How NLC’s Omar and TUC’s Peter Esele @peteresele betrayed #OccupyNigeria – An Insider’s memoir

Published:10 Jan, 2013

I was uncomfortable the moment I received the Mail above. Who wouldn’t be? In the heat of the Occupy Nigeria protests along with the NLC strike, we were being summoned to Abuja for a meeting. Equally unnerving is the announcement that the Airspace would be temporarily opened to facilitate the meeting.
When a Viable Union meets a Recalcitrant Government, something’s got to give. Until the January 2012 watershed, Nigerians had become used to the Oshiomole-esque kind of strike, and the pattern had become predictable. The Government announces an increment, NLC demands a ‘status quo or nothing’ and all of a sudden, pulls a volte face and goes into negotiations.
The Obasanjo government had, between 1999-2007, hiked the pump price successively from N20 to N 30 (June 1, 2000), amidst mass action, came down to N 25, and eventually bent further to N 22, on June 13 the same year. On January 1, 2002, Obasanjo increased the petrol pump price from N 22 to N26 , and on June 23, 2003, just after he was sworn-in for his second term as president, Obasanjo again increased the fuel price to N34 and then to N40. Obasanjo’s administration actually hiked the price of fuel seven times with the last one on May 27, 2007, two days to his exit from office, when he raised it from N65 to N70.
The Yar Adua administration was burdened with the unpleasant task of negotiating an ‘inherited’ decision with the Labour Union, and reversed the N70 pump price to N65. Intense negotiations however continued on the deregulation of the downstream sector.
The Oil and Gas Unions, PENGASSAN and NUPENG gave a conditional support for deregulation; that the ‘government must provide the necessary succour and palliative measures to assuage the impact of import-driven deregulation within the set timeframe’
PENGASSAN also provided a further condition, that the ‘Original PIB, as drafted by the Rilwanu Lukman Oil and Gas Sector Implementation Committee (OGIC) be implemented’. The Petroleum Industry Bill, as originally drafted, was to eventually end Government interference in the Oil and Gas Sector, and eventually provide a framework for the growth of the Oil Industry and end the inherent Corruption spawned from a Subsidized Market that was import driven.
The Goodluck Jonathan administration, amidst a façade of intense consultation, would spin a notorious surprise on January 1, 2012 with a 117% increment from N65 to N141.
For the first time in the history of pump price hike, protests sprang from a Rag-Tag team of Youths while Labour was still sprawling in lethargy. The Occupy Nigeria logo and T-Shirts sprang up and spates of peaceful demonstrations commenced.
Eventually, the NLC/TUC would announce an ‘Indefinite Strike Action’ commencing January 9, 2012.

January 8, 2012
To All Branches, Zones and CWC members
RE: STRIKE DIRECTIVE
This is to inform all members of the CWC, Zonal & Branch Executive Committee that the indefinite strike action scheduled from Monday January 9, 2012 in protest against Government approach to Subsidy Removal will go on as directed.
The strike Monitoring Teams at all levels shall ensure that essential services are maintained while all our members are strongly advised to stay at home.
The strike monitoring teams shall go round to assess compliance and give reports through the Team Leaders.

The National Secretariat shall give all information and directive on further devel
Aluta Continua!! Victoria Asserta!!

At this time, I had joined the ‘Rag-Tag Team’. Setting out to Ojota in the wee hours of January 9th 2012 did not come without apprehensions. Parents who saw the horrors of the June 12 agitations did not want their children involved in any struggle. Moreover, Nigerians had begun to see protests as ‘NLC declared Public Holidays’ at the end of each Strike, pump prices never get reverted to status quo ante. I went, anyway, and before my eyes, I saw the gathering grow to a record ground-breaking watershed that sent strong signals to the Jonathan administration. Not so many Nigerians would realise the level of fear the Ojota Rallies generated in the heart of government, and even Labour Leaders.

For the next five days, I’d set out to Ojota, and by evening, hold meetings and plot strategies for the next day.

