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ILO DG election: Africa contesting to win, says Ngige

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By AKOR SYLVESTER-Abuja
Ahead of the March 25 election of a new Director-General for the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige has said Africa was not presenting a candidate just to make up the number of contestants, but contesting to win.
Ngige said this in his office at the weekend while receiving the African Union (AU) candidate for the election, Gilbert Houngbo of the Republic of Togo.
Houngbo who came to solicit Nigeria’s support was accompanied by the Ambassador of Togo to Nigeria, Lene Dimban, other embassy officials and the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba.
Speaking after listening to the manifesto of the AU candidate, Ngige said although two candidates were coming from Africa, Nigeria as a tripartite member of the ILO Governing Board would do everything possible to see that the continent spoke with one voice during the election in Geneva.
The minister said he was delighted that the AU candidate understood the politics of ILO and the aspiration of Africa, with regards to the democratisation of the UN agency.
He added that having worked in IL0 before now, Huongbo would bring to the table a wealth of experience garnered over the years, if elected as the DG.
Ngige emphasized that besides the fact that the Togolese national has been chosen as the continental candidate, Nigeria firmly believes and promotes regional cooperation and integration.
He said, “You have done good diplomatic work to make your country, Togo to present you to Africa. Nigeria and Togo belong to the ECOWAS and AU. So, I want to congratulate you for the hurdle crossed in the continent. As far as we are concerned, you are a continental candidate now.
“You should continue to campaign because it is not over until it is over. ILO has 187 member states, cutting across different continents of the world. We want you to step out to other continents and talk to them, just like the Koreans, Australians and the French came here.
“You should also go to their places to let them know that you are from a group of wise people living in the African continent. They will know that you are not from a dark continent but from a continent that is lit up, shinning in blossoming light. Africa should show the light.
“Your resume speaks volumes. You are the President of International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD). You are neither a pushover candidate nor a candidate that is being managed. We are not presenting you as a lame-duck person, to say that Africa contested. We are contesting to win.”
The minister expressed happiness that the AU candidate realised that Africa was leading the quest for the democratisation of ILO.
He recalled that as government leader and chairman of the Governing Board for two years, he championed the democratization of the UN agency, speaking on behalf of Africa, Asia and other continents.
“You have also mentioned the pains Africa suffered, especially with youth unemployment. I don’t want to over flog it but you can see the symptoms and social dislocations security wise.  I will also ask you that if you get there, you work with other UN bodies to assist Africa, especially West Africa to benefit from the technical assistance being offered by all these bodies. We need all these assistance to fight all the menace of unemployment, caused by our bourgeoning population.”
 “Nigeria asks for more social protection assistance. ILO has to do more. Social protection is an ILO matter, but ILO has not shown sufficient lead in the implementation of social security in member countries, be it old age, maternity and health.  ILO has to take up the gauntlet, for protection of people who risked the great part of their life for working in service to their country.”
Earlier, Huongbo said Africa is very critical to him in his current position as IFAD President and also in the race for the DG of ILO, the reason he came to seek Ngige’s advice as they enter the last line of the race.
The AU candidate while commending the scientific and technological innovations, political momentum and commitment deployed by member countries towards addressing the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, lamented that social justice was lagging behind.
He stressed the need to bring back social justice at the centre of international, regional and national cooperations and agreements and to ensure that ILO given its special nature, contributes to the advancement of the social agenda, while working on the economic and environmental dimensions
He pledged to prioritise youth employment through skill development and insurance for the jobs that would be lost as a result of the degradation of the economy by the pandemic.

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