Ekiti: When labour and politics play too close for comfort
The history of unhealthy relationship between labour and government predates the current administration in Ekiti State. It began in 2005 under the first term of former governor Ayodele Fayose, when some Secondary School teachers broke away from their parent Union, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) and formed ‘the Conference of Secondary School Teachers (CSST). They later metamorphosed into Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUS).
Led by comrade Samuel Ajibola, the ASUS broke away from NUT to check what they claimed to be the dominance of Primary School teachers.
The breakaway union reckoned that at every elections of NUT, it was the primary school teachers that dictated its leadership owing to their numerical strength.
Sensing that the emergence of the new union had dealt a deadly blow to his hold on NUT, Fayose bared his fangs and suspended eight members of the new union from the civil service indefinitely without pay. He later reconsidered the plight of five out of the eight suspended members by reabsorbing them into the civil service.
The remaining three considered as the arrowheads, including Samuel Ajibola, Sola Adigun and one other remained suspended until Fayose was impeached on October 16, 2006.
However, when Governor Segun Oni came on board, he reinstated the three into the civil service. Even under Oni, the new union was not given recognition. What was more, the leadership of Trade Union Congress, Kolawole Olaiya had running battle with Oni till his tenure ended because of his critical view of Oni’s style of governance, even though, Oni neither sacked nor victimized him.
It was Fayemi that gave ASUS recognition as a trade union body in Ekiti. In fact, in Fayemi’s first coming, the different labour unions had very rosy relationship with his administration.
In the second coming of Fayose, the TUC Chairman, Mr. Kolawole Olaiya, who was inherited from Oni and Fayem was retrenched on account of perceived romance he had with Fayemi.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, comrade Ayodeji Aluko was demoted from the rank of Director of Administration (DA) to Administrative Officer (AO) over alleged partisanship and unmerited promotion he allegedly got under Fayemi. Apart from losing their coveted union positions, they took the backseat throughout the four years of Fayose administration.
During the governorship electioneering in July 2018, Aluko and Olaiya ‘resurrected’ and led a splinter group of NLC and TUC to support the candidature of Fayemi.
At that time, Olaiya had been retired from the civil service, but determined to get his pound of flesh, he teamed up with Aluko to ruffle feathers. They openly confronted the leadership of NLC led by Ade Adesanmi and TUC led by Odunayo Adesoye, branding them as anti workers and corrupt leaders.
However, both the NLC and the TUC leaders, apart from being resolute in their support for Fayose’s anointed candidate, Professor Kolapo Olusola, they set up a disciplinary committee, which banned Aluko and Olaiya from labour activities for ten years.
At the poll, Adesanmi and Adesoye rallied the entire labour to support Prof Olusola’s candidature. But following the emergence of Fayemi as Governor-elect, hell was let loose, as the Aluko/Olaiya group descended on the leadership of the unions and even went to the venue of an ongoing recruitment exercise of 2,000 workers under Fayose and disrupted the process. It took some threat by Fayose, who warned that he could still wield the big stick to calm the ‘renegade’ group.
That was also the beginning of allegations of fraud against Adesanmi and Adesoye. As a way out of the face-off, the unions, asking Adesanmi and Adesoye not to seek reelection, reached compromise.
Following this agreement, Adesanmi and Adesoye didn’t vie for positions; whereas, Aluko and Olaiya had candidates in mind to sponsor for NLC and TUC leadership. But the Adesanmi and Adesoye group used their influence to install their preferred candidates to the shock of the Aluko group, perceived to be pro government.
Meanwhile, for his loyalty to the current government, Aluko was appointed as coordinating director of a local government (coordinating directors are currently heads of local governments since the suspension of the elected chairmen) from his previous lowly position of administrative officer. Although Olaiya is yet to be ‘rewarded’ there is likelihood that his own appointment is a matter of time.
This was the state of affairs when the issue of query surfaced. Although the current leaders of the TUC and NLC denied the story alleging that Adesanmi and Adesoye had been queried and found guilty of fraud relating to cash and landed property, allegedly collected from Fayose, they blame disgruntled element within the unions as mastermind of the story.
The story alleged that former executives of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) in Ekiti State allegedly received cash and landed properties from the Ayo Fayose administration.
It was alleged that they were investigated and found to have colluded with the Fayose administration appropriate N6m monthly running grants to themselves and another N6m quarterly running grants for their meetings.
They were allegedly probed for alleged involvement in partisan politics, contrary to the Public Service Rules; and using their positions to corner plots of land under suspicious circumstances during the immediate past government.
The indicted officials include the immediate past NLC Chairman, Mr. Raymond Ade Adesanmi; the former TUC Chairman, Mr. Odunayo Adesoye; former JNC Chairman, Mr. Oladipupo Johnson and former NLC Secretary, Mr. O.P. Olayemi.
Others are former JNC Secretary, Mr. Blessing Oladele; former Chairperson of TUC Women Wing, Mrs. Bolajoko Fajulugbe; former Chairperson of NLC Women Wing, Mrs. Toyin Ofere and others.
It was learnt that a Panel of Inquiry headed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Sunday Adebayo investigated the former union leaders.
Reacting to the story, the leadership of the labour unions described the fraud allegation as a ploy to silence the labour movement in the state. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) warned those they described as “dissidents” within the labour circle to stop scandalizing past leaders of the unions in order to promote personal interests.
The unions added that Adesanmi of the NLC and his counterpart in TUC, Adesoye were not indicted for alleged corruption, contrary to the position being peddled by mischief-makers.
Contrary to widespread insinuation, Adesanmi said the state government issued no query since they have neither been indicted or guilty of the said accusation.
He, however, exonerated Governor Kayode Fayemi’s administration of blame, saying they only acted based on ‘frivolous and spurious’ allegations raised against them as civil servants. “These past labour leaders were not indicted for fraud. I can also say that no any labour leader collected such amount. I am not aware of that and neither did I sign to collect such amount for myself or on behalf of the labour.
“On the allegation that we acted partisan, I want to say clearly that none of these labour leaders is a member of any political party and neither did we canvass votes for anyone during the last governorship election. I even warned workers severally to shun partisanship, because it is against the Civil Service Rule.
“On the issue of land, we as labour leaders applied for land just like every other civil servant. The application was approved and prescribed amount paid. Further clarifications can be done through the ministry of Lands and Housing. To the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of any labour leader who was given free land by the past government and if there was any, we were not part of it.”
Adesanmi said there was need to put an end to backstabbing and pulling people down within the labour circle in Ekiti, to prevent the labour centre from being weakened and politicized.”