ACCEPTANCE SPEECH BY COMRADE JOE AJAERO AS THE ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS (NLC) DURING THE 13TH QUADRENNIAL NATIONAL DELEGATES’ CONFERENCE OF THE NLC HELD ON THE 7TH & 8TH DAYS OF FEBRUARY, 2023 AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE, ABUJA
Today, Nigerian workers have demonstrated their commitment and resolve to continue to work in Solidarity in the quest to build fair and equitable workplaces thus better societies. Our deep understanding of the nature and character of what we seek to achieve and the portend of the forces surrounding it, creates an urgency in our hearts and a determination to succeed. The need for inner strength that can only be founded in a Cohesive and united NLC has been brought to the fore and is massively expressed here today. The thickness of the effusive camaraderie gripping us in this year’s Conference is yet to be matched! History has already been made!
Buoyed in that spirit and its effervescence, we strongly believe that this journey though, will be filled with huge challenges but the strength founded on the outcomes here will take us to victory. The readiness for effectively engaging our social partners thus unleashing greater benefits is expressly manifest on all our faces both on the old team, the new team and all Nigerian workers. It is a new dawn!
We therefore want to thank the almighty God who has made today possible and also show our deep appreciation to those within the Congress that have worked tirelessly within these past months to ensure that we navigate all the labyrinths and berth upon this shore safely. Comrade Ayuba Wabba; our President and leader who withstood great pressures and under whose able and creative hands we were able to get here, we reserve our greatest appreciation. We salute you as you have once again taken your leadership capacities and capabilities to another height after occupying the office of the President of ITUC.- the leading voice for workers all over the world. We are proud of you! To all the Presidents and General Secretaries of our great affiliates including our Secretariat staff, we salute you all!
Our work will surely be guided by the huge outpouring of trust demonstrated here today. We will not betray that trust! We are committed to resolutely pursuing the interests and desire of Nigerian workers and by extension the majority of Nigerian masses. We therefore, pledge our loyalty to the NLC, Nigerian workers, Nigerian masses and Nigeria. Our breathe comrades, our thoughts and our actions shall be propelled by this avowal!
We shall seek to reconnect more strongly to build greater solidarities with the people of Nigeria rising once again to be the carriers of their desires and amplifiers of their voices. We shall not only speak for the 133m Nigerians who are multi-dimensionally poor but shall also seek platforms to lift the shackles of poverty from the shoulders of our people. We shall once again be the true champions of the Nigerian people; crying their cries and jointly waging our wars against all forces of impoverishment and misery.
Seeking deeper engagement with governments at all levels more creatively in keeping with our philosophical foundations and traditions. Deepening existing engagements in various areas of our national lives and opening new vistas to expand opportunities for Nigerian workers and people to freely express their capabilities and untie developmental factors upon our nation will be our general focus in the next four years.
The NLC will seek in conjunction with our social partners including key national stakeholders to build a nation that would be more inclusive in all its ramifications and fair to all Nigerians especially Nigerian workers. Ensuring therefore the reduction in Decent –Work deficits and the mainstreaming of the goals and outcomes of the SDGs will be a priority including a drive for a more effective Social inclusion framework with strong legal and institutional foundations.
On this note, we acknowledge the continued support of the ILO including its various Organs and the diverse mechanisms of the United Nations and much more the solidarity of the International workers movement especially the ITUC, the OATUU, OTUWA and the various Labour centres scattered around the world. We shall seek to deepen this network and use them to optimise our pursuit of better societies both in Nigeria and internationally.
We would, seek the resurrection of the review of the nation’s Labour Laws through the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) which seems to have been deliberately stalled to ensure that all legal loopholes exploited by unscrupulous workplace partners to restrict the effort at making our workplaces more Decent work compliant are blocked. To this end, we urge all employers of labour who have unsettled industrial relations issues with their workers and unions to immediately resolve them to avoid our intervention.
The NLC will pursue with utmost urgency a new national minimum wage law that would take into consideration the objective realities of our socio-economy; expand its reach to capture more workers and create variables and thresholds for automatic adjustment of the nation’s wage floor to avoid unnecessary politicking and impunity by our employers and reduce the suffering of Nigerian workers
Our engagement with government shall be aimed at assisting governments to cut down on the cost of governance; cut out fats and reduce the opportunities for fat cats to raid the economy. We shall seek our inclusion in various Policy cycles and join hands with government to establish the supremacy of due process in Public life thus dismantle all structures and vestiges of rent-seeking, wastes and misappropriation in public governance.
NLC shall continue in its tradition of ensuring that Nigerians are protected from all anti-people policies so that plunder in governance are reduced to the barest minimum while government is assisted to work for the majority. We shall therefore robustly engage government to stop the impunity and pervasive wickedness currently going on in the country in the name of Petroleum product pricing.
