* Says elected leaders serving themselves, exploiting the poor
By Paul Obi in Abuja
As Nigerians celebrate Democracy Day, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Monday said 18 years after the return of democracy, dark memories of military are still fresh even within the current dispensation.
Speaking on the precarious situation Nigeria has found herself 18 years after the return of democracy, NLC President Ayuba Wabba explained that the present happenings are a big disappointment to the citizens.
He said: “May 29 reminds all of us that we are on a democratic journey. It also affords us the space to review how far and how well this journey has progressed. For Nigerian workers, democracy day reminds us of our commitment to building a just society.
“The truth is that 18 years of democracy has come with very sparse rewards for the Nigerian people. While we celebrate democracyâ€™s irreplaceable gift of freedom, liberty and popular representation, the truth remains that this democracy has served the political class and not the average Nigerian.
“Unfortunately, those we elected to serve as democratic leaders have not only turned around to serve themselves but continue to exploit every given opportunity to turn the rest of us into paupers in our own land.
“For us, the dark memories of military rule are still fresh and we pledge not to stand by as some elements seek to imperil this democracy by their acts of greed, insane desperation for power, petty proclivities and inanities.
“Beside the frequent unlawful dipping of fingers into the public till, everything including salaries, pensions, perquisites, ways and means are skewed in their favour to the exclusion of workers.”
Wabba added that: “This certainly makes a mockery of the very essence of democracy which is service to the people and for the benefit of the common good.
“For us in the labour movement, a democracy that does not allocate resources in such a manner that ensures equity, justice and sustained national development or cohesion is beggarly.
“We reason that Nigerian workers are frequently turned into canon fodder by the Nigerian political elite in their high stakes political games and mindless scramble for the commonwealth.
“Despite escalating costs of living, devaluation of the naira and general hardship in the land, the Nigerian worker is still forced to survive on N18,000 as minimum wage with not a few states owing backlog of salaries and pensions.”
He observed that “while pensioners in not a few states wallow in misery and unimaginable suffering, the members of the political elite led by state governors as a matter of ‘law’ and policy, take in advance whopping severance packages to which they are not entitled in the first place”.
“Without prejudice to the effort of this government, our infrastructure is still in tatters. Our roads are impassable and public electricity supply remains epileptic. Our schools and health facilities have become sorry relics of what they used to be in the first decade post-independence.
“The spate of killings, general wave of violence and insecurity across the country further traumatise the hapless citizenry.
“While, unarguably, our electoral processes are improving by the day, the same cannot be said of elections conducted by State Electoral Commissions.
“Worse still, we are worried by the political intolerance of governors and their philistinal behaviour, completely at variance with what obtains at the centre.”
“In light of the foregoing, this May 29th should be like no other as it should not be devoted to false homage to democracy but devoted to soul-searching and truth-telling, so that with commitment from all of us, we can get it right.
“This May 29 must be seized by those who have been under-served by the chefs manning our democratic kitchen. This May 29 must be captured by those who have been left behind in our democratic journey. There is no better time to demand for accountability from political office holders than now.
“There is also no better time to demand accountability from the popular side â€“ ourselves â€“ than now. What have we done with our votes? What will we do with our votes in 2019 and in elections that would take place before and after then? Our destiny is our hands to shape!
“Nigerian workers, activists, peasants, women and students did not work so hard to bring about this democracy â€“ some even paid the supreme price â€“ for opportunists masquerading as political leaders to loot it dry and then truncate it.
“Nigerian workers must personally appropriate this challenge as we seek to rebuild an enduring political platform that would offer the fullest essence to our age-long struggle for a society where no one is oppressed, cheated, excluded, isolated or left behind.
“At the risk of repetition, the biggest gift this anniversary offers us in our view is, as part of our civic duty, to register and obtain our voters cards, vote and defend our votes. It also gives us a chance to monitor government and hold it to account
“As a people, we have the power to elect or change governments if only we are willing and committed. We are also obligated to support government if it is doing the right thing. On no account should we allow primordial or pristine considerations to preclude us from doing the right thing,” Wabba maintained.