YOU CANNOT ABRIDGE OUR RIGHTS
Mr Bayo Onanuga recently in an interview with the Punch , berated the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria for what he described as their “open support for the Labour Party and it’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi” in the last election.
He said “the latest joke is the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, aligning with some highly compromised civil society groups saying they are going to serve as the watchdog for the judiciary”.
On account of this, Onanuga argued, they have lost the moral authority “to represent all Nigerian workers having fully embraced the Labour Party”.
We are dismayed by the views expressed by Bayo Onanuga, a veteran of Information Management and Systems who is presumed to know some thing about everything.
However, since Onanuga elected not to know, it behoves upon us to educate him thus:
The right of members of NLC and TUC to belong to lawful associations of their choice or to freely express themselves within the ambit of the law is guaranteed by our national constitution;
Similarly, the right of workers to belong to a political party or political parties of their choice is lawful as per the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria;
The philosophy and essence of the TUC and NLC as expressed in their vision and mission statements and objectives, are lawful, practical protests and struggles for actualisation of better wages, better working, socio-economic and political conditions;
In historical context, the Nigeria Labour Congress was part of the decolonisation struggle that enthroned independence in 1960;
It similarly led the struggle against the military for restoration of democracy. It has been consistent in its criticism of governance irrespective of whoever is in power;
Together with TUC, they have been in the vanguard of other popular struggles too numerous to recall here;
All this did not strip them of the moral authority to speak for or represent workers or the larger Nigerian society until when they chose to criticise the 2023 electoral process which not a few entities including international observers have questioned;
It is amazing that Bayo Onanuga did not speak about the loss of high moral ground when NLC and TUC queried the electoral processes of the previous elections which led to the setting up of the Justice Uwais Committee;
On the international circuit, organised labour has had an illustrious relationship with political power. The Labour Party of Britain is about the most consistent and visible in recent history. Lula of Brazil has just staged a comeback on the platform of Labour. Closer home, we have had COSATU and ANC and Fredrick Chiluba of Zambia. So what is wrong with unions in Nigeria identifying with political parties?
We have deliberately chosen these examples from popular democracies to illustrate to Onanuga that Nigeria is not an aberration.There are more instances in socialist or communist countries.
It is important for Onanuga to know that membership of the Labour Party even for Labour executives is voluntary let alone the mass of workers. In light of the foregoing, he is advised to focus on more productive ventures instead of needlessly crossing red lines and winning enemies for his principal.
Finally, we would like to let Mr Onanuga know that we are not squirmy about our intentions to seize political power through the channels recognised by law. He therefore has no moral authority to question these intentions except he can prove that they are intentions without rights.
Head of Information and Public Affairs