NAIJA IS ON STRIKE/

He had just returned from work on a Friday evening bringing to an end a long and tedious working week. And as a matter of routine, Mr. Chris first went to the bathroom for a shower before heading to the dining area of his house for a hot plate of jollof rice already set at the table. Next on the routine was to watch the 9pm news, so, he made for the living area where he would have better view of the TV, with the TV tuned to his favourite news channel. A cup of juice won’t be a bad idea he thought, only to remember that in fact it was always better to digest the news with a cup of juice. Chris dashed back to the fridge which was now adjacent his sitting position, as he reached for the handle he could hear the voice of the news caster as she announces the main news headlines for the night. While he poured himself a glass of pineapple juice what greeted his ears was the usual intro “On the news tonight”

ASUU, NLC, NUPENG, Resident doctors, NURTW, Pengasson and others to embark on nationwide strike. He could not get a grasp of the headlines so he quickly dashed back to the front of the TV to get a full view of the news after all they say “seeing is believing.” ‘Naija is on strike’ he thought out loud, reminiscing on this, his thoughts drifted off the other news item. He waited patiently for the news proper as he could only hear the other news headlines inordinately.

‘Now the News’ The decision to embark on an indefinite working strike by the respective unions was reached after talks with the Federal Govt failed to get the unions’ soft pedal on their decision. . This was made known to the media, after 6hours of closed door meeting with members of the Federal govt negotiation panel headed by the minister for labour and productivity. This will be the mother of all strikes going by the history of industrial actions in the country since Independence, as the strikes are expected to affect all sectors of the economy. Each union had a legitimate grudge against the government of the day for which their decisions to go on strike was justified. The chairman of NLC lamented the poor standard of living the country’s workforce were been subjected to and urged the Federal government to quickly reconsider its position with regards to minimum wage in relation to the economic reality of today. On the other hand, ASUU chairman decried inadequate funding, non-payment of academic earned allowance and pension for its members as areas the government have never lived up to through all previous agreements till date. The president of the road transport workers urged all Nigerians to start stock piling of food and other household essentials, as there was no indication that a deal could be brokered anytime soon. Lost in thought, Mr. Chris pondered what this meant and its implication on the common man. Darling! Darling!! His wife tapped his right shoulder, ‘You need to go inside and continue your sleep.’

With his eyes wide awake, Mr. Chris puzzled, was that a dream or something real? The news about several strikes must be a dream. The TV was still tuned to the news channel only it was time for sport news. He walked in with a very light head that night and when finally on bed, rather than sleeping off, he caught himself reminiscing over the news headlines.

Who will settle these perennial irreconcilable differences between trade unions and the government? Who will help bring an end to this impasse? Come to think of it, maybe this nation needs that mother of all strikes after all, that industrial action that will force the government to fix Nigeria and place it where it should be among the comity of nations. Isolated industrial actions seems not to have yielded the desired results; so maybe, if the nation is shut down from Agriculture, to transportation to health care, education, defense, judiciary and all, the government will be forced to make the right decision which will enable the expected development in the land.

Well this presents a strike situation that can only end in two ways. It is either the government moves swiftly and addressed all pending issues, which is a near impossibility or the nation is thrown into a state of strive and chaos. The latter, will likely end up pinching the government and the citizenry as well as teaching bitter lessons to the striking unions. Maybe, all sectors of the nation should go on strike, after all the working conditions in this country are generally poor. Imagine lecturers been unable to access food while they strike and resident doctors have no power in their homes as well as no fuel to run generating sets, imagine NLC have no judiciary to protect their interest as government using the instrument of the police, throws teargas to disperse the crowd of gathered protesters. Just imagine no law enforcement agency to carry out pronouncements by the law, just imagine that everyone was on strike as the issues stirring industrial actions in ASUU, NLC, and the others exist across board without exception in one shade or the other. While these thoughts are better left in the mind, its occurrence is not an impossibility as no union or group have monopoly over such actions.

Unionism in Nigeria, like many others adopted from western practices end up abused. Unionism, rather than a tool has become a weapon in the hands of trade group leaders in the country. Rather than be a medium for negotiations, it is now a channel to kidnap the nation and get a ransom.

Greed seems to have a finger in most agitations, as groups are mostly after selfish goals not blinking an eye over its implication on the populace. It is often hard for the poor students and parents, who are at the receiving end to understand and support industrial actions by say ASUU even when the union claims to have taken their decisions in the interest of all.

