With barely 24 hours to the globally –acclaimed May Day or Workers’ Day rallies, there may be an unpleasant showdown in Nigeria as the two major factions of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, appear poised to clash at the rally grounds.
Last month, the national congress of the NLC which held in Abuja produced Ayuba Wabba as its national president but that event also ended in protests that led to another congress by splinter unions in Lagos, which subsequently produced Joe Ajaero as factional President.
Since that development, efforts by concerned stakeholders to re-unite the factions have proved abortive.
The May 1 Workers’ Day activities, many believe, would provide opportunity for the factions to confront themselves.
Besides the anticipated showdown at the federal level, states like Lagos, Edo, Kaduna and Kogi are seen as flashpoints as they are either equally factionalised along the lines of Wabba and Ajaero or have other serious issues confronting them. Edo is particularly seen as volatile following the emergence of parallel executive committees.
Kogi state may not even celebrate the May Day at all as the state NLC has threatened to shut down the state over cuts in workers’ salaries by the government. Observers say that if the workers gather for the May Day festivities in the state at all, such gatherings could turn violent.
Speaking to Global Patriot Newspapers, however, Comrade Wabba debunked any suggestions of imminent clashes between the two factions during the May Day celebrations either in Abuja or Lagos. He said that arrangements have been concluded to hold rallies with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) at the Eagle Square in Abuja and at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos.
The Ajaero faction is, on the other hand, said to be spoiling for war.
Strategically taking over the Lagos State secretariat of the NLC in Yaba, which is also the soul of labour struggles in the country, the group is said to be planning a symposium at the Lagos Airport Hotels, Ikeja, and a rally at the secretariat itself with a march that would terminate at the National Stadium, in Surulere, Lagos.
Athough on the surface the group is not planning any activities beyond the symposium and road march, residents of Yaba have expressed fear that the Wabba faction could also be contemplating storming the Yaba office of the NLC, which, they fear, portents trouble.
“If the other people decide to show up here (Yaba) there’s going to be a big problem. We are afraid they might not allow us have peace,” said Kunle Ayodele, a resident of Ojuelegba.
The present arrangement, whereby the Wabba faction is celebrating alongside the TUC is seen as a tacit endorsement of Wabba by the TUC which had up to now maintained neutrality in the ongoing face-off between the NLC factions.
Wabba told Global Patriot Newspapers that there is nothing to worry about. According to him: “it is traditional for the NLC to always have a joint programme with TUC on such occasions. So we will be having it as usual at the Eagle Square in Abuja. We are not expecting conflict as we believe the warring NLC parties are all gentlemen and ladies who ought to and indeed know their limits. In no time, we will reconcile our differences,” he said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, however, a source at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, indicated that the Force has heard hints that there could be trouble and has made adequate preparations to guarantee the safety of all who would be part of the celebrations notwithstanding the factions they belong to, warning, that none of the factions must do anything that would cause a breach of the peace.
“Yes we know there are factions in the NLC and from experience we also know these labour people can be volatile, so we are prepared for it,” said the source.
The situation may be awkward for some state governors as they would not want to be seen as taking sides with any of the factions, hence, the decision to attend the rally at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium for Governor Adams Oshiomhole, may be a decision to be carefully thought out.