The NLC’s response comes after Onanuga, in a statement speaking for the federal government, condemned the union strike, labelling it an “ego-tripping move” intended to “blackmail the government.”
The presidential aide also claimed that the strike was “over a personal matter involving the NLC President, Joe Ajaero.”
But NLC, in a statement by its spokesperson, Benson Upah, said the strike is not about ego, or a personal matter involving Ajaero, but rather about the government’s failure to address the plight of workers and Nigerians.
The union also said the strike was about the “licence for impunity that covers murder and attempted murder of dissenting voices” including Ajaero, which the Nigerian State now passes off as a “personal matter”.
NLC accused Onanuga of making “sadistic comments” and suggested that his remarks reflected the views of those in power.
The union stated: “Blackmail the government over what? A bribe or a favour organised labour asked for and did not get it or what?
“If Onanuga were not suffering from selective amnesia, he ought to have known that this government should remain grateful to the organised labour for its uncommon patience with a government that clearly was not prepared for the consequences of its fundamentalist market policies of massive currency devaluation and ‘subsidy’ removal, which imposed on Nigerians social violence, upheaval, dislocation, displacement or punishment they never before experienced.
“Onanuga similarly ought to have known that organised labour, by not opting for a strike as a first option, acted as a bulwark against the rage of Nigerians, thereby saving this government from itself.”
According to NLC, Onanuga’s comments are a “Freudian slip” as this is the way his principals view the Imo State triple-digit tragedy: the non-payment of workers’ and pensioners benefits; the choking or stifling environment that leaves workers and citizens gasping for air; the licence for impunity that covers murder and attempted murder of dissenting voices, including Comrade Joe Ajaero, which the Nigerian State now passes off as a “personal matter”.
“When we first heard through the grapevine that glasses were clinked and pleasantries earthily exchanged by the powers that be following the arrest and torture of Comrade Joe Ajaero, we thought we thought it was one of those rumours, but with this confirmation from Bayo Onanuga, we now know better!” it added.
Concerning the assault on Joe Ajaero, NLC said that Ajaero’s arrest and torture by the police were “state-sponsored acts of terror” and that the government was “testing the waters” to see if it could get away with such actions.
NLC then called for an “honest and thorough investigation” conducted by competent and independent professionals with free and unfettered access to information, people and materials from within and outside the country, saying that the government’s investigation is a “charade” and that the police cannot be both the judge, jury, and jailer in their own case.
“So the police will now be the judge, jury and jailer in their own case? What a country we run! Secondly, what perchance will the police be investigating when the government, by the admission of Onanuga, has already found Ajaero guilty, arrested him, convicted him, and punished him through torture for “planning to incite the workers in Imo State into a needless strike,” NLC stated.
The union, however, added that it will not be cowed by any threat or force, adding that no government can be bigger than the people it presides over.
“We want Bayo Onanuga and those who sent him and the police much earlier that we shall not be cowed by anybody or forced, no matter the resources at that person’s disposal. No government can be bigger than the people over which it presides!”
It also stated that it would not comment on Onanuga’s ranting over NLC’s so-called disobedience to a court order but that he would soon know the “cold truth” and warned that labourers who stoke the fire for their principals instead of winning friends for them will be kept closer.