BY CHARLES KUMOLU
EVEN when the past one year had largely been marked by issues that often times send the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its affiliates back to the trenches, activities of the organised labour were clearly bereft of its traditional punch.
To the charging of Nigerians, labour with a robust history of activism mostly assumed the role of a spectator in the face of provoking living conditions in a manner that was nearly interpreted as abdication of its responsibilities.
In larger scales, many people had been thrown out of jobs, backlog of salaries are being owed in the public and private sectors, while the masses groan under harsh economic realities within the year under review.
By all standards, in all these, it is believed that labour did little or nothing to promote, defend and advance the economic, political and social well-being of Nigerian workers.
Consequently, the plight of Nigerians is such that questions labour’s core objective of being the most reliable and faithful advocate of working class values, justice and equity.
Though the NLC had been factionalised prior to the period being reviewed, the crisis ridden status no doubt aided its seeming aloofness in the face of these. After all, a divided fold hardly achieves enduring results.
The situation, perhaps, resulted in its unusual inability to garner maximum support during the last industrial strike.
So uninspiring was the outing that it questioned the fraternal relationship existing between labour and the masses.
It was particularly so given that the connection between both actors, had historically been somewhat umbilical within the context of continuous struggle for better working condition by Nigeria’s working class.
But the public apathy to NLC’s call amid one of the hardest times in the country’s history, dealt a devastating blow on organised labour’s integrity.
Though, the disposition towards the action was literally mixed, the failure to get the suffering populace react against a policy that birthed more misery, brought to bear, labour’s seeming diminishing standing in the polity. A disturbing consequence of that is the painful notion that labour has become disconnected with public mood and as such lacks the fitting response to the current dynamics.
However, the detachment as exemplified by absence of bite and traction during the strike, also implied that labour may have lost the critical ingredients that stood it out among other agents of social relations in Nigeria.
Little wonder the consensus that the strike was neither in the interest of Nigerians nor labour.
In respective of the damage the development appears to have done to the future of activism in the country, the scenario squarely positioned the two factions of the NLC in their place.
Not minding the no victor, no vanquished feeling of some section of the public, the outcome of the infamous action left either of the camps as respectively led by Comrade Joe Ajaero and Comrade Ayuba Waba with bitter and better experiences.
Indeed, the general performance of the Waba faction which observers consider dismal appears to have edged it out of reckoning in the estimation of many. For electing to proceed on the strike even when feelers nationwide, indicated that industrial action would this time, not be a fitting response, set the group apart as being far from current realities.
The faction had while embarking on the indefinite strike even while the Trade Union Congress, TUC, had pulled out, vowed to ensure the government reverses the N145 per litre pump price of petrol.
To many, such insistence in respective of the apathy of its key allies, (the Ajero group, TUC,NUPENG and masses) in the struggle, was less tactical and clairvoyant.
The group had earlier walked out of the negotiation with the Federal Government following the inability of the two parties to reach an agreement, while the government reached an agreement with the Ajaero-led faction to set up a committee to resolve agitations over the new pump price of petrol.
With the salient issues at stake, walking out was considered not to be well thought. Hence the opportunity it provided for the Ajaero group to seize the moment by backing out of the strike with their large numbers and effectively crippling the strike.
It was mainly for that reason that the action which threatened to shut down the economy, including the airspace, electricity, civil service and other critical sectors recorded little or no success nationwide.
Ultimately, observers think the Ajaero camp in its approach, exhibited in clear terms, an understanding of the current narratives thereby earning national reckoning.
By opting to negotiate with the government from onset, the faction actually earned the admiration of several groups, eminent personalities and economic experts, who had pleaded against going ahead with the strike.
Now, it is expected that the organised labour that became factionalised since March 2015, resolve its differences and negotiate Nigerians out of the multiplier effects of the fuel price hike.
Of the concerns to be addressed so as to cushion the effects of the new price regime, arriving at an upward review of the national minimum is considered very imperative.
It also behooves NLC to be actively involved in the implementation of the N500 billion palliatives captured in the 2016 budget by ensuring that civil society groups, political parties and other concerned groups are carried along by the Federal Government.
Should such be the case, it is expected that the current hardship occasioned by the price hike, devaluation, spiraling inflation and other volatilities in the economy, would be ameliorated to some extent.