By Abadom Lawrence Amechi

The National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE) belongs to all of us.  It must not be allowed to revolve around an individual or a select few. It must be about all members. Information must flow freely. The leadership must be accessible, approachable and must be willing at all times to respond to the yearnings of members.

As a democratic institution, the choice of who becomes an elected officer of the union should be that of workers. Every member who desires to express his or her right to vote or be voted for, should not be intimidated, maligned or be denied of his or her right. In fact, every democratic institution, just like our great union, relies on the collective wisdom of the populace to throw up the best and the brightest and this can be made possible where free and popular participation avail people the privilege of judging those who aspire to lead by their characters and track record.

While experience is very important in trade unionism, both at branches and national levels, it only accounts for 20% of the basic requirements of an aspiring labour leader. Honesty and good education account for the rest 80%. A dishonest labour leader, even with volumes of experience, can betray workers. One of the greatest tragedies of our country, as the late Chinua Achebe said, is the inability of leaders in all facets of our life to rise to the challenge of personal example, which in other climes is the hallmark of true greatness. True leaders cannot afford a culture of belligerence and intransigence. Unionism should encapsulate struggles for the rights, privileges, hopes and economic aspirations of workers.

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I have discovered that the difference between institutions that continue to grow and those that stagnate is rooted, to some degree, on ascription to the helplessness of man in the face of divine intervention. People who seek shelter in the sanctity of events under divine authority may find themselves unable to identify their own incompetence.

We in the Redemption Group of NUFBTE have been accused of being over-ambitious. They say to us that power comes from God. I am personally confused, because I cannot understand how Godly can God be if HE decided to support illegal tenure extension.

I remember that in our catechism class in the Roman Catholic Church, we were thought that God is good and supports all good courses. NUFBTE must not be allowed to stagnate. This present state of decline and anomie should be arrested. We are at work for economic reasons and our decisions and choices should have economic bearing. The decisions and choices we make should be devoid of emotion, tribalism, parochialism and sect-affiliation. We must support people who have capacity to fight, protect and nourish our economic interests.

While experience is very important in trade unionism, both at branches and national levels, it only accounts for 20% of the basic requirements of an aspiring labour leader. Honesty and good education account for the rest 80%. A dishonest labour leader, even with volumes of experience, can betray workers. One of the greatest tragedies of our country, as the late Chinua Achebe said, is the inability of leaders in all facets of our life to rise to the challenge of personal example, which in other climes is the hallmark of true greatness. True leaders cannot afford a culture of belligerence and intransigence. Unionism should encapsulate struggles for the rights, privileges, hopes and economic aspirations of workers.

All over the democratic world, honesty, performance and constitutionalism are major determining factors on the occupation of office. Where there are clear cases of irredeemable decline in performance and serious breach of the law, change or impeachment becomes inevitable. NUFBTE leadership must be changed this year because the conditions for its removal have since been met in both our constitution and its toxic performance.

Our decision to form NUFBTE Redemption Group is for us to be able to reposition our union. This can be achieved as we aggregate efforts to strengthen the democratic, economic, social and cohesive bonds of solidarity of our great union. We are mindful of the fact that nature expects us to use our knowledge for the good of mankind. Nearly all members of the Redemption Group have been privileged to lead the union in various capacities. Some of us are currently occupying positions of high responsibility in the union.

If the Redemption Group is given the opportunity to lead our union, our regime will be people-centred. The real essence of trade union solidarity shall be our focus. The leadership will exist only to promote the economic well-being of workers. We will ensure that rights of workers are not trampled on as is currently happening. We will ensure that bigotry, nepotism, favouritism and all forms of corruption do not gain ascendancy over due diligence and honest commitment to work. In all these, the Redemption Group leadership will be guided by the highest level of decorum, civility, honesty, wisdom and the fear of God.

Comrade Amechi, a member of NUFBTE is deputy chairperson, Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) Lagos.

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