UFOMBA UZUEGBU, Asst News Editor
New factional group of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), a fall-out of the crisis rocking the labour center, has concluded arrangements to hold a delegates conference in Lagos on Friday
Meanwhile, the reconvened national delegate convention at the Eagle Square, Abuja produced Comrade Ayuba Wabba, as the new president.
Wabba, is a former president of the Medical Health Union of Nigeria defeated his major rival, Mr Joe Ajero, with 1695 votes to 1140 to come out tops in the election.
Five candidates contested the vacant three positions of Deputy President. The General Secretary of Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), Peters Adeyemi, scored 1,604; the President of Nigeria Union of Civil Service (NUCS), Kiri Mohammed, got 1,610; while the National President of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Najeem Yasin, scored 1,818 to emerge as the three Deputy Presidents.
Both the General Secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, Issa Aremu, who polled 1,112 and the President of NUPENG, Igwe Achese, who scored 1,283 and who contested for Deputy President failed to make it, as they scored lower figure than Adeyemi, Mohammed and Yasin.
No fewer than 23 unions including Electricity Workers Union, Nigerian Textile Workers Union and NUPENG were among those opposed to the results of the election that declared Ayuba Waba president of the workers’ union.
In a swift reaction , Comrade Joe Ajaero and the leadership of the aggrieved unions told newsmen in Abuja, that they had fixed 21 February for a fresh ‘delegates conference “where perceived ‘wrongs’ in the Abuja election would be addressed.
The workers and stakeholders had hoped that the reconvened NLC at the eagle square would lay to rest the crisis that trailed last month’s congress which failed to produce new leadership for the congress.
Many Nigerians have probably been watching with astonishment, the unfolding drama in the nation’s labour house, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), where two attempts, within the last thirty days to elect officers to pilot its affairs had ended in controversies.
Workers from 23 unions including Electricity Workers Union, Nigerian Textile Workers Union and NUPENG were among those opposed to the results of the election that declared Ayuba Waba president of the workers’ union. Although, a new leadership was declared in Friday’s elections, the reactions from these members showed that there was no end in sight for the crisis in the NLC.
Even to the most undiscerning observer, it was quite evident that the reconvened election was going to as tumultuous as the previous exercise. In the build up to the February 11, 2015 election, there were weighty allegations by some affiliates that the processes leading to the election were defective. But wittingly or unwittingly, the organizers of the election failed to pay heed to their complaint.
The consequence is the balkanization of the Congress into two factions. They alleged among others, for instance, that the processes leading to the election were lopsided and tailored towards ensuring that the president and key officers emerge from the North.
As part of the processes, unions such as Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, with 527 delegates and Nigeria Civil Service Union, NCSU, with not less than 300 delegates to conference were alleged to have picked over 90 percent of delegates from the North. It was alleged that while Kano has close to 60 delegates, Lagos, Oyo, South-East and South-South states were given one each. In the same vein, NCSU has no delegate from Kwara, Plateau and most states in the South.
The chairman, Kwara State Chapter of NLC, Alhaji Umar Faruk Akanbi, noted that the processes were skewewd to favour some contestant5s from the Nor th. He put the issue of lopsidedness in perspective. He said : “It is unfortunate for the movement; that some of the labour leaders are behaving like tribalistic politicians by projecting ethnic tendencies ahead of the rescheduled election”.
He alleged that 90 percent of delegates of the MHWUN to the Conference were from the North, a situation, he said, was not a fair representation of the union in the country. According to him, while only one delegate each was taken from Lagos and Oyo, Kano alone has about 60 delegates. Similarly, he claimed NCSU delegates to the Conference had about 90 percent northerners with the exception of Kwara which is without a single delegate, noting that such was not the spirit of the labour movement founding fathers.
Akanbi said, “If northerners are bringing the larger majority of the delegates from the North, it will spell doom for the Labour Movement and we may not be in a position to correct Nigerian political class if we are emphasizing tribalism. It is obvious that the rescheduled election is tailored towards favouring a particular candidate who is from the North.
“Nigeria Labour Congress is a pan-Nigerian organization where all sections of Nigeria must be given equal representation; where all part of Nigeria must be equally recognized because whoever emerges as the president of the Congress represents the entire Nigeria workers.
“Therefore, I do not subscribe to a situation where a particular section of the country is dominating the delegates. So, some of us are of the view that we should have an organization that is Nigerian in outlook. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Abdulwaheed Omar were elected by the entire Nigerian workers. So what we are doing presently is a dangerous “trend”.
Corroborating Akanbi’s postion on the issues On its part, the Lagos State council of NLC in a statement by its Secretary, John Odigie, lamented the lopsided selection of delegates by some unions to the conference in Abuja. It said in a statement:“the selections were brazenly carried out on tribal lines, by some unions whose presidents hailed from the northern part of the country, a system very alien to the practice of trade unionism even by our founding fathers during the colonial rule.
“The Lagos State Council of NLC, having witnessed this abuse of electoral process and victimization of unions members from MHWUN led by Comrade Ayuba Waba and the NCSU led by Comrade Kiri Mohammed vehemently wish to condemn in strong term the ethnic colourations foisted on democratic process which NLC is not known for.
“We see this as an affront, that one delegate was selected by Comrade Ayuba of MHWUN from Lagos State Council of the union which contribute the highest and very robust union dues to the coffer of the union. Comrade Kiri Mohammed of National Civil Service Union flagrantly denied all members of the union in Lagos State the voting right at the election by failing to pick one delegate at all.
‘We condemn this unwholesome attempt to disfranchise Lagos State members of these unions and indeed some other unions who also indulge in this shameful act of manipulations, uncanny Labour practice, sheer desperation for power and abuse of union’s constitutions.
“We call on all comrades and leaders of good conscience to rally support for the success and growth of NLC in the forthcoming election. This is a democratic duty call for all of us as comrade that one united Labour family is achievable with our collective struggles, as we work together in our determined quest to liberate workers, protect and defend our trade union.”
Meanwhile, the Congress has directed its members to stay away from the ‘special delegates’ conference.
A statement signed in Abuja on Saturday, by the NLC’s General Secretary, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, said the conference is influenced by individuals driven by inordinate ambition and vainglory.
He therefore advised all affiliate unions of the Labour body to steer clear of the conference. He said: “Affiliate unions of the Nigeria Labour Congress are hereby advised to ignore any invitation to such a conference as the 11th Delegates Conference was concluded in the early hours of Saturday, March, 14, 2015 following the successful election of the national executives of the Congress in a free, fair and credible election under the watchful eyes of unions, delegates, invited guests, veterans and members of the media.”
Whether the break-away affiliate unions would adhere to this directive and retrace their steps, only time will tell.