Tuesday, 25 February 2014
President Jonathan Congratulates Pro-Government Candidate Kaigama Over Flawed TUC Election
President Goodluck Jonathan has congratulated pro-government candidate Bobboi Kaigama of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) on his election yesterday as President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
Mr. Jonathan welcomed Mr. Kaigama’s declaration that under his leadership the TUC will work with the government and private sector employers for the benefit of workers and all Nigerians. Returning the compliment, Mr. Jonathan said he and the Federal Government would cooperate with Mr. Kaigama and his new team to fulfill this commitment and enhance cordial industrial relations in Nigeria in furtherance of the present administration’s agenda for “national transformation.”
Kaigama’s election comes with considerable controversy that may seriously embarrass the government. To begin with, Kaigama, a Director in the Taraba State civil service, was relieved of his post prior to the election, accused of suspected involvement in Boko Haram activities. He is currently challenging the allegations in court, but with President Jonathan’s endorsement, it is unlikely that case will be fairly heard.
In the contest, against Comrade Babatunde Ogun of PENGASSAN, he had the active support of Comrade Peter Esele, a pro-government operative who deployed everything in his arsenal to stop Comrade Ogun from succeeding him as the President General of TUC. Esele operated through the group known as G-Force, which is led mainly by ASCSN, with seven unions in its fold. Esele is also said to have vowed never to permit Ogun, to take over the helms of TUC because of Ogun's “disloyalty” during an incident at the first anniversary of the fuel subsidy strike action of January 2012.
Despite the heavy artillery of the government and Comrade Esele behind Kaigama, some labour affiliates say he was ineligible to contest the position in the first place as he belonged to the management cadre, citing international best practices to support the argument he should not even preside over a labour association let alone lead a robust labour centre.
With that in mind and the apparent willingness of Esele's NAC to entertain the breach, the labour affiliates sent a protest letter to the Minister of Labour. But Esele, working through the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, subverted the protest by instructing the Ministry to ignore the protest and portray Ogun as an enemy of the state.
Going further, Esele also went to the President’s Chief of Staff and other aides to tell them that Ogun is against Jonathan's presidency and re-election, offering as “proof” Ogun’s readiness to be a willing tool in the hands of the opposition during the subsidy protest, and suggesting that he is Yoruba, and therefore anti- South-South.
Peter Esele has not been a popular trade union figure in the country since January 2012 when, along with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Abdulwaheed Omar, he helped to abort the popular “Occupy Nigeria” protest against the government.
A source revealed to SaharaReporters shocking details of how the leadership of the TUC and the NLC conspired to undermine and kill the mass movement following the sudden increase in the pump price of petrol from N75.OO to N140.OO. After the collapse of the protest and in view of the deaths of some protesters, Esele faced considerable outrage about having sold out to the government, including on Tweet where he could not defend himself successful.
Comrade Esele ran to his PENGASSAN constituency for assistance in the form of a rebuttal of the damning allegations against him but met a brick wall from the Ogun-led executive. Whilst PENGASSAN was waiting to have a NEC resolution on its participation in the subsidy protest, Esele was alleged to be telling members of the public especially PENGASSAN's national PRO monitoring the protest in Abuja that the government was not taking the protest seriously because PENGASSAN was yet to come on board. He also subtly instigated the militant wing of PENGASSAN to endorse the gradual winding down of the wells as a tool to pressurise the government. And after using the situation to curry financial benefits from President Jonathan's government, he made a U-turn with his NLC counterpart in a press statement to say PENGASSAN could not go on strike without TUC directing such action, barely two hours after PENGASSAN NEC at great personal risks in Abuja in the midst of heavy security presence endorsed a programmed strike action.
After the leadership of PENGASSAN refused to write a rejoinder to save Esele's dented public image, the TUC President General reached out to President Jonathan and other forces to undermine PENGASSAN's aspirations to provide TUC leadership. One argument presents is that the oil work force faced massive unemployment if the Petroleum Industry Bill, which vests enormous powers in the Minister of Petroleum Resources is passed in its present form. PENGASSAN has repeatedly stated its preference for a well-articulated law with less government interference which would create a more conducive environment for both local and international players in the oil sector for the benefit of the masses.
The Harmony Group, which supported Ogun in yesterday’s elections, has 10 unions in its fold and is led mainly by PENGASSAN; the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions; Air Traffic Senior Staff Association of Nigeria; Chemical and Metal Products Senior Staff Association; and the Food, Beverages and Tobacco Senior Staff Association, among others.
From the delegates strength of the unions in each group, Harmony Group appeared poised to carry the day in a free and fair contest, given that it had over 400 of about 700 delegates for the election, in contrast to the G Force’s less than 300.
Esele, sensing defeat, then resorted to a variety of tricks to thwart the Harmony Group, including threats, coercion and intimidation of persons and unions in the group, sponsoring of petitions against certain persons, and blackmail of Ogun to the presidency. In the end, the election was elevated from a contest of ideas between two people seeking to lead a labour centre to one involving the government and impinging on Mr. Jonathan’s election prospects in 2015.
Our sources say Esele's desperation is traceable to the fear that if Ogun won the election, he would probe him over the use of the N1billion he collected from the Jonathan government to buy buses and establish a TUC mass transit company to ease the transportation woes of the masses following the subsidy removal last year.
In his congratulatory message today, President Jonathan expressed the faith that with Mr. Kaigama’s notable antecedents, excellent credentials as a labour leader and experience as President of the large Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, he is fully equipped to succeed as President of one of the two major conglomerations of trade unions in the country.”