Dr. Louis Brown Ogbeifun

Accredited Mediator | Certified Professional Manager and Trainer in Workplace Conflicts


Unraveling the Ticking Time Bomb: The Urgent Need for Negotiation and Resolution in Nigeria’s Political Landscape

Nigeria is currently sitting on top of a ticking time bomb. Unless the actors rationally think through all the cards on the table, the flames of destruction of Nigeria’s political and socio-economic turf would be catastrophic.

The Tinubu administration has a date with history on August 2, 2023. The President is familiar with strikes. He has led strikes and quelled strikes. But this seems different. Different because the Trade Union Congress (TUC) of Nigeria and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) commencing industrial action on August 2, 2023 is a tip of the iceberg.

The invisible propelling forces at the bottom of the ocean are far bigger than what the physical eyes can see as TUC/NLC.

Beneath the surface are shadow actors yawning for vengeance and reparations for various reasons. Some of these include, salary earners from both the private and public sectors, artisans, SME owners who are constrained by high energy and transportation costs, opposition parties and their allies, civil society organizations, anti-labour movement wanting to get at labour leaders, etc.

So, if I were in President Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s (PBAT) shoes, I would do everything legally possible to avert the strike, not by using the judiciary but by getting directly involved in the negotiations.

His associates might dissuade him from doing so, but he should know better. If he decided to, he would not be the first President. In 2022, President Joe Biden of the USA, understanding the importance of the freight industry, signed the legislation to end a rail strike by the labor unions, which would have brought its administration to its knees.

I foresee TUC/NLC staying on track because of the mobilization. However, with a substantial giving and taking attitude and using the 3 Ds in negotiation, which are the no denial, deceit, and delay principles, a truce could still be reached, not just with the labor unions but with expectant Nigerians.

To understand the context within which I urge PBAT to personally get involved in the negotiation with the TUC and NLC, I will use a video from the animal kingdom by National Geographic to explain my fears, why this strike should not hold, and why negotiation with all key stakeholders, that is, Labor, Marketers, in an all-night conversation.

I use the Battle at Kruger, a National Geographic wildlife video, in my leadership and team-building training. Some reading this post might remember it. The video depicts what could happen in a battle between two giants. The battle at Kruger was a confrontation between a herd of Cape Buffalo and a small group of lions. The Cape Buffalo, oblivious of a small group of Lions along its river path, was suddenly attacked.

The young lions knew they might not win against the giant buffalo, so they isolated a young calf from the herd and went for it. In the ensuing process, the lions caught the calf and fell into the nearby river. The herd of buffalo dispersed, leaving the calf to the mercy of the lions inside the river.

The lions knew they couldn’t eat inside the river. So, they decided to do the most rational thing: dragging the buffalo to dry land. Unbeknown to the lions, the river was infested with crocodiles, who, though they were separate from the plot, also came to the dinner uninvited. The crocodile, happy that food was ready, tried to snatch the calf from the lions. Ultimately, the lions won and successfully dragged the buffalo away to dry land.

As the lions wanted to settle to a sumptuous feast, the herd of the buffalo, which had earlier dispersed during the chase by the lions, returned to rescue the calf from the lions’ claws. They encircled the lions and, by their vast numbers, overpowered the lions and took the calf away. However, one might imagine the injuries inflicted on the calf from the teeth of lions, the crocodile, and the following dragging.

This scenario resembles the subsidy removal of the PBAT administration. A truce was reached, and everybody parted to have a future dialogue, which was not fruitful. Just as the PBAT administration is settling down to sharing and deploying what it had saved from the subsidy removal, the Labor unions came back to reclaim the mandate they seemingly lost to the Federal Government earlier in June.

I don’t worry about the TUC, the NLC, and the Federal Government because the Social Dialogue principle has rules. But I worry about the crocodiles already floating in the subsidy and economic hardship river, who have been waiting for action. The crocodiles, who may not know the rules of engagement, represent various groups. On the one hand, some are groups angry with the TUC and the NLC for not embarking on a strike in June. On the other hand, are those angry with the Federal Government for the hardships they have been subjected to with the escalating pump prices of premium Motor Spirit (PMS). The latter group is millions of citizens from all the divides. Please remember that the Doctors are already on strike.

The Labour Federations have called their members out on an industrial action scheduled for August 2, 2023. It would only be coordinating other various groups at the beginning. As the movement progresses, only the grace of a good exit strategy and wisdom from above that would make the strike not to be hijacked by other shadow actors, which may include many unemployed youths, traders, and the opposition parties. We saw it happen from 2012 until the election that gave victory to the APC in the 2015 presidential elections.

Suppose the government reached a truce acceptable to TUC and NLC but not acceptable to the masses. In that case, we might see a repeat of the #EndSars imbroglio, in which the gathering of various groups in different regions would continue. If the Federal Government cannot reach a truce with unions, the protesters would be overwhelmingly massive, and only providence could determine what would happen next. This is not what the country needs currently. I pray that good conscience, sound reasoning, empathy, and no deception from all sides prevail.

Grace and peace!!!