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NLC/FG face-off: How Sultan broke the ice

Posted by By BEIFOH OSEWELE on 2007/06/24 | Views: 681 |

NLC/FG face-off: How Sultan broke the ice


The industrial action embarked upon by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), with the effective support of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the civil society was dramatically suspended on Saturday night after four grueling days with both parties singing a no victor, no vanquished chorus.

The industrial action embarked upon by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), with the effective support of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the civil society was dramatically suspended on Saturday night after four grueling days with both parties singing a no victor, no vanquished chorus.

Although labour was able to extract substantial concession from the Federal Government, not a few persons expressed misgivings over labour’s inability to force the President Musa Shehu Yar’Adua led administration to revert to the N65 pump price of petroleum as against the compromise price of N70.

A lot of people expressed sadness at the seeming ease with which labour capitulated. But what critics of the leadership of labour may not easily fathom is the fact that there was a lot of pressure on Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, NLC president to back down. In fact, Omar had made a hint to it himself when he alleged that there was pressure from the North for him to stave off the action, insisting that he would not until the rescinded its decision to stick on to the mark up effected by General Olusegun Obasanjo barely 48 hours to the expiration of his second term in office.

According to Daily Sun investigation, the Omar-led labour was prepared to push government to the limit if need be to ensure total compliance with its demand but for the intervention of Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammmed Sa’ad Abubakar 111 who made spirited efforts to broker a truce between the Federal Government and the workers union.

"The Sultan was very concerned about the crisis. As a leader, he could not fold his arms and pretend that all was well when it was obvious that the nation was living dangerously on the precipice. Because of his concern, he called President Yar’Adua and NLC to ask how it can be resolved. He did everything possible to assist in striking deal between the NLC and the Federal Government," a palace source revealed.

According to our source, as early as last Thursday, the Sultan had contacted Comrade Peter Akpatason, a course mate of his at the Kuru, near Jos-based Nigeria Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), who incidentally is the president of NUPENG, pleading with him to link him and Omar. Akpatason did, following which Omar was said to have called the Sultan on Thursday on his mobile phone.

The religious leader and the union president was said to have spoken for at least one hour. Having established a link, the Sultan made sure he kept the communication channel oiled as he continuously called up the union leader at regular interval. He also kept a tab on Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, the Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG) who was leader of government delegation.

Daily Sun gathered that the Sultan and the labour leader spent long hours discussion on the phone back and forth in a bid to find a common ground between the ‘warring’ parties. At a point, labour out of respect for the Sultan, was said to have conceded some grounds by accepting N68 per litre instead of the N65. This was even as FG was sticking to its gun at N70.

Shortly before the labour and the government went into one of their close door meetings on Thursday, the Sultan was believed to have reached out to Omar and they spoke at length. He also spoke to the Federal Government team, whereby he tried to push through the N68 per litre option. But it soon became obvious that what was at stake was ego thing.

It was at this point, Daily Sun learnt, that Sultan decided to call President Umaru Yar’Adua. He was said to have advised him to personally meet the labour people and appeal to them if need be. "Yar’Adua agreed, even as he pleaded with the Sultan to plead further with Labour."

Finally, Labour agreed to the N70 offer made to it by government with a commitment the price would not be jerked up at least for the next 12 calendar year. It also got government to stay action on the controversial sale of the refineries among others.
Between Thursday and the time the action was called off, the sultan was said to have spent at least 12 hours on phone speaking with both Labour and the government.

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