Prof. Attahiru Jega, former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has blamed former head of state, Ibrahim Babangida for destroying the nation’s labour movement, including its attempts to play a critical role in politics.
He also advised that labour movement’s involvement in governance globally, especially in Nigeria, should be to the extent that the interest of the worker was protected.
Jega, who delivered a paper, titled, “Labour, Politics and Governance in Nigeria,” at the 40th anniversary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Abuja, Monday, singled out Babangida’s administration for using divide and rule tactics as well as eventual ban to destabilise the labour movement.
He described the aborted transition programme midwifed by the ex-military junta as dubious, noting that the banning of 13 political parties by Babangida in 1988/89; the Nigeria Labour Party formed by the NLC inclusive, was a major setback for the movement’s efforts at participating in political governance.
“However, the regime banned all the parties and created the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC). Between 1990 and 1998, the military rulers succeeded in clamping down the NLC, infusing divide and rule within its ranks, and destabilising it, because it had grown in influence, in alliance with academic staff and students’ unions and other pro-democracy and civil society organisations; mounting effective opposition to the military regime from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.
“Indeed, the NLC was banned between 1994 and 1998, and its offices occupied by an administrator appointed by the military, through which the complete destabilisation of the labour movement was achieved; and from which it took many years to begin to recover.
“The Labour movement’s interest in governance globally and in Nigeria in particular, indeed, should be the interest of the working people; it is not merely in fielding candidates for political offices through electoral politics”, Jega stated.
According to him, the primary interest should be not only who presides over policy formulation and implementation, but also on how politics are conceptualized, how they are implemented and how beneficial they are for the Nigerian electorates, the voters generally and in particular, how they address the fundamental needs and aspirations of the working people of the country.
He said the Labour movement needed to constantly pay attention to who is being elected and the process through which they are being elected and once elected, the process through which they conduct the business of governance and the outcomes as they impact on the citizens.
He further urged the Labour movement and the working people of Nigeria to intensify participation in the political and governance arenas; even while they work towards forming an effective party formation for electoral contestations and engagement.
The former INEC boss said “workers must be mobilized to be engaged in this with a view to increasing and improving the integrity of the process. From advocacy and support for electoral reforms, to promoting and defending the autonomy and independence of the election management body.
“Workers must be mobilized to be engaged in policy and legislative advocacy and in putting pressure on elected executive and representatives to be responsible single and Responsive t the need and aspirations of the citizens. Labour movement need to play a leading role in this in partnership with credible civil society organizations. Doggedness, assertiveness and proactiveness are necessary for success.
“The Labour movement must not relent on engaging, dialoguing, negotiating with and pressuring economic actors to accommodate and cater for the interest of workers in all fundamental aspects”.
Workers he said, have a fundamental right individually or collectively to either join, or support.
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