By John Ameh
FIVE years after a split in the Nigerian labour movement, harmony returned Thursday with the merging of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the United Labour Congress of Nigeria (ULC) following a meeting in Abuja by the leadership of NLC and ULC at the Paschal Bafyau Labour House National Headquarters of Congress.
The NLC, led by Comrade Ayuba Wabba, its President since April 2015 after its national delegates’ conference, and the ULC, led by Comrade Joe Ajaero, its President, and General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), reconciled their differences at a joint NEC/CWC meeting, and held a joint press conference where the news of the re-unification was broken to the media.
At the joint media briefing, Comrade Wabba, flanked by members of the leaderships of NLC and ULC announced Comrade Ajaero as a new Deputy President of the NLC. He said “the strain within the ranks of Organized Labour in Nigeria has been resolved” and that the NLC “has FULLY RECONCILED with the United Labour Congress (ULC) led by Comrade Joe Ajaero.”
Recalling the crisis, Comrade Wabba noted that after the conduct of leadership election in the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at the 10th National Delegates Conference in 2015, some misunderstanding arose between some affiliates of Congress, which efforts by labour veterans led by its pioneer President, Comrade Hassan Sunmonu and a former President of the NLC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to resolve were inconclusive.
“Committed to the bond of brotherhood and solidarity which the labour movement all over the world is known for, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the leadership of the ULC kept aglow the light of peaceful relations towards resolving their misunderstanding as the two leadership resorted to direct discussions aimed at ending the rift.
“The outcome of this quiet but sustained effort at making the peace is the fruit of the reconciliation that we are celebrating today. It is to the credit of the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the United Labour Congress that the bond of solidarity was never broken even at the height of misunderstanding. The NLC and ULC always cooperated and collaborated in defending Nigerian workers. This was the experience during negotiations for the new national minimum wage.
“It is remarkable that in the dark furnace that severely tested our commitment and selfless disposition to our movement’s age long tradition of “Nigerian workers first”, we have managed to come out as gold, better and brighter. This is the story that overshadows the fleeting pains of the mosquito bites of our misunderstanding in the night,” Comrade Wabba stated.
He added that with the reconciliation, the leadership and structures of the United Labour Congress have been reintegrated into the NLC, with the terms of the reconciliation and modus operandi fully reflected in a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two leaderships. The modus operandi for the re-integration include the position of Deputy President to be occupied by Comrade Ajaero with key members of the ULC leadership being integrated into the National Administrative Council (NAC) of the NLC in the remaining tenure of Comrade Wabba’s Presidency of NLC which ends around March-April of 2023.
Comrade Wabba commended the leadership of affiliate unions of Congress, state councils and the organs of NLC, whose mandate and support, he said, provided the ladder to the reconciliation.
While thanking the rank and file as well as “social partners for their counsel, altruism and support during the dark hour,” Wabba said the NLC has emerged out of the crisis stronger as it has gained more affiliate unions, gained more experience, and built more bridges. “Going forward from this platform of unity, we are ready now more than ever before to confront and overcome the myriad of challenges facing Nigerian workers – economic, social, and political,” Wabba stated.
Comrade Ajaero, who said his leadership of the defunct ULC subscribed to Comrade Wabba’s comment which was a “product of our collective decision,” however briefly noted that that they were back “to our house; we are back to our family.”
Stating that the events of the next few days will show the impact of their return, Comrade Ajaero said: “I will not want to go beyond this but we are back and ready to confront those who want to confront us and play with those who want to play with us.”