Another unpleasant angle to unionism in this country, is that its indirect goal is to make life unbearable and impossible for those who feel indifferent about it. Unionism for one should stand for freedom and the right to be heard, eligible members should be left with the choice to opt in or out without any form of threat to their occupational growth and development and not the other way round as is common in the country.

Credibility also is another thing that is seldom present wherever you find trade groups in Nigeria, trade unions are led most times by men scheming for political recognition. The nation has been fortunate to have some personalities take a seat on both sides of the negotiation table and the songs they sang on either side of the divide clearly affirm this claim. Another point that further buttresses this, are the splinter groups popping up, like the ULC and another group recently announcing a breakaway from NASSU. These are pointers to greed and selfishness.  

Another area unions should address to give some credibility to their struggles is to ensure their members also comply with proper work ethics and ensure sanctions for erring members. Judging by the current attitudes of most lecturers, one can safely opined, ‘what difference does an ASUU strike make when most of the lecturers are never turning up for classes or in their office to attend to the duties they are been paid for.’

It is clear unionism is a great tool of collective bargaining for employees. But, trade unions must be careful not to make caricature of it, as the people are getting wary of the news of strikes here and there. No union is greater than the other as no group is greater than the nation. An African adage says a man can cook for a community and the community will eat it but if the case is reversed, it may not be easy on for the man.

A large part of the responsibility lie on the shoulders of the government to provide favourable working conditions for its employees, always reaching for  International bench marks. Unionism on one hand, should provide the perfect platform for communication while the government on the other hand, should take advantage of that window to advertise and sell its policies. Heads of ministries also must be proactive and engage trade unions in negotiations long before industrial strike actions are conceived.

The country belongs to the people, and their actions can either make or mar it. Everyone is government in his or her own capacity, the task of nation building is so enormous that everyone must contribute their own quota as well as put into consideration the needs of others, lest the country is fractured and paralyzed. Demands should be set in line with economic realities at any point in time so as not to inflict unnecessary sufferings on the people while achieving very little from these so called strikes.

The struggle for a better society must take into cognizance the truth that everyone is important to the economy, from soldiers to teachers, lecturers to lawyers, farmers to doctors, transporters to traders and the absence of any of this ingredient may spell doom for all. Everyone deserves better wage and improved working conditions. As unions rise in solidarity and aluta, they should carry one another along so as to achieve the nation they desire.

He had just returned from work on a Friday evening bringing to an end a long and tedious working week. And as a matter of routine, Mr. Chris first went to the bathroom for a shower before heading to the dining area of his house for a hot plate of jollof rice already set at the table. Next on the routine was to watch the 9pm news, so, he made for the living area where he would have better view of the TV, with the TV tuned to his favourite news channel. A cup of juice won’t be a bad idea he thought, only to remember that in fact it was always better to digest the news with a cup of juice. Chris dashed back to the fridge which was now adjacent his sitting position, as he reached for the handle he could hear the voice of the news caster as she announces the main news headlines for the night. While he poured himself a glass of pineapple juice what greeted his ears was the usual intro “On the news tonight”

ASUU, NLC, NUPENG, Resident doctors, NURTW, Pengasson and others to embark on nationwide strike. He could not get a grasp of the headlines so he quickly dashed back to the front of the TV to get a full view of the news after all they say “seeing is believing.” ‘Naija is on strike’ he thought out loud, reminiscing on this, his thoughts drifted off the other news item. He waited patiently for the news proper as he could only hear the other news headlines inordinately.

‘Now the News’ The decision to embark on an indefinite working strike by the respective unions was reached after talks with the Federal Govt failed to get the unions’ soft pedal on their decision. . This was made known to the media, after 6hours of closed door meeting with members of the Federal govt negotiation panel headed by the minister for labour and productivity. This will be the mother of all strikes going by the history of industrial actions in the country since Independence, as the strikes are expected to affect all sectors of the economy. Each union had a legitimate grudge against the government of the day for which their decisions to go on strike was justified. The chairman of NLC lamented the poor standard of living the country’s workforce were been subjected to and urged the Federal government to quickly reconsider its position with regards to minimum wage in relation to the economic reality of today. On the other hand, ASUU chairman decried inadequate funding, non-payment of academic earned allowance and pension for its members as areas the government have never lived up to through all previous agreements till date. The president of the road transport workers urged all Nigerians to start stock piling of food and other household essentials, as there was no indication that a deal could be brokered anytime soon. Lost in thought, Mr. Chris pondered what this meant and its implication on the common man. Darling! Darling!! His wife tapped his right shoulder, ‘You need to go inside and continue your sleep.’

