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The condition of the Nigerian workers continues to worsen pari passu with purported economic rebasing and improving business climate and the declaration of Nigeria’s as largest economy in Africa. It is preposterous that our federation’s large economy is founded on the shrinking size of the workers dinner table... Kayode Ajulo

Speech delivered by the National Secretary of the Labour Party, Barrister Kayode Ajulo at City People Media Group's Event
Ladies and gentlemen, compatriots, I feel highly honored to be here today. I feel even more so realizing that am being given the opportunity to share my thoughts on the state of our federation on no other platform than that provided by the City People Media Group, publisher of that iconic soft sell magazine City People. Rated as a gossip magazine, the City People has over the years distinguished itself as a soft sell with a mission to joke and jab the unfeeling side of the citizenry out and crack our ribs from complacent unawareness to upbeat social concern.
I really must thank the City People magazine for all that positive gossips filled with fine perceptions and which have proven to be of much good to the society. City People magazine represents in our recent history, goodwill to society generously lavished. Once again, I thank you for this opportunity.
Having said that, compatriots, I think it is only appropriate to get down to business. What I have come to do today is very simple: to take a look at where we are as nation today, the how and why, but more importantly to take special note of what we need to guide us in the choices we make as we go into yet another round of general election.
Let me quickly remind us all again that in doing this I stand on no other platform than that raised by my party the Labour Party, and am guided no less by its principles.It would interest you that, today in Nigeria our party is the only ideological party and which is evidently committed to uplifting the condition of the ordinary people, especially the working people, youth and women.
True to our ideological perspective, it is our believe that whereas the political arena is the place where the fate of the people is decide and what society produces shared amongst the people, politics rests on economy and derives its strength or weakness, as the case maybe from how studious, robust and enduring the economy is.
Economy in throes
In the past year, Nigeria had the opportunity of hosting the World Economic Forum (WEF), an event visited with much pomp and hopes, more so with the declaration of increased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) upon rebasing. The reality of the danger inherent in our dependency on oil alone has however been brought to bear again consequent upon the falling price of crude oil on the international market and correlation of this with falling value of naira. The lesson to be further learnt from this is that productivity and economic growth is better and more concretely measured in terms of tangible products than mere commercial calculation of values of services that do not count on the global market.
Further, whereas it is true that the non-oil export has been statistically shown to growth by not less than 8 percent in the last couple of years, in practice it has neither impacted on government revenue, nor resulted in improved quality of life for the people.
Economically, the federation does not seem to be that which can subsist for long as the states are more or less pan handlers that depend solely on monthly allocations from the federal government. While there is so much attention directed at corruption and ineptitude at the centre, less attention is paid to the rot at state and local government levels, which are supposedly closer to the people.
Governments at these levels appear to be bereft of ideas on how to boost the local economies and standard of living of the people. Local Government funds are diverted or cornered by the state government in the highest level of demonstration executive lawlessness and misappropriation of public funds.
Condition of the working class
The condition of the working people has plummeted to the worst level ever recorded in the history of Nigeria. As I speak, more than half of the states in the country owe workers salaries and/or other emoluments.
Many state governments are yet to fully implement the N 18,000 minimum wage, and in states where such is being implemented, many administrators have succeeded in conniving with legislators to impose multiple taxes. This is even more spiteful in that the N18, 000 minimum wages currently in place in Nigeria is evidently grossly inadequate to cater for any home. At the current exchange rate of N 182 naira to $1 dollar, no worker should earn less than N 28,000, if the N125 minimum wage when the 1981 minimum wage Act was enacted is anything to go by. While depriving workers of their right to living wage, the ruling elite rub in the peppery insult by carrot-and-stick approach when it suit them and by handing out Greek gifts of rice and chicken during festivities.
Perhaps they need to be reminded that dole is meant for the unemployed and not for the employed that have been deliberately kept below the poverty line by the cruelty of iniquitous, callous and destructive elite.
