By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, please, let’s continue our 2019 Presidential race permutations today. Since those who subscribe to the idea and possibility of a third force to neutralise and replace the former ruling party PDP and the current APC are beginning to swell by the day, I believe that it is apposite to give some kind of direction to the clamour for a third potent Party to challenge the status quo. This is particularly necessary because those championing a third force movement have not told us on which plank or platform they wish to elect and erect their next President. Let me, therefore, volunteer to make a suggestion to them.
In doing so, I must confess that I agree that Nigeria cannot easily move forward in the right direction with the current class and category of politicians and the convoluted political system we have. The time has thus come to look and move in a different direction. To this extent I agree with a third force movement. However, it is my view that such a movement must quickly metamorphose into a political Party if it is to be of any relevance in the scheme of things during the 2019 elections. The third force movement seems to be concentrating only on the Presidential elections. However, as we have seen from the way that the Buhari Presidency has to some extent been shackled, even when it has tried to do the right things, this is not enough. Any movement and eventual Party must also aim to provide a significant number of legislators in both national and state legislators as well as a good number of governors. It is only in this way that the progress that we wish to achieve with an alternative to these infested and infectious political Parties that we now have can be crystallised.
For me, this third force movement can turn into a quiet workers revolution and seems to me a vindication of the approach that I sought to bring into the public consciousness in the 2011 Presidential elections. It appears from the current ground swell of emotions and frenetic activity, that many Nigerians are beginning to see what I saw in 2010/11 when I opted for the Labour Party in my quest for the Nigerian Presidency. My reasons were simple and straightforward. I shall set out some of my reasons.
I found Labour Party attractive because I reasoned and assumed that it was the workers’ Party. However, there was a lot of unnecessary politicking and intrigue coupled with a sheer lack of understanding of the potential of the political platform that the Party represented. This led to those in charge being willing to settle for crumbs from the political landlords, rather than allowing the Party to occupy the political leadership space that it has been so naturally and strategically built. Though the Labour Party turned out not to be what I expected, I still believe it is not too late and it is possible to repackage that Party into a most revolutionary and formidable movement in our long-suffering country. The Party has proven that it can win elections and that it is not a regional or ethnic Party because it has won elections in the Southern part of Nigeria, including a national legislator. In places where it has not won it has come creditably close to winning. Significantly, apart from other Parties than the main Parties, which are known to be regional Parties, the Party has even produced a Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State.
It is therefore clear to me that, if the Labour Party is properly set up with the right leadership, it is significantly poised to take the fight to present crop of corrupt, inefficient and selfish politicians who largely populate the present two main Parties. I must not forget that another Party exists, which has made some waves in the recent past, the Accord Party, but it is my opinion that the Accord Party lacks the necessary credentials or wherewithal to mount a major challenge as a national Party. It certainly does not have the kind of inherent backbone and force that the Labour Party possesses because of the backing the Labour Party receives from organised Labour in Nigeria namely, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
Everybody will accept that the biggest sufferers in Nigeria, apart from the unemployed, are actually the workers, whether they be in the public or private sector. This may sound oxymoronic, but it is the reality. Despite some half-hearted legislation which aims to protect workers and workers rights, most Nigerian workers, especially those in the public sector remain poorly remunerated and compensated for their services. It is pathetic that, in fact, it is the junior workers who suffer most when it comes to poor pay and conditions. The minimum wage remains a paltry N18,000 monthly even though it should have been renegotiated since 2015. In any event, a multitude of our workers don’t even get paid for months despite promises by our political leaders. These workers have never used their power to punish their oppressors by sacking them from office. Yet, they have the power and are in an unenviable position to do so if they harness the might and resources at their disposal to act as a cohesive unit and speak with one voice through the one mega platform that they themselves put together for their advancement, the Labour Party. It has always been my belief that Nigerian workers desperately and urgently need a social welfare system. Only a Party that has their hopes and aspirations at heart can begin to understand their yearnings and make provision for it. These are not highfalutin or inordinate objectives for the Nigerian workers, but necessary and achievable standards that would give a modicum of decency and respectability to the Nigerian workers. I am a fervent believer in social welfarism and I know that it is the generality of the workforce that makes Nigeria the great nation that it is today. There may be entrepreneurs and innovators but ideas are only as good as the people who bring them to fruition, and these are the workers. It is therefore necessary and incumbent on us to ensure that they deserve the commendation and remuneration due to them for their services to the nation. If our political class do not understand this, as it appears to be the case, then it is about time for the workers to muster themselves together and take matters into their own hands. It is elitist to suggest that they do not have the right personnel or temperament for this.
