WE join other Nigerians and well-wishers in congratulating the foremost Labour organisation in the country, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, as it turns forty today, February 28, 2018. Its establishment in 1978 was a continuation of the enviable and progressive role the Trade Union Movement has played since the late 19th Century when mass paid employment was introduced in the country.
It has also built on the solid foundations laid by trade unionists like Chu Gogo Nzeribe, Michael Imoudu, Wahab Goodluck, Aminu Kano and Haroon Popoola Adebola. The NLC had as its founding President, Alhaji Hassan Sunmonu whose leadership built the administrative foundations of the Congress, secured its first headquarters in Lagos, popularised the NLC in the consciousness of Nigerians, promoted the culture of collective leadership and won the first National Minimum Wage in the country.
His successor, Alhaji Ali Chiroma, fought titanic battles to resist mass retrenchment by the military regime, check unreasonable increases in the prices of petroleum products and mobilised the populace against the repression of the Student Movement and the entrenchment of military dictatorship.
Comrade Paschal Bafyau who succeeded Chiroma after a ten-month interregnum by a government-imposed Sole Administrator, was not a particularly popular figure given his pro-military regime politics. However, his administration had the distinction of building quite viable institutions and structures for the NLC including the Labour Transport Service (now, the Labour City Transport Services), the Labour Bank, LALICON, a huge Education Fund and the 12-Storey Labour House in Abuja which has appropriately been renamed after him.
The administration of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole which came after another interregnum of government-imposed Sole Administrators on the NLC, returned the Congress to the path of mass popularity and support. That administration is noted for the numerous strikes it led against the constant increases in the prices of petroleum products. Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar who took over from Oshiomhole, with lesser effect, continued the resistance of its predecessor against unpopular government policies. It, however, has the record of organising the largest and most effective street protests in the country’s contemporary history with its January 2012 anti-fuel price protests.
Unfortunately, due mainly to parochial and individual interests, the NLC split after the Omar administration in 2015. This eventually led to the rise of the rival United Labour Congress (ULC), the tragic consequences were noticeable in the abysmal failure of the 2016 fuel deregulation general strike. Today, the once vibrant trade union movement lays prostrate and workers are lacking the cohesive, pragmatic, vibrant, principled and proactive leadership the NLC once offered.
On this occasion, we urge all groups and tendencies in the trade union movement to reunite and ensure that the next forty years are more glorious for workers and the toiling masses of the country.