Correcting Oshiomhole: The Imperative Of Realizing The Unseen Realities In Union-political Dynamics With Ajaero's Proactive Approach

By Prof John Egbeazien Oshodi

The intricate dynamics between labor unions and the political landscape run deep, exposing the complexities that former governor Adams Oshiomhole's perspectives fail to capture in union leadership. Ajaero's resolute response, leading protests in Imo State and accusing Governor Hope Uzodimma of violating workers' rights during the election season, not only aligns with the ongoing labor issues but delivers a powerful blow, illustrating the profound connections between labor, politics, and the unyielding pursuit of workers' rights. In a satirical twist, it becomes evident that politics and labor unions are inseparable bedfellows, with Ajaero showcasing how they go hand in hand to champion the workforce. This reality aims to correct potential oversights in Oshiomhole's narrative, underscoring the indispensable role of bold political engagement for labor leaders like Ajaero in effectively championing the interests of the workforce.

Adams Oshiomhole, the former governor of Edo state and current Senator representing Edo North Senatorial District, brings a unique perspective to the ongoing discourse surrounding the assault on Joe Ajaero, the national president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Drawing on his extensive experience, which includes serving as the President of the NLC from 1999 to 2007, Oshiomhole has not only offered insights into his personal encounters with assault during his labor leadership but has also taken a critical stance on the recent decision by organized labor, including the NLC, to initiate a nationwide strike in response to Ajaero's assault.

In recounting his own unfortunate incident, Oshiomhole highlighted an assault and detention by the Department of State Services (DSS) during his tenure as the NLC President. It is essential to call for an end to the animalistic and brutal treatment meted out by security agencies like the DSS and police on citizens. This personal experience, shared with the media, serves as a backdrop to his current critique of the nationwide strike called by the NLC. Oshiomhole argues that Ajaero, in intertwining politics with issues of organized labor, may have diverted attention from the crux of the matter. According to Oshiomhole, the assault in Imo State should not be the sole basis for a nationwide strike, urging a more focused approach. He expressed unequivocal disapproval of the brutalization of any Nigerian, including labor leaders.

However, the crux of Oshiomhole's critique lies in his accusation that Ajaero is driven by political motives rather than the genuine interests of the country's workers.

The narrative put forth by Oshiomhole, include the accusation against Joe Ajaero reportedly linking himself to a gubernatorial candidate in Imo State, but Oshiomhole, need to realize that this is not a departure from the fundamental principles of union leadership. Oshiomhole's caution against mixing political opinions with responsibilities appears to miss the mark, as Ajaero's actions reflect a profound understanding of the multifaceted issues confronting workers as the real priority.

Oshiomhole's assertion of independence from political affiliations in Edo State is met with skepticism, considering that globally the intricate relationship between labor leadership and political bodies supportive of the labor mission. Understanding the practical psychology and realities of union and politics is paramount, and Oshiomhole's narrative of non-engagement with political processes during his labor leadership raises questions.

The claim that during his time as NLC president, Oshiomhole refrained from making friends with politicians in Edo State, is met with skepticism, as the nature of union leadership necessitates building relationships with those in positions of political influence. In fact, it is expected and a realism.

While acknowledging and commending Oshiomhole's significant contributions to labor issues, it is crucial to recognize that his journey into deeper political involvement, culminating in his roles as governor and senator, was directly or indirectly influenced by his union leadership.

Contrary to Oshiomhole's doubt regarding Ajaero's alignment of labor union issues with political processes, it is argued that Ajaero's actions exemplify the right approach. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)'s plan to mobilize members for protests in Imo State is rooted in justifiable concerns about Governor Hope Uzodimma's alleged violations of workers' rights. Ajaero, as NLC President, highlights issues such as neglect of workers' welfare, non-payment of salaries, and the mislabeling of thousands of pensioners and workers as ghost workers. The NLC's expression of deep concern and the subsequent decision to embark on mass protests and industrial actions is a resounding call for change and justice.

