President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday failed to take the advantage of this year’s Workers’ Day celebration to thank Nigerian workers for voting him last year as he was absent at the colour celebration held at Eagle Square, Abuja.
This year’s workers’ day was the first in the life of President Buhari’s administration which also going to mark its one year in office on May 29.
When it became obvious at about 11am that the President would not be physically present at the event, the distrust workers felt let down by the absence of the nation’s number one citizen.
Some of the labour leaders who spoke with journalists on the sidelines of the occasion described the action of the President as disappointing.
According to them, it was inconceivable for a President who had the time to attend the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) delegates’ conference when he was still seeking for votes, to now scorn the first ever opportunity to show gratitude to the Nigerian workers who bought in into the change agenda and massively voted for him.
Not even the presence of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige at the event could douse the tension the President’s absence had generated among the workers.
For instance, Deputy President, NLC and Chairman 2016 May Day celebration, Comrade Peter Adeyemi, stated that it was disappointing for President Buhari to scorn the opportunity to show gratitude to the Nigerian workers who formed the bulk of the people that voted for him.
He noted,”I am clearly very disappointed about the absence of Mr. President at this occasion. I am extremely disappointed in the sense that the bulk of those who crave for change, the positive change that contributed towards his being voted into the office, are the Nigerian workers.
“While he was still campaigning to be made the President of this country, he had the time to attend the delegates conference of the NLC. It is therefore worrisome that the first major workers’ day after his election into office, he didn’t have time to be physically present. It means he played politics with the Nigerian workers.
He sought our mandate because he needed it at that time, but after he had got, he didn’t think that we are important. I am very disappointed.”
Also commenting, Comrade Baba Ayebola, the Deputy Secretary General, Medical and Health Workers Union, said the action of Mr. President was a reflection of the behaviour of any section of a ruling class.
“The action of Mr. President shows the true reflection of any section of the ruling class. When they need us, the will look for us, after that they see us as mere cannon folders that can be use for their programmes and policies.However in my view, apart from showing the true reflection of the boss, whether he is carrying an umbrella or a broom, the bosses class know themselves.”
In the same vein, the president, Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, (NULGE) Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, lamented that the President missed the opportunity to get standing ovation from the Nigerian workers by his absence.
He said that the President disappointed the entirety of workers who trusted his ideology and who believed in him, to the extent of voting massively for him during the 2015 presidential election.
Khaleel said,”I am terribly disappointed. When I woke this morning and started preparing for this May Day, I was so sure that President Mohammadu Buhari will grace the occasion. My confidence is predicated on some glaring denominators. Firstly, the fact that President knows that he has a very good relationship with workers in Nigeria long before now.
“Secondly, considering the huge support he got through the 2015 general election. Thirdly, the agenda of the present administration and slogan of change are all in tandem with the aspiration and expectations of the Nigerian working class.
“However, the hope of Nigerian workers was dashed by his failure to be at the event. For us, His absence has two/way negative impacts. As people that believe in his ideology, we all came with the thought that he would be here, but we felt bad when he didn’t come. On his part, if came, he would have had a standing ovation from the workers
Meanwhile, the absence of the President did not diminish the status of the occasion, as speakers after speakers who took to the podium made some comments on the economic policies of government, corruption and other pressing national issues.
NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, in his speech commended the present administration for its efforts in tackling the issues of corruption, insurgency , inadequate power, shortage of petroleum products and the dwindling fortunes of the nation’s education sector.
For instance, while commending the military for its renewed onslaught on the Boko Haram insurgence, he warned that the war could not be said to have been successfully fought without the rescue of over 200 Chibok girls who were abducted from their dormitory over two years ago and the reintegration of the Internally Displaced Persons.
In particular, Wabba urged the President to come up with a marshal plan for the reconstruction of the devastated infrastructure of the geo-political zone which is the hot bed of the insurgents.
He also expressed the readiness of the congress to engage the present administration on how it would deliver on its promise of creation of 3million jobs annually.
Comrade Wabba said,”The ruling APC government in its manifestos promised to create 3million jobs annually. We have waited one year for the government to bring out its blueprints on how it intends to go about achieving this.
Congress will seek audience with Mr. President to get more information on this important matter. On our part as workers, we will be prepared and willing to contribute to any effort to create a ‘Job Creation Fund’ nationally to tackle this problem”.
He said having submitted a N56,000 proposal as new minimum wage to the federal government, Congress is eagerly waiting for government to kick-start the negotiation process.
According to him, the proposal is in line with the National Minimum Wage Act which stipulates a five year re-opener clause for a new negotiation.
The bill upon which the wage was pegged at N18,000 minimum wage was signed into law by the ex-President, Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, thereby opening the way for a review in 2016.
In his own address, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) of Nigeria President, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, lamented the long years of pillage of the nation’s resources by a greed few.
While commenting on the theme of this year’s May Day celebration, “The Working Class and the Quest for Socio-Economic Revival,”Kaigama called on the Nigerian workers to take the avenue of the day to reflect on how to bring a ailing nation to life.
He said,”Wherever I am chanced to speak I am quick to affirm that Nigeria is a great nation. The entire world acknowledges that fact. But many of our people have lost hope due to decades of rape of the national treasury by a privileged few.
“Yes we are a great nation, but greatness is never achieved on a gold platter. It is earned and must be consciously sustained. As a nation we are endowed with enormous natural resources yet grope in the darkness of poverty and underdevelopment.
“We produce crude oil but sleep at filling stations to buy the by-products therefrom. As we celebrate Workers day 2016, we must all resolve to put our acts together if we must revive our ailing nation.”
Addressing the workers, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige stressed the importance of the working class to the development of the nation, adding that they should shun protests as means expressing grievances to the policies of government.
He noted,”The downturn in the revenue profile of the government, growing unemployment especially among the youths, closure of some industries due to unfavourable economic climate and incessant industrial actions in key sector of our national economy are some of the realities we must confront and overcome if this nation must be on its path to sustainable economic prosperity and growth.