National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has told those accusing him of being too combative as the National Chairman of a governing party to keep their cool as he was not about to change his approach because he did not join politics to be changed by the way things are done by politicians.
Oshiomhole said his long stay in Labour taught him to be combative, stressing that he did not join politics to be changed or commit class suicide, but to impose his own ways of doing things.
The former Edo state governor and Labour leader also said he was of the view that diplomacy will not address the challenges facing the country, adding that only an aggressive engagement can force those benefiting from the statusquo to change in such a way that will make the country better.
Speaking at a reception organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) for the Director General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Guy Ryder, Oshiomhole said he believe that more labour leaders should join government so that together they can force a change in the way things are done in the country.
Oshiomhole said: “whatever I am doing today, my style and choice of what I do and what I abstain from doing, I owe to Labour. If you study the Nigerian media, there is this saying that as national chairman of a governing party, I am not supposed to be combative. I am even more convinced now about the need for combat.
“If this country is going to change and deliver to the poor, deliver decent jobs, we need not diplomacy, but aggressive engagement to force those who are benefiting from the status quo to change and in such a way that will make the country to work for the people who live on their wages.
“Some people said to me that I am too combative and I said to them that I was not coming to copy their method, but coming to impose my method to change the system and not for the system to change me.
“I refuse to be changed by the system. My hope is that with more comrades coming into politics, we will work together to change the system for a better future.
“I am very proud of my background, as a factory hand, as a factory organiser, as a General Secretary of Textile Workers and as President of NLC. Some people said I have I cross over and I ask, to where? I just continue with the struggle
“I move from conveying my grievances with placards and organising strikes with protest and pressure, to trying my hands on the drivers wheel, to try to do those things that I try to communicate with placards and then use executive pen to get them done.”
The Former NLC President told his colleagues in the labour movement that he remains ever indebted to the trade union movement, saying “I learnt so much from the movement.
“I don’t like to be called a politician even though I find myself functioning and playing a political role and even elected to a political office through a political process because of the way that word is corrupted in Nigeria and elsewhere on the continent.
“As governor, when my colleagues say wages is a burden or workers are a burden, I say no because the most important resource that we have in Nigeria is the human resource, but we under value it.
“We sometimes see it as a burden, we see wages as an issue and we look at it in terms of cost. Yet, the primary purpose of government is the welfare of the people.
“If the welfare of the people is at the heart of the essence of governance, all I did all my life in the trade union was struggling with the power of capital and later the power of state so that power should not be used in a way that undermines the social purpose of business and also the social purpose of government.
“So now finding myself in government, my task was to fight to ensure that I am not appropriated by the oppressive class, but use the office to redefine what it should be. So, this is just to tell you that I remain myself and refuse to commit class suicide.
“That is why I am always at home when I am with my colleagues. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have to argue. There are a couple of things we had to do differently.
“So, this is just to tell you that from inside, I am much more convinced that Union should not only exist, but you should have the capacity and ruthlessly deploy that capacity to ensure that the resources of states are dissipated in favour of the working people and working families.
“We should not only count the number of us in government, but measure what we are doing differently when we are in government. So, be rest assured that I have only one constituency and that is labour.”
Oshiomhole maintained that there was the need to do things differently when it comes to the issue of workers welfare, expressing concern that while the cost of living has continued to be on the increase, wages have remained constant.
He said “with rising crises, stagnant wages and a very miserable lifestyle, you have to fight for that. We now see in Nigeria the difference between signing an agreement and even passing laws and the challenge of translating those laws. There is even the Contradiction of signing laws first before getting consultants to tell us how to implement these laws.
“We had a few conversations about minimum wage. We have to do things differently about minimum wage. While should every price change and only one price is constant.
“A bag of cement, when I was a governor keeps changing, contractors keep telling me we have to revise the rate because cost of items are changing, So if every other costs are changing, and labour cost is constant, common sense tells you that somebody is being squeezed.
“Around the world, there are challenges and I do not envy my successors because each time you think things are bad and the next time, you wonder if the past was not even better.