In essence, the clash of perspectives between Oshiomhole and Ajaero underscores the dynamic intersection of union leadership, politics, and the relentless pursuit of workers' rights. Ajaero's proactive stance aligns with the inherent responsibility of labor leaders to navigate political landscapes for the betterment of their constituents.

As the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ajaeroexemplifies an unwavering dedication to his mission – the welfare and protection of workers. His stance, marked by an anti-Uzodimma sentiment, emanates from a deep-seated desire to champion the cause of the labor force. Even if Ajaero seeks support from another gubernatorial candidate, a common practice among union leaders, Uzodimma's disapproval holds no bearing. Ajaero does not require permission or validation from any leader, especially in an environment where fear and compromise are wielded as tools. No leader, including Oshiomhole, holds authority over Ajaero's advocacy.

Ajaero's constitutionally protected freedom of association empowers him to strategically align with politicians who resonate with the labor mission. Despite occurring in a developing society like Nigeria, where some leaders demand unquestioning obedience, such a demand is deemed abusive. The emphasis on specific union affiliations underscores the inherent right of labor leaders to engage with politicians who can genuinely advance workers' interests.

Oshiomhole's assertion that a labor union leader must tread cautiously to avoid being seen as aligning with a particular candidate or party is challenged. Instead, the acknowledgment that such alignment brings benefits when that party comes to power is underscored. The intertwining of labor leaders with politicians, both privately and publicly, is emphasized as a means to cultivate friendly relationships that can propel the labor mission forward. The underlying message is crystal clear – political motives are firmly anchored in the pursuit of workers' interests.

Addressing Oshiomhole, Ajaero's actions underscore the profound psychology and historical link between labor unions and politics. The understanding of union members' political ideologies and the potential consequences of associating with political parties is crucial in navigating the complex landscape of workers' advocacy. Contrary to Oshiomhole's skepticism, Ajaero's call for solidarity aligns with the traditional role of labor unions as essential components of political party coalitions. The reality of union endorsements and financial support to parties mirrors the symbiotic relationship between unions and politics.

Historically, labor unions worldwide have aligned with political parties sharing common ideologies and policy goals. The distinction lies in maintaining a balance between advocating for workers' rights and welfare and avoiding excessive partisanship. Ajaero's call for a strike, if seen as politically motivated, is presented not as a deviation but as a central avenue for addressing genuine worker concerns. Oshiomhole is urged to recognize the delicate balance required in navigating the political landscape while remaining committed to the primary purpose of a labor union – safeguarding the rights and welfare of workers.

Oshiomhole's call for union leaders to maintain political neutrality, while rooted in the desire to represent diverse interests, may overlook the inherent connection between politics and unions. The delicate balance between advocacy and independence is acknowledged, and leaders are urged to ensure that political affiliations do not compromise their commitment to advancing broader worker interests.

Recognizing that union actions can be politically motivated rather than solely focused on workers' rights and welfare underscores the challenges labor unions face in navigating the complex landscape. The fundamental role of labor unions in the political arena is crucial, historically engaging in processes to advance members' rights. Supporting candidates aligned with their ideologies is a strategic approach to influencing legislative outcomes and policy decisions.

Operating within a political context, labor leaders, including the NLC president, often endorse candidates who champion workers' rights and advocate for labor-friendly policies. The endorsement of candidates is not merely a political move but a deliberate strategy to align political power with the objectives of the labor movement. While Oshiomhole expresses concern about perceived political motives, it is essential to recognize that labor unions are inherently political entities, navigating the landscape to secure better conditions and support for their members.

In essence, the connection between labor unions and politics is inherent. Supporting candidates becomes a deliberate and strategic move to ensure that political leadership reflects and promotes the interests of the workers they represent. The lessons drawn emphasize the need for labor unions to navigate the political landscape judiciously, maintaining a balance between advocacy and independence. As unions engage in political processes, the ultimate goal remains securing better conditions, wages, and legislative support for their members. The learning is that a nuanced understanding of the symbiotic relationship between labor unions and politics is essential for effective representation and the advancement of workers' interests.

