From Femi Oyelola Kaduna
Organized labour has hailed Nigerians for nurturing uninterrupted democratic process for 19 years saying, that regardless of the numerous current challenges of governance, the task is to deepen democracy not lessen it.
The Secretary General of Textile workers Comrade Issa Aremu made the commendation in a statement marking Democracy Day and made available to the media in Kaduna yesterday Aremu who recalled the great violations of trade union and workers’ rights under prolonged military dictatorship before 1999 said never again should Nigerians allow any unelected or unelected military group of military adventurers rule them without their mandate.
According to the labour leader, within 40 years of its existence, three NLC National Executives were dissolved by successive military regimes of Murtala Obasanjo, (1978) Ibrahim Babangida (1998) and Sanni Abacha (1994) for exercising basic trade union rights to defend the rights of working men and women as contained in core ILO Conventions dealing with Freedom of Association and Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention (98).
He said in 2004, despite his disposition to attack trade union rights elected President Obasanjo in a democracy could not dissolve the NLC as he did as the head of a military junta due to constitutionality imposed by democracy. Comrade Aremu said having being victims of past military repression, “democracy is not just a means for the Labour movement, democracy is an end itself that must be defended at all times.” According to him “Democracy Day celebrates liberty as much as it damns and condemns dictatorships”
Comrade Aremu said it was “insufficiency in democratic practices” among the politicians that is worsening the crisis of governance in the country adding that security and economic challenges can only be overcome if ordinary people are involved in governance.
“We must democratize the public space and rescue the country from the total capture and dominance of few unaccountable self-serving ruling elite,” he added .
The labour leader called for eternal vigilance in defense of democracy in Africa, noting that some politicians still harbor “the culture of militarism foreclosing debates, discussions, bargaining and compromise and even promoting force, and intimidation of workforce and trade unions reminiscent of the military era.”
Aremu also hailed President Buhari’s administration for the bailout funds made available to States “to ease their fiscal challenges and other obligations including payment of salaries”.
He, however, frowned at what he observed as the silence of President’s 2018 Democracy speech on the new minimum wage adding that negotiation should be concluded in earnest so as to motivate the workforce for economic recovery through enhanced productivity.
While acknowledging the efforts of the Federal authorities with respect to Public safety and security in degrading the Boko Haram insurgency, comrade Aremu said efforts should be at prevention of violence through inclusive development and governance saying persistence violence had compounded “the crisis of productivity, unemployment and value addiction” in the affected North East region.
On security, he urged President Buhari and governors in the crisis-ridden states to heed the advise of Professor Mahmoud Jega, former INEC chairman who at 2018 Democracy Day Lecture said that both the federal and state authorities should urgently develop “capacity, institutions, structures and process of peace building” as a necessary condition for democratic consolidation.
He said it was unacceptable for Nigeria that had been adjudged a peace building nation in war torn Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan to be afflicted with preventable crisis adding that “it was time Nigeria’s peace /charity ship berthed at home.”