At a time when Nigerians needed strong-willed, dogged, and committed champions to go head-to-head with the vicious political class that has sworn not to remove their knees from the necks of the suffering Nigerian masses. Nature and circumstances appear to have offered the country a lifeline in the new Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joe Ajaero.
In the last quarter of last year, Nigeria’s apex bank – the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) made its intention to redesign the Naira public to Nigerians. Little did the suffering Nigerian masses know that the policy was going to be another whip for their badly lacerated backs.
The shambolic implementation of the policy although not unexpected has ensured that Nigerians have over the past six weeks been subjected to one of the worst times of their lives. The acute scarcity of the Naira for basic transactions is almost impossible and Nigerians have again, been made to pay for the incompetence, inefficiency, and ineptitude of state institutions.
Prior to the elections, Nigerians were consistently lied to that the policy was orchestrated to mop up old notes with a view of frustrating the usage of cash to influence the elections. Many Nigerians who truly wanted a change in the polity through electoral means bought the idea and adjusted to the cash crunch. However, almost five weeks after the ill-fated Presidential elections, the scarcity of cash has not only abated but it appears to have grown worse.
It is painfully sad that Nigerians have been made to buy their own hard-earned monies from POS operators over the last few weeks. The absence of the much-needed cash in a largely informal economy has ensured that Nigerians have continued to groan under very harsh circumstances.
Rather than making both the old and new banknotes available and unshackling the economy from the unwarranted gridlock, the CBN has been chasing shadows and has expressed nothing but a disdainful ‘I dont’ care’ attitude to the anguish of Nigerians.
While the madness persists, Nigerians have continued to move about without food in their stomachs, no money in their pockets, and no place they can call home to lay their heads. The effect the policy has had on Nigerians has remained widespread and the impact has been terrible. Little wonder why peace has eluded the country as it did in the days of yore.
No fewer than 17 reported attacks on branches nationwide, which has seen the banks losing assets worth N5 billion. Automated Teller Machines, buildings, and the vandalisation of vehicles by angry customers and criminals capitalising on the chaos speak to how bad things have grown.
Just when Nigerians were beginning to lose hope, the new NLC Chairman has shown up to restore the hopes of millions of Nigerians while speaking the unpalatable truth to the CBN.
Ever since Comrade Joe Ajaero took office as the new Sherrif of the Labour Union last month, he seems to be a man on a mission to reawaken the spirit of the labour movement to become the true champions of the Nigerian people and so far, he has done tremendously well.
The soft-spoken, Emekuku-born unionist has repeatedly vowed that the NLC under him would cry the cries of the Nigerian masses and jointly wage wars against all forces of impoverishment and misery. He has clearly shown that for him, it is not only words but well-defined actions and the charge he has given to the apex bank and the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government clearly underscores this.
In his acceptance speech after being unanimously elected at the 13th Quadrennial Delegates Conference held in Abuja a few weeks ago, Ajaero had vowed that he would be seeking deeper engagement with governments at all levels more creatively to sustain the philosophical foundations and traditions of the congress. His actions over the past few weeks clearly show that those promises were not mere words.
Ajaero’s intervention is a timely one because the CBN has mischievously ignored the fact that they cannot take people’s cash and sit on it. That is not the way monetary policies are run. The whole essence of a bank and banking system is that when a user deposits his or her money, they should be able to take it back anytime they need it. Emefiele has no right whatsoever to take anybody’s money and lock it up in the bank
Ajaero’s call has clearly hit the right quarters because less than 48 hours after his threat to shut down CBN branches across the country, Emefiele has begun moves to restore sanity in the system.
It is heartwarming that Nigerian workers can now heave a sigh of relief that for the first time in many years, they now have an NLC that is not an appendage or lackey of the executive arm of government. For the first time in decades, NLC now has in Ajaero, a man that is not ready to compromise their standards and betray their trust.
Ajaero must now understand that following the altercation with the apex bank, more hurdles will definitely come his way. He has shown that the NLC is clearly in capable hands and what is required of him now is to put in measures in place that will drive up the congress to where it ought to be. He must be reminded that more eyes are now watching him and failure will be unacceptable. Nigerian workers deserve the best and he cannot afford to betray them.