Lai Mohammed, not Peter Obi, should be charged with inciting public – NLC president Ajaero 

President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joe Ajaero, has over the years been in the trenches fighting for labour welfare and democratic system in Nigeria.


Ajaero was a delegate in the 2014 National Confab, thus he is sufficiently informed about the nation’s politics and governance.

In this encounter with Sunday Sun, the fearless and courageous labour leader, speaks on very sensitive issues, including subsidy removal, battle with Imo State government, 2023 election assessment, and ethnic profiling. Excerpt:

We have had the supplementary elections last Saturday. Reflecting on it, was there an improvement on the previous elections, presidential and the governorship of February 25 and March 18?


Well, if you check, the supplementary election has no deep effect on the election in the first instance because after the last election winners emerged, but INEC for whatever reason or motive had to stop further collation from some centres. Even if the candidates say they are not running again what they scored in the last election was capable of securing victory for them. So, most of those elections winners are already known. But as usual there were in some places that INEC tried to behave the INEC way as regards manipulations.


So, talking of improvement in an already skewed election and result will not be appropriate. There were evidence to equally undermine the so-called runoff elections and all that. INEC couldn’t have improved over night and for me, so far, there is no confidence in INEC. They (INEC) have made us to believe that hard work doesn’t pay; rather what you need to know is INEC, not the people. So, it’s really bad.


How will you react to this sad development of hate speech and ethnic profiling of the Southeast people, especially in Lagos State?


The development is a sad one and condemnable. As an Igbo, full blooded Igbo, I tried to restrain myself and I didn’t want it to sound; we and them, but if somebody that is Igbo said he will invite IPOB to Lagos and he was arrested and invited and somebody equally issued threat to the Igbo and he is moving about boasting, you can now see for yourself that there are two different laws in operation and this is very unfortunate. If we know what MC Oluomo said and this has gone viral everywhere and you can see a pretentious police who are not worthy to wear the uniforms. The comment of Oluomo is real and for the fact that they don’t want to equally question him is unfortunate. And that cannot breed confidence anywhere, any time. I don’t know where he is obtaining his own strength whether he can stand out and do wrestling with anybody if not for the illegality and lack of action from those that should protect individuals. Oluomo can’t come out and say okay, let one Igbo man come out, let me engage him in a battle of strength, physical strength, he can’t, he doesn’t have the strength, so why will he be boasting about, issuing threat and he is allowed to get away with it? It’s only unfortunate; it’s a failure of the state and its apparatus. I wouldn’t want to go beyond this. Who is Oluomo to challenge an entire Igbo ethnic group? What offence did they commit? So sad. But as I said, it is simply the failure of the state and its apparatus that is giving rise to some of this illegality.


There was this accusation by the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed that the presidential candidate of Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi has committed insurrection, which is a treasonable offence…?


(Cuts in) Which Obi’s action is that?


That he (Obi) has been inciting the public against the government?


Which comment or comments has he made that is inciting? Let us underline any of such comments. Look, it is the person talking of insurrection; I mean Lai Mohammed, is the person that should be charged for inciting people against Obi. It is reverse psychology against the people, but unfortunately, some of us have stopped taking the comments from Lai Mohammed seriously, we see it as a comic relief most of the time. He says what he is not supposed to say, turning white to black and all that. I have not seen a comment to be highlighted where either Obi or Atiku or any of the presidential candidates are inciting the people or whatever. If there is any inciting statements, I will make comments on them, but if it is that they say that they won election and they have gone to court to challenge it and somebody who says he believes in democracy sees such a democratic process of resorting to the judiciary or the temple of justice as insurrection, then that is too bad. And he is free to use words, he is free to invite people, he is free to invite the state to use their apparatus and instrument of coercion against no less a person as presidential candidate of party, then that is bad and regrettable.


What is the position of labour on the removal of subsidy as already planned by the government?


