By Adekunle Martins
THE news filtered like a rumor two weeks ago that the workers of one of the parastatals under the Ministry of Information and Culture being superintended by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), would not only embark on a protest but would shut down the complex.
And in confirmation of the supposed rumor, the Union officials on Wednesday ensured that they did not only embarked on the protest but equally made good their promise and shut the complex down located at the old Federal Government Secretariat, Area 1, Garki, Abuja.
One fundamental issue is the right of the workers to embark on a protest, strike or lockout. This right is even an internationally acceptable, recognized one, sanctioned by International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Hence only an illiterate by option will dumbly believe that a set of workers acting collectively or under an association has no right to make lawful and reasonable protest or embark on strike action within the ambit or the confines of the law to majorly talk about their welfare and canvass for better condition of service where there are defects.
Strike, sit outs, protests are legitimate tools created by law and as vistas for workers to peacefully and decently express their worries, call attention to their welfare, caution the management, make opinions suggestions and call the attention of the management to progressive correctional issues.
It is only an irresponsible Union who will sit or stand akimbo and jolly with the management while the welfare, working condition, and rights of the workers are being trampled upon or not attended to.
Thus, it is not strange for Union leaders to call their members out either to strike, sit out, protest if there are genuine reasons and responsible justification for such.
And it is also trite in Unionism that strike, sit out and protest should be the last resorts after a sequential meeting, negotiation and ribbing minds have taken place and have broken down or there has been no point of equilibrium between the two parties – the management and the workers.
The essence of having a Union in an organisation is not absolutely for antagonism or troublemaking, Unionism is major to serve as a platform where the workers can collectively federate their observations, opinions, wish and suggestions and pass it through their leaders to the management which cannot because of time, situation and circumstances which do not allow a day to day or regular convention of the management and the workers.
In a sane clime, unions are supposed to be partners in organisation development and they do because most of their leaders and officers are not just the run-off-the-mill members of the workforce but intelligent and resourcefully deep educated and enlightened men and women of integrity who cannot be bamboozled, intimidated, monetised, used or led by the nose.
Strike action is not supposed to be used to a means of blackmailing or intimidating the management. And union leaders are supposed to be clinical and detach steering off sentiment and personal loyalty when it comes to union issues, welfare and condition of servic.
Union leaders should be loyal to the service not to the occupant of an office, particularly a political office as that of the Director-General.
Union leaders are first employees of the organisation before being a member of the Union and the essence of their employment is to serve the organization not to play politics.
The Union leaders should know where to draw the lines between playing Union and being dutiful at their post of responsibility.
Going by these propositions, one has no tiff with the fact that the NTDC Union leaders called their members to strike. Of course they have the rights. However, going by the pattern, trend, nature, proclaimed causes justification, sequential occurrence, intention and modus operandi of the strikes actions that have been embarked upon at NTDC tell the world that there is more to it than meet the eye.
The urge to strike reared its head immediate Mrs Sally Mbanefo was appointed as the Director-General, NTDC in replacement of Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, a media practitioner and a boisterous personality who has the history of fighting three Tourism Ministers to a standstill.
Her appointed did not go down the throat of some people because of many reasons which include, the larger than life image of her predecessor who was very nice to the media and who has a court or cult of, workers who deferred to him due to his generosity and goodness at the expense of the nation.
Also immediately, Sally was appointed, economic recession took over which led to the shrinking of fund available to the corporation thus putting paid to access to free fund which can be employed and deployed to be a good DG either to the press, to staff in form of foreign trips and unnecessary free largesse and frivolous allowances and claims.
Also, there was the bitterness arising from the abrupt sack of her predecessor who seemed to be angry that Sally lobbied him out the job and who still nursing the ambition of coming back to NTDC as DG as if it is the only place he can perform or the only person who can be there.
With constant interaction with the workers and the Union leaders who Sally inherited, the intrigue of the bitterness of a displaced DG who still has a lot of blind followers in NTDC with the union leader and workers who were not happy that things were not the same again, the era of strike crawled in.
An examination of the reasons, modus operadi and demand of the workers will show that the whole strike actions being embarked in NTDC are out of tune, totally unwholesome and unethical.
Let’s read excerpts from some newspapers on the previous strike
On February 25, 2015, National newspaper under the Headline “NTDC workers’ strike enters the second week”, ‘The workers have vowed to continue with the industrial action until the agency’s director general, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, is removed from office.
Last week, official activities at the parastatal’s Abuja and zonal offices were stopped.The workers, through their union, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), have made several allegations against Mrs. Mbanefo. They accused her of starving the agency of fund under the guise that the Federal Government was no longer funding the parastatal.
The workers accused her of “going behind to collect huge allocation from the Federal Government”.
The NTDC Chapel Chairman of AUPTCRE, Sam Unwuchola Okpomo, said as at July 2014, the Federal Government released N52,014,821 as capital budget and N342, 654,807 for training and other logistics to the agency.”
In September 3, 2015, in the Hallmark newspaper under the Headline, “Fears of sack forces NTDC boss to back down …as workers call off strike.”
“It would be recalled that the protesting staff, led by Comrade Anthony Benjamin, in a memo obtained by Hallmark accused the DG of not properly mobilizing funds for the activities of the corporation as it relates to administrative functions.
They accused her of incapacitating the staff with the claim of a shortage of funds to perform the statutory functions of the corporation but overhead will be released and go out through other sources.