NLC’s decision to go into negotiations with the Government in spite of the earlier stance of ‘Revert first, we discuss later’ sent the first distress signal for the heavy blow that would be dealt the Occupy Nigeria movement.
The Save Nigeria Group (SNG) switched the strategy and methodology of protests in Nigeria. Until January 9th, Nigerian protests had been limited to Tyre burnings, and long marches. No one had ever thought gathering in one spot could make such an impact. SNG was however, not alone. Loose coalitions emerged all over, with Ikoyi spinning a great surprise, Corporate Moguls, Celebrities, Medical Directors, amongst others joined the throng. No one would forget Ali Baba’s Truck in a hurry.
For me, the high-point was seeing Muhammed Fawehinmi, the Son of the late human-rights activist/legal luminary, Chief Gani Fawehinmi coming for the Rally in his Wheelchair.

There however, remained a grey-area/loop-hole the Government would cash into: The Convener of the Save Nigeria Group was the running mate of General Buhari in the 2011 elections. This normally would mean nothing in a sane society where freedom of speech/association is sacrosanct. Unfortunately, in a Winner-Takes-All society like ours, IT IS A CRIME TO BE IN THE OPPOSITION! The ballot is meant to be the bullet that kills your Freedom of Speech!
It is worth of note, however, that when the Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi became silent shortly after running for Presidency under the flag of his National Conscience Party, the general populace appealed to him not to be quiet. But then, that’s another musing for another day.
Against this backdrop, I found the Abuja summons unnerving and initially resolved not to go. What if the meeting turned out to be a ‘Settlement Meeting’?
My good friend, Gbenga Sesan as well as others in the ‘Rag-Tag team’ asked me a question: ‘If you do not go, how would you know what happened?’ At that point, I made up my mind to go, and ensure I cover my Transportation expenses myself. That would be another obstacle, considering the Strike and the draining out of most ATM machines at that time. Gbenga facilitated my ticket fare to Abuja and I got some personal funds on standby for my return.
By Saturday, January 14th 2012, I had met with other PENGASSAN members and we headed for Abuja. We had arrived at the Hotel venue before it all became clear: All Labour Leaders from NLC/TUC had been summoned to Abuja! As a matter of fact, in a ‘We know where you live’ manner, we were lodged in the same hotel wing. This was coming on the heels of the directive issued by PENGASSAN to commence a Systematic Shutdown from midnight of that same Saturday the 14th January, 2012.

The Hotel was a hub of events, from Reporters nodding off on chairs clutching their ‘Panasonic’ to Union leaders split into several camps, from those sympathetic to GEJ to those who had been part of the Ojota and Abuja rallies and wanted nothing but a total showdown. Apparently fed up with the NLC/TUC leadership insisting on the fact that they were accountable to various NEC (National Executive Council) members, they had been told to summon us all to Abuja. I would later discover upon checking out of the Hotel that all Hotel Bills (Lodging and Feeding) were on NLC/TUC account; that was huge, considering the number of Unions and Leaders.
A lot of Nigerians might not know this, but NUPENG and PENGASSAN were/are still licking the wounds sustained in the 1994 June 12 actualization struggle. Pascal Bafyau of the NLC had betrayed NUPENG/PENGASSAN when the Oil Workers’ Union went ahead with the Shutdown. Pascal Bafyau (NLC) walked free while Frank Kokori (NUPENG) and Milton Dabibi (PENGASSAN) went to jail and remained in Prison Custody without trial till June 16th 1998, a week after the death of General Abacha.
The likes of Asari Dokubo had been making personal calls to threaten the Leadership of the Oil Workers’ Union.
In spite of all these, PENGASSAN NEC meeting held that evening in the Hotel. Tribal/Political sentiments were rife at the onset, ‘nothing must happen to Jonathan’, ‘the day you kill a madman, na im you go know say e get family’ ‘we should not be used by these Politicians, is it Bakare that did not even win a Local government?’ In essence, those who went to negotiate directly with Government from the core NLC/TUC leadership had claimed that the Lagos struggle had been ‘hijacked by Politicians’. Comrade Peter Esele himself had said ‘We’ve lost Lagos (to Politicians), we’d have lost Abuja too, but we were there to make sure the Politicians did not hijack it’.
The PENGASSAN Chairman presided over the PENGASSAN meeting. Along the line, we were addressed by one of the 1994 PENGASSAN detainees, who reminded us that Posterity will judge whatever decision we made that night. He reminded us that although neither himself, Kokori nor others who went to jail in the heat of the June 12 struggle had anything physical to show for their struggle, they had a clear conscience about the decision they made. He, however, advised that should we opt for the systematic shutdown; we should make sure we had all returned to the safety of our bases before a total shutdown.
Eventually, a unanimous decision was made to go ahead with the Systematic shutdown. Truth is, a total shutdown would invariably throw the Nation into darkness, among other things. For the Old Oil Wells, it would take a sizeable time span to get the Wells back to Optimum Production. In essence, a shutdown is an economic Coup d’etat; that was why Kokori and Dabibi back then were held for ‘treason’.
We sang our Solidarity Song, unsure what would befall us all with the decision, but with the calm assurance that Posterity would judge us for good….while the Communiqué was being edited for print, Comrade Peter Esele came to chat with us. He told us how scared the Government had become and how a Minister was even begging that the Union accepts even a marginal increase to N67 so that the President won’t be seen as weak.
Unknown to us all, the NLC Chairman had gone on Air to pull the greatest Coup on PENGASSAN. He had announced on our behalf that we were not shutting down. Funny how you are in a meeting and made a decision, only to hear a contrary thing on the Social Media who had access to TV that was to cover our Meeting!
The Ghost of 1994 had come calling; we left the Hotel in haste the following morning, my family and friends worrying about my safety. By Sunday, we were back at our bases without a clue how it all changed. I was still in a haze when Omar and Esele came on air. I’d have sworn I saw Omar dictating to Esele what they would tell Nigerians before Esele lowered the Mic from his mouth. Soldiers had been deployed to crush Ojota, and Labour was announcing to Nigerians that from a vantage point of victory, she preferred to Kiss Defeat (Kiss the Feet). That was a Mystery I could not understand, even as an eye witness. I never recovered…I hope I do someday.

