El-Rufai vs Labour

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    Kaduna Governor, Nasir El-Rufai and organized Labour, under the auspices of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), are sizing each other up, for the soul of Kaduna, in a five-day warning strike.

    The Kaduna governor comes with “facts” that allege 10 per cent of civil servants, including the political bureaucracy, which has proved a wanton glutton for scarce public cash, are gulping 90 per cent of the state’s receipt from Abuja.

    Labour, on its own part, comes with the near-absolute right of workers to a job for legitimate living.  That can’t be challenged on the face of it.  Still, failure to link the citizen’s right to legitimate work with responsibility to drive value, amounts to nothing but sweet sentiments.

    Therefore, both sides are poles apart, at the extreme ends of more or less the same continuum.  If only both could be less hubristic, and commit to a mid-point that works for all!

    That way, both would be weaned off their missionary fixation with chosen causes: the Kaduna government, to spread the benefit of state cash beyond the “aristocratic” public servants; Labour, to understand that salaried work, in the face of dwindling value, is not the only way its members could thrive.

    But two days into the strike, it would appear mutual grandstanding, honed by extremist positions, rules the roost.  That can’t be in the interest of anybody.

    Labour has framed El-Rufai as a heartless enemy of workers — and thereby the people — that voted him into power.  So, the strike, aside from being a legitimate union push, has assumed the additional politics of delegitimizing the El-Rufai government, as prime “enemy” of the people.  Indeed, disturbing reports quote Labour leaders as warning their members of dire sanctions, if they as much as lift a finger, to avert the total shutdown of the state — from transportation to electricity.

    Still, inasmuch as Labour feels obliged to adopt any strategy that can make its strike succeed, framing the Kaduna government as “enemy” of the people is Labour sentiment taken too far.  In any case, the same government being demonized as enemy by Labour, claims it is fighting for the right of other Kaduna citizens outside the Labour camp — who, to boot, are a thundering majority!

    But Governor El-Rufai too should not frame Labour as a no-good, interloping busybody, that must be crushed to have peace.  The governor may have genuine intentions in what he prefers to call the “right-sizing” of the Kaduna civil service and political work force.

    But he must learn to infuse the “notorious facts” of foreboding statistics, with calming emotional intelligence.  That way, he is sure to avoid copping the most adversarial reactions from his different publics.  If El-Rufai had framed his difficulties in more sensitive language, perhaps Labour wouldn’t have been gored to this show-down, which frankly, is avoidable.

    The abiding grace, however, is that the strike is a five-day warning one.  Perhaps that period offers both sides the hot opportunity to sound off and quickly cool down, calm down and talk with each other to solve a mutual problem, instead of screaming at each other, to create more problems?

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