•Says Organised Labour ready to protest against obnoxious policies

Mr Ayo Olorunfemi is the General Secretary, Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporation and Government Owned Companies (SASGOC). He speaks with CHRISTIAN APPOLOS about plans of labour unions in 2022 concerning the expectations of workers and what Nigerians should expect from the labour. Excerpts…

Due to the federal government’s plan to hike fuel price, the organised labour has promised to organise nationwide protest this January. Outside this issue, what are the expectations of labour unions from the federal government this year?

We are not expecting anything good from this government. Nothing good can come out from this government anymore. We have been with this government for close to seven years and they have not been able to do anything that will seriously benefit workers. It means that they have nothing for this country not to talk of  Nigerian workers.

When you carefully look at their plans and programmes, they are self-centred. All of their policies, plans and programmes are for specific people not for the general people. They claim that their government is for the poor, but in reality they are breeding poverty in every street of Nigeria. They will bring out money in the name of alleviating poverty, but out of five million persons that are targeted, they will just go to some few places and throw samples, before you know what is happening, they will ‘wipe out’ the remaining money. Remember market moni?

Now they are saying N5000 to 40 million people. 100 thousand people will not get that money and it will go to private pockets. Their pockets. So you don’t expect anything good from such a government. Therefore, it is now upon us to come together as labour force and force these people out.

Look at Brazil, Chile, UK. These people have proved that they (labour unions) have better products in government and Nigeria should not be an exception. So, in 2O22, what labour will do is to ensure that the political platform that is available for the labour movement will be activated.

TUC (Trade Union Congress of Nigeria) has already activated its political commission for which I am the chairman; NLC’s (Nigeria Labour Congress) has also been activated. So Nigerian workers must be prepared to embrace their political party. We are working very seriously to reconcile the forces of labour party and we are bringing new faces into the labour party. That is the only hope that we have.

When we struggle and achieve political power, there will be nothing like unemployment. We will reduce capitalism even though we expect people to be productive. The kind of capitalism we will practise is social capitalism. We will ensure there is employment, that people live comfortable lives. We will ensure we refine our own oil in this country Nigeria.

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We are the only country that produces crude oil but import finished products. That is an evidence and characteristics of a vagabond child.

We are saying enough is enough. We have all that it takes to have electricity in Nigeria; we have enough oil we can refine in Nigeria so why are we making our people to suffer?

The psyche of our people has been dented.

An average Nigerian [has become] insane because we don’t believe anything can work. So in getting things done, we just struggle and struggle. The mentality is now if you need to kill somebody, kill somebody and get what you want. If it is by making somebody cry that will get you what you want, make somebody cry and get what you want. That is what is going on in the streets of Nigeria.

Violence has become the order of the day. Our youths are no longer ready to work. Yahoo boys, armed robbery, kidnapping have taken over because of the carelessness of this government. We cannot continue to sit and be expecting anything from this government. Let’s just wait for 2023.

In essence, what exactly are you are saying Nigerians should expect from labour movement this year?

This time round, we are going to provide good leadership. We are not going to allow this government to continue to treat us the way they’ve been treating us. We are going to resist them. 2022 will be a year of resistance against any obnoxious policy coming from this government. We are going to resist it.

Nigerians should forgive us for our past mistakes. We trusted this government and for that reason we gave them a free hand and Nigerians mistook that for weakness on our part. We have given then enough grace. But this time any obnoxious policy coming from this government will be resisted by labour.

Though you said labour unions are not expecting anything good from this government, what about workers’ welfare? Will labour leaders not engage government to get a better deal this year?

That is why we said that we are going to resist any obnoxious policy. Whatever is the right of workers we must get it.

Is it not N5000 they want to give to 40 million people as welfare package? Where are the workers’ buses on the road? Workers have gotten to a level where they can no longer go to their banks and say they need car loans and the banks will give them like we used to do before Buhari came in.

Between 2006 to 2010, Nigerian workers returned to a level whereby they could use brand new vehicles, but this government came in 2015 and all of those things are gone just like it were under this same [Buhari] between 1984 and 1985.

The person heading Nigeria government has killed this country; he has taken Nigeria into darkness. Now people are saying  return us back to where we were before he took over in 2015.

Nobody in Nigeria before this government came in 2015 ever said return us to 1999  because there was positive incremental movement. But today we are saying return us and leave us the way we were before he came in 2015. Unfortunately, it is not going to be possible. But Labour Party, labour political structure will take over and return Nigeria to where we are supposed to be.

It appears that workers are becoming poorer nowadays. They  are working but unfortunately are becoming poorer. What specifically can you tie this kind of situation to?

Our situation as workers is getting worst under this government. We moved from frying pan into fire; that is what our situation is. So what we can do is to begin to resist every move by this government to continue to impoverish us. So in 2022, you are going to see a lot of strikes and protests.

Clamping down on us will be very difficult for them. If they clamped down on EndSARS youths movement, let us see how they are going to clamp down on the workers’ movement. We will shut down the whole country and put it on hold.

If you don’t want us to come out, we will sit down at home. We are already poor; we are already on the ground; we can afford to sit at home for another three months. Let them go and bring all their children to work in all the offices.

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