By Joan Nwagwu
The Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC) has called for restructuring that would bring good governance, sustainable development and social justice as the country approaches the 2023 general election and beyond.
The NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, said this at the 2022Workers Political Conference on Wednesday in Abuja.
The theme of the Conference is, “Commitment to National Emancipation and Development through Effective Political Engagement by Workers’’.
According to Wabba, the Conference seeks to set the Labour Agenda as a guide to our affiliates and workers and for engagement with Nigeria’s political class at federal, state, local government and ward.
“With 2023 in view, there is a lot of politicking, intrigues and subterfuge in the political space. Every indication shows that the polity is once again being over-heated.
“Sadly, as it has become norm with our cycle of broken politics, the polity is not being heated with questions and answers on how the current political mandate has been used by political office holders.
“The polity is not being over-heated with concerns on how the current ruling elites have honoured the socio-economic rights of Nigerians in Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution.
“The polity is not being over-heated with new ideas of how politicians can meet the expectations of Nigerians who want constant power, motorable roads, adequate security, and living wages that will offer workers a chance at decent living.
“The near absence and acute deficit of serious engagement with these existential political concerns have provided the context for this Workers’ Political Conference,’’ he said.
He added that, we have thought hard and long about how our political elites have treated the national questions of good governance, sustainable development and social justice.
He noted that the purpose of the Political Conference was to reconstruct the critical bridge of issue-based politics that accommodates the interests of Nigerian workers and people.
According to him, our determination is that in the run up to the 2023 elections, we must not to allow professional politicians to evade critical questions of national development.
“This is why we have developed a Workers Charter of Demands that prioritises equity, fairness and social justice.
“Our charter of demands asks for free and quality education to tertiary levels for every Nigerian child. Our Charter of Demands insists that every Nigerian should access free and quality healthcare from cradle to grave.
“ Our charter of demands make the argument for the kind of restructuring that brings sustainable development to real Nigerians currently struggling with the crumbs,’’he said.
The NLC president also said the demand posits that politicians should no longer be allowed to send their kids to schools abroad or treat their sicknesses in foreign hospitals, while the poor are trapped in endless strike and poor medical facilities.
He also demanded for the promotion of decent work conditions for workers including equal pay for work of equal value, training, predictable promotion and affordable housing close to workers’ places of work,’’ he said.
Wabba said the demand also called for prompt payment of pension and other retirement benefits to the aged pensioners and the protection of all trade union rights,among others.
“Our charter of demands is a pact of emancipation for Nigerian workers and people. It is our duty to put it at the front burner of 2023 politics.
“We can make this happen by mobilizing every worker in Nigeria to get their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) ready.
According to him, the next step is to engage politically. We must be ready to engage political parties especially Workers Political Party and progressive political interests across the country .
He said this was to ensure that a significant number of candidates who would vie for elective positions in 2023 subscribe to the provisions of our Charter.
He commended the signing of the Electoral Act 2022 into law, adding that, ”it is helpful that the Act allows INEC to fully deploy electronic voting systems for future elections.
“We hope that this will help us achieve one-man-one-vote and one-woman-one-vote. We expect workers’ votes to count in 2023. We expect free, fair and credible elections.
“ We urge INEC and security agencies to stamp out the menace of vote-buying and electoral violence during the 2023 polls.
“ INEC should also perfect the Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System to drastically reduce resort to incidence forms and disenfranchisement of eligible voters.
“In 2023, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that all votes count and in case you are still wondering why Nigerian workers are now very passionate about engagement with partisan politics.
“ Therefore, be ready to join us when our campaign hits your geo-political zone, state, local government, ward, and polling unit, ’’he added.
Also, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Former, INEC Chairman and also Chairman of the occasion, said that Nigeria was at crossroads, as the country prepares for the 2023 general elections.
According to him, Nigerian citizens, and the working people, can either continue play the ostrich on the current trajectory of reckless, senseless, visionless journey towards democratic and socioeconomic development.
“It is time to wake up, rise and join hands in solidarity for struggles and active engagement in the political process towards, national emancipation from a devilish alliance of exploiters.
“It is time to broadly engage with and struggle for wider socio-political and economic issues, which affect all citizens” ’he said.
He, however, called for a revolution, to improve governance and quality of leadership for good and democratic governance.
“This would create a better environment for protecting, advancing, and defending the overall interest of the working people.
“A revolution may, indeed be desirable under the circumstances, but given the current realities, it is far-fetched.
“Broader patriotic and emancipatory struggles for good democratic governance may under the circumstances, help rescue the country and reposition it.
“That is towards the satisfaction of the fundamental needs and aspirations of all citizens, and improving the scope and space for working peoples,’’ he said.
Jega further said that in view of the general elections, it was time to effectively mobilise, consciencetise and involve Nigerian workers in broader political engagements towards using the electoral process to improve the leadership recruitment processes.
“This is, to elect good and popular representatives in governance, and by so doing, catalyse good democratic governance would certainly be in the overall, long-term interest of the Nigerian working people,” he said.
He called on Nigerian workers, trade unions, among others to work together with credible patriots in professional associations to bring about remarkable improvement in the politics and governance. as we inch towards the 2023 general elections.
“The minimum agenda would be to improve the integrity of the Nigerian electoral process; to demand for reforms to expand the scope of transparent democratic participation within political parties.
“Others are to improve the processes of selection, fielding and election of candidates into positions of leadership in governance at all levels, local, state and national/federal.
`The task is to ensure that either a working people – oriented political party with a popularly acceptable programme fields good, competent and credible candidates in general.
“Only candidates who have integrity, competence and who meet people-oriented selection criteria are elected into executive or legislative positions in governance.’’he said.
“All hands of progressive forces need to, have to, to on deck to prevent our country from imminent collapse, and to turn it around on to a trajectory of good democratic governance for beneficial democratic, socioeconomic development, ’he said..
He added that, a broad alliance of progressive forces for national rescue and emancipation is absolutely required to get Nigeria out of the current unwholesome predicament in which it finds itself.(NAN)