Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade’s consistency in the payment of workers’ salaries has endeared him to the workforce in the state, writes Bassey Inyang
During this year’s May Day celebration at the U J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, the organised labour in Cross River State, comprising of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), endorsed the state governor, Professor Ben Ayade for a second term in office.
The May Day or Workers’ Day, is viewed as a day set aside annually for workers to remind their employers of the importance of improving their welfare.
There was nothing special that was expected about this year’s celebration other than the usual match-pass with the governor or his representative taking the salute, and then the usual speech-making by labour leaders, the governor, and possibly light refreshments.
Though these rituals were observed during this year’s celebration, however, a significant point of departure from tradition was the declaration of support for the second term aspiration of the state governor.
The workers really did something outside the usual convention, by presenting a separate document containing their endorsement of Ayade ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“In view of what you have done in Cross River state since your assumption of office on May 29,2015 in the area of socio-economic, political and man power development as attested by many, in view of your workers friendly posture.
“We the workers of Cross River State having viewed critically the options open to us, and our future have agreed on this day to massively support your bid for second term in office. We therefore urged you to bid for the second term in office come 2019 general elections,“ John Ushie , the chairman of the state chapter of the NLC, declared on behalf of the NLC and the TUC.
Obviously , the endorsement of the governor by the workers has raised the curiosity of many as to why they should embark on such a cause that may not be popular with those who think that the governor does not deserve a second time in office. Besides, many expect labour to be apolitical.
Some people have even concluded that the workers in the state are sell-outs to the state governor, hence the endorsement.
But, available information on the relationship between organised labour, and the government as represented by the governor, indicates that both parties have not always been having smooth relationship.
For instance, under the current leadership of Ushie as state NLC chairman , and Clackson Otu as state TUC chairman, the organised labour, and the state government have literarily fought on some occasions , with the workers embarking on strike for a number of days.
One of such frosty relationships occurred in June 2017 when the workers embarked on strike over some unsettled issues with the state government.
Again, in December 2017, the NLC and the state government were at each other’s jugular over issues related to payment of gratuities from 2013, and the non-implementation of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoU), reached by both parties in July of that year.
The workers even issued Ayade a seven-day ultimatum to meet their demands that gratuities to retired workers be paid without further delay.
Following such agitation from the workers, Ayade had caused gratuities for 2013 and 2014 to be paid to the retirees.
So, can the organised labour in the state that barks and bites occasionally, when it becomes absolutely necessary, be justifiably accused of compromise for endorsing Ayade for a second term?
Ushie had advanced reasons why Ayade, whom the workers in the state had hitherto christened “Most Labour Friendly Governor” and “Salary Master”, was given the nvaluable support to remain in office beyond May 2019.
Ushie stated that their support for the governor derived from his friendly disposition to workers, and the verifiable evidence of Ayade’s efforts at industrialising the state.
According to the NLC chairman, in less than three years, Ayade administration has embarked on many developmental projects across the state which, ordinarily, before now were seen as impossible to achieve.
Ushie listed the projects to include the Calabar Garment Factory, the Calapharm, the Rice City, the Rice Processing Mill in Ogoja, the Independent Power Plant, the Deep Sea Port, Calabar Haulage City and the Banana Plantation in Odukpani, and the Cocoa Processing plant in Ikom.
Ushie also listed the construction of the Canadian College in Obudu, and the inauguration of the Teachers Continuous Training City, and many other projects.
“These projects and more, the joint body attests, are true testimonies of the governor’s desire to change the destiny of the state from a civil service economy to an industrialised one which is capable of generating jobs and revenues to run the State”, Ushie said.
For the workers, in a country where so many states owe workers salaries for upwards of 18 and 24 months, Ayade has proved to be different in that aspect as his administration does not owe salaries of civil servants and his political appointees numbering over three thousand.
Indeed before the workers converged on the stadium for the celebration of the May Day, their May, 2018 salaries had been paid.
Nothing perhaps could have endeared Ayade to the workers most, than regular payment of salaries to the civil servants. This explains why he was tagged “Salary Master” by the workers.
“Ayade has demonstrated that he has the capacity to pay workers’ salaries without any hitch. And because workers in the state have come to the conclusion that the governor possess the capacity to implement the new minimum wage which workers all over the country had been agitating for, they should offer their full support to Ayade as he aspires toward securing a second term in 2019,” the NLC chairman said.
A visibly elated Ayade, while addressing the workers amidst thunderous ovation from the thousands of cheering workers, said, “Anything I am doing first thing that come to my mind is salaries of workers.
“Therefore, your choice of my adoption come 2019 is a step in the right direction. And I think that this is the first time in the history of Nigeria that the organised labour will gather like this to say Mr. Governor, we want you to continue in 2019….If there is anything you have asked that I have not done please pardon me. I am a willing horse that will never go beyond my limit and energy, my capacity. I sometimes doubt myself”.
The governor who spoke about measures taken by his administration to develop the economy of the state, said: “We need to expand the horizon for young people. We need a lot of workers for the industries, and the only way to make people happy is when, as a government, you embark on industrialisation.”
Away from the stadium, Ayade had visited the proposed state secretariat of the organised labour , the Labour House, a day before the May Day celebration.
During the visit, he showered what can be termed “democracy dividends” on the workers, authorising the payment of 2014 gratuity to retired civil servants in the state, and making a donation of N50 million for the completion of the Labour House.
“We have already finalised, and I have just signed today an authorisation for them to commence the implementation of 2014 gratuity….
“At the time we discussed with the NLC/TUC on the need to support them build a Labour House, the approval I gave was so insignificant for the accomplishment of what I am seeing here today. I thought I was the only magician who knows how to turn one naira to a million dollars. Today, I have seen some management experts that are equally very good.
“Against that background, God has descended upon me with an inspiration to ensure that you complete this project and get it ready for commissioning as in the history of Cross River, we have never had a Labour House where members can come in unmolested. It is my pleasure to support you complete this edifice with additional N50 million. That figure will cover furniture, telecom and small clinic in case of any emergency,” Ayade said after inspecting the on-going construction of the Labour House.
Ushie had described Ayade’s visit as very important to the organised labour, disclosing that for more than forty years, workers in the state had experimented with the idea of building a Labour House but to no avail.
Ushie said it was quite significant that the workers’ dream of having a Labour House has materialized during Ayade’s administration.
Ushie promised that the labour leaders would make judicious use of the money, and ensure that the governor commissions the project as part of the May 29 celebration in the state.
After the visit the governor and the labour leaders proceeded to the Ayade Industrial Complex where the workers were conducted on a guided tour of some of the projets earlier mentioned by the NLC chairman.
For many workers in the state, the endorsement of Ayade for a second term by the organised labour is a decision taken in the right direction.
For many workers in the state, the endorsement of Ayade for a second term by the organised labour is a decision taken in the right direction