Kemi Olaitan writes that over seven months after Governor Seyi Makinde proscribed the activities of the National Union of Road Transport Workers in Oyo State, nothing in the horizon indicates that the ban would be lifted any time soon
One of the major decisions taken by the administration of Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State less than one week after he assumed office on May 29, 2019, was the proscription of the activities of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in the state. It was precisely May 31, two days after his inauguration.
This development however did not come as a surprise to watchers of events in the Pacesetter State, moreso, when members of the two prominent factions of the union, one headed by the then Chairman in the state, Alhaji Abideen Olajide (Ejiogbe) and the other led by a former Chairman, Mr. Mukaila Lamidi (Auxiliary), engaged in a battle of supremacy at the inauguration of Governor Makinde, held at the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Oke Ado, Ibadan.
The Chief of Staff to the governor, Chief Bisi Ilaka, who announced the proscription of the union shortly after a meeting with security chiefs and government at the Governor’s office in Ibadan, the state capital, said the move was aimed at maintaining peace and order within the state. He said, “After today’s deliberation of the security stakeholders, in a meeting involving security chiefs and the government, we have resolved to proscribe the National Union of Road Transport Workers until further notice. All activities of the union remain illegal henceforth.”
Ilaka then urged all citizens of the state to go about their lawful duties without fear of molestation as adequate security has been charged to ensure no fracas ensues in any part of the state.
Indeed, the proscription was as a result of violence and leadership tussle between the members of the the two factions of the union.
With their activities banned and not having access to a huge war chest that they collect at motor parks, the members of the union irrespective of factions could not but seek the intervention of the national leadership of the union. This led to the visit of the then National President of the union, Alhaji Najeem Yasin to the state in June last year. After his meeting with the governor alongside state and national leaders of the union at the Agodi Government Secretariat, Ibadan, he disclosed that the governor has agreed to lift the ban on the union provided the NURTW members in the state are ready to maintain peace.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, who confirmed the development, said the state security chiefs were present at the meeting, adding that they explained the security situation