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Who blinks: FG or Labour?

Posted by IKENNA EMEWU on 2007/06/25 | Views: 402 |

Who blinks: FG or Labour?

This is the fourth day of the civil protest. The organized labour bodies are calling the shots. It has been a time of war between the TUC, NLC and the Civil Society on one side of the tug rope and the returnee Babagana Kingibe, the Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG) holding the other end.

This is the fourth day of the civil protest. The organized labour bodies are calling the shots. It has been a time of war between the TUC, NLC and the Civil Society on one side of the tug rope and the returnee Babagana Kingibe, the Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG) holding the other end.

At this time, having stepped into the fourth day of protest and opinion disparity, none of the warring parties would be said to be holding the longer end of the rope.

The Labour has the population and a longer stretch of pulling agents, but the government has a shorter queue but far stronger force by reason and advantage of bullying and agents of intimidation. Some of the tools in the kitty of the parties have started to throw up blackmail and subterfuge.

The PDP has already thrown in its weight behind the regime it rigged into power and is calling the labour action that predates the AC political group as an agent of the opposition. To PDP, opposition is the baptismal name of AC and everything against it emanates from AC. That is already the taint the war has taken.

For the labour, the war is far beyond what many may think. They see it as a final war, though the very beginning, that will shape the relationship of the new administration with the masses – the workforce. Labour since 1999 has been used to this manner of war, but Yar’Adua is a new person in the game and might not know his way round the battlefield. That could be the reason he drafted Kingibe as the points man, one of the old guards who had been used to scuttling processes, for instance the June 12 incident.

As at this moment, the issue at stake is now far more than just N5. Yar’Adua conceded and yielded grounds early in the battle, but the Labour does not believe this frank and would want to extract a commitment from him. This other strong argument is that there was an agreement with ex-President Obasanjo when at the penultimate increment he promised any further price adjustment must be through consultations with the stakeholders. Labour feels Obasanjo messed up that agreement and should be called to order in order not to allow Yar’Adua take the same latitude in neglecting the people’s will like his predecessor.
The next fear the labour has is that if it achieves nothing tangible this time, it would lose face in times to come to convince anybody in its camp to push for industrial action and might also not be taken seriously by the government tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Yar’Adua sees his yielding grounds as compromise of PDP stance and a seeming rubbishing of the legacy of the man that rigged him into power or a sign that he is not strong enough to pull his weight. But the people want Obasanjo and his legacies thoroughly rubbished and will be happy if Yar’Adua announces a reversal of the increase the former president left as sour parting gift.
Pride is already part of the instrument of warfare now.

Going tough
Kingibe, the government job man is already going tough and dangerously tending towards the hard and maybe above-the-law line for which Obasanjo made infamy. He dropped a cold threat that should the labour stick to its guns, he (government) already has options. That word ‘options’ is rather pregnant with meanings. And in veiled response, the labour has promised that it is going to fortify its arsenal and make the options tougher from next week. That position might underlie the vaunt of the NLC President Abdulwaheed Omar that Oshiomhole’s days would be just an appetizer to what labour would do now. These may be the antics of propaganda, which actually fashions and makes the crux of warfare or may also be frank promises from the mind.
One of the war cries of fortification of labour flanks would include the shut down of oil flow stations, the airports, power stations and other vital outlets including the hospitals. They target a total clampdown and would push for what labour officials have tagged ‘total protest for survival’ of the nation’s masses.
Moreover, Labour has vowed that next week will see it picketing non-compliant employer places and employees. It says the step is consistent with the Labour Act to ensure its call for strike is obeyed. Labour seem to be exhausting its patience stock and seem bent to take the extreme lawful position to score its point.

Oshiomhole returns
The camp of the Labour has been beefed up with the solidarity of the immediate ex-NLC President, Adams Oshiomhole who should be an ex-officio member of the NLC leadership. He was in Abuja yesterday for a solidarity visit to the NLC headquarters. Deliberations that ended about six o’clock yesterday eve again failed. And Oshiomhole was irked by the position of Yar’Adua who plays an Abacha kind of game – refusing to talk but harbouring inhuman hardness within while sending spoiler fronts to reach the masses. He challenged the president to speak up and make Nigerians know his position.

Refinery as issue
Very reliable sources have hinted that NUPENG and PENGASSAN have made their points clear - that even if Yar’Adua conceded on the N65 petrol price, there will be no going back on strike until the issue of sale of refineries is properly addressed. The oil workers see their major interest, apart from the general interest in what is decided on the refinery sale question. They know the implications of selling the plants over their heads and would with the help of Nigerian masses secure their jobs and future before returning to work.
Many on the other hand are also considering and raising the option of labour returning to work possibly next week, but with a clause that it works for two days and stays off for three days every week until the conditions at stake are resolved. That may be another dire straits for the parties if implemented.
Another disturbing matter to the masses is the FG’s slogan of compensating the workers for the fuel price hike with a wage increase. Many Nigerians argue against this because "the percentage of the population that feed from FG wages is about just five per cent of the workforce of the nation. Most times, states don’t even implement the wage increments and that makes it tougher for them to cope".
As next week unfolds, the days ahead may be hazy for the nation and only time will tell how the war would be shaped.

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