Drawing insights from the symbiotic relationships between labor unions and political entities in the United States, Oshiomhole, Ajaero, political parties, and labor unions in Nigeria can glean valuable lessons for navigating their own dynamic landscape.

Recognizing the significance of shared policy goals is crucial. The alignment of labor unions with political parties should be rooted in a genuine commitment to advancing the welfare and rights of workers. Understanding the nuances of this collaboration ensures a more effective representation of labor interests within the political sphere. A pragmatic approach to political engagement can foster broader support. Similar to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, adapting to engage with leaders from various parties may enhance the effectiveness of labor unions in addressing the diverse needs of their members.

Furthermore, the proactive stance of unions like Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in endorsing candidates aligned with their values underscores the importance of strategic political involvement. Clearly articulating and supporting candidates who champion labor-friendly policies can serve as a powerful tool for advancing the collective agenda. Oshiomhole, Ajaero, and others should take note and consider adopting similar strategies.

In the realm of education, where teachers' unions have found synergy with the Democratic Party, Oshiomhole, Ajaero, and their counterparts in Nigeria can explore aligning with political entities that prioritize policies beneficial to the education sector and the broader workforce.

Navigating regional dynamics and aligning political affiliations,accordingly, as exemplified by the United Auto Workers (UAW) in states with significant auto manufacturing in the United States, underscores the importance of context-specific approaches. This strategic approach can aid Nigerian labor unions in navigating local political intricacies while advancing overarching goals. The lessons drawn from American examples stress the significance of strategic, goal-oriented collaborations that prioritize workers' welfare over partisan interests, contributing to a more effective representation of labor in Nigeria's political landscape.

In conclusion, this perspective challenges the conventional belief that labor leaders should exist in isolation, highlighting political engagement as a legitimate and potent avenue for championing workers' causes. The historical interplay of American politics, interwoven with labor union affiliations, offers profound insights into the delicate dance between advocacy and collaboration. These lessons emphasize the imperative of strategic, goal-oriented partnerships prioritizing workers' welfare, transcending partisan interests.

As Nigeria navigates its dynamic political landscape, these nuanced approaches become a beacon of wisdom. The intricate link between politics and labor, evident in American examples, serves as a guide for Nigerian labor leaders, urging them to tread carefully and purposefully. By adopting this enlightened approach, prioritizing collective welfare over partisan affiliations, a more impactful and effective representation of labor in the political sphere can be achieved.

My perspective is driven by a genuine commitment to upholding democratic values and labor conduct. I don't know or affiliate with any mentioned names. My primary motivation is a fair, transparent democratic process, fostering respect for workers' rights. It's crucial to recognize fundamental rights and the essential needs of labor and citizens, including the right to movement, expression, and association.

To all leaders, including you, sir, venturing into the Senate, may these lessons guide your path. May the pursuit of workers' rights and welfare remain the cornerstone of your endeavors, fostering a just and equitable future for all. Good luck in the Senate.

Psychologist John Egbeazien Oshodi

Professor John Egbeazien Oshodi, who was born in Uromi, Edo State, Nigeria, to a father who served in the Nigeria police for 37 years, is an American-based police and prison scientist and forensic, clinical, and legal psychologist. A government consultant on matters of forensic-clinical psychological services in the USA; and a former interim associate dean and assistant professor at Broward College, Florida. The Founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation, Center for Psychological Health and Behavioral Change in African Settings. In 2011, he introduced state-of-the-art forensic psychology into Nigeria through N.U.C. and Nasarawa State University, where he served in the Department of Psychology as an Associate Professor. He has taught at various universities and colleges including Florida memorial University, Florida International University, Broward college, Lynn University, and a contributing faculty member at the Weldios university in Benin Republic, Nexus International University, Uganda, Nova Southeastern University and Walden University in USA. He is a Human Rights Psychologist with a focus on African related environments. [email protected]

Disclaimer: "The views expressed on this site are those of the contributors or columnists, and do not necessarily reflect TheNigerianVoice’s position. TheNigerianVoice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements in the contributions or columns here."