Former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Senator Adams Oshiomhole has cautioned labour unions in the country not to mix political opinion with their primary responsibilities.
Oshiomhole, who is the Senator representing Edo North Senatorial District, stated this while fielding questions from State House Correspondents shortly after he paid a solidarity visit to the Vice President Kashim Shettima on Tuesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Trade Union Congress(TUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had on November 13, directed all affiliates to embark on an indefinite nationwide strike.
The strike was called to press home their demands, especially the “non comment by the Federal Government over the brutalising of the NLC President, Joe Ajaero by security agents and hoodlums in Imo”.
Reacting to the strike, Oshiomhole said ”unfortunately, this strike is not about those issues affecting the Nigerian workers.
“And I think we have to be careful not to mix our political opinion with our responsibilities, because the issues confronting workers are so many that they should become the priority.
”Labour cannot be apolitical because politics is about the people. And I have argued when I was in NLC that nobody has a right to be partisan, much more than those who turn the will of our industrial progress.
”But in saying that, we must recognise that however how hard you try, when it comes to politics, people are going to have different reasons for supporting different candidates”.
The lawmaker also cautioned labour unions to be careful and avoid doing the bidding of a particular candidate or a political party.
”As a worker in the Senate, I don’t pretend over the fact that my first constituency, my permanent constituency, is labour.
”I can be removed as Chairman of APC as I was removed. But I couldn’t have been removed as a labourer. I remain labour in heart and labour in views, and labour in my aspirations.
”I will expect that even as we speak now that the issues that will appeal to me will be the fact that as we speak, we have states that are not paying N30,000. And those states are not being mobilised to go on strike.
”The Federal Government had granted N35,000 increase and those discussions were supposed to be for and on behalf of not only the federal government, but on behalf of all workers in Nigeria.
”Including those employed by the Local and State governments. And the additional revenue accruing from the withdrawal of subsidy trickles down to the state and to the local government.
”Now, I would have wished that the NLC recognise that the hunger in the stomach of federal employees is not any worse than the hunger in the stomach of those state employees, nor local government employees.
”If these are the issues on the table, even as a Senator I will publicly support an action against any government that thinks that we should lament away our hunger and while the people do what they do,” Oshiomhole said.
He, however, declared that he doesn’t support the brutalisation of any Nigerian, including a journalist, the unemployed and a labour leader.
”But I’m saying in terms of what you might call the hierarchy of needs and challenges that we face, I think that NLC should robustly engage all the state governors or the state governments, who are not implementing the agreement that was midwived courtesy of a national strike, not a federal government’s employees strike.
”So if you mobilise private sector workers, state employees workers, local government workers, and now there is an agreement on N35,000 across the board. I want to see NLC saying there will be no sleep in any state where this is not being implemented. That is all I can say,” Oshiomhole said.