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Shame, NLC, shame!

Fate has uncanny ways of bringing us face to face with the bitter truths concerning the lies and deceits we surreptitiously, deliberately design and peddle…

Fate has uncanny ways of bringing us face to face with the bitter truths concerning the lies and deceits we surreptitiously, deliberately design and peddle as gospel truths which at once cast us in the image of saints and demonize others. The Greeks called it nemesis. For their presumption and holier than thou posturing, which the Greeks called hubris, so eloquently captured in the above quotation about the postponed elections, the NLC was sufficiently and well shamed and exposed only three days later when it ironically, woefully, failed to conduct its own general elections as they ended midway in utter pandemonium!
When the NLC issued that scathing statement about the postponed polls, it was only doing that which it had become so well adept in doing throughout its 37-year old history. During most of that history, the NLC, which is an amalgamation of all the trade unions in the country, has been known to be a very honest and dispassionate protector of not only Nigerian workers’ interests and rights but social crusaders for sublime values such as justice, rule of law, and, aha, democracy. And in the process of pursuing these lofty goals, therefore, the NLC is necessarily required to try a much as is humanly possible to be above board so that whenever it comes to equity (which is one of its most fundamental mandates), it must be seen and felt to do so with clean and unsullied hands.
In other words, being a very huge interest group that represents the interests of millions of workers and other citizens across the country, the NLC occupies a very strategic place in the economic, social and political spheres of our country. And by virtue of this and, most importantly, the fact that trade unions are intrinsically meant to serve as the voices of conscience, there is a great burden on them to be upright, incorruptible and honest. In fact, they must live and exemplify these virtues in all honesty and relentlessly.  
But, sadly, as it always happens in the rather difficult departments of morality and conscience, it is in this very respect that the NLC so spectacularly failed. And this rankles even more profoundly because, only a few days earlier, the NLC had assumed the moral high ground by lambasting the Federal Government for frivolously shifting Nigeria’s general elections, roundly accusing it of pursuing a concealed and self-serving motive. For the records, the NLC’s 11th delegates’ conference was convened in order to hold elections into executive positions on Thursday, February 12, 2015. But this was not to be as the elections suddenly ended in chaos.
‘’Some called what happened on Thursday during the botched election…as a show of shame, unfortunate and sad. Others described it [as] an embarrassment, an insult, a scandal.’’ This is how the Sunday Vanguard of February 15, described the failed election. The paper continued: ‘’…the first General Secretary of the NLC, Aliyu Dangiwa, who witnessed it all, said, ‘It’s a shame, a big shame. I feel disappointed.’….General Secretary of SEWUN, Comrade Kazim Kadiri, said, ’It is a shame. Nigeria Labour Congress which is supposed to live by example has perfected rigging for a particular candidate. It is unacceptable.’…Ajaero said it was difficult to believe that such a thing (alleged tenure elongation) happened in the trade union, lamenting that in the inconclusive election, some ballot papers had the name of a particular candidate duplicated three times with different serial numbers.’’
Add to this depressing mix the pictures of scattered ballot boxes, torn ballot papers and upturned and broken tables and chairs that showcased the commotion that characterized the botched elections and you have a perfect replay of the typical narrative and scenario that have become a worrying, recurring decimal in Nigeria’s wider political landscape, elections especially. Unfortunately, it is the kind of very disturbing allegations for which the NLC had only a few days past so severely condemned the Federal Government that its own people were now said to be perpetrating with reckless abandon. It’s even more appalling when allegations of sleaze and corruption such as holding NLC executive meetings in Durban, South Africa, jamboree by some officers of the NLC to the US to attend the delegates’ conference of a labour union, the Chinese buses deal, the N2.5 billion NLC/Kriston Lally failed housing project and the Yaba, Lagos, office of the NLC that was given to a developer are added to the other reasons adduced for the crisis that have now been spawned by that failed election.
Now, considering the above scenario, where is the dividing line between the typical Nigerian politician, whom we take great pleasure in routinely demonizing, and the Nigerian unionist whose picture has been so characteristically limned above?
My position should not in any way be misconstrued as support for the sleaze of the political elite, any other Nigerian or class for that matter. What I’m saying here is that we must always ensure that we come to equity with clean hands. Nigeria is slowly inching towards the precipice because those ferocious flames of corruption are being further fanned by hypocrisy and this cynical holier than thou attitude. However, the truth of the matter is that, generally speaking, institutions in Nigeria are still weak and at best still slowly evolving. And the price of this is this pervasive weakness in character and a blurred perception of what is wrong and right in both the ruling elite and the citizenry as a whole. And the leadership of labour is by all intents and purposes part and parcel of this ruling elite, despite the illusion of their being self-styled comrades.
Much of this social malaise and institutional dysfunction can be attributed to the military’s incursions into politics which stunted and distorted the development of political, labour, civil society and other institutions necessary for the smooth running and operation of free and democratic societies. Therefore, in order to ensure the sustainable growth of the entire system, all institutions must strengthen each other through a systematic synergy; they must mutually criticize and engage each other positively and constructively because they all face the same challenges that arise from stunted growth. Above all, they must desist from the present race in malicious, blind and excoriating criticisms aimed at scoring cheap and selfish ends. Rather, they must take the path of enhancing the much wider goal of national cohesion and development through routing this raging storm of corruption ravaging the entire nation, leaving in its wake more poverty, hunger and desperate want.        
Gyang is a personal assistant to Governor of Plateau State<[email protected]>;

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