Comrade Pascal Myeleri Bafyau
By Our Reporters
He had survived several attacks by neo-liberals as a renowned Labour leader, but on Tuesday night, he failed to survive a heart attack, as the battle by doctors to save his life was lost. And that has thrown the Labour community in the country into mourning.
Comrade Pascal Myeleri Bafyau was the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) between 1988 and 1994. He was said to have passed on at about 11.30 pm on Tuesday, at the age of 65, shortly after he suffered a heart attack at his residence in Abuja.
His death came as a rude shock to the entire labour movement in particular and labour industry in general. He was born on March 7, 1947 and hails from Adamawa State.
He had been missing in public arena in recent times, but he remained a valued chieftain of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Expectedly, his death has triggered a torrent of comments, many of which are commiserating with the Bafyau family as well as recounting his accomplishments as a labour leader.
President of the NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar described the death of Bafyau as a huge loss to the Congress noting that Bafyau was a good intermediary between the NLC and government.
Omar, in a statement, said Bafyau would best be remembered for his commitment to a strong and united labour movement which saw him in 1988 uniting the two factions of the NLC-- the Democrats and Progressives, which were engaged in a fratricidal ideological struggle.
According to him, “Despite this turbulent period in the country’s history, which included the June 12 crises, Comrade Bafyau made remarkable achievements as NLC President. These include the building of the 12-storey Labour House in Abuja, establishment of the Labour Transport Service (now Labour City Transport), the founding of the now defunct Labour Bank (LACON) and the establishment of the old Labour Party in 1989”.
Omar said the NLC will play a major role in the burial of the late labour leader because his entire life was dedicated to the labour movement.
“The five years he was NLC President were the turbulent years of the Generals Babangida and Abacha regimes. Comrade Bafyau had been elected NLC President in December 1988 after a ten-month seizure of the Congress by the Babangida regime. Bafyau’s Presidency ended in 1994 when the military under late General Sani Abacha again seized the Congress.
“Comrade Bafyau dedicated his adult life to the Labour Movement beginning from 1969 when at 22, he was elected the North East Branch Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Railwaymen (NUR), and rose to be the NUR General Secretary in 1982.
Also, President General of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Peter Esele, described the late Bafyau as a dogged fighter who believed in fighting for the course of Nigerian workers.
“We were with him last week at the rally in support of Adams Oshiomole’s bid for second term and he advised us on how to further solidify the labour movement. He is the one that laid the foundation for the present NLC”,
“He shall be remembered for the numerous struggles which he led against the forces of oppression especially in the dark ages of military dictatorship in Nigeria and the pivotal role which he played in conjunction with us in the formation of the Nigeria Labour Party.
President of the Senate, David Mark, who also expressed shock over Bafyau’s death described him as a patriotic and selfless Nigerian, noting that his non-violent labour campaign endeared him to many Nigerians.
He recalled that late Bafyau as the then President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) struggled for the emancipation of the workers and by extension the welfare of the Nigerian people.
On his part, Resident Representative of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Mr. Thomas Maettig described the late Comrade Pascal Bafyau as a true trade unionist who led the NLC during the dark times of military rule.
In a text message sent to THISDAY, Maettig said "Labour has lost an illustrious son and a strong supporter of democracy."
FES is a German social organization that deals with labour unions.
Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who succeeded Bafyau as NLC President described the death as “a singular colossal loss to the Labour Movement”.
In a condolence letter to the NLC President, Oshiomhole said
“Comrade Pascal ahead of his contemporaries appreciated the limitation of “bread and butter” struggle of trade unionism.
Recalling Bafyau’s glowing era at the NLC, the governor said, “His tenure witnessed labour struggle against military dictatorship and official attempt to divide the labour movement.
His indelible marks I took over from as the 4th President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in 1999 in the movement are significant and numerous to list.”
Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu state has also lamented the death of Bafyau, saying the nation has lost yet another patriot and a true believer in national advancement.
Also, Governor Theodore Orji described Bafyau as a rare gem and a patriot and a great loss to the labour movement in the country.
In the same vein, the Kwara State governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed described Bafyau as a labour activist and democrat who contributed immensely towards a strong and united labour movement in the country by not only ensuring a strong financial base but bringing factions of the union under a united umbrella.
The Governor of Ondo State who is serving on the platform of Labour Party, Dr Olusegun Mimiko has noted that the late Labour leader administered the country’s Labour Union at a very difficult time and was able to direct its affairs to the best of his ability, because of his high managerial acumen.
And from Niger State, Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu said Bafyau’s passage is a great loss to Nigerian workers whose lives he touched in his eventful life that was devoted to public service. Aliyu said the former labour leader was concerned and fought for the welfare of the Nigerian workers.
Bafyau, as a labour leader made a foray into politics on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
He contested to become the running mate to late Chief MKO Abiola during the 1993 presidential elections under the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), but was beaten by Babagana Kingibe, who was chosen by the party.
Bafyau joined the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at its inception in 1998 and made an unsuccessful bid for senatorial and gubernatorial contests in Adamawa state.
In 1989, Bafyau, led the NLC to establish the Nigerian Labour Party. He is survived by his wife and three daughters.