LOVE THAT BIRTHS THE LIGHT OF HOPE
2022 Christmas Message by the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress
On behalf of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Nigeria Labour Congress, I extend very warm Christmas greetings to all our Christian sisters and brothers in Nigeria especially those of the working-class family and indeed to all women and men of goodwill all over the world.
Christmas is a season to celebrate the love of God for humanity – a love that was profoundly expressed by the birth of the Saviour. The sights and sounds of the first Noel convey most powerfully the reason for the season.
The appearance of the angels, the swathing of great lights of glory, the announcement of good tidings of great joy, the discovery of Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and the outbreak of Hosanna from the heavenly host chorusing “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace and goodwill towards men” is the summary of Christmas which signifies the love of God that births the light of hope for all humanity.
This Christmas, we urge Nigerian workers and people to resonate in the light of hope birthed by the love of God conveyed through the birth of His son Jesus Christ. It is the illumination of this hope that inspires confidence in our hearts that however dark our night as a country might be, light would certainly emerge and shine at the end of our tunnel.
Many Nigerian workers and ordinary people are currently going through the dark tunnel of soaring inflation marked by very steep increases in the prices of essential goods and services. Many Nigerian families are going through the dark tunnel of general apprehension about their security and personal safety as criminals and terrorists hold sway in many parts of the country looting, raping, kidnapping, and killing. Many Nigerians who would be traveling this festive season would be going through the dark tunnel of bruised, broken and battered infrastructure especially roads.
While the light of Christmas would be celebrated across many cities, towns and villages around the world with bright illumination which are bye-products of stability in public electricity supply, many Nigerians would be battling with queuing for hours to get petrol to power their generators.
It is difficult to keep urging workers and ordinary Nigerians to hold on to the life buoy of hope in the midst of a burgeoning bay of darkness. Yet, hope is Christmas sublime message. It is only prudent that we take sinew from the knowledge that the darkest night usually births the brightest mornings. We believe that Nigeria’s brightest morning is just ahead of us.
After this Christmas, the next major event that will face us as a country would be the 2023 general elections. There is no bigger harbinger of hope than the opportunity to select a fresh set of political leaders. Political leadership is the match that lights the torch of hope. Every country would rise and fall with its choice of political leadership. Nigeria is no exception.
We urge our compatriots especially workers to be very deliberate in their engagement with the political process come 2023. Elections are the time to ask critical questions and make rational choices. Workers must identify with political party candidates who demonstrate commitment to lighting up the end of the tunnels of economic downturns marked by soaring inflation, widespread insecurity, deepening poverty, escalating crises of unemployment especially among the youth demography of our country, decadent physical infrastructure, and brazen corruption in high places.
The Nigeria Labour Congress has turned up a flicker of light in directing the political energy of Nigeria’s working class and ordinary people by developing a Nigerian Workers’ Charter of Demands. Our Charter of Demands speaks to the key issues that agitate the minds of the average worker and citizen. Through our Charter of Demands, we seek answers to the question of stunted national socio-economic growth as represented by the continued under development of our human and natural resources.
The Nigerian Workers Charter of Demands has identified poor salaries, abysmal working conditions and horrendous living realities as a major clog in the wheel of optimum national development. The dearth of adequate education and healthcare facilities and poor motivation of workers in those sectors continue to blight every effort at human capital development in Nigeria thus digging the chasm of non-inclusive growth.
Our Charter of Demands has identified nonchalant attitude by government to value addition to Nigeria’s mineral resources as a major source of the widespread unemployment, poverty, and destitution in our country. Of particular concern to us is the criminal neglect of Nigeria’s public refineries which are all operating at near zero capacity. This is truly shameful for the sixth largest producer of crude oil in the world and the largest exporter of crude oil in Africa. It is truly unfortunate that the money government claims to spend on subsidizing refined petroleum products imported into Nigeria can rehabilitate our refineries and build new ones.
The same culture of indifference to value addition is palpable in our agriculture sector where most of our cash crops and farm produce are shipped overseas in their very raw form and at dirt cheap prices. These products are later processed and imported as semi-finished or finished goods at huge prices. This is how our country has embraced the darkness of being a net exporter of jobs and a net importer of unemployment.
The Nigerian Workers Charter of Demands raises eyebrow on our public infrastructure. When will Nigerians enjoy uninterrupted electricity? When will Nigerians be able to travel on roads free from killer potholes, craters, and gullies? When will Nigerians transverse their country on standard rail ways without losing sleep on being mobbed and snatched by terrorists?
Nigerian youths and students are asking our elected political office holders when will we have the last strike in our public universities especially as a result of government failing to honour agreements entered with trade unions in our tertiary institutions? The Nigerian child is asking when government will ensure that public schools are adequately funded, hospitals are well equipped and Nigeria’s status as the space that harbours the world’s highest number of out-of-school children is changed for good?
It was Plato who said that when astute persons abandon politics they would be governed by their inferiors. This is the domineering narrative in our body polity today. We urge Nigerians to rise up to the challenge using the 2023 general poll as an enabling platform to elect a political leadership that is conscientious, prudent, and completely obedient to our demands as a people. 2023 is our torch of hope! This torch must not be wasted.
We urge Nigerians to celebrate Christmas with care and caution. We must care for those who do not have enough to eat and wear especially children in orphanages, the sick and the elderly. Employers must also ensure that their workers’ welfare are adequately taken care of. We must also exercise caution about our personal safety and imbibe a healthy road use culture.
Finally, while we commend the State Security Service for intervening to abate the long running man-made fuel shortages in our country, we call on the Central Bank of Nigeria to reconsider the recent policy on limits on cash withdrawals as it is seriously affecting rural informal economy workers, farmers and peasants who in the absence of formal banking services are finding it increasingly difficult to do their businesses.
Again, we wish all Nigerians a memorable Christmas lighted with hope.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni