by Babatope Falade
Since the fuel subsidy Occupy Nigeria protest in January 2012, protests in Nigeria have become popular culture. This does not relegate the protests during the military era. The only difference is that this new protest culture is largely facilitated and supported through the emerging digital culture amongst citizens. The anonymity and freedom social networks provide is surely a libertarian means for expression.
However, an examination of the stakeholders of the “Twitter protest” culture, Nigeria Labour Congress and ASUU, the last two being offline cultures that supply the online actors content on a situational basis needs be examined. I choose to discuss ASUU and NLC as content providers because of the sympathy they enjoy amongst the populace. The principal actors online are: Japheth Omojuwa, Babatunde Rosanwo, Kayode Ogundamisi, Bashir Yusuf, Nasir El-Rufai, among others. These are just a few, but influential people who on a daily basis register their grouse against the government of Dr Goodluck Jonathan. It is interesting to note the camaraderie amongst these people and the vigour of protest they inspire. It must be an understatement to say that they have done a good job of instilling a digital protest culture which translates into offline protest behaviours. But I am a bit worried by their content of protest though. I hardly see or hear them protest draconian policies in Lagos or the killings in Makoko or beating of private citizens by Fashola’s government . I think they can do more of coverage for this.
Concerning NLC and ASUU, it is sad that we are a nation of people who suffer from civic laziness. This makes us outsource our struggles and protests to NLC and ASUU. Can we categorically say these people are acting or act in our best interest? I don’t think so. For what I know, there are many labour mishaps daily in Nigeria, none of which the NLC informs the public or does anything about. Why does NLC come out openly and become so efficient during protests around petrol? There must be more to it. They negotiate to a certain point and withdraw and everything goes to normal before another increase of petroleum happens again. Would it then suffice to say that NLC is only efficient when petroleum hikes occur. It just seems to me like it’s a cycle that remains dormant till a petroleum hike catalyst occurs. NLC needs to be more than this or better, let the NLC be excused by the people.
The PHCN staff saga lends to the global argument that labour unions when strong do more evil than good in capitalist societies. They protect their interests which may be antagonistic to long term national interest and stifle growth. South Africa is a living testimony of this. The failure of PHCN is not only an infrastructure issue, it’s also that of people. What modus operandi does NLC have to ensure that workers for government work as they should? Perhaps NLC exists only for increase in minimum wage and national cake negotiations. The government is largely corrupt ; materially and morally, but is the NLC any different considering its inefficiency in regulating labour and only rising to the occasion when it involves the sweet crude oil? That’s all about NLC for now.
ASUU is an interesting bunch, considering their many ludicrous demands and counterproductive sympathy for students. They were specific in demands for increased pay, supervision allowances, sabbatical expenses and the question is, what have they been teaching? Ain’t they the same people who have sex abuse prevalent amongst them and who maintain private jobs in private universities? They have enjoyed tremendous support from students who are ignorant of the fact that when it was about making concrete demands for personal money, ASUU negotiators asked specifically and were precise on what they wanted. When it got to investment in facilities and issues that concern students, they were only quick to recommend and not asked forcefully like they did for their own cake.
Everyone just wants a piece of the action in Nigeria. The way they go about it just differs. I won’t say it is negative all through. This form of quasi conflict with the digital warlords and labour unions can teach the government a lesson, which is to step up governance strategies. As for the labour unions, you are more of bad than good in my opinion. The online influencers like Omojuwa, Rosanwo, El-Rufai and Bashir Yusuf should please cover misdeeds of APC also. I think I will take them more serious when they start that.