Govt officials and their cronies are buying over our collective heritage at ridiculous amount, says Zambuk
The National General Secretary, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Comrade Yusuf Lekke Zambuk, was at a workshop in Lagos organised by the Public Sector International (PSI) and Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) recently to discuss the gains and advantages of Public Sector Solution (PSS) over Public Private Partnership (PPP), a policy the government has bought into and promoting.
He spoke to Valentine Amanze and Daniel Kanu on issues raised.
What does the summit on Public Private Partnership (PPP) Versus Public Sector Solution (PSS) mean for AUPTRE?
AUPTRE is a union that organizes the workers in government parastatals, government agencies and commissions in relation to their welfare. So for us PPP in whatever disguise to be implemented in the Nigeria economy will affect our union negatively. So the programme is offering us a platform for collaboration with other international institutions, organisations, the civil society organisations, etc so that we can synergize. In today’s world there is no individual organisation that can say it can fight its own cause alone. That is why even at the AUPTRE level we are thinking of going into partnership with other strong organisations so that the union will shift from the strict industrial relation practice to the one that will incorporate civil societies to enable us work together.
For us it is an opportunity to meet with others, to share ideas and experiences with those from other countries together. You can see we have participants from other countries like Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania among others. We can learn from other countries and see how we can approach the Nigerian government in the public sector solution alternative rather than the PPP that our government in Nigeria and the federal executive council have adopted as a policy of government.
We are already finalizing our next project, a public lecture which will hold in September where we hope to bring in government officials for a discussion and debate on PPP Vs PSS. We want to sit down with them, the proponents of PPP, to iron these things out. We have been wanting to sit down with some ministers to tackle some of the issues but some of them including their permanent secretaries have avoided any meeting with us. We brought some experts from London but they avoided meeting with them but we will not relent. We will try to engage with them at any available opportunity so that they can attest to a superior logic that we are presenting. Sometime in 2014 when the federal government under President Goodluck Jonathan wanted to privatize the Housing sector, in particular the federal Housing Authority, there was a retreat conducted which we were part of and there was this Nigerian who is a retired United Nations expert on public sector economy who said that he was surprised and worried that the Nigerian government believes that government has no business in business. He insisted that government could run businesses successfully if they are sincere. They (proponents of PPP) will tell you PPP and private sector funding will do it better, that money is in private hands but if the truth must be told; tell me any notable private sector that is not subservient to foreign influence? Call the name of a Nigerian world class business man that can attract money from overseas to Nigeria without other public (government) or foreign influence? A sincere government can manage the public business but what we have are individuals, those in government or their cronies buying over our collective heritage at ridiculous or peanut amount.
For me the Nigerian private sector is a puppet private sector where somebody somewhere is fronting for somebody underground, dangling something and pretending as if nothing is happening. But we know what is happening. We do not have a developed private sector. If we have, you do not need to buy government property before you go into capital way of development.
What do you think is making the government to believe that PPP is the only way to go despite the submissions of the labour and other civil society on the contrary?
The point of departure for me and for our Union is the fact that international finance institutions are telling various governments that going into PPP will reduce the pressure on their treasury and will give them more money to do developmental projects. international financial institutions are selling bad proposal on PPP for our government and we must not keep mute and watch this danger destroy our economy, and our collective heritage. There is this book: Why Nations Fall”. The book is saying that the problem of the entire world is that of leadership. For me, I find our leaders to be not vast in leadership art and buying up every economic rumour that crosses their part which deals with the people, believing it will solve our problem.
They have forgotten that the essence of governance is first that of service to the people as against profit. When the time comes for politics the campaign will be: We will provide this, we will provide that and these things they say they will provide are what they want to give to private hands. So what will they tell Nigerians again that they will provide in 2019? It is a puzzle I find difficult to solve. It is a contradiction. They will promise to provide water, electricity, education etc. and they are privatizing it. So what will they provide the people with when in office when they have sold all our collective ownership to private hands? The basic truth and which is a basic problem is that the mind of our leaders seem to be very low and leadership position has grounded to a point of individual acquisition rather than individuals protecting by law the good of the people. Respecting the rule of law means that you must put the people first and respect their rights, views and opinion while the leaders come second. Here leadership puts itself first. If you provide some facilities which are supposed to be in the best interest of the people and the public cannot afford them then what is the essence?
It appears the present labour is not the vibrant union Nigerians used to know and admire. What is your take on this?
Labour is still labour; but I must add that sometimes change in government affects the narrative.
But I think the most important thing is that the value, the norm that labour is known for is still there. If there are any disconnect it started when the former President Jonathan reviewed the petrol pump price and there was a total close down of the country. Some labour leaders have gone closer to government in recent times more than necessary just like some civil society organisations.
We are also falling apart because there are a lot of civil organisations that are concentrating on other issues like that of the environment and climate. There are few civil society organisations dealing with politics and economic issues. Like in politics when there is a change in the narrative, some civil society organisations will change base. But we have found Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) to be a worthy organisation so with them and other trade union organisations we will not relent. The truth is that our spirit as a movement for workers and the people is still high and cannot be weakened, so despite infiltration by those in power and intimidation we cannot be broken down into total submission. We must continue to fight on and resist any anti-people policies by the government. We have resolved to keep challenging anti-people policies where ever we notice one in unity and we cannot be subdued despite the pressure.
We have reconnected with civil society organisations, with credible media organisations and things will change and get better.
What is your view on Lagos water privatization which Governor Akinwumi Ambode-led government is bent on implementing?
We have condemned it and we cannot step down from our position. It is better for Lagos State government not to dare labour because we will resist it with all that we have.
Is the Labour Party still representing your interest today?
I will say that the Labour Party is still there but I wouldn’t say it is still representing the interest of labour. Labour is not controlling the labour party now. The mistake was made in 2011 when the party was handed over to some retired labour leaders who turned it into money-making venture; and since that period what labour was meant for was lost. What is the political clarity of a leader? What is the political clarity of present leaders of labour movement? That is the question we must address. In labour there is what we call the bread and butter trade union movement and the economic labour movement, so what is the focus of the leader and where he belongs because this matter so much. At the moment labour and the civil society are going through critical self- examination and I can assure you they can only be better.