a situation, he said, was not a fair representation of the union in the country. According to him, while only one delegate each was taken from Lagos and Oyo, Kano alone has about 60 delegates. Similarly, he claimed NCSU delegates to the Conference had about 90 percent northerners with the exception of Kwara which is without a single delegate, noting that such was not the spirit of the labour movement founding fathers.

Akanbi said, “If northerners are bringing the larger majority of the delegates from the North, it will spell doom for the Labour Movement and we may not be in a position to correct Nigerian political class if we are emphasizing tribalism. It is obvious that the rescheduled election is tailored towards favouring a particular candidate who is from the North.

Equal representation

Nigeria Labour Congress is a pan-Nigerian organization where all sections of Nigeria must be given equal representation; where all part of Nigeria must be equally recognized because whoever emerges as the president of the Congress, represents the entire Nigeria workers.

“Therefore, I do not subscribe to a situation where a particular section of the country is dominating the delegates. So, some of us are of the view that we should have an organization that is Nigerian in outlook. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Abdulwaheed Omar were elected by the entire Nigerian workers. So what we are doing presently is a dangerous “trend”.

Lagos NLC faults MHWUN, NCSU: On its part, Lagos State council of NLC in a statement by its Secretary, John Odigie, lamented the lopsided selection of delegates by some unions to the conference in Abuja. It said in a statement:“the selections were brazenly carried out on tribal lines, by some unions whose presidents hailed from the northern part of the country, a system very alien to the practice of trade unionism even by our founding fathers during the colonial rule. The Lagos State Council of NLC, having witnessed this abuse of electoral process and victimization of unions members from MHWUN led by Comrade Ayuba Waba and the NCSU led by Comrade Kiri Mohammed vehemently wish to condemn in strong term the ethnic colourations foisted on democratic process which NLC is not known for.

Very robust union

“We see this as an affront, that one delegate was selected by Comrade Ayuba of MHWUN from Lagos State Council of the union which contribute the highest and very robust union dues to the coffer of the union. Comrade Kiri Mohammed of National Civil Service Union flagrantly denied all members of the union in Lagos State the voting right at the election by failing to pick one delegate at all. We condemn this unwholesome attempt to disfranchise Lagos State members of these unions and indeed some other unions who also indulge in this shameful act of manipulations, uncanny Labour practice, sheer desperation for power and abuse of union’s constitutions.

“We call on all comrades and leaders of good conscience to rally support for the success and growth of NLC in the forthcoming election. This is a democratic duty call for all of us as comrade that one united Labour family is achievable with our collective struggles, as we work together in our determined quest to liberate workers, protect and defend our trade union.”

Efforts to speak with, MWUN, NSCU: Efforts to speak with leaders of both MHWUN and NCSU on the delegations proved abortive. Several calls to the general secretary of MHWUN and president of NCSU were unanswered. Though on one occasion, the president of NCSU, picked his call, but refused to speak to the caller. Even the text message sent to his mobile was not responded to at the time of this report.

Textile union accuses NLC scribe of partisanship: In another development, National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN, has accused NLC General Secretary, of actions suggestive of partisanship ahead of rescheduled election. General Secretary of the union and a contestant to the post of deputy president, Issa Aremu, in a statement said though the union was committed to ensuring the success of the rescheduled election, some of the rules and guidelines to the elections were already being breached by the General Secretary.

Level playing field

According to him, “We are committed to make sure the new date of March 12, 2015 is a reality. However, if we must ensure a successful election and avoid the crisis that marred the previous election, basic rules and practices guiding elections must be strictly followed. There must be fairness and level playing field for all contestants. We call on the NLC General Secretary to make sure the new election is not marred with the mistake of the past so that we can have a free and fair election.

Danger looms: “We raise this point against the background of our observation from the new list of contestants circulated to all industrial unions by the general secretary of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson. The list of contestants did not follow alphabetical order even when the general secretary clearly stated in the letter dated February 26, 2015 to all the unions that accreditation of delegates will be based on alphabetical order. The contestants’ names were listed in a way that it suggests partisanship. It will be recalled that our union was the first, prior to the botched NLC Delegates Conference to raise the danger of possible crisis if basic rules and practices of NLC guiding elections are not followed.   We were vindicated through the avoidable crisis that marred that election.

“We hereby demand that the circulated list of contestants should be withdrawn and a fresh list of contestants arranged in alphabetical order be reissued to all affiliate unions by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).   This should also reflect in the ballot papers.

Basic rules and practices

The NLC General Secretary should stop turning Comrades against Comrades. There should be strict application of basic rules and practices to avoid the ugly experience of the recent past.”

General Secretary’s response: On the issue of unions bringing majority of their delegates from a section of the country, Dr. Ozo-Eson said the NLC constitution provided that the secretariat allocate delegates to unions and it was properly done, saying, however, that the secretariat did not screen the delegates to know where they came from. He said, “this issue of bringing delegates from a section of the country is alien to the movement.  We did not screen the delegates. It is very sad. It is only the affected unions that can best explain the rationale behind it. It is sad and alien to the movement.”

On the allegation by the NUTGTWN, he said no list of the candidates had been released to the public by that the secretariat, but that the secretariat only sent list of contestants to the unions that had candidates to the election, saying “the ballot papers are going to be arranged in alphabetical order. It has nothing to with list of contestants.”

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.