The remains of former Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) president Comrade Paschal Myeleri Bafyau will be laid to rest today in his hometown Lamorde in Adamawa State. A veteran of many battles, a kind and meticulous labour leader, Bafyau took the final bow on May 15 after many years of battle with poor health.
Nigerians from all walks of life and all shades of opinion have paid tribute to a man whose leadership of the NLC, two decades ago, was exemplary. His death is a big blow to the labour movement. It also marks the end of a vital era in labour's struggle for the emancipation of workers.
Labour's interest in the politics and government of the country was most pronounced during Bafyau's tenure, so much so that he was shortlisted as a running mate to the late Chief MKO Abiola of the SDP in the 1993 presidential election. He was highly favoured for the job until the party's governors insisted on Babagana Kingibe.
It is ironical that Bafyau will be buried on the 19th anniversary of the annulment of that election Abiola won "fair and square". His own tenure as the NLC president was later "annulled" by the late General Sani Abacha-led military junta when it dissolved the NLC in 1994.
Comrade Bafyau emerged as the president of the NLC in November 1988 as a compromise candidate of two factions that went for the delegates' conference. The delegates were said to have seen in Bafyau the virtue of give and take. Indeed, he demonstrated this democratic credential when he mounted the saddle.
He built a firmly integrated NLC from the power struggle of the two ideological groups - the "democrats" and the "Marxists" - when they went their different ways from the ill-fated Benin City delegates' conference.
Though some of his critics charged that he compromised workers' interests in dealing with the General Ibrahim Babangida-led military dictatorship, the fact remains that he never forgot the use of compromise in resolving labour or political problems. He represented the labour movement in the Constituent Assembly that debated the 1989 constitution.
Under his leadership, the NLC formed a labour party rated No. 6 out of scores of political parties that struggled for registration in 1989 under the military regime of Babangida.
It is on record that the late former NLC president worked tirelessly to broaden the material foundation of the workers' union. He believed that, for the NLC to be able to execute its programmes, it should be on a firm financial footing.
The 12-storey building housing the NLC headquarters and many private firms in Abuja, which generates huge revenue for the congress today, is to his credit.
As we bid Comrade Bafyau a long farewell, we thank him for his immeasurable contribution to the advancement of the labour movement in Nigeria.