  • femi

    Like you rightly said, posterity and tomorrow remain the ultimate judge. Its just pathetic and disheartening that some ill-fated beings could sell off generatio(s) just because of a mossel of bread.
    May they live to reap the fruit of their labour in Jesus name.

  • Guti

    It all happened too sudden, I always knew dere ws somtin 2 it. Its just so funny how our leaders trade with our future. Someday, we will not die, they won’t either and we shall see where this will take us to

  • http://Website Meme

    Normally when things happened in any society, the followers looks towards their leaders for direction and that direction is supposed to help the people overcome the situation that they are in. The issue of strike and strike call-off is not new in this country and as such, should not pose a surprise to us.
    The article shown to us would have made sense to me if the following questions in my mind were addressed by this article:
    > why did PENGASSAN not come out and refute the suspension as announced by both NLC/TUC
    > at what point did PENGASSAN joined the strike action as called by TUC that they are affiliated to.
    > for a year now, PENGASSAN have had several NEC meetings which the writer is a member, have the leadership deem it fit to explain to members what happened in Abuja
    > Peter Esele is part of PENGASSAN NEC and he was there, why didn’t he said no to the decision
    > if the leadership of PENGASSAN was so passionate about crippling the economy, why didn’t she go ahead with their decision.
    > why did it take the writer up to a year before publishing this article.
    The whole truth of the matter is that it is election period in TUC and some folks believe that they should be in power in TUC that is why the writer was paid to publish this article now.
    My candid advise will be that everyone should go and test their popularity in the polls and stop this campaign of calumny because it will not lead to anywhere. If you think that you are fit to lead TUC, then you have the duty of going round the various affiliates and tell them your vision for TUC and stop misleading Nigerians.

  • Ade_osa

    Omojuwa, thanks for this ‘illumination’ on the politics of Omar and Peter. However, I think you and others in PENGASSAN should have refuted the announcement made by the leadership of NLC/TUC based on the fact of no consultation with PENGASSAN NEC then: it is then posterity would have been kinder to you. If all you said are true,it only shows that labour leadership in Nigeria is just gamemanship and all of you are not reliable, if the ‘light’ in you is always overcome with ‘darkness’ amongst you. Think, brother!