The condition of the Nigerian workers continues to worsen pari passu with purported economic rebasing and improving business climate and the declaration of Nigeria’s as largest economy in Africa. It is preposterous that our federation’s large economy is founded on the shrinking size of the workers dinner table.
The situation of the working people is made worse by state governments that fail to implement the existing N18,000minimum wage. They hypocritically pretend not to be aware thatthe issue of minimum wage is a minimum benchmark and that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention does not provide for selective application or review by state or local authorities.
They claim to be friends of workers but have failed to put in place legislations that would ensure compliance, sanction in case of default and adequate compensation of employees whose rights have been breached.
If even in America the home of capitalism, a national minimum wage review from $7.25 per hour to $10.1 per hour is being proposed by the Obama administration, then there is no reason why Nigeria, a fledgling democracy in the throes of developmental challenges should not embrace minimum standards it sets.
Infrastructural collapse
The Complete state of collapse of infrastructure at the state level in spite of regular monthly allocation from the federation account to the states is that which should call for concern on the part of any patriot. It is evident that it is either there is deliberate and conscious tinkering with the treasury at these levels or that public officers and politicians without the requisite knowledge and disciplined have been charged with the management of the common patrimony.
The executive lawlessness attending the management of state resources is even made more manifest in states where concomitant with increasing internally generated revenue (IGR) profile over the years is the increase in foreign debt profile. It is as though the excuse for taxing the people to their bones is to be able to create the revenue foundation for indebtedness and consequent capital flight. Never before had cause and effect being more illogically aligned!
Insurgency and kid’s glove approach
The most grueling manifestation of the dire situation the Nigerian federation finds itself today is reflected in insurgency which has grown from mere acts of civil disobedience by deviants and disgruntled elements to a whole socio-political movement nurtured on warped religious doctrine not too different from its ilk in the Middle East and South East Asia.
Nigeria as a nation with long history of meritorious contribution to global and regional peace now groans under the worst form of terror. An entire swath that is more than one sixth of the area of the country has become a killing field.
Throats are slit with savage gusto, schoolgirls are snatched from their dormitories and betrothed away against their will, rape and arson are celebrated on global networks and large tracts of the country are laid waste.
School boys are woken from their beds and murdered in cold blood in nightmarish sweep by beastly bands, while young girls are strung with explosives and sent like robots to market place and hospitals. Strange black flags have even been hoisted in places and theocratic rules declared, with attendant abuses of human rights and crimes against humanity.
It must be highlighted that those who are daily being killed, displaced and dehumanized by the insurgents are the vulnerable masses of workers and peasants, women and children, and youth and students. They constitute the core of the urban and rural populations, which feed the nation and represent the very future of our country. They are the ones most at risk, defenseless and not endowed with resources to resort to self-help in times of adversity. They do not have any aircraft with which to evacuate their families, they have no cars to escape onslaught by insurgent motorized brigades and neither do they have the weapons to defend themselves in the face of machine gun-wielding marauders.
Torn away from the land they feed on, they have become flung far and wide, some across the borders into neighboring countries, and the sorry spectacles of our failures at nation building and lack of readiness to retrace our steps are up for public viewing on the global arena.
The tragedy confronting our nation is further accentuated and made more overwhelming by the uncoordinated response on the part of the political class. While it is true that the measures been put in place by the federal government have neither yielded the desired result nor justified the huge budget allocated to protection of life and property and defence of territorial integrity of our federation, the lack of concert and concord on the part of the opposition leaves much to desired.
The nation seems to be more adept at observing one minute silence than efficiently tackling terrorism. In other climes, nations are known to confront evil together united as one.
It was demonstrated in the United States of America during the 9/11 terror attack, just as is being demonstrated by the French in the late Charlie Hebdoterror attack in Paris. Here, the reality confronting us today is that rather than face the terrorists the political class has once again seen in the tragic situation raw materials for settling scores.
