I join the rest of the world and all compatriots to celebrate Nigerian workers on this year’s International Workers’ Day. Today is a special day in most parts of the world, a day to salute and honour the working people whose hardwork and sweat continue to oil the wheel of human progress and advancement.
Today is significant in many respects. It is a day forged and born out of the struggle for workers’ rights and socio-economic justice. Since 1891, this day has been observed all over the world.
In Nigeria, every May 1 is a special day in our national calendar. The public holiday we observe is not just to commemorate the contributions and sacrifices of workers to the well-being of our country. It serves both as a celebration of the rights of workers to dignity, decent wages and decent living, and more important, it is a testament to the critical role the labour movement plays in our march towards a stronger, united and more prosperous nation.
Since 1945 when the railway workers and 16 other public service unions led the first General Strike to demand for better wages as a result of rising cost of living, the Labour Movement in Nigeria has always fought on the side of the masses of our country. It was no surprise that the Labour Movement added fillip, zest and energy to the struggle for independence by partnering with nationalists such as Nnamdi Azikwe, Herbert Macaulay, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Ernest Ikoli and Anthony Enahoro among others.
The Nigerian Labour Movement was also not found wanting during our struggle for the restoration of democracy. The Nigerian Labour Congress and its affiliate organisations – NUPENG, Textile Union, PENGASSAN, among others collaborated with the pro-democracy leaders and groups to restore democratic governance in Nigeria in 1999 after almost two unbroken decades of military dictatorship.
On this special day, as your President-elect, I extend my hands of friendship to the Nigerian workers through the two central Labour unions – Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress. In me you will find a dependable ally and co-labourer in the fight for social and economic justice for all Nigerians, including all the working people.
Your fight will be my fight because I will always fight for you. My plans for better welfare and working conditions are clearly spelt out in my Renewed Hope Agenda for A Better Nigeria. It is a covenant born of conviction and one I am prepared to keep.
At this point, I must remind Nigerian workers that we all have a common battle to wage, one which we must win together. And it is the fight against poverty, ignorance, disease, disunity, ethnic and religious hate and all negative forces that contend against the stability and prosperity of our country.
In the Nigeria I shall have the honour and privilege to lead from May 29, workers will have more than a minimum wage. You will have a living wage to have a decent life and provide for your families.
The days ahead will, however, demand better understanding and cooperation from all sides, because leadership will require that we take tough and hard decisions so that our people and all Nigerian workers can live more abundantly.
I wish Nigerian workers and the leadership of NLC and TUC Happy Workers’ Day!
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
President-elect, Federal Republic of Nigeria