Related Posts

Recent Posts

Adeyemi Adedokun: Road accidents, Speed Limiter Device and The Federal Road Safety Commission of Nigeria

The Federal Road Safety Corps of Nigeria (FRSC) in collaboration with the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is set to begin the enforcement of Speed Limiter Device on commercial motorists from today 1st September 2015, in an attempt to reduce road accidents in the country. The Commission confirmed during an interview that the enforcement on commercial motorists is the first phase of the process, which means it might sooner or later be...

The Secret To Losing Belly Fat

A study in the International Journal of Obesity revealed that when compared to women who cycled at a consistent pace for 40 minutes, women who worked out for 20 minutes, but alternated between eight-second sprints and 12 seconds of low-intensity cycling, lost more belly fat after 15 weeks. Work out half as long and lose more fat? Sounds good to me! You can do intervals with virtually any type of activity. Here are some ways to...

American Clerk Still Refuses To Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

A county clerk in Kentucky has again refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, invoking her religious beliefs and God's authority, this time in defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against her. On Tuesday morning, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis' office denied the licenses to at least two couples. At first, Davis was in her office with the door closed and blinds drawn. But she emerged a few minutes later, telling the couples...

Real Madrid: We Did Everything Necessary In De Gea Transfer From Man Utd

The Spanish outfit has stated that they did as much as they possibly could to sign the goalkeeper before the national deadline closed on Monday. Real Madrid have claimed they did everything possible to sign goalkeeper David de Gea from Manchester United. The £29 million deal to sign the Spain international would have seen Keylor Navas go in the opposite direction for around £10m, but the necessary paperwork was not completed before Monday's midnight CET deadline. In...

Nigeria Must Not Miss Polio Free Certification In 2017- Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday warned that nothing must stop Nigeria from being certified polio-free by World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017. He has ordered the agencies involved to increase tempo of the fight against the virus. He gave the order at the Council Chamber of the State House, Abuja while receiving polio high level advocacy team. The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Linus Awute?, told State House correspondents at the end of the closed-door meeting, that “the President...

El-Rufai Raises Alarm About Fraudsters Impersonating Him

The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, on Monday raised the alarm that fraudsters are using his name to defraud job seekers in the state. The Governor warned those applying for employment in the State Civil Service or contracts to be wary of such unscrupulous elements. In a statement he issued through his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Samuel Aruwan, Governor El-Rufai said that security agencies were on the trail of the fraudsters. According...

White House Responds To Kanye West’s Presidential Bid

A representative from the White House has responded to Kanye West's recent announcement that he will run to be the US President in 2020. Responding to West's statement of intent, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told Billboard that he looks "forward to seeing what slogan he chooses to embroider on his campaign hat". The news follows West's recent backing of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 Presidential campaign. Read More: nme

Video: Runtown Ft. Wizkid – Bend Down Pause

Here comes the official video to the trending single titled “Bend Down” by Eric Manny frontman “Runtown” featuring starboy “Wizkid” and (Major Lazer). The Video was shot in malibu by “Jay Will” Watch, Download & enjoy!!! Watch “Bend Down Pause (Official Music Video) – Runtown ft. Wizkid & Major Lazer” https://youtu.be/ovhX7LUzhPs

Court Grants Dasuki Bail On Self Recognition

A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday granted bail to former National Security Adviser (NSA), retired Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki, arraigned before the court for illegal possession of firearms. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Adeniyi Ademola granted Dasuki bail on self-recognition, after he pleaded not guilty. However, the judge directed Dasuki to submit his passport to the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court. The Department of State Service (DSS) arraigned...

Watch Jackie Chan Speak Pidgin, Yoruba, Igbo & Hausa

You probably might have seen this movie, " Dragon Blade", starring Jackie Chan, John Cusack, among others; but you have to see Jackie Chan speak  Pidgin, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa in the bid to promote the movie to Nigerians. Watch clip below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBDD7S_bmGw Credit: FilmOne Distribution/ YouTube

Woman Allegedly Killed Her Infant Daughter, Kept Her Body For Months

Christina Colantonio, 28, has been charged with second-degree murder after police found her baby's dead body in her apartment. It is believed that Colantonio, who was living alone in the Batavia, New York, apartment, killed her daughter shortly after she was born three months ago. According to The Daily News, police responded to a call from an acquaintance of Colantonio's reporting a "suspicious condition" at Colantonio's apartment. "Batavia police detectives were...