The party in power and the opposition are busy trading blames and hurling accusation and counter-accusation. It is even worse when, in contradiction with the fact on ground, strategic and tactical failures by institutions that have suffered from decades of neglect, corruption and lack of enduring tradition of accountability are blamed directly on the President. It is as if the insurgency has become, in the myopic prism of certain opposition elements, part of the necessary roller coaster to bear them to certain victory?
Worse still is that the military institution that has been severally accused of mismanaging both the financial and human resources at its disposal in the counter-insurgency has not responded to such accusation in manner worthy of commendation but has rather embarked on wild goose chase.
There seems to be more commitment to churning out of propaganda on death or capture of the Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, than actually going after the visible terrorists. Selective court marshal, guardroom trials and celebration of death sentences handed down to disgruntled officers and men and deserters from a war with neither definite frontlines nor clearly defined orders seems to have become the hallmark of our top echelons’ response to discontent and suffering among the traumatized populace.
The political arena
From all indications, the 2015 presidential election is bound to be most exciting. On the one hand we have a candidate who is a sitting president and who has been on the political field since the inception of our current democratic experiment. Then we have on the other hand another candidate with well known military and dictatorial past, and recurrent failed attempt to be relevant in the democratic polity.
President Jonathan rose through the ranks, learned the rope and is contesting on the platform of a ruling party. But his party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has virtually mismanaged the opportunity to build a democratic tradition in sixteen years of squandermania and civil dictatorship.
General Buhari is running on the platform of the All Progressive Party (APC) which is an amalgam of strange bedfellows and carpetbaggers who do not have any clear cut idea on how to advance the country except to latch on one vague clamor for change.
The point must be made clearly: neither of the two candidates presented to the public merits what it takes to hold together the federation at this time. Nor are the two parties worthy of the federation.
Man is a political animal. He is only human because he exists in human society and depends on human society, not simply because of his individuality. The political scenario playing out manifests not the interest of our people but the crass opportunistic ambition of individuals.
Personalities are being promoted and made into icons around mundane ideas and frivolities while nothing concretely is being done to promote the ideology principles and programmes of the parties, particularly in the PDP and the main opposition the APC.
The lack of vision and pedestrian bend is further manifested in the political campaigns of the big parties. The campaigns are not issue driven. Those who want to remain in power cannot advance any serious reason they have to be returned, while those banded in the opposition to remove them have only one mantra – anti-corruption.
There is no programme advanced for revamping the economy, for creation jobs, for improving the education standard, for health services and more importantly at this time, for taming insurgency and bringing to an end the impending dismemberment of the federation.
The egos and fictions built around the mythological characters peopling the opposition seems to them enough syrup to assuage the hunger of the people for improved quality of life and to stem their anger against the entire ruling class that has failed them irrespective of parties and who the godfathers are.
For us in the Labour Party this cannot be the type of change our people are clamouring for. The lack of vision and mythological mantra of a motley opposition cannot be alternative to the ineptitude and corruption our people desire to change.
For us in the Labour Party those vying for offices at all levels need to satisfy criteria built around a collective social value and not personality cult or the whims and caprices of individuals garbed in progressive toga.
In Labour Party, the final word is the People, and what we offer is nothing but to amplify the voice and aspiration of the people. We offer to Nigerian people a platform where their aspiration will be me. We offer panacea for a brighter Nigeria and once again we shall ensure that the people counts, that power truly belongs to the people and that indeed their voice, our voice indeed is that voice of the Almighty God.
We have not Godfathers, we bank our existence on the God the Father. We bank our victories in the up coming election on the Nigeria people. We are the party of the modern Nigeria.
Our federation needs more importantly strong institutions and not just strong individuals. Such institutions can only rest on the consciousness and conscience of the people and not the capricious design and pathological garrulousness of individual.
