THE fundamental accoutrements and appurtenances of the Lord of the Manor are the sordidly sadistic pauperisation of the franchise and the hoi polloi in any collectivity. Hence, a principled ‘social contract’, ergonomics and economic engineering processes are established and injected into the structural praxis to ensure the welfare of the labouring masses (workers), and to checkmate bourgeoisie plutocratism and employer’s tyrannism through organised unionists and trade unionism.
Unionism is the coalition and combination of workers and co-labourers for the mutual protection of their common interest. Hence, trade unionism is an organised association of workers formed for the protection and promotion of their common interest, especially with regards to wages, working hours and working condition, etc. In the pre-independence struggles to free Nigeria from the gyves and manacles of our Colonial Masters, unionists constituted the integral arrow head of the struggle to entrench freedom and liberty into Nigeria’s political architectonics and administrative organogram.
The Nigerian Youth Movement, NYM, organised by Herbert Mcauley; the Nigerian Students Union, NSU, now National Association Nigeria Students, NANS; Nigeria Railway Workers Union, NRWU, spearheaded by inimitable Pa Imoudu, etc. Then, later, unionists like Hassan Sumonu, Otegbeye, Kokori, Pascal, Oshiomhole, etc., came to the lime light. Nigeria’s politico-socio-economic history is laudably befuddled and replete with the positive escapades of our unionists to entrench workers welfare into the cerebral crackpot of Nigeria’s leaders. This must be commended, because it laid the foundational equipoise on which Nigeria’s minimal development is based today.
But unionism in the later part of post-independent Nigeria is or has been fraught with maniacal corruption, prevarication, pusillanimous tergiversation, double speak, and unionists have become Government’s Area Boys, GAB, apologies to Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The top echelons of most union’s administrative hierarchy are government- sponsored candidates and representatives, applying the man ‘who pays the piper dictates the tune’ syndrome.
The NUPENG and PENGASSAN took millions of Nigerians out on a massive strike action against “oil subsidy”. They unilaterally called off the strike action without consulting and compensating Nigerian citizens who lost loved ones during the strike action. It later turned out to be a splendiferous histrionics as the subsidy dividends were hijacked by the hierarchy and faceless politicians and their surrogates, after politicians of the so-called unionists have been ‘settled’ with bounteous largesse and filthy-lucre. What a shame! And because of their Laodicean albatross the Federal Government is now working out plans to sell or privatise our refineries (Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Warri, and Eleme).
They have resorted to verbal ventriloquisms, double-speak, abracadabra and prestidigitations through the Minister of Petroleum Resources on the state of the refineries and our so-called Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, have remained nauseatingly silent. Is this unionism or unionistic Owambeism? The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC; Trade Union Congress, TUC, and other so-called union bodies like the NUT, NMA, NBA, JOHESU and NANS, etc., have become mercantile stooges and mercenary hirelings cocooned in the throes of governments’ circuitry and subterfuge.
There are no state-of-the-art hospitals in Nigeria, no justice; and corruption has become our tradition and culture. No roads, no water, no houses, no drugs in our hospitals and no security. Yet, our unionists claim to be fighting for the masses and the flotsams and jetsams in Nigeria. What an unprecedented lie! Unionists’ major weapons are dialogue and strike actions. Apart from ASUU in the past but now a cadaverous troglodyte union, virtually all trade unions and their executives are in the payroll and ‘employment chart’ of the Federal and state governments. Their secretariats are in most cases built by government agents and with government funds. How can unionists be junketing and hobnobbing with our corrupt leaders and still be expected to defend the rights of the workers and citizenry at large?
In his historic speech, essayist Samuel Compere, posited thus: “Show me the country that has no strikes and I’ll show you the country in which there is no liberty”. Our unionists and their unions are now into the configurational methodology and stratagems of threatening to call a strike to seek governments’ face. But, as soon as they are ‘settled’ and ‘arranged’ (Warri Boy’s jargon and neologism- meaning bribed) they call-off the proposed strike by way of a volte face. What a shame!
William Pitt in his House of Commons speech in 1783 said “necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom; it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves”. This was corroborated by John Philpot Curran in his 1790 speech that ‘the condition upon which God hath given liberty to men is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequences of his crime, and the punishment of his guilt”. Unionism is not about gallivanting. It is a patriotic sacrifice for the uplifting of the welfare, liberty and freedom of the workers and the people.
Corrupt unionists have made and relegated unionism in Nigeria to an object of mere antiquarian curiosity, de-radicalised and appropriated as an instrument of brummagem placebo. The sweeping changes in European and global politics and the gigantic development of the system of Modern Industrial Capitalism have made Nigerian unionism a Mephistophelean espousal and pedagogical trivialisation of fundamental and ethical unionism.
Ethical unionism has become dissipated, deracinated and exorcised through the instrumentality of psychotic corruption amongst Nigerian unionists. We have Egunje unionists, mercenaries and Owambe Unionism in Nigeria. (The Dubai jamboree and revelry by the executive and some members of the NLC is a glaring case in point). What a shame?Finally, let our Nigerian unionists paint and enter a new phase of unionism that shuns corruption and prebendalistic graft as we mark ”workers’ day”.
Some of our unionists are very corrupt that is why Nigeria is still underdeveloped and suffers from leadership impunity. They must heed the admonition of Henrik Ibsen that “you should never put on your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom of truth” and substantiated by Statesman Thomas Jefferson that, “the trees of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots. It is its’ natural Manure”.
Enough of hogwash unionism. Let us now agree with Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels that “the workers have nothing to lose, but their chains. They have the world to gain, workers of the world unite” (Communist Manifesto)
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