Video: Banky W – “High Notes”

Banky W continues to prove his versatility as he premieres his first official single in 2015 titled “High Notes”. The video is finally out and we are super excited about it. Produced by Cobhams Asuquo, this RnB number has an infectious pop twist which sees Banky displaying his incredible vocals while teasing us with a rap verse. The video for “High Notes” was recently shot in South Africa...

Army Issues 7-Day Ultimatum To Community To Produce Killers Of Soldier, Policeman

Military authorities in Rivers State have given a one-week ultimatum to eight communities in Emohua Local Government Area of the state to fish out and surrender the gunmen, who allegedly ambushed and shot dead a soldier and police officer, while they were on duty along the Emohua-Kalabari Road in the area. Niger Delta Voice gathered that the incident occurred last week, and both the army and police in the state were furious....

I Have Not Been Approached, Caitlyn Jenner Opens Up On Dating

In the latest episode of "I Am Cait," Caitlyn Jenneropens up about her future and if that includes dating. "It's been, like, a month or two now that I've been out," she said at the time of taping for Sunday night's episode. "So I honestly haven't even thought or been approached or been tempted in any direction," she added according to People magazine's recap. Read More: GoodMorningAmerica

9 Best Compliments You Can Give A Woman

1. A Sweet Thought "'I want my daughter to turn out like you.' Told to me by two different men, one of whom I consider my professional mentor and one of the main reasons I got into the line of work I did. This was in my early 20s, when I was earnest, relatively vice-free and full of promise. The daughters in question were young teenagers. Haven't heard it lately, but I always thought of this...

Kris Jenner, 59, Shows Off Bikini Body

At 59 years old, it's safe to say Kris Jenner's still got it! The Kardashian matriarch showed off her enviable physique while walking on the beach in St. Barts during the family's annual vacation, sporting a little black bikini. Check out the mother-of-six's impressively flat stomach above. Read More: ETonline

An Eligible Bachelor Is Off The Market With Baby On The Way

Sorry, ladies! One of R&B's most eligible bachelors has officially been taken. Ne-Yo caught everyone by surprise when he announced that he and his fiancée, Crystal Renay, not only tied the knot, but they are expecting a baby as well. The image Renay is holding in Ne-Yo's Instagram post is subtle, but a source...

Why Justin Bieber Cried After His VMAs Performance

After performing at the VMAs for the first time since he was "that sweet kid with the haircut," Justin Bieber broke down in tears. When the crying started, the Internet was ablaze with questions. As Buzzfeed asked, was his harness too tight? Was he not allowed into Taylor Swift's clique? Did Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus' spat upset him? The answer, as it turns out, is that the Biebs was just plain overwhelmed. According to a source...

Masquerade Arrested After Invading Church, Floging Pastors & Church Members

Four masquerades, on Sunday, invaded Christ Apostolic Church in Epinmi Akoko, Akoko North-West Local Government Area of Ondo State, disrupted the service and flogged officiating pastors and some members of the church. A source said that the masquerades, who were earlier prevented from entering the church by the workers, forced their way in and headed towards the officiating pastor, beating him and other pastors. The invasion disrupted the service, as members of the church, who...

Nigerian Air Force Makes Full Deployment Of Aircraft To North-East

The Nigerian Air Force has announced the full deployment of its aircraft to combat the security crisis in Nigeria’s north-east. Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall, Sadique Abubakar, who announced the deployment on Monday, said the current security challenges in Nigeria heavily relied on air power and that discussions were ongoing with the Presidency to ensure the Air Force was battle ready. He urged Senior Officers of the force to ensure that integrity, excellence and service...

37 Migrants Die As Boat Sinks Off Libyan Coast

A boat carrying migrants sank off Libya’s Mediterranean coast, killing at least 37 people, a local official said, the second such fatal accident within days. “We had reports this morning that there are seven bodies of illegal migrants that sank off Khoms (east of Tripoli)…but we don’t have any details how many migrants were on board,” said Mohamad al-Misrati, a spokesman for the Red Crescent in Tripoli. Fishermen later discovered 30 more bodies in the same...