The Hallucinations of NLC’s Abdulwahed Omar By Comrade Peters Adeyemi

NLC President, Comrade Abdulwahed Omar, is surprisingly still lost in a severe hallucination about the NLC being broken up by external actors, notably the Federal Government of Nigeria. In a media outing recently, Omar was said to have expressed that the federal government is still attempting to break-up the NLC “by using some of the aggrieved members who lost during our last election by telling them that they can form their labour centre”.

This is absolutely surprising because it shows conclusively that the NLC President does not appreciate or accept that, more than any other thing else, it is his monumental cluelessness that is at the heart of the break-up of the NLC and the current effort to form an alternative centre. This age-old trick of associating the idea of an alternative centre to a government agenda in order to discredit it has, therefore, already failed because everyone now knows that the crisis in NLC is squarely a consequence of the error in the recruitment of Comrade Omar as NLC President. The comrade came to NLC leadership with a deformity of background that could neither be cured nor managed.

It is even more shameful and tragic if Omar’s comment in the said interview is viewed against the backdrop of a recent statement dated May 23, 2012 which he signed. In the statement, Omar disclaimed a press release issued by an acting General Secretary of the NLC as a “regrettable statement.” According to Omar, Congress noted that at no time was there a decision to engage any of the affiliate unions of the NLC, including great unions like NASU and NUHPSW in unnecessary media exchanges and war of attrition over issues that are purely internal and clearly surmountable.” For this infraction, the said acting General Secretary was not only removed but was directed to apologise to the federal government and he did. Less than five months after that, Omar who presided over that meeting that took that decision and signed the statement on the outcome of that meeting is seen engaged in a similar blackmail.

No matter what anyone may say against past leaders of the NLC, each and every one of them demonstrated a mastery of the theory and practice of labour leadership, the ideological culture of trade unionism, the morality of union leadership, the language of union leadership, the discipline, focus and sense of sacrifice of union leadership. Omar has been the only exception, no thanks to his irredeemable cluelessness. Instead of disciplining himself to understand what trade union leadership entails, Omar has been busy running from pillar to post, buying and selling blackmail and strategies of acquiring and consolidating power that are totally strange to the tradition of relentless, open self-criticism practiced in our movement across the world. His obsession with this approach to leadership meant that he was humiliating both himself and the NLC before History. Unfortunately, it never bothered him to realise that no other outside interests or forces but himself, was breaking up the NLC.

How, for instance, would the NLC still be the NLC that Nigerians know when the NLC President willfully destroyed the Secretariat – the intellectual and bureaucratic engine room of Congress simply because Omar lacks the capacity to read and internalize basic documents and positions of the NLC and the ideological backgrounds of such  positions. The situation reached a point where those who recollect the struggles which brought about the NLC needed to think seriously about building a new fighting movement from the ashes of the NLC. The Omars of this world can continue to hallucinate about a so-called government agenda even as this same Omar has not only converted the NLC to the labour annex of a Government House, but also cultivated the culture of going from Government House to Government House looking for what only he himself knows.

The point is that NLC is extinct. It is gone and Omar and those acting in league with him cannot re-build it because they lack the vision, orientation and the practical ability. Imagine, for one, that the primary union of the President of the NLC has, for over a year now, stopped paying affiliation dues from its national secretariat to the NLC. That is the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT. They must have come to the conclusion that Omar has betrayed and is not fighting for the welfare of teachers and Nigerian workers. Despite several delegations to plead with the NUT high command, there has been no change of position.

This is beside the tactical show of shame in January when NLC sold out very cheaply on the fuel subsidy struggle just when the struggle was about to yield results. It took the House of Representatives’ probe panel to bring out the magnitude of the figures of fraud involved in the subsidy scam.

We only need to make reference to one or two opinions to get an idea of how disenchanted Nigerians are with the remnants of the NLC. For this, we take the views of well known conservative journalist, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, and that of the radical liberal intellectual, Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim.

Writing under the title, “Economic Saboteurs in Our Midst”, in ThisDay of Monday August 27, 2012, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu wrote, among other things that: what is expected of NUPENG and NLC is to push for improved management of the fuel subsidy scheme and the prosecution of fraudulent oil marketers and their accomplices in the public sector that the government continues to shield. When they threaten to stop fuel supply and hold the government and nation to ransom, what they don’t realise is that they become allies of the fraudsters in the system and will be painted with the same brush.”

On his part, Dr. Ibrahim wondered, in an article entitled: “Is the fuel subsidy cabal too powerful,” wrote, inter alia: “The Nigeria Labour Congress owes Nigerians an explanation for their shameful action in support of the mega thieves. How can they come out to openly support the mega thieves? In January, we had engaged in a struggle in which lives were lost to compel Government to look inward at their friends in the oil cabal who were responsible to the spectacular increase in the amount of money spent on the so called fuel subsidy. We called for investigation and prosecution of the cabal. When NLC chickened out of the struggle, their excuse was that they had been threatened. Who is threatening them now to support the same cabal that we fought against? They must apologise to Nigerians for selling out. Government must be very pleased with itself that the trade unions are now wheelers and dealers and are no longer in a position to organise a credible strike but are available to organise strikes on behalf of those looting our national treasury.”

The conclusive import of these two arguments made on a same day but from different parts of the country in two frontline national dailies in Nigeria located in different and distant cities from each other shows that both conservatives and radicals have agreed that the NLC does not exist for Nigerians anymore but for a clueless cabal.

So, it became more than clear to us in the Non-Academic Staff Union, NASU, that we were risking too much lasting damage to our relationship with the wider movement, the building of which has our bold imprint. We recalled that NASU and its principal officers have every reason to be proud of our contribution to the building of a modern labour movement symbolized by the NLC up to March, 2011. Our union was proscribed by the Abacha regime between 1996 and 1998 for hosting NLC affiliates who were determined to maintain the independence of the NLC from the government. Not only did we lead our union to survive this proscription but we were also part of the Caretaker Committee that emerged to reconstitute the NLC following the demise of Abacha in 1998.

Our union was in the forefront of all that was positive during the eight years of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s leadership of Congress where our immediate past president served as Deputy and later, Treasurer of Congress. So, we ask: where were people like Omar when some of us were making these sacrifices to build the labour movement?

He was nowhere and that is why the conspiracy of branding our alternative as government inspired will not work because he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Comrade Adeyemi is General Secretary of Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institutions (NASU).