THE nationwide strike and street protests called off by Organised Labour and its civil society allies, under the banner of Labour and Civil Society Coalition, LASCO, have come and gone, but echoes of the industrial action may remain with Nigeria for a long time to come.
To start with, the current crisis of confidence confronting labour can be traced to misplaced expectations from labour by Nigerians after it indirectly took over the job of opposition parties as part of its advocacy assignments since the advent of democracy when the opposition parties went to sleep.
If the opposition parties were alive to their responsibilities, labour would have been restricted to its traditional role of fighting for and protecting the welfare of its members.
However, when labour under the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, took over the battle to check the rate President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government was inflicting pains and hardship on Nigerians especially the working class, Nigerians came to identify with labour to the extent that most preferred to obey labour than the government.
Comrade Oshiomhole, now Edo State Governor, reached out to a cross section of civil society groups with sympathy for labour, which gave birth to LASCO.
The civil society groups instead of relating with labour, (Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC), on individual basis, decided to come under one umbrella; Joint Action Forum, JAF, which metamorphosed into Joint Action Front, JAF, late last year.
Ever since, labour and JAF have had a cordial relationship.
However, there are several other civil society groups that are not affiliated to JAF and are not part of LASCO.
During the debate over planned subsidy removal, JAF in December 2011, gave notice that it would stage a protest rally in Lagos against the planned policy on January 3, 2012.
When the Federal Government decided to welcome Nigerians into the New Year on January 1, 2012, with over 150 percent hike in the pump price of petrol, JAF in its reaction, insisted that it would go ahead with its planned protest.
On January 3, JAF made good its threat to protest. Leaders of the protesters included Dr. Dipo Fashina, Chairman of JAF; Mrs Ganiat Fwehinmi, widow of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi; Femi Falana; Comrade Issa Aremu, Vice President NLC; Secretary-General of TUC, Chief John Kolawole; Vice Chairman of Lagos Council of NLC, Comrade Sanni Adeleke; and Comrade Abiodun Aremu, JAF Secretary among others.
A day later, labour announced that on Monday January, 9, 2012, with its civil society allies (JAF members), it would begin an indefinite strike and street protests to force President Goodluck Jonathan to revert fuel price to N65.
Two days preceding the strike, leaders of LASCO met at the Lagos office of NLC, announced that the strike and protest would be coordinated by LASCO and gave details of how the protest, especially in Lagos, would go.
Comrade Aremu, while giving details on how the protests would be handled across the country, said Lagos was sub-divided into five zones to coordinate the mass action, with the late Gani Fawehimi Park in Ojota as the central terminal point for all protesters on major streets in the metropolis.
LASCO directed all state chairmen of both the NLC and TUC to set up monitoring units in all the sub-divided zones to ensure that all offices, work places, air ports and sea ports were effectively closed to business as the strike lasted.
However, on January 9, when the strike commenced, before the LASCO-led protesters got to Ojota, the Save Nigeria Group (SNG), Occupy Nigeria and others, had taken over the park.
Leaders of LASCO decided to address the protesters and journalists on the road and instructed their sub-divisional and unit leaders to disperse to prepare for the following day. From there, they proceeded to Airport on enforcement.