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As workers mark May Day, it’s suffering and smiling

Posted by By BIMBOLA OYESOLA on 2008/05/02 | Views: 506 |

As workers mark May Day, it’s suffering and smiling


Nigerian Workers today, will join their counterparts all over the globe to celebrate Workers’ Day, popularly known as May Day. The celebration today is in fond remembrance of the 1886 May Day Hewes.

Nigerian Workers today, will join their counterparts all over the globe to celebrate Workers’ Day, popularly known as May Day. The celebration today is in fond remembrance of the 1886 May Day Hewes.

It is in recognition of the unlimited degree of commitment to workers’ cause championed by the Chicago workers’ leaders. The leaders, paid the supreme price for others to live a dignified life.

From the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, where the leadership of the two labour unions, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) will lead a rally down to all the 36 states of the federation, Nigerian workers will wear the same identity of comradeship.

With the exist of the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who tried as much as possible to subvert the voice of labour, with his divide and rule tactics, the NLC and TUC seem to have found a common front. For the second year running the two bodies will jointly hold a May Day rally in Abuja. No doubt, the two bodies have since discovered that there is strength in unity and have resolved not to be used as a pawn on the chess board of politics.

Over the years, the Nigerian workers have been at the receiving end of harsh economic policies.
The manufacturing sector has been the most hit, with epileptic power supply forcing many of them to fold up.

Interestingly, workers believe that there would be a respite under the administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, which informed this year’s theme: “Making Nigeria work for the people.”
The late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti might have caught the best picture of the workers’ plight in Nigeria when he sang: “Suffering and smiling,” as things are getting worse in the country.

President of the National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), Comrade Lateef Oyelekan, said the theme of this year’s celebration was a challenge to those in position of authority to live up to the expectations of the people.

“We have waited for too long, praying that things would turn out for the better. But it seems as we continue to hope against all odds, things continue to turn for the worst.
“Making Nigeria work for the people’ was coined to let the government know that they have a responsibility towards the people.”

Oyelekan noted that though “Rome was not built in a day”, adding that the new administration might need some time to put things in their proper perspective. He, however, said that the leaders needed to be reminded of their duty from time to time.

Comrade Oyelekan said that the past government of President Obasanjo made many mistakes in relation to privatization and some other economic policies.
President of the National Union of Chemical Footwear Rubber Leather and Non-Metallic Products Employees (NUCFRLANMPE), Comrade Boniface Izok, also corroborated his colleague in the food industry, when he said that the past one year has been full of struggle to sustain the Nigerian workers.

He said: “Obasanjo’s policy was anti-labour. All he did was to ensure that the labour had no voice in the economy. His programme was aimed at harnessing the economy of the country to suit his purpose.”
He said that the labour movement in Nigeria had, since inception, being championing the cause of the people.

He said: “Our dream is to see the worker living a dignified life and be able to afford all the necessary basics of life.
“We would want the government to provide good road networks, which will invariably reduce the cost of transportation, as transportation now takes a major chunk of the workers’ take home package.”
He added that the sincerity of the Yar’Adua administration would, however, be measured by the extent he could restore the dignity of labour in the face of the present economic degradation.

Another top labour chieftain, Comrade Elijah Okougbo, General Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), said this year’s May Day theme was a clarion call on citizens, be the leaders, managers and workers, to be involved in building a new Nigeria.
Though, he said that all has a role to play, he, however, said that the political class would have to take the lead.

The unionist said: “The onus is on them to make laws and budget that will restore all the infrastructural decay that is prevalent in the country now.

“The focus of our leadership should be on development of the energy and power sector because these are the nerves of the economy; the main catalyst for attracting foreign investor into the country.”
Comrade Okougbo said that Nigeria’s future lies with the sincerity of the leader, as he explained: “Nigeria could only work if the political leaders are ready to stop corruption, and encourage expatriates who could turn the our energy sector around.”

The General Secretary of Steel and Engineering Workers Union (SEWUN), Comrade Kasumu Kadiri, lamented the plight of the workers in the present day economy, which has rendered the take home pay of workers useless.

“I am not happy about the situation in the country. Ordinarily, one would have expected salary to be regular, inflation checked by the National Assembly, for people to feel relieved. That is the basis of governance. They should look at all these and provide an enabling environment for the people to live,” he said.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.