By Enyichukwu Enemanna
The umbrella body of Nigerian workers – the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has taken a swipe at the country’s leaders for what it considers as slow pace of progress, as Africa’s most populous country marks its 63rd Independence anniversary from the British colonial rule.
Labour says at 63, there is little for the country to celebrate, noting that the once great nation filled with great hope inspired by great leaders, is now on a downward trend in various developmental indices, a development it blamed on “inept and corrupt leaders” who took over the helms of affairs and ran the country aground.
“The crisis of leadership is truly the crisis of our national development”, the President of NLC, Joe Ajaero said in a statement on Sunday.
This comes ahead of the Oct 3 deadline for the NLC and affiliate unions to embark on an indefinite strike to protest hardship caused by the removal of fuel subsidy and failure of government to address inflation and salary loss caused by the policy.
On his Independence Day national broadcast, President Bola Tinubu announced a salary increase for low cadre civil servants to the tune of N25,000 to address economic difficulties arising from fuel subsidy removal.
Relishing on the Nigeria of yesteryears, the Labour says, “Our Hospitals and Educational institutions were top-notch as royalties thronged our shores for medical treatments while Asian and other African students found home in our citadels of learning. We had a nation that could feed, house and cloth her people; a nation whose citizens lived in prosperity and enjoyed a life that was comparable to that possible in all parts of the globe.
“Our currency which was originally the British Pounds and was changed in 1973 to the Naira was stronger than the U$ Dollars but was at par with the British Pounds. Going abroad for studies or to live was not attractive and foreign nationals thronged our shores for greener pasture. Social infrastructure was efficiently maintained and the public utilities remained functional.”
NLC insists that corruption is the bane of the country’s development which was caused by leaders. “The continued mismanagement of our resources has made it difficult for us a nation and as a people to make sustainable progress rather, we have continued to march backwards with every preceding year looking worse than the previous one.
“Regrettably, the decades that followed were marked by a series of missteps, mismanagement, and missed opportunities. The erosion of ethical governance, rampant corruption, and political instability became defining features of our nation. Instead of harnessing our potential for the collective good, our leaders often pursued personal interests, leaving the masses to grapple with the consequences.”
Labour says this period of independence is a time to reflect and “seriously seek” to question and thoroughly re-examine “our” actions as a people and as a nation.
It wondered how the country has moved from a once prosperous nation to become a country that is the poverty capital of the world with over 133m multi-dimensionally poor people, a number it says has since increased after the hike in the price of petrol (PMS) by the current administration.
Labour sought to know how Nigeria moved to a nation that had a refinery that was operational in the 1960s which grew into another three refineries in the 1980s but which have been “deliberately made obsolete” by those entrusted with the country’s leadership.
NLC therefore called for renewed sense of purpose, acknowledgment of the past, readiness to confront the present challenges, and collectively work towards a brighter future.
While expressing hope that Nigeria can reclaim the greatness that has eluded it for too long, Labour expressed hope that Nigeria can rise and shine once more as a beacon of hope and prosperity for all citizens.
It says the Oct 3 planned strike is part of the march to freedom, calling on all Nigerians to support to strike for the country’s betterment.