The staff said,” the DG does not fund the zonal offices, she will visit the zone and stop at the airport to insult the staff of the zone to their integrity by asking them to go and source for funds from affluent individuals for the running of the office. She did not even appreciate the efforts of the staff in ensuring the success of her visit to the state.
“We are tired of a DG who claims to be promoting domestic tourism but will not fund the zones offices where tourism potentials are domiciled organization but will tell the staff there in no money for official works but there is money for other fictitious travels by herself and her associates to different destinations.”
Daily Trust Sept 3 wrote: ‘Striking NTDC workers call for DG’s removal’
By Mustapha Suleima, “On their demand, Comrade Kunama said: “We want her removal. She is killing the tourism sector. Except the government is not serious with tourism, but if the government wants to tap into the potentials of tourism to diversify the Nigerian economy, they have to remove her and bring in a professional that has a vision for the sector.”
The Federal government seemed to have seen through the malevolent and malicious intent of the unions or the workers and refused to pander to the unreasonable demands of the workers and refused to relief Sally of her job.
Though Sally was removed in November 2016, it should be a matter of curious logic and interest that between November 2016 and May 2017 three DGs were in quick succession appointed and removed. Two of them, career officers and the other an outsider, none of them were accepted by the Union.
And according to a presidency source, they were all removed majorly “due to the unnecessary antagonism to their appointment by the Union who was being used and manipulated and workers who engaged in writing acrimonious petition with some outsider who was willing to come back to NTDC who took solace at sponsoring media attack against the appointees’.
And the Federal Government brought in Folly Coker, who has distinguished himself in the public sector, government and a memorable tenure as Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism.
The problem of Coker, according to an investigation, commenced when he was moved to NTDC and he announced his love for domestic tourism as against the floundering of the meagre fund of the Corporation on not so useful foreign fair and travel market.
The Union or workers quickly realised that Folly Coker too being a cosmopolitan person cannot be pushed around or intimidated to do their biddings without observing the normal procedure which guide strike commence an action of December 1, 2017 when he was on a National assignment abroad.
In December 1 2017 in the Nation’s online, under the headline “Protesting workers seek sack of NTDC’s DG,”
‘Activities were paralysed at the headquarters of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), on Wednesday, following a protest by workers who called for the sack of its Director General, Mr. Folorunsho Folarin Coker, for incompetence.
The workers accused Coker of highhandedness, saying the DG had not improved their welfare since his appointment.
They said they were disappointed by the “ugly development” in the corporation.
The workers noted that Coker illegally set up a project unit, which, they claimed, is not part of the NTDC’s line of activity. They said the unit was a conduit to siphon public funds.’
A few online publications graced their platforms with this news under different slants.
A cursory examination and contextual synthesis of the grievances of the works or union under Sally Mbanefo and Coker extensively exposed the rut of a corporation.
The sole reason is “The removal of the DG without any concrete allegation or advocacy for workers!
“During the tenure of Sally Mbanefo, it is shameful that none of the allegations levelled against her held waters. All allegations were unfounded and malicious. The lady was never found wanting or guilty.
Going through the protest letter sent out in 2017 against Coker, one can see that it is not only watery but of no substance.
The fault is in not in the workers are being teleguided sheepishly by a Union which is being sponsored and used by some external elements who believe NTDC is their birthright ad father’s property.
And so, unless they are posted or re- posted or their goon is there, NTDC will not have peace.
It is also is a shame of the successive superintending Minister who watch as NTDC is hijacked by the Union who seems to find listening ears and cooperation of the Minister.
The fact is that NTDC needs urgent and prompt surgical operation. It is a corporation full of old doldorous pantaloons and deadwood evil servants who are loyal to persons, not the office. Some of them have no particular assignment or solids scheduled duty. The Union has been a weapon, instrument for disgruntled, selfish, inordinate ambitious, greedy person who manipulate it at will to destabilize the Corporation.
NTDC is now a pot where executive miscreants who collect salaries for doing nothing other than gossip and making themselves the carrier and implementers of wishful ambition of never- do wells who believe that NTDC is their family’s property
The same set of crop of people used the Union to work against Sally Mbanefo, The same Union worked against three of Sally’s successors on flimsy reasons and stupid thinking.
The same Union which is being sponsored is at work now on jejune and totally silly reasons asking not for welfare or a better package but sacking of the Director-General because he is not smiling at them
Any serious government will not only refuse to harken to their silly demands but will go a step further by appropriately restructuring and rightsizing the workers bygh separating those who want to work for the nation from the goons who want to play cheap politics and those who love to be used as agent of destabilization.
NTDC should be clean and straightened up. The time to act is now.
However, the symbolism of the recent phenomenal changes being injected to NTDC by Folorunso Coker via the ‘Tour Nigeria’ brand which has recorded intracontinental acceptance and acknowledgement with the historic passing of the NTDC Bill by the Senate should not be truncated.
These are signs that if NTDC is cleaned of the system rats and evil servants who have nothing to contribute than engaging in unwarranted diversionary actions like illegal strike and protests, purposeful and goal getting minds like Folorunso Coker will take the NTDC beyond the imagination of Nigeria’.
Let the process of laundering the NTDC starts now. Let’s reposition it for purposeful activation. Let’s create the ambience for productive piloting.
Folorunso Coker has, within six months, demonstrated and signposted the ability and sagacity of a reformer.
The ball is in the court of the President Buhari and the Minister, Alhaji Lai MOHAMMED.
I rest my case.