The current Electricity tariff and provisioning remains stacked against Nigerian workers and masses and we shall therefore work with government to bring sanity to bear to that sector. We urge the federal government again to review the Privatisation of the Electricity sector; a process both the government and all of us have agreed was mired in corruption.
Nigeria is currently critically challenged and faces existential threats both from within and without. The trade union movement is also likewise confronted but the contradiction is that we are expected to be one of the key platforms in causing a national reawakening. It becomes incumbent on us to dig deep into our historical resolve to purge ourselves, rebuild our strength; reactivate our Organic solidarities including our wide and inclusive solidarities so that we can strategically position ourselves to respond to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigeria workers and peoples.
To this end, we shall work assiduously with our various affiliates and partners to strengthen our industrial unions. Our strength as a labour centre is built on the strength and capacities of our affiliates and with this understanding; we shall embark on deliberate campaigns to make our Unions stronger and more viable. We call our affiliates to action today to initiate processes at rebuilding capacities so that together, we can serve Nigerian workers and masses better and deliver greater benefits to them all.
Once again, Nigerian workers and indeed the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have shown how leadership transition ought to occur. We therefore urge Nigerian Politicians to learn from what we have done in our leadership recruitment process; the ability to heal our wounds, build bridges, show tolerance and stand together to push the cause of Nigerian workers further in the midst of countervailing pressures. Our values, traditions and indeed the organisation is more important to us than personal interests so, the lives of Nigerians and the survival of the nation within the context of equity, fairness and greater inclusivity should be more important than the ambitions of our politicians especially as this year’s general elections approaches.
Our nation comrades is currently at the edge of the precipice! It is our responsibility to pull it back! NLC led by our team will lead the charge towards assisting the nation rebuild. We therefore call on all patriots and key national stakeholders to join hands with us to salvage what is left of our country. It is our responsibility and indeed our civic duty to create a new trajectory; a new path for our dear nation.
The usurpation and use of state power to impoverish the citizenry abuses the ideals of democracy and destroys the nation. Governance ought to provide comfort for the citizenry so, it pains us to witness the increasing frustrations Nigerians have had to go through in the last few months just to fuel their cars and generators, the new phenomenon of black market Naira – buying our own monies at a discount from illegal brokers. This is unacceptable!
Governance in Nigeria seems to have broken all known records for bad governance. We will definitely not keep quiet in the face of this deliberate defilement of citizenship by the ruling elite as we may mobilise variously across the nation to nudge the government to act more responsibly towards the citizenry and seek ways of alleviating the suffering that currently walks our streets with arrogance.
We pledge to lead the battle to reclaim Nigeria from the front. In this spirit, the NLC urges the federal government to take immediate action to set free the deposits of Nigerians it has impounded in banks across the federation by making cash available also, untie the Petroleum products supply conundrum at the agreed price. If nothing is done before the end of next week, we shall be forced take necessary steps to save the lives of Nigerians in conjunction with our Civil Society partners. The choice is in the hands of the government and we urge them to make the right choice!
It is crucial that our Politicians learn from history to avoid its pitfalls. They must play according to the rules avoiding actions that may truncate our democratic process and imperil our nation. The Electoral umpire must ensure a transparent and equitable conduct of the elections at all levels while we urge all Nigerians to seize the opportunity which this presents to vote the right people into positions of power. Those that are destroying our nation and stealing our collective patrimony must not be allowed any longer in our corridors of power.
As Nigerians, we must not allow them divide us along religious and regional lines. Our demands on the Nigerian State are basically the same. We have unwaveringly asked for a secure nation where we can move freely and carry out our daily activities without violently losing our lives and properties. We have demanded equity and fairness in the sharing of our nation’s resources, more functional and accessible education system for our children, increasing access to high quality medical care, high quality road infrastructure, increasing access to nutrition and generally elevating the factors that increases human wellbeing. We should therefore vote the candidates who have the Competence and character to deliver on these demands come February and March.
Since these demands and much more are the same and blind to primordial considerations so, we pledge to continue to champion them; amplifying and pursuing their attainment shall be our utmost consideration as leaders of the NLC in the elections. Our position as to where we stand has been well canvassed in the nation’s media and has not changed.
Comrades, the challenges are many! We saw the challenges! We still sought your mandate! You gave it to us unflinchingly! We humbly accept this mandate! We accept to be your voice and your standard bearer lifting proudly our collective flags symbolising the crystallisation of years of historical struggles!
We have asked God not to allow us lead the NLC if we are going to use it for our own personal objectives to the detriment of Nigerian workers and peoples. We renew our commitment to that pledge.
We will not fail God! We will not fail Nigerian workers! We will not fail the NLC! We will not fail you and will not fail Nigerian masses!
Long live Nigerian workers! Long live the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)!
Long live Nigerian masses! Long live Nigeria!
“Struggle continues for our Victory is surely Certain”