The NLC is yet again repeating a mistake responsible for its loss of reputation. It is misreading the Nigerian public and taking a position directly at odds with their declared wishes. The trade union is threatening a nationwide strike over the termination of the subsidy regime. It claims to be doing so in response to the inevitable difficulty and friction that greeted the realization that the new administration will not reverse the discontinuation of subsidy set into law by the outgone administration.
The NLC is claiming that Nigerians wish to prolong the subsidy regime; that they sanction the payment of six trillion naira to an unknown group for an unknown amount of petrol, a significant portion of which ends up in the neighbouring countries. The Labour Union, which took the side of an eponymous party in the last election, is insisting that the public prefers for the government to abandon schools, hospitals, roads, farms, police and other important public services requiring investments. The government should instead continue to drown the nation in more debt just to pay trillions to the subsidy cabal.
Although it claims to be aligned with the common man, the NLC is fighting for the return of a regime that benefited the elite class and punished the common man. Over 70% of Nigeria’s subsidized petrol is consumed by an estimated 15% of its population. In reality, the subsidy was never for the common man; it was for the elites who held strongly that the country must pay for the cost of riding their high-horsepower jeeps and generators. The poor paid through their nose for this in taxes and other national revenue that should have gone into programs with impacts and benefits better spread across the population.
The contradiction nevertheless, the NLC remains obstinate. The country must be ground to a complete halt because the subsidy cabal is angry that their snout is about to be yanked off the trough. How is it possible that the NLC is making such an error? How can it reach for a strike, the most potent weapon in its arsenal, without first exploring common sense compromises such as a raise in minimum wage and relief benefits to the bottom class which the current government has committed to?
Perhaps it’s not an error. An alternative reading suggests that the NLC is well aware of whose mission it is really serving and is merely masquerading as the defender of public interest. The union after all entered into the ring in the last election, offering naked support to a candidate who promised the same thing (fuel subsidy removal) that it is now agitating against.
It could be that the NLC still suffers a hangover from the last election. It has forgotten its true role and to whom it owes its true allegiance. It has now morphed into the battering ram of a political party and candidate serving hidden interests. If this is the case, then the organization has set the stage for its final fall. It’s been a long time coming, with successive missteps year after year.
If it proceeds with the strike, it will fail. The Nigerian public is in no mood to continue to award largesse to a cabal while they see their own income fall. They want their country’s revenue to be invested in things that truly impact their lives and present them with opportunities to move up the social ladder. When they can afford Abuja homes and sleep jeeps like the NLC Chairman and his defeated candidate, perhaps then they too will care about subsidy.
If the NLC is willing to keep whatever is left of its diminished reputation, it should disembark and embrace dialogue. It may even announce the government’s concessions, which was planned to happen anyway, as a victory. The alternative is to be consumed by public anger and a complete loss of face. Nigerians will declare their own protest – and it won’t be against the government.