NLC at 40, how has the journey being?
The journey has been a very tough one. It has not been easy. This is 40 years of serious struggle and contestations. The NLC has operated within a mega society that is confronted with both social, political and economic crisis and you find that even as we do this celebration, it is not yet Uhuru because a lot of our members have been under heavy threat in the last couple of years. I can tell you clearly that despite the fact we can say that this country has gone though a lot in the last couple of years, the NLC has survived. In this last 40 years, we have gone through military rule and have a situation where NLC has been proscribed twice by the military over issues that have nothing to do with threat to government survival. We have also had a situation in this country where a President made a broadcast accusing the NLC of operating as a parallel government. In this past 40 years we have had struggle on the issue of a living national minimum wage and we are still on that struggle. We have had contestations over issues of price increase of petroleum products and removal of subsidy and we have done that severally. So, it is really a massive 40 years where we have gone through a lot of crisis. I want to assure you that a lot of those struggles have yielded some positive results for Nigerian workers. Our determination is that as we move ahead, we will continue to oppose ant people policies and we will continue to discharge our responsibility to the Nigerian people. We will continue to fight anti people policies and remain a vanguard, not only of the working people, but Nigerians at large.
Would you say the seeming crisis in the labour movement has impacted on the achievement of the congress?
I can’t seat down here and tell you that it has not had any impact because it has inhibited tremendously some of the giant strides we are supposed to have recorded in the last couple of years because in unity lies strength. As chairman of the organizing committee of this NLC at 40, one of the biggest challenges I have had is to see how we can consolidate and see how NLC can come together as one strong indivisible organisation. We have to intensify effort to ensure that our colleagues who are aggrieved are back into our fold so that we can have more strength because the issues are more now and we need unity no purpose to be able to confront the challenges that we are confronted with.
In other climes, Labour plays a critical role in the political life of the country. But somehow, we don’t have similar thing happening in Nigeria. Are there plans to get organised labour involved in political activities?
It is not only in the developed economies of the world that trade unions play active role in politics. Even in South Africa here, you have seen what COSATU is doing. Even the new President of South Africa used to be a trade union person. Even in Nigeria, we have had a situation where we have the Labour Party in place which is supposed to drive the interest of our workers in the country. Even though we have had some problems, NLC is working to ensure that the labour party truly reflects the yearning and aspiration of the workers in this country. If you look at the political terrain in this country, you realize that we truly need a labour party that is visible ,visionary and focused that can also drive the interest of the Nigerian workers and the Nigerian people. There is no way you will say that labour has no role to play in politics. I don’t agree because we have to be there to be able to defend our own interest. You can’t continue going on the street all the time, protesting. We needed also to be in politics and be in power to be able to correct the ills that are currently visible in the country.
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