Whose Interest Does Ajearo Serves?

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By Obiora Clement

It all started Tuesday morning as I rushed to catch a flight with a business partner to Lagos at the private wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Amidst the usual airport chaos, I witnessed a heated scene unfolding – it was Joe Ajearo, the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC). His voice at the top of the roof, describing the government as “the most useless and unserious”, while he made his way out of one of the lodges.

A younger man, likely in his 40s, trailed him, with frustration etched on his face, he pleaded, reminding Ajearo that this “is all about Nigeria”. But the union leader seemed impervious, his words carrying the weight of simmering anger. ” What rubbish! Arrogant proud man. This time, I don’t know who he was referring to as “arrogant”.

A lone figure, smaller than those surrounding him, had somehow managed to create a tense standoff that attracted a few travellers and staff at the airport. Concerned labourers and others alike tried to reason with him, their voices all in the same tune; “please Comrade President, please”, they continued till he stopped at a point to listen to what more they have to say to him.

It was the first time I came face-to-face with the NLC president. His airport tirade was a chilling introduction. Witnessing his TV demeanor transformed into such rage convinced me something serious was unfolding. My initial interest to exchange pleasantries with him immediately desipated.

The tense atmosphere at the airport thickened as other delegates scrambled to put things right. Calls buzzed, pleas were exchanged, all directed towards Ajaero. Their superiors, desperate to have him see reasons with them, relayed urgent messages through the phones, hoping to sway his stance. Despite their frantic efforts, Ajaero remained unfased. He climbed into his car, glanced at the pleading faces and zoomed off, leaving the delegation stranded at the airport.

This scene fueled my curiosity. I asked myself, what exactly is the issue? Why is this individual, seemingly outnumbered and outmatched, holding everyone else hostage? Could this be an attempt to disrupt the airport’s operations today? The recent wave of labour threats, with the latest just days prior, made the possibility all the more unsettling.

As a concerned Nigerian and entrepreneur terrified of strikes, driven by both duty and fear, I can’t afford to stay idle. I needed to make sense of it all. I dug deeper to have a better grasp of the situation. After speaking with some airport staff, I learned it was a disagreement between labour leaders and government officials traveling to Port Harcourt.

Apparently, Ajearo was meant to lead a joint inspection of the Port Harcourt refinery with government officials to asess the facility’s current state. However, upon arriving the airport, he discovered a delegation lacking any minister, including those most directly involved; the NSA, the Minister of Labour and her Petroleum counterpart.

This became the breaking point. Ajearo refused to proceed without the under listed leadership present, throwing the entire trip into jeopardy. He seemingly deemed the delegation insufficient, refusing to proceed. I was forced to asked if the missing ministerial presence was truly a deal-breaker, or was it a pretext for other agenda?

The entire script left me questioning where exactly Joe Ajearo, the president of the NLC, stands. Is he truly representing the best interests of Nigerians, or does something else drive his actions. Because after watching the entire scene, I became critical of his decision to not join the trip to the Port Harcourt refinery.

While the claims that the presence of the missing officials were crucial, what I saw was conspicuously a smokescreen for other agendas. Was his decision truly a principled stand, or a convenient excuse to serve another purpose? Doubts linger about whether the greater good was truly served. If not, why would he paint a starker picture at the airport, suggesting that government’s delegation, which included a permanent secretary, an executive vice president of NNPC and directors of note, was beneath him, rendering a national mission irrelevant?

Besides, what could be more important and patriotic than going to “verify” the true status of the refinery that has raised dust in public space for almost three months now and report back to the people to which he holds such duty? Same reason that forced the government for the planned visit to the refinery.

The refinery is not just another building; it is a cornerstone of the country’s economic well-being, meant to impact fuel prices, energy security, and even employment.

For nearly three months, the status of the the Port Harcourt refinery has been shrouded in confusion, igniting a public firestorm of speculation and concern. This ambiguity reached a tipping point, demanding immediate action to uncover the true condition of this critical facility, which the government gladly provided, including the resources but the all important trip was blown up at a glance by one man who have suddenly turned himself a labour god.

Ultimately, the reasons behind Ajearo’s actions remain murky. Was it a genuine concern about representation, or a politically motivated ploy?

Concerns have been raised about Joe Ajaero’s potential ties to the Labour Party, an opposing political force in the country. This has reignited discussions about neutrality and potential influence within the NLC. His possible ties to the opposition Labour Party, maybe fueling his actions. This incident adds kindling to those flames, suggesting he may be prioritising their interests over national concerns.

The people, deserve better; they need to know the reality of the refinery’s condition. Only then can we move forward with informed understanding and rebuild trust in our leadership’s commitment to accountability.

The postponement of the planned visit only amplifies public anger, and could potentially set them up against the government. That is exactly what Ajearo has successfully done. Then again, was this a calculated move to avoid public scrutiny against his initial claims that the refinery has not been renovated and ready to begin operations, or a genuine response to unforeseen circumstances?

This incident raises questions about the true meaning of patriotism and whether prioritising personal grievances over national interest is truly serving one’s country. Whose interest does Ajaero serves?

Obiora Clement is a South African Based Neurologist.

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