Which subsidy are they talking about? How many times will they remove subsidy? What are they subsidizing? The Labour movement is not bereft of alternatives, but the Federal Government has remained adamant in looking at the alternative. So, if the only thing they will do is the removal of subsidy, which we believe there is no subsidy, they are not subsidizing anything….You can’t produce the products in Nigeria and you say you are subsidizing it, unless they are telling us that the crude is not produced in Nigeria, but if it is crude that is produced in Nigeria to what extent are you subsidizing it? Do you subsidize the garri, the cassava that you are producing from your own land or soil, they should tell Nigerians? Some few years ago we met with them (government), we deliberated about it and they agreed that refineries will work as at last year. If refineries are working and you are processing it here will there be subsidy? No. We went further and the independent marketers have equally volunteered to submit their petroleum stations to be converted to PMG. PMG is the use of natural gas and then for government to make provision for money and get things for the operation for natural gas revolution working. And natural gas deposit in Nigeria can serve us for the next 500 years, it’s clean energy and then it’s cheaper than what we are using now. Within three months most of the vehicles that we are using now, at least 80 per cent of the vehicles will be converted and nobody will be telling you about subsidy. So, why have they not done this if they have good intension? So, we can allow them to be shouting subsidy, subsidy, subsidy and we are watching.


As you know, the presidential candidates of the Labour Party and that of the Peoples Democratic Party are already in court to seek for electoral justice, but as things stand today, most Nigerians have lost confidence in the judiciary…?


(Cuts in) I have my reservations after the Imo State case. The judiciary, the Supreme Court still owes Imo State people explanation on whether they are INEC, on whether any person that is not a candidate of a party can be declared a governor? As I am now, if I am not a candidate of LP, or APC or PDP, whether at the end of the day, I will be declared as governor of Imo State? Until the Supreme Court of Nigeria responds to this, many Nigerians, including myself, will not be able to say what is happening in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in its own ruling ruled that Uche Nwosu is the candidate of the APC, the same Supreme Court now turned out to declare Hope Uzodimma as the governor. The Supreme Court needs to tell Nigerians whether Nigeria has started operating the independent candidate in our elections. Until this is done, we should stop deceiving ourselves, that question must be answered; this question will haunt the Supreme Court till the next generation, till the next century. And in law, precedence matters a lot and this is one of the questions that the Supreme Court must answer. The Supreme Court plunged Imo into serious crisis; they reduced the respect Nigerians from generation to generation ascribe to that hallowed chamber.


What is NLC expecting from the incoming president?


Well, we will be expecting that the president coming will do the job that will be representative of the country. That he will do good to all manner of people without bias, without discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, health or creed. He should work for the emergence of an egalitarian society where the respect of humanity reigns supreme, where they will manage the enormous human and material resources for the prosperity of this country, so that Nigeria will rise up again. Development policy without descrimination. Good governance. Anything short of that will not be acceptable and will run contrary to oath of office of any elected officer, ditto, that of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


You had a little battle with the Imo State government. Can you share with the public the real issues or your basis of disagreement?


When you talk about Imo State, you have a government that their stay in office is not for the public good and if your stay is not for the public good you manufacture enemy. You cannot sit on the employment and salaries of over 30, 000 workers and pensioners whom you classify as ghost workers and ghost pensioners when they are alive, when they are in the office, you can’t. You can’t move into the NLC secretariat and destroy everything, including pure water because you think you are in-charge and that nothing will happen with such impunity. You can’t come out where Imo State people are holding election and you say: I don’t want candidate A, and that you want only candidate B, and that candidate B has been there and worked with you so that workers should not be paid. I told them that you have to allow them contest fairly and then anyone that emerges will represent us, not you (government) . Government went there, sent thugs to disperse the workers who have come together to express their civic right, you now sent the police of Imo State House of Assembly, very notorious to go and disperse the workers who have come together to express their civic right. And as we talk today they have not made any effort to pay them. So, what is the need of your government if you don’t take care of the people? That is the situation, many people are suffering. When workers want to do their election, you tell them no, you want to put those who will do your bidding. There is no contest in any union in Imo State. It is a state that is not democratic. From the unions the political contests are not democratic again to the extent it is degenerating into anarchy and if it continues that way that will be unfortunate. What you get from the Imo government is all cheap propaganda, blackmail and bad governance. It’s a reign of tyranny. Imo has become where everything civil, everything human, everything democratic, everything exemplary has been basterdised in the last three to four years. There is this culture that has invaded Imo now, the culture of anarchy. This is unfortunate. We are ashamed that the materials we have in Imo is not reflecting in the leadership we have in the state. Imo is one of the states that you have the best quality of human resources all over the world, but unfortunately, we have this kind of “Supreme Court Governor” in power, running riot everywhere with bad governance, a reign of anarchy. This too, will pass. And very soon. The government is really unfit to cater for the people.


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