National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, yesterday stepped into the face-off between the Federal Government and the Ayuba Wabba-led Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over the new petrol price, calling for an immediate truce.
According to The Nation, Tinubu, at a meeting with the NLC leadership in Abuja, offered to accompany them to the negotiation table with the Federal Government for the purpose of resolving the issue.
The NLC had commenced an indefinite strike action on Wednesday in a bid to force the federal government to reverse the new pump price of fuel.
The strike action entered its third day yesterday with minimum impact in most parts of the country.
Tinubu, with whom were Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State; former NLC President, Abdulwahid Omar; former Director General of the National Orientation Agency, Alhaji Idi Farouk; Senators Kabiru Marafa, Othman Hunkuyi and Abdulkarim Daiyabu at the meeting, appealed to the labour leaders to adopt negotiation in the interest of the suffering masses.
He attributed the face-off to communication gap between government and labour, saying: “We are aware of a seeming division. But conflicts and conflict resolution mechanisms are there in every polity.
“If there are no conflicts and conflict resolution system, then there is no politics.
“The history of democracy cannot be written without those conflicts and institutionalised mechanism to resolve them. Today, we came to appeal to you and go back to history.”
Tinubu said Nigeria has reached a point in its history when things have to be done differently. Otherwise, he said, they would stagnate.
“We must try new things. I am here to appeal to you to understand that whatever you are doing now and whatever this government is doing, led by Buhari’s administration, which involves myself and yourself, you brought this government about.
“Without you and your support, without your participation, we couldn’t have won the election. Now, we have won the election and we now ask ourselves, can we manage the victory? Can we use the success to make those changes?
“If change is our slogan, are we collaborating and cooperating to make those changes for the benefits of the people, the positive change that we believe in, the progressive change that can work?
“We will cross this bridge because we put this bridge together for the progressives and not on tribe but because we have a common vision to make progress in this country.
“Yes, suddenly, there was little or no communication to really change the old policy of oil price. But in good conscience, many of you who are part and parcel of genuine labour movement know that it is not about cheap oil but about progress and disposable income that will ameliorate the suffering of the people.
“If that is the case, year after year, they speak the language of subsidy, but who are the beneficiaries of petroleum products for our vehicles?”
Continuing, he said: “My mission here is for peace. My mission here is for us to return to the negotiation table. In war, what will end it?
“After destruction and devastation, they still will end up with discussions and having an understanding to build their country back. Let us build Nigeria.
“Initially, it is always difficult. But when the market is opened up to competition, some marketers will depend on volume and bring their prices down because they want to bring in their inventory very quickly.
“They will not want the petrol to remain in tank farms because they are owing their creditors.
“But to say that we must continue to allocate when you have lost 70 per cent of your revenue. Oil was 100 dollars and above per barrel, and it is now above 30 dollars.
“Check your pocket, Mr. President. If you were getting N100,000 every week and suddenly you start getting N30,000, how would you react? That is my mission here.
“My guarantee is that this government is a government of honesty and integrity. Whatever is the anger, we must apply anger management.
“Whatever is the difference, I appeal to you, let us go back to the negotiation table. Let us call off this strike. It is not done on the street.
“It is good to voice out your differences because we are in a democracy and in freedom. We will end up negotiating and agreeing with one another.
“I want to appeal to you. I have come to beg, not as a pride. I come on behalf of my party.
“I come on behalf of our government because it is our collective government. APC is for progress; it is for change; those positive changes that will channel the economy and our country on the path of greatness.
“This is the largest economy in Africa and we can compete much better than India.
“Let us look at a new mechanism. Money is tangible. It does not evaporate, but moves from one pocket to the other.
“All the money that you are looking at is migrating. Let us open up the opportunities and create a level playing ground for all investors to build refineries in this country.
“If you are under the price control regime, there is no way any investor will come and establish refineries.
“Let us look at Venezuela who sell their oil at the same price. Today, to buy frozen chicken there is a problem. We cannot copy bad things.
“When Britain was in trouble, they looked up to their retired General, Winston Churchill, to bring that change and he did and turned Britain around. So, Nigeria has that problem since 2003 and we saw Buhari who is straightforward, honest and everything.
“We did not say we will not have problem with him once in a while. But we know one thing that he has—integrity, a character that is reliable.
“I know when we were together on the last price increase, we sat with that government. They promised to do certain things in transportation and agriculture and stop leakages and we said ok and we had SURE-P. Where is that SURE-P? What is sure about it is corruption.
“The only item that was sure in that name was waste and corruption. Where is the impact on the people? We came and started studying things away from the past.
“All of us, including the National Assembly, should sit down and look at the options and see how the other option, which I don’t want to disclose here, will work for the betterment of Nigeria, and I can take a bet with you that it will work.
“Buhari will listen to us because we will work together in making changes
Responding, Wabba said labour was always ready for negotiation, but was irked by the divide and rule tactic of government.
He wondered why government should be talking to the Joe Ajaero faction of the NLC which, according to him, controls only six of the 43 affiliates of the union.
He said the NLC’s action was not about personal interest.
His words: “Let me put it on record that this action is not about personal interest but about engaging policies which over time, the NLC has actually led the vanguard and have collaborated with a lot of civil society organisations even in the fight to bring about democracy.
“These are some of the traditions that we cherish so much to actually continue to fight for policy engagement and ensure that there is development to address the issue of poverty and bring about social Justice.
“There is no much difference between what we are saying; the difference is only the approach.
“We have taken note of the plea you have made and I assure you that this will be discussed and communicated to the appropriate organs of the NLC.
“I want to assure you that we have never at any time refused discussion or negotiation. What actually happened was that when we reached a deadlock, government said we should excuse them and they started playing this issue of divide and rule.
“NLC has 43 affiliates. As I am talking to you, we have 37 affiliates. So, if somebody controls six and government on record has it that the Ayuba Wabba led NLC is what they recognise, I don’t think it will augur well in a dispensation that all of us fought for to bring about change that can make meaningful life for Nigerians to play divide and rule.”
He thanked Tinubu for “finding time and thinking it apt to visit the secretariat of the working class. This alone has demonstrated the fact that you are concerned about the issues of development in our country.
“We must put on record our appreciation of that, despite the fact that you know the situation we are in and the action that we are in.”