These were the reasons that I linked up with the British Labour Party for tutelage in 2010. It was important to me to understand how a Party organised by the workers with their ideals and interests in mind was organised so that we could adapt this to our situation in Nigeria as appropriate. I remain grateful to a British Labour MP, Mr Andy Love, who was kind to offer his time to help us fashion out a new package which would have enabled us to embark on reforms in Education, Health, Agriculture, Transport, Housing and so on. Unfortunately, as I subsequently discovered, the Nigeria Labour Congress which has been a major contributor, was not in charge or control of the Labour Party. Neither was the Trade Union Congress nor the United Labour Congress. Indeed, by some quirk of fate, politicians had hijacked the Party and turned it on its head, making it merely an avenue to negotiate for a pittance instead of appropriating its destiny and owning its own narrative. There was no vision or understanding in the leadership of the great opportunity presented by the labour Party to pull Nigeria from the brink that it has found itself.
To me, recent trends and events in Nigeria including restructuring and the agitation for a change in the kind of leadership that Nigeria has been afflicted with, presents a great opportunity for the Labour Party to come to the fore. The Labour Party is already blessed with a prospective pool of a staggering amount of professionals and technocrats in both the private and public sectors. Most of them are not tainted or tarnished by being in politics. By virtue of their positions, the leadership of organised labour in Nigeria not only know what is wrong with Nigeria, they can fix it. They have suffered the effects of poor political and indolent leadership. They have watched as ineffectual and irrational policies compounded by woeful and inefficient implementation have gradually brought the country to its knees. The result is that the entire nation is almost comatose as it wallows in neglect and abject poverty amidst a blessing of riches, both human and natural.
The support of organised labour can put an end to our misery. We do not have to wait for a realignment of political personages and forces that have failed us. The APC experiment has shown that what will simply happen is that the strange bedfellows will inevitably not sleep together and rancour, discord and acrimony will be the order if the day from the outset. The only natural outcome can only be a bitter divorce the like of which we may not have seen before. Indeed, this is what is now playing out before our very eyes. A viable Labour Party can spare us the agony of watching and tolerating this distasteful and indecent split between those who never had our interest at heart.
The sheer workforce and humongous spread and reach of the Nigerian workers would readily intimidate and neutralise any of our existing political parties. There is already an uncommon database available to the Labour Party if there is a formal and proper synergy between organised Labour and the Party.
We must appreciate that we have a chance to make a difference. Workers and the unemployed make the largest pool of voters. They will also be those to conduct and monitor their interests. They will recognise that they have a vested interest in the outcome of the elections and ensure that those who would like to rig us out of our heritage and future do not succeed. That is why I will advocate that we give our unalloyed support to the veritable third force that the Labour Party represents. Let us not be fooled by political warlords who are desperately trying to reclaim some of the political space for themselves.
The Labour Party is the Third Force. It is for us to recognise this and embrace the Party. We need to give it fillip because it seems to me that this is the alternative we have been seeking. As the Yoruba’s will say “nkan ti a n’wa lo Sokoto o wa l’apo Sokoto (what we are going to Sokoto – the city – to look for, is actually resting in our pockets”.
Together we can do this. Let us do it and support a natural progressive Party that has been staring us in the face all this while. Let us unify and associate with the Labour Party.
God bless Nigeria.