6 May 2012

Nigeria: Oshiomhole - the Ebullient People's Governor


The present peoples governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Aliyu, Oshiomhole, was born in Edo State to the illustrious and humble family of Alhaji Aliyu Oshiomhole and Alhaja Aishetu Oshiomhole 59 years ago in Iyamoh, Edo State.

The industrial relations scholar, trade unionist, administrator and radical political activist who came, saw and conquered and wiped away tears from the faces of Edo people will continue to remain a reference point in the anal of history for his people-oriented policies and projects spread all over Edo State.

The young Oshiomhole after his secondary education proceeded to the Ruskin College, Oxford, where he majored in economics and industrial relations. He is also an alumnus of the Prestigious National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru and had received extensive training in industrial relations, trade unionism and management both locally and internationally.

His career exploits began in 1971 at Arewa Textile Company, where he was inspired to play an active role in the union because he was not satisfied with the quality of the union's leadership. He was elected as the union secretary after a shop- floor revolution, which he helped to organize and his tenure led to a more militant vibrant response to the challenges of defending the workers of Arewa Textile Company at Kaduna.

He became a full time trade organizer in 1975. As an organizer, he introduced the trade union in several industries in the northern parts of Nigeria and was also responsible for servicing thousands of workers throughout Northern Nigeria .This indefatigable Bendel boy and fighter became a terror to foreign and Nigerian employers, who he courageously challenged when fellow employees were exploited and cheated.

By this time, his ebullient reputation had been established as a formidable negotiator who was able to win substantial concessions for workers across the northern states. His handling skills in workers grievances, working families and their communities earned him an admirable followership and were in high demand beyond the textile industry. He was later to serve workers in the Peugeot Automobile Nigeria Limited and the Manufacturing Companies throughout the north.

By 1982, the labour whiz kid was appointed by the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria as their General Secretary. The 75,000 strong textile unions wanted and needed a General Secretary that had the commitment, courage and competence to help them fight exploitation and manage their union and Oshiomhole was right for the job. He transformed the textile union into the most effective militant and well managed workers organization in Nigeria.

During his tenure, the union witnessed unprecedented achievement, notably in the improvements of wages, conditions of employment and negotiations with employers. Which later became the only industry without casual workers while the union grew in leaps and bounds in terms of infrastructure, financial base and range of services to members all over the country.

As a General secretary of the textile union, he became a major actor and catalyst in the Nigeria Labour Congress and the wider radical movement in Nigeria while the textile union became the operational base of trade union elements, who believed in the trade union independence and who also believed that the labour movement must collaborate with the rest of civil society to fight against military dictatorship.

Consequently, in 1998, he was elected deputy president of the Nigeria Labour Congress. Even as deputy president, he was the defacto leader of the independent and radical tendencies of the labour movement in Nigeria who opposed the unprincipled alliance with the military government. He paid dearly for this in the form of threats to his life, relentless harassment, which culminated in the burning down of his office.

With the dissolution of the NLC by the military in 1995, Oshiomhole and others went into the trenches to fight the military government of General Sani Abacha. He led the underground trade union resistance to the then military regime and consequently, he was subjected to state attacks, detention spell by the military intelligence and physical assaults on his person.

The height of the attack on Oshiomhole by the military government came in the form of a decree banning him from the leadership of the NLC and by extension the labour movement.

With the restoration to democracy in Nigeria by 1999, Oshiomhole became the 4th president of the NLC and as NLC president; he built the movement as an independent militant and socially responsive rights organization which transformed his leadership and the organization as the number one defender of the rights and welfare of the working people in the country.

He led the Nigerian people to resist arbitrary increases in the prices of petroleum products, personally led strikes, demonstrations and protests which decisively galvanized the people to moderate the Obasanjo administration on its harsh fuel pricing policy and other social and economic policies, which would have endangered the welfare of the Nigerian people.

As a consummate tactician who has been in the business of affecting lives and a strategist, his leadership secured significant salary increases for all workers in the country.

The last being the 15 per cent increase in salary for workers across the board and under him, NLC became the most popular and influential non- state actor in the country and the most effective opposition to the ruling party.

- Aigbegbele is of NRA, COYAC, CWN, CAPRRIN & EYLWW

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