The scene was that of workers with gloomy faces, clad in various vests, with their trade union names embedded on the vests, moving in and out of the Lekan Salami stadium venue of the 2017 workers day celebrations in Oyo state.
Even though the atmosphere indicated that all was not well, the organizers still went on with the programme of events.
Workers in attendance discussed their various experiences in the last few years, with worries written all over their faces, while taking solace in the saying ”When there is life there is hope”.
For quite a while, some labour leaders had been silent on the plight of workers in the state, to the chagrin of most workers, who insist that such attitude is an abberation, this is as most state Governments are at a lose on the legacies to be left behind on completion of their tenure.
The complain by the Chairman of an industrial union ,that he was yet to be given the special vests designed for Labour leaders, is a reflection of the communication lag in most unions. The Chairman was eventually given a tight fitting vest, which was obviously too small for him.
The large number of law enforcement agents and security operatives at the venue was a source of discomfort for the workers.
Do workers in Oyo state and Nigeria as a whole have a reason to celebrate ?
Professor Sabitu Olagoke is the Founder and spiritual head of Shafaudeen Worldwide, Wakajaye, Ibadan, Nigeria.
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Professor Olagoke provides an answer. ”Workers do not have any cause to celebrate today, but to gather together, on pryer in a sober reflection mood. Workers are the engine of development of any nation, workers activities all along over the years have been moderate and regulated through laws and policies. Unfortunately Government is always at the violation end of the promises and policies. The way we treat workers in Nigeria, is like incapacitating the geese that lays the golden egg. Presently, workers in Nigeria are been traumatized and bullied, through the non payment of salaries by their political head employers. And along the line, they have been divided into fragments, so that they will not be able to speak with one voice”.
Of worry is the ”hot and cold’ attitude” of those, workers in the country rely on to achieve satisfactory remuneration and working conditions. This has made workers to be at the mercy of their pay masters in the public and private sectors.
”When you compare the dynamism of the present labour forces in Nigeria, you will agree with me that they have been incapacitated. They are not as viral as before, this is because of the divide and rule tactics of Government, destabilizing them and disorganizing their structure. Workers those days, were known to fight for the cause of the poor., but today, some of their executives, in fact, romance with their employer oppressors in the name of Government. Even, some union executives, milk dry the stipends of their unions. And in Nigeria today, most of them cannot really correct the aberrations, of Government because they prefer to compete with Government in self enrichment, while they collaborate in snubbing public schools or having their children study abroad, while deceiving the masses, who really need their help and upon whose mandate they are carrying the banners of the unions. If all these anomalies are not corrected, the hope of the common man will be permanently dashed, essence of governance is to work to be able to serve the people, who gave them the mandate to serve. Nigeria needs constructive opposition, not necessarily from the inner fold or politically disgruntled parties, but from unions, who are expected to be objective and neutral in pursuing the cause of sanity for the common man, Professor Olagoke noted.
For Comrade Waheed Olojede, who is the Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC)Oyo state council, some people in far way Chicago, United States of America(USA) in 1887, lost their lives for the cause of workers of the world. ”Today is a day to remember them and of course, to pray for them and of course to pray for their families. This is why ,we say that even in the face of all odds, as workers of Nigeria we must celebrate to remember them and pray for the repose of their souls. Secondly, I want to say that in reality, workers are not happy, not only in Oyo state, but the entire country. Today, Government at all levels are indebted in one way or the other, promotions are not effected as and when due, salaries and pensions are not paid, nobody is even talking about gratuity any longer. Workers are groaning, they are not happy, they are hungry, notwithstanding that, we have to celebrate ourselves. No matter the situation, we we must gather to celebrate ourselves and to also believe that life must continue, in whatever way, in whatever situation we find ourselves”, Comrade Olojede asserted.
Some union leaders in Oyo state have their own opinions. Comrade Emmanuel Ogundiran is the Chairman Trade Union Congress(TUC), Oyo state council. Comrade Ogundiran is of the opinion that workers have a cause to celebrate .
”Workers have the cause to celebrate because we are alive, the nation we call Nigeria is our common project, it is still surviving, so workers have the cause to celebrate. But who should celebrate workers and who are the workers celebrating themselves ? What you are seeing here, it is the workers whop are celebrating themselves, to give thanks to God that they are alive, they are surviving.Also to give thanks to God that this project called Nigeria is surviving”.
”But normally we have a word for employers, be it state, be it private, they are the ones to have looked back and celebrate their workers because without us they cannot be, without us they cannot survive, nobody would have seen them as employers. But because we are working , we are the geese that are laying the golden eggs that they are eating, it behooves on them to celebrate their workers, but what do we have ? It is the workers coming together to celebrate themselves, even for that alone it is worth celebrating.
However, Comrade Ogundiran insists that when other indices and indicators are used, the workers day is not worth celebrating. ”What is the value of the Naira ? How many factories are closing down ? Look at the public service itself, is it looking like the way it used to look like, No !, it is not worth celebrating”.
For Comrade Olusola Fatoki-Cole, Chairman Non Academic Staff Union(NASU)Oyo state council workers have every cause to celebrate. ”By the grace of God we have every reason to celebrate, to celebrate for been alive for been alive I think is the major reason for us to be celebrating, we are hopeful that today may be bleak, but after the dark cloud, there will be sunshine,. by the special grace of God, we have every reason to thank God. I t is only the dead, who have no cause to celebrate, but we are still alive and God has been preserving us, for the fact that our salaries are not paid up to date, for the fact that they are still owing us some months of salary arrears, but we thank God that we don’t have any cause to be on the sick bed, even though that is the wish of some people, who are against the workers in this state, but God has proved them wrong. God has disappointed them, that in spite of hunger, in spite of starvation, God is keeping us alive. So, we have every reason to celebrate.
Indeed, Comrade Ademola Babalola, Chairman, Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria(MHWUN)Oyo state council believes that workers have every reason to celebrate, even as he counsels workers to remain steadfast, as the present difficulties they are passing through is for a short while.
”Workers have a cause to celebrate. Come what may, whatever they may be facing or they may be encountering, we believe it will be just for a while, it would come and go. So, we believe by God’s grace everything would soon be alright.
What about the workers who have passed on to glory, as a result of the uncomfortable situation ? They do not have nay reason to celebrate. So sad.