What the people want
i. The question may be asked that why is it that the Labour Party is not fielding a presidential candidate in the upcoming election? It needs to be understood that it is not compulsory that a party must field a candidate at all levels. In our case, specifically is not a policy not to field a candidate, but we believe that a candidate to be fielded must meet certain criteria for the exalted position of Commander in chief and President of the nation. Our party set the basic minimum criteria to be met and we discovered that none of the aspirants that came forward came near this, so we have no option than to keep that in abeyance.
ii. Anybody who feels he merits the position of president of such an ethnically and religiously diverse country like Nigeria must be ready to protect the life and property of the citizenry in any part of the country irrespective of ethnic, religious or ideological affiliation. Sectional leaders who pander to religious sentiments at the expense of unity of the country deserve no support from the mass of our people. Those who also play the chameleon and deliberately whip up ethnic sentiments on the eve of election are not worthy of the exalted position.
iii. Political parties and candidates vying for offices at federal level need to be able to make clear declarations on the issues of national security. It is not enough to reduce security matters to propaganda around the issues of disappearance of Chibok girls. What concrete measures will be put in place to stem the tide of insurgency and what will be done to re-integrate those affected into the society and restore them to their land from which they derive their source of living? Aspirant must be able to tell Nigerians whether or not he is ready to expose the sponsors of Boko Haram both within and outside the country. A serious aspirant must be able to tell Nigerians whether or not he intends to probe into the mismanagement of defence of territorial integrity of the country by those charged to do so.
iiii. Instead of engaging in empty talk about revamping the economy, aspirants need to come out with clear programme and roadmap on step-by-step measures to be taken to revamp the economy. Enough of empty declarations. There must be clear statement on economic policy, whether or not it will be that that will further enrich the rich or that meant to empower the ordinary people. It is not enough to clamor for change; the ordinary people want to know whether or not an aspirant is committed to making Nigeria a player to reckon with on the international market. They want to know whether or not their faith is still going to depend solely on the ups and downs in the prices of crude oil.
v. Commitment to fighting corruption in all its ramifications is a basic minimum requirement for any Nigerian who deems himself fit to keep the federation one and recover us from the brink of precipice we are. It is not enough to pay lip services to the fight against corruption. Anybody aspiring to be president must have shown demonstrable subjection of himself to public scrutiny. Beyond economic corruption, political corruption needs to be a major focus; it gives birth to economic corruption, which now becomes a veritable pedestal for further political corruption. It is a vicious circle. Those who think they are above the law or can willfully circumvent basic rules deserve no consideration matters like this.
vi. Our party, the Labour Party, believes that the attitude to minimum wage is a non-negotiable index for determining whether or not we will support a candidate. Those who have in the past made frantic efforts to remove the minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list deserve no vote from the working class.
vii. Finally, it is our firm belief in the Labour Party that it is only the people that have the final say. The Nigerian electorate needs to be resolute in their determination to decide their destiny. Such expression of determination begins with how they cast their vote.
People must be ready to vote on the basis of issues and not on the basis of sentiments. They must also be ready to ensure that their vote count. They must be ready to vote out bad leaders and retain good ones; they must be ready to vote in candidates of proven integrity and shut out deceivers and political prostitutes and swindlers.
Parties or aspirants whose stock-in-trade is to always raise the hope of the people on the eve of election by making high flown promises only to dash the hope when they get to power needed to be told that enough is enough.
Those who mount the soapbox to sweet tongue their way to the heart of the people must be made to taste of the bile of defeat in the public arena.
The people need to be able to declare by their vote that elections are actually the festivals of the oppressed. Parties that presided for eight years over empires of collapsing infrastructure and monuments of degeneration and dehumanisation deserve not to be returned to power at all levels.
The choice is ours to make: whether to be hoodwinked into bondage or to take charge of our destiny.
Thank you.
Kayode AJULO, LLB (Hons.) LL.M, LL.D. BL

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