Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN (4th right), his Deputy, Hon. (Mrs) Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire (3rd right), Chairman, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Idowu Adelakun (left), Comrade Akeem Kazeem (2nd left), Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye (3rd left), Head of Service, Mrs. Oluseyi Williams (4thleft), Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions, Mrs. Florence Oguntuase (middle), Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon (2nd right) and the Commissioner for Transportation, Comrade Kayode Opeifa (right) during the 2014 Workers’ Day Rally at the Onikan Stadium, Onikan, Lagos on Thursday, May 1, 2014.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Thursday, 1st May, 2014, joined thousands of Lagos workers to celebrate this year’s May Day in the state with a charge on all Nigerians to rally as one body against insecurity in the country irrespective of ethnic or religious diversities.
The Governor, who addressed the workers at the Onikan Stadium in Central Lagos, southwest Nigeria, warned that except Nigerians unite with a sincerity of purpose to fight the current insecurity, the challenges would continue to grow until the nation would be overwhelmed by them.
He noted that the country cannot find a way out of the current security challenges by in-fighting or seeking to benefit from the situation, adding that in-fighting would only give the enemies of the country more power while seeking to benefit from a state of insecurity would only lead to collective destruction in the end.
The Governor warned, “Greater damage is done if you sectionalize the problem. I think it may be tempting to think that insecurity could benefit the opposition as a sign of inefficiency of Government in power. This may be true but the truth is greater damage is done to the system”.
Citing the recent abduction of over a hundred female minors from a girls’ secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, northeast Nigeria, Governor Fashola, who expressed sadness over the state of insecurity in the country generally, pointed out that all Nigerians have a responsibility to safely return the girls to their parents and find those responsible adding that this can only happen if Nigerians come together.
The Governor commended the leadership shown by women and groups on the issue, saying, “We must reinforce the capacity to speak truthfully and be honest to one another because as long as there is a pretention that the truth is inconvenient, so long shall the nation’s problems remain.
“Everyone must stand up and fight the scourge of insecurity under one flag by ensuring that everybody for now subsumes his flag of whatever colour and collaboratively run it not as Yorubas, Ijaws, Ibos or Hausas but as Nigerians who rally under one flag to defeat insecurity”.
Governor Fashola, who charged the workers to resort to strikes only as tools of last option when negotiations have broken down irretrievably, urged them to rise and condemn illegal strikes and support lawful strikes that seek to restore injury to aggrieved workers emphasizing that workers should not use strikes to blackmail government.
According to the Governor, “There is a process for convening a strike and according to law one of the conditions includes determining how many workers participated in the motion that led to the decision at an Annual General Meeting convened to discuss the strike.
“There must be a meeting called for the purpose of calling a strike and that issue must be tabled as an agenda with people voting for or against and those abstaining also being recorded”, the Governor said adding, “Thereafter, a notice would be given to the employer that the workers have indeed voted by a particular number for and those against and given a notice of a number of days before declaring an industrial dispute with the management”.
He said within the afore-listed steps there could be a genuine negotiation to resolve such problems adding, “But when a strike is called because the Secretary General or the President of the union is angry or displeased with the employer, it becomes very difficult for the employer to know what the problem is”.
Noting that several strikes have been called in the past primarily to put sitting government under pressure, Governor Fashola said that this has always been prevalent in election years which according to him, have sometimes been dubbed as years of strikes or violence.
“I don’t think our elections should be won and lost on grounds of insecurity and on strikes. I think they should be won on records of the performance of the government of the day. I think it should be about issues like when there would be security for the people and when would there be steady electricity for the people. When such issues form the basis of discourse during election years, such a year would be good.
“If anybody comes to tell you that you should not vote for a party because it favours one religion or ethnic group, please don’t listen to them. You should ask them how religion and ethnicity would favour that person or bring electricity supply to the homes or put food on the table of the people. Tell them you want to hear about development”, he further urged.
Concerning his presence at the rally, the Governor said contrary to the impression being created by those who hijacked the programme, “it is not a sign of impunity but as a result of an invitation that was extended to me by the organizers”, adding that he is at the event to celebrate with the workers.
He told the workers, “It must be your responsibility whether you will acquire a reputation of celebration or a reputation of disorderliness on your anniversary. It is your choice to make”.
On the issue of the State University (LASU), the Governor said he has met the students who were involved in the issue of increased school fees twice and that he has explained the circumstances and reasons that informed the increase asking them to proffer alternatives to the problem with both parties resolving to have a middle ground.
Governor Fashola said contrary to the impression created by some sponsored protesters at the rally about the issue at LASU, he received a reply from the students whom he met yesterday and that the content of their letter would be presented to the State Executive Council for consideration.
While speaking on the significance of past May Day celebrations, the Governor said in the past 20 years there has been no remarkable difference in the manner of May Day celebrations and called for mindset change that would occasion a sense of originality and creativity.
He added several of the speakers and unions that spoke at the rally were all making one request or the other on the government but that he as a Governor is just the head of a government and should not be regarded as the government as every citizen is also a government.
He also reiterated that the welfare of employees in the State public service is uppermost, adding that it is always a choice between managing a wage policy and implementing an unmanageable wage policy, stressing: “If we fail to manage the wage policy and implement an unmanageable wage policy there would be consequences even for the workers”.
He added that true to his promise in 2007 when he assumed office that no worker in the state public service would be retrenched, he has kept faith as despite the fact that many have lost their jobs in the public and private sector elsewhere, Lagos State Government has remained an exception.
The state Head of Service, Mrs. Oluseyi Williams in her welcome address, thanked all the workers for the cooperation that the State Government has received from workers and gave a commitment that the Governor is very much in tune with all the demands of the workers.
In his solidarity message, the Chairman of the state chapter of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Akeem Kazeem appreciated the Lagos State Government on the Lagos HOMS projects and called for the establishment of Workers Village like the one being established in Ayobo under the Lagos Cooperative Building Society Housing Estate to cater for specific interest of workers.
He also called on workers and citizens to use the opportunity of next year’s general election to vote out leaders that have demonstrated lack of ability to deliver dividends that meet the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
The Chairman of the State Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Idowu Adelakun commended the State Governor for always finding time out of his busy schedules to celebrate with workers on May Day.
The Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu in his solidarity message which was read by Mrs. Ifeoma Anyanwutaku said the Federal Government has the responsibility for providing full employment for all Nigerians and is in the process of doing that.
The May Day celebration was attended by dignitaries including the state Deputy Governor, Hon (Mrs.) Adejoke Orelope- Adefulire; Senator representing the Lagos West Senatorial District, Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon; members of the State Executive Council including the state Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye; Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa; and Establishment, Training and Pensions, Mrs. Florence Oguntuase and featured match past by workers from various unions and groups.