Buhari Does Not Need Special Power To Tackle The Economy — Babatunde | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Buhari Does Not Need Special Power To Tackle The Economy — Babatunde

economic; poverty, 'Change Begins With Me
Posted: Sep 9, 2016 at 6:30 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Comrade Olanrewaju Babatunde is the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Lagos State Council. He spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU on the recent move by President Muhammadu Buhari to get special powers from the National Assembly to tackle the economy, the state of the negotiation between government and the Labour Movement on the National Minimum Wage among other issues

What is the present relationship between the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) since after the failed nationwide strike?

It was not a failed nationwide strike. The strike was planned, about to be implemented, reassessed. After the reassessment, the TUC saw that it was not going to be beneficial to Nigerians and it was stopped. So, it was not a failed strike. Our relationship with the NLC is intact. The TUC is as strong as the NLC. We relate with the faction that was recognised to have won the election.
During the  strike, the two factions came together and we held meetings with them. Union bodies agree on principles. But they may disagree on issue of leadership. In TUC, there has never been a faction. TUC is a body of the senior staff. We sit down, discuss and reason. We understand ourselves.

A cross section of Nigerians feels that the TUC betrayed the Nigerian workers during the botched strike. Why did the TUC do what it did then?

The TUC is a body of affiliate unions. Why do unions go on strike? Because they want to address some issues. Once you look at the issues you want to address and that a strike will do more damage, whch one would you prefer? We wanted to address the issue of fuel price hike and wages. The issue started with the fuel price hike. The TUC brought in the issue of the National Minimum Wage. So, it was the reassessment of the situation that made the TUC take the action it took, to suit Nigerians.

Since after the strike, how far has Labour talks with the Federal Government on the National Minimum Wage gone? A joint committee was set then to look at all the issues raised by Labour. How far has it gone?
Yes, a committee was set up. They have been meeting. We are expecting the outcome. I believe that very soon, the outcome will be made public because it is for a palliative measures against fuel price increase.
How does the TUC see the current economic situation in the country? Does it bother the TUC that Nigerians now hardly have enough food to eat?

The economic situation is not interesting. The economy is in a parlous state and does not fit the expectations of Nigerians. The Dollar-Naira ratio is too much and unfavourable. Now, they are mooting the idea of another fuel price increase. The combination of the TUC and NLC has warned the Federal Government not to tamper with the fuel price again. The exchange rate has led to increase in prices of things, especially food items. Food is the primary need of every Nigerian, then clothes and safety. The state of the economy is affecting everything, especially the health of the individuals as well as people’s psyche.

Do you see the President Muhammadu Buhari government capable of taking the nation out of the current economic crisis? How do you see the plans of the President to seek special powers from the National Assembly to tackle the economy?

Special powers are absolute powers. President Buhari cannot get that. There is no special or absolute power in a democracy. Where do you put the legislature and the Judiciary The president should rely on the executive powers he already has in the constitution to tackle the economy. Special power is not in the constitution. He does not need special powers to revive the economy.

What do you think the President should do?

I cannot determine for him. He has a party. He has the legislature and the Judiciary. The Fourth Estate of the Realm, the press is there too. Everyone should do his or her own duty. He should make good use of the presidential powers that he already has. That is what Nigerians voted for. With a listening ear, if he uses his presidential powers well, he can turn things around with his team. As things are now, he is turning things around for the worse. This is not the ’Change’ we clamoured for. We have seen better ‘Change‘ in Lagos. Things are really changing for the better in Lagos State. If we can translate this nationwide, we will see batter ‘Change’.

You are also the Chairman of the National Association of Community Health Practitioners of Nigeria, Lagos State Chapter.  As a leader in health sector, how do see the state of healthcare in Nigeria and the government’s policy on the sector?

Healthcare in Nigeria is not properly chased. Health can be handled in three different ways, the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The country is just paying lip service to primary healthcare, which focuses on 70percent of people in the localities. Many cannot afford to go to General Hospitals and Teaching Hospitals. Community health workers can meet such people at their localities and discuss with on their health. So, the nation is not focusing on primary healthcare. That is why the health situation of the people is poor. People are not well educated on their health. They are not focusing on preventive medicine which should be at the primary level. The government focuses more on the secondary and tertiary health services. That is why we have problem of preventable diseases. I suggest that the government should reverse this and focus on primary healthcare. The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency is not functional because it has not been well funded. The government should fund it well to ensure that it lives up to its responsibilities.

What the do you think the Federal Government should do to improve the nation’s health sector?

The health problem of anyone in the country has to do with the environment you live, the food you take, the water you drink before you can be healthy. You have to look at all these. All these go together. You need a good counselor to educate people on what to do. People do nothave to go to hospital if they take care of all these aspects; nutrition, environment, rest, sleep and adequate exercises. The Minister of Health should champion the proper redirection of the health sector. He should give direction to health sector. Then al the state ministries will imbibe it. That was the case during the time of Prof Olikoye Ransome-Kuti. I am calling for the return of emphasis on Primary Healthcare as designed by Prof. Ransome-Kuti.