With his eyes wide awake, Mr. Chris puzzled, was that a dream or something real? The news about several strikes must be a dream. The TV was still tuned to the news channel only it was time for sport news. He walked in with a very light head that night and when finally on bed, rather than sleeping off, he caught himself reminiscing over the news headlines.

Who will settle these perennial irreconcilable differences between trade unions and the government? Who will help bring an end to this impasse? Come to think of it, maybe this nation needs that mother of all strikes after all, that industrial action that will force the government to fix Nigeria and place it where it should be among the comity of nations. Isolated industrial actions seems not to have yielded the desired results; so maybe, if the nation is shut down from Agriculture, to transportation to health care, education, defense, judiciary and all, the government will be forced to make the right decision which will enable the expected development in the land.

Well this presents a strike situation that can only end in two ways. It is either the government moves swiftly and addressed all pending issues, which is a near impossibility or the nation is thrown into a state of strive and chaos. The latter, will likely end up pinching the government and the citizenry as well as teaching bitter lessons to the striking unions. Maybe, all sectors of the nation should go on strike, after all the working conditions in this country are generally poor. Imagine lecturers been unable to access food while they strike and resident doctors have no power in their homes as well as no fuel to run generating sets, imagine NLC have no judiciary to protect their interest as government using the instrument of the police, throws teargas to disperse the crowd of gathered protesters. Just imagine no law enforcement agency to carry out pronouncements by the law, just imagine that everyone was on strike as the issues stirring industrial actions in ASUU, NLC, and the others exist across board without exception in one shade or the other. While these thoughts are better left in the mind, its occurrence is not an impossibility as no union or group have monopoly over such actions.

Unionism in Nigeria, like many others adopted from western practices end up abused. Unionism, rather than a tool has become a weapon in the hands of trade group leaders in the country. Rather than be a medium for negotiations, it is now a channel to kidnap the nation and get a ransom.

Greed seems to have a finger in most agitations, as groups are mostly after selfish goals not blinking an eye over its implication on the populace. It is often hard for the poor students and parents, who are at the receiving end to understand and support industrial actions by say ASUU even when the union claims to have taken their decisions in the interest of all.

Another unpleasant angle to unionism in this country, is that its indirect goal is to make life unbearable and impossible for those who feel indifferent about it. Unionism for one should stand for freedom and the right to be heard, eligible members should be left with the choice to opt in or out without any form of threat to their occupational growth and development and not the other way round as is common in the country.

Credibility also is another thing that is seldom present wherever you find trade groups in Nigeria, trade unions are led most times by men scheming for political recognition. The nation has been fortunate to have some personalities take a seat on both sides of the negotiation table and the songs they sang on either side of the divide clearly affirm this claim. Another point that further buttresses this, are the splinter groups popping up, like the ULC and another group recently announcing a breakaway from NASSU. These are pointers to greed and selfishness.  

Another area unions should address to give some credibility to their struggles is to ensure their members also comply with proper work ethics and ensure sanctions for erring members. Judging by the current attitudes of most lecturers, one can safely opined, ‘what difference does an ASUU strike make when most of the lecturers are never turning up for classes or in their office to attend to the duties they are been paid for.’

It is clear unionism is a great tool of collective bargaining for employees. But, trade unions must be careful not to make caricature of it, as the people are getting wary of the news of strikes here and there. No union is greater than the other as no group is greater than the nation. An African adage says a man can cook for a community and the community will eat it but if the case is reversed, it may not be easy on for the man.

A large part of the responsibility lie on the shoulders of the government to provide favourable working conditions for its employees, always reaching for  International bench marks. Unionism on one hand, should provide the perfect platform for communication while the government on the other hand, should take advantage of that window to advertise and sell its policies. Heads of ministries also must be proactive and engage trade unions in negotiations long before industrial strike actions are conceived.

The country belongs to the people, and their actions can either make or mar it. Everyone is government in his or her own capacity, the task of nation building is so enormous that everyone must contribute their own quota as well as put into consideration the needs of others, lest the country is fractured and paralyzed. Demands should be set in line with economic realities at any point in time so as not to inflict unnecessary sufferings on the people while achieving very little from these so called strikes.

The struggle for a better society must take into cognizance the truth that everyone is important to the economy, from soldiers to teachers, lecturers to lawyers, farmers to doctors, transporters to traders and the absence of any of this ingredient may spell doom for all. Everyone deserves better wage and improved working conditions. As unions rise in solidarity and aluta, they should carry one another along so as to achieve the nation they desire.


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