Joe Biden names 9-member delegation to Bola Tinubu’s inauguration
Bola Tinubu

Adebayo Obajemu

Comrade Joe Ajaero, the new Nigeria Labour Congress president needs no introduction, having being General Secretary of the Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees since 2005.

In February this year, he was finally elected president of the NLC, though he has been deputy president of the workers’ union since 2011. Prior to his election, many Nigerians believed the glory of NLC had gone with the exit of Adams Oshiomoile, who was former president of the body and later governor of Edo State.

Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who took the mantle from Oshoimoile was widely regarded as a non performer and a low point in the history of the labour union as far as championing the rights of workers, their welfares and wellbeing are concerned.

Dr. John Aweda, a political economist told Business Hallmark that “As far as I’m concerned there was no NLC in the past eight years, this man Wabba was a mistake the NLC made, which Ajaero has come to correct. We all know the antecedent of Ajaero. He’s a no nonsense labour leader, who will align the union with the aspirations of workers. He has started on a good note with his stand on scarcity of naira. Were it not for him, the CBN would have continued its shenanigans. Nigerians should be grateful to him.

“Comrade Joe Ajaero reminds me of Lech Walesa, a shipyard electrician by trade, he became the leader of Solidarity, and led a successful pro-democratic effort, which in 1989 ended the communist rule in Poland and ushered in the end of the Cold War. He later became president of Poland in 1990.


“They share similar activist-militant trait, ready to confront injustice “, says Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist, when asked what he feels about the new Nigeria Labour Congress president.

Since coming on board, he has picketed a few companies, and shut down a state government, and he insisted one of his programmes is to move against casualisation of workers.

Early in his acceptance speech he said: “NLC shall continue in its tradition of ensuring that Nigerians are protected from all anti-people policies, and that plunder in governance is reduced to the barest minimum while the government is assisted to work for the majority.

“We shall, therefore, robustly engage the government to stop the impunity and pervasive wickedness currently going on in the country in the name of petroleum product pricing.

“The usurpation and use of state power to impoverish the citizenry abuses the ideals of democracy and destroys the nation.

“Governance ought to provide comfort for the citizenry, so it pains us to witness the increasing frustrations Nigerians have had to go through in the last few months just to fuel their cars and generators, the new phenomenon of black market Naira-buying our own monies at a discount from illegal brokers.”

For instance, before the last elections, he had declared a total strike in Imo State, thus paralyzsing the economy of the state . Though some critics said he undertook the Imo action to foist his classmate as the chairman of NLC in the state. He has similarly grounded the economies of Ebonyi and Abia states in a show of force that they must support the Labour Party candidates.

Indeed, just recently, Ajaero reportedly used some members to disrupt flights to and from Imo State under the guise that the workers May Day celebration was disrupted in the state.

For those, who don’t know his history, Ajaero was once involved in splitting the NLC. That was when he lost the presidency to the former president, Comrade Wabba. He went on to form the United Labour Congress, which later collapsed. He is a dogged fighter, who many believe will reposition NLC for relevance, and as a body that will effectively champion the rights and welfare of workers.

But not everyone is clapping for Ajaero. Mohammed Danlami, the President of the Arewa Youth Assembly, said Ajaero is a threat to security, alleging that the comrade is pursuing an ethnic agenda.

“Since the election of Comrade Joe Ajaero as the President of Nigeria Labour Congrss, NLC, he has embarked on actions that appear to be against the corporate existence of Nigeria. As if borrowing from the playbook of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, he has adopted a combative and confrontational militancy against some state governments. And when he is not threatening the Judges handling the presidential election tribunal, he is engaging in action that could lead to economic sabotage of the country.

“Ajaero is playing an ethnic card against President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He is supporting Mr. Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party. If he was doing that in his personal capacity, nobody would be bothered. But when he uses the NLC platform to prosecute such a sinister agenda, Nigerians, especially the security agencies, ought to be alarmed, not just worried.

“As earlier canvassed, if Ajaero was pursuing his agenda as a private citizen within the law, nobody would begrudge him. But he is using the platform of the NLC, a body that has millions of members with diverse political interests. For the avoidance of doubt, there is a huge difference between the NLC and the Labour Party. While the former represents the workers, the latter is a political party, which platform is used to contest elections. One can be a member of one without necessarily supporting the other.”


But Dr. Olufemi Omoyele, director of Entrepreneurship at Redeemer University disagreed with Danlami.


” I don’t believe Ajaero is pursuing an ethnic agenda. His actions so far so that he is merely concerned with rights of workers and the common people. Look at his stand on scarcity of naira. If he had not threatened to picket CBN we would have suffered longer on this scarcity.”


On how NLC under Ajaero will relate with the incoming government that is likely going to be a reformist government, many analysts spoken to say it will be a tough one, given the combative posture of the Ajaero administration.

On the issue of subsidy, Ajaero has already sounded a note of warming that NLC is against it. He has warned that the labour union will resist it , given the negative impact it will have on workers who are already pauperized by government’s policies.

“Tinubu will have to relate well and negotiate with labour under Ajaero who has repeatedly shown preference for Labour Party under Obi”, says Mohammed Abubakar, a banker.

“The Buhari administration has incurred debts running into trillions, to many that’s a huge albatross on the neck of the incoming government with regards to payments, this will force the administration of Tinubu to take some measures that will be belt-tightening in nature which may not go down well with the labour.”

Already inflation is another issue , this has affected prices of foodstuffs and other essential commodities. With the way it’s going, it may prove another thorny issues between the administration and the organized labour.

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He was born on December 17, 1964, in Emekuku, Owerri-North, Imo State, and has been the NLC deputy president since 2011, and the general secretary of the NUEE since 2005.

He was Research Officer at One Mechanised Infantry Division Nigerian Army, Kaduna between 1990 and 1991 (NYSC); Reporter/Correspondent and Assistant News Editor at Vanguard Newspapers 1992 – 2001; and Head of Training/Information, at NUEE 2001 – 2005.

He is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants (FCIMC) and a Member of the Nigeria Institute of Public Administration (NIPA), Nigeria Industrial Relations Association (NIRA), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) as well as an Associate Member of the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations

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