July 24, 2024

The Unholy Union between Nigerian Labour Congress and the Labour Party

By Akintayo Balogun, Esq. 

The recent occurrences between the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Labour Party (LP), the demand for the resignation of the National Chairman of the Labour Party by the NLC, issues revolving around the legality or otherwise of the National Convention of the party and the involvement of NLC in the management of the party has raised issues as to the correctness or appropriateness of the involvement of NLC in the activities and management of a Political Party in Nigeria. Following the last general election, the nature of funds coming into the party, allegations of embezzlement of funds, suspension of national party officials, the attention the party is enjoying, and the alleged sidelining of the union, the NLC could not stomach their silence any longer. 

Over the years, since the creation of the Nigeria Labour Congress in 1976, the vibrancy of the NLC has had impacts (positive or negative) on government policies towards the welfare of the common man, especially the Nigerian worker. However, in a move I regard as a diversion from its core values and goals, the NLC in 2002, under the then leadership of now Senator Adams Oshiomole, created a political Party, known as “Labour Party”. The party has since been in existence though docile existence most of the time. The prominent office occupied by the party was the office of the Governor of Ondo State, between 2009 and 2017, although the governor decamped to the Peoples Democratic Party before the end of his tenure in office as Governor. The party went predominantly soundless until in 2022 when former Governor Peter Obi joined the party and declared interest in contesting for the office of the President of Nigeria on the platform of the party. His popularity with a large segment of the youths, who were fed up with the old order birthed what is now known as the “Obidients Movement” – a youth-based political movement made of mostly the younger generation of Nigerians. This heralded an era when the Labour Party moved from being just one of the several political parties in Nigeria to a third force in the political space. His coming into the party made the party a force to be reckoned with and one that shook the entire foundation of the political space in Nigeria. The unknown party suddenly had candidates for a good percentage of the seats contested in the general elections of 2023. The party in the said election eventually produced a Governor, several Senators, House of Representatives members, and several House of Assembly members. The party candidates also emerged as runners-up in many of the elections. Some of the elected persons were of no political germaneness or relevance in their political communities, but they rode on the goodwill of Sir Peter Obi to clinch their various seats.

The popularity and political dominance enjoyed by the Labour Party following the entrance of Sir Peter Obi into the party has brought up several issues as to the correctness or otherwise of the existence of a political party which is a creation of the Nigeria Labour Congress. 

  1. Should the Nigeria Labour Congress be involved directly or indirectly in the affairs of a political party in Nigeria?
  2. Does the activities of the Nigeria Labour Congress not conflict with their aims and objectives?
  3. Is the recent activities of the NLC not a distraction from its aims and objectives?
  4. Can a member of the NLC contest through the Labour Party? 

In answering the above questions, the fundamental aims and objectives of the Nigerian Labour Congress as available on its website at www.nlcng.org are to protect, defend, and promote the rights, well-being, and the interests of all workers, pensioners, the trade unions, and the working class in general; and also to promote and defend a Nigerian nation that would be just, democratic, transparent and prosperous through the attainment of the objectives listed. The aims and objectives of the NLC have no direct bearing whatsoever on the forming and running of a political party.

On the participation of members of the NLC in elections in Nigeria, it is interesting to note that despite being a creation of the Nigeria Labour Congress, members of the NLC cannot participate in the activities of the party, particularly in contesting elective positions. A member of the NLC cannot contest under the auspices of the party because that would contradict the provisions of the 1999 Constitution. By the combined effect of sections 66(1)(f), 107(1)(f), 137(1)(g) and 182(1)(g) of the 1999 constitution, a person shall not be qualified for election in Nigeria if the candidate is a person employed in the civil or public service of the federation or of any state and has not resigned, withdrawn or retired from the employment at least thirty (30) days before the date of the election. The simple interpretation of the above constitutional provision is that any employed civil servant or public servant intending to contest an election in Nigeria must have relinquished his or her position at least 30 days before the date of the election, which automatically means relinquishing his membership of the Nigerian Labour Congress. What then is the essence of forming a political party whose active members have extremely limited participation opportunities in the activities of the political party? Not a single elected Labour Party member is a member of the NLC. If civil servants cannot participate as candidates in an election, why then should they flaunt a party and allow outsiders who are not answerable to them to come and preside over the party? 

Furthermore, during the last electioneering year in Nigeria, the National President of the NLC and other top officers of the union were seen at political rallies of the Labour Party. There was also a directive by the NLC to all workers to work for the success of the Labour Party for the general election in line with an earlier resolution of its National Executive Council and to vote for Labour Party candidates. Unfortunately, the Labour Party did not win many of the key offices that it had so desired particularly the office of the President. This has now placed a political unease between the NLC and the APC-led Federal Government. Since the inception of President Tinubu’s Administration, every action taken by the NLC has been seen by the administration as an action of the Labour Party (the opposition) against the government. The protests, the strikes, and the warnings have all been seen as the opposition fronting as NLC in fighting the government. This is why NLC should have no business being involved in a political party. 

In my analysis of the issues between the NLC and Labour Party, I am of the view that the Labour Party being a creation of the Nigeria Labour Congress is a violent misnomer that should not have been allowed to exist in the first place by the Independent National Electoral Commission. When this issue was raised in some quarters, a school of thought said there is a Labour Party in the United Kingdom and other European States which is a creation of their Labour Union. The idea that the Labour Party in the United Kingdom was formed by the Labour Union in the United Kingdom gave a justification for the operation of a Labour Party in Nigeria. We must however note that the political structure in the United Kingdom varies a lot from what is applicable in Nigeria. In the United Kingdom, politicians serve on a part-time basis. Government workers are allowed to contest elections without necessarily resigning their positions. In Nigeria however, you are required to resign your position in public service before you can contest elections in Nigeria. The comparison is very unbalanced and unevenly considered. 


There should be a total severance between the NLC and the Labour Party. The Labour Party should stand independent of the NLC. Their aims and objectives are parallel lines that can never meet. The process of trying to intertwine NLC and Labour Party is part of what has been causing the unending disputes between the two organizations. The scope of NLC goes beyond political parties. It cuts across several other facets of the Nigerian society. Seeing NLC at political rallies or demanding for the resignation of the party chairman or writing to the Independent Electoral Commission, protesting a National Convention and other involvements of NLC in Labour Party is a misplaced priority. Their fundamental aims and objectives are being eroded. As a matter of fact, the Labour Party as it is currently constituted ought not to have been registered by the Independent Electoral Commission as a political party. The National Chairman and National Secretary of the NLC are Board of Trustees of the Party. This to my mind, is a distraction from duty.  

Alternatively, the Constitution of Nigeria and the rules guiding persons in public service should be amended head-on to allow persons who are still in active public service to participate in the Nigerian political space at all levels and stages. Political offices can also be made part-time just as it is applicable in the United Kingdom which Nigeria emulates. 

However, while the rules remain the same, NLC should concentrate on its core values in pursuing the interest of persons in public service and not allow itself to be distracted by the wears and tears of a political party and its structure. The entire involvement of the NLC in the activities of Labour Party in the past few months is a brash distraction from the aims and purports of the union. 

Akintayo Balogun Esq., LL.B (Hons), BL, LL.M, is a legal practitioner in private practice and based in Abuja, FCT. A prolific writer, public affairs analyst and commentator on national issues. akinson6@gmail.com.

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