By Edward Osadolo
The report on Energy page of Vanguard newspaper of Tuesday, March 13, 2018, page 23, titled “Fuel distribution to worsen as leadership tussle emerges in NUPENG” calls for worry, and underpin the urgent need for drastic actions by the government and especially by Nigerians, who most often bear the brunt, to check the excesses of these unions in the oil sector.
Just when it was thought that respite have come the way of Nigerians, who had groaned under excruciating fuel scarcity for almost five months, the unions are at it again, to disrupt the relative ease in the supply and purchase chain of fuel in the country. The anti-people activities of these unions, especially, in the oil sector have been left to fester too long, and grown into an Octopus that is threatening to make life miserable for all of us. Why must Nigerians be made to pay for the leadership tussle in an organisation, whose activities represent nothing good to Nigerians but hardship?
Why will Nigerians allow a handful of individuals who gathered themselves in the name of unionism continue to make life unbearable for them? Why will Nigerians allow these set of people to continue to infuse fears on them using strike threats as tools not only to drive home their selfish goals but also to coerce government to do their bidding?
From all indications, developments like these clearly typified a system that could be likened to George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ where some people are above the law of the land. It is no difference from people playing gods while those who are supposed to rise up in protest against their actions glorify them through persistence silence and fear.
When has unionism become bigger than the entire Nigerian state? Or are they above the law that Nigerians will continue to live at their mercy? Unionism is meant for the protection of the interest of the people but what obtains here in Nigeria clearly shows that such purpose has been thrown to the dogs.
When the late former British Prime Minister, Margret Thatcher was confronted with the lousy antics of union leaders, she had the choice to either continue to massage the ego of disgruntled labour activities or to stand up to them, once and for all, to free British people. Posterity has continued to judge her favourably, almost four decades after.
Like the late British ‘Iron Lady’ Thatcher, if President Buhari wants posterity to judge him fairly, after bowing out of office, he must muster the necessary courage to confine this greedy lot where they truly belong.
The questions that must be asked today are: why should the internal crisis of a union be allowed to hold a country to ransom? Does it mean that, if vulcanizers’ union have internal crises, they should obstruct vehicular movement? Should Nigerians stop thinking straight because Tanker Drivers and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) indulge in illegality with impunity?
If the activities of these unions must not continue to inflict pains on Nigerians, the right time for the regulatory body to start looking into their activities is now. No country moves forward in the face of illegality, chaos and irresponsibility. Will Nigeria replicate Thatcherist formula to free us from this reckless nuisance of unionism?
Nigeria is now the only country where ‘comrade’ has become a house hold title. The Cubans and other comrade nations, where the title emanated from have ditched same for good.
A red flag must be raised for these lower elements, who continue to blackmail government and inflict hardship on Nigerians that, enough is enough. We must insist and declare that we will no longer tolerate fuel scarcity caused by a gullible few. We must declare that no matter how big a union claims to be, it cannot be bigger than the entire country to which it ought to pay its first allegiance.
According to the report in Vanguard, the current crisis brewing in NUPENG is a fallout of an alleged breach of its constitution by the outgoing President, Comrade Achese Igwe and his National Executive Council. The Petroleum Tanker Drivers, an arm of NUPENG is leading agitations to identify the alleged constitutional breach which it said was designed to elongate the tenure of the current executive officers of the union.
This is not a Nigerian issue but an internal wrangling among its members which ought to be addressed internally just as it is observed in other bodies. Thus, it should not for any reason have any direct bearing on Nigerians or the government who had in the past, suffered bundles of blackmails in the hands of saboteurs who have long lost touch with patriotism.
If all the reports contained in the publication are anything to go by, what is the place of Nigerians in the NUPENG hullabaloo that they should be the one to be at the receiving end of the union’s failure to execute a peaceful successor plan?
Nigerians have had enough of this unnecessary public disorder by NUPENG. Concerned authorities must not stand aloof in this. President Buhari, on whose desk the buck stops, should take urgent and drastic steps to send clear message to these ‘so called leaders that, it is no longer business as usual. The government must continue to take into consideration the billions of naira it lost to the activities of unions in the petroleum sector at every given strike they artificially created.
Nigerians on their part should as a matter of urgency, rise up against such oppressive tendencies often orchestrated by these bodies that see nothing wrong with what they do even at the expense of the poor masses. Enough is enough; Nigerians are tired of these excesses.
-Osadolo is a Benin-city-base public affairs analyst.