By Obidiegwu C.C. Esq
It’s no longer news that the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, a few days ago, embarked on an industrial action in Imo State, shutting down some critical sectors in the state, such as the electricity sector amongst others.
I, like every other Imolite, is feeling the brunt of the action by NLC.
But should Comrade Joe Ajaero, the new NLC President be blamed for taking this firm action against the government of Governor Hope Uzodimma?
The answer is a very emphatic NO!
For me, I think for the first time since the inception of the Hope Uzodimma administration, somebody has stood up to him and his style of administration in the state and if for nothing else, I commend Joe Ajaero.
Looking at the reasons listed by the NLC for the strike action, from the point of view of being a human being, one begin to see why this action against the state government has become overdue and very necessary.
The Hope Uzodimma administration has been in office for over three years now, and in that time, there are workers in the state, who were labelled as ghost workers and have not received their salaries in all that time.
There are pensioners who served Imo State for 35 years and are today, begging to receive their entitlements, yet the Uzodimma administration have branded them ghost pensioners.
Put yourself in their shoes, how would you feel right now?
If the former labour leaders have failed to stand up against tyrannical and dictatorial administrations, Comrade Joe Ajaero has proved himself to be an exception, and is exactly what this country needs at this moment at the leadership of the NLC, to safeguard not just the interests and wellbeing of ordinary workers in the country, but to protect the lives and interests of the common Nigerian, who are taken for a ride by governments who have nobody to check their excesses.
The Nigerian Labour Congress amongst other things, serves as a check against abuse of office by government and for the first time in a long time, under Comrade Joe Ajaero, NLC has woken up to their duties to not just the Nigerian worker, but the Nigerian people.
It is unfortunate to note that even when an agreement was grudgingly reached between the State Government and the Union, the Government backed out without signing the agreement.
Rather, the government deployed their agents of confusion and propaganda against the Union leadership, smearing them on social media and other media platforms, as if the people of Imo State don’t know the true situation of things and mere propaganda and lies cannot confuse anybody but those producing the propaganda and lies.
This has put the government of Imo State in a very negative light, portraying it as one that lacks the understanding of civil negotiation and dialogue. By resorting to violence and intimidation, the government simply exposes itself as being totally ignorant of what it takes to run a state.
Coming to the issue of an attempt to meddle into the elections of the NLC, I see this as an attempt by Uzodimma to plant his people into a union that is supposed to operate independently of government, and like they have been doing in the past, use the union against those it was created to protect.
We know how former Labour union leaders, who were installed or bought over by governors even in this state, were used to deny the people their rights and support oppressive decisions of the government.
NLC serves as a pressure group, to keep government in check. If nobody is keeping government in check, what becomes the fate of the people? If Uzodimma succeeds in planting stooges in NLC, who will speak for the people?
For me, Joe Ajaero should be celebrated as a hero and the last line of defence for the common Nigerian at a time even the last hope of the common man has seemingly become hopeless and compromised.
The announcement yesterday, of the sack of the Imo State Commissioner for Labour and Productivity, Ford Olumba, despite being a good step by Uzodimma to show his willingness to come to the negotiation table, is not enough and I urge the governor to go back to the agreement reached with NLC and address the issue of 20 months salary arrears owed to some workers who were stigmatised as ghost workers, the declaration of about 11,000 workers in the state as ghost workers even while they were physically at work and diversion of their salaries, and intimidation and harassment of Trade Union leaders in different guises.
Others issues raised by the Union which Uzodimma must address are the continuous use of instrument of violence against workers in the state as was furthered in the terror Tuesday, during the Union’s election, which government tried to influence, impoundment and illegal diversion of Union dues in the state, declaration of about 10,000 pensioners as ghost Pensioners and refusing to pay them for over 22 months which has led to the death of many, harassment and intimidation of the entire workforce with constant threats of violence and sack and the resort to blackmail and falsehood.
I also remain one person like the NLC, who believes the Information Commissioner of the state, Declan Emelumba, is doing more damage to the image of the governor than positively projecting him, which I believe he was engaged to do.
Emelumba is everything an Information Commissioner should not be. His stock in trade appears to be the dissemination of lies and propaganda against anybody he feels is opposed to his way of doing things.
It is very unfortunate that such an individual is allowed to operate in such a position where he misinforms the governor, thereby creating more problems for him.
I am not one who is swayed by a few sponsored placard carrying supporters of the government which I believe is being done at Emelumba’s advice, and I can assure you, the people of Imo State are not deceived by such petty tricks.
On the social media and other platforms I belong to, I have seen Uzodimma’s agents trying without success to sell Comrade Joe Ajaero as the villain.
The people are now wiser.
We appreciate that for once, somebody is standing up to the bully.
If more people in positions of influence and who are supposed to serve the wellbeing of the people, can, like Ajaero, stand up to bullies like Uzodimma, I assure you, Nigeria would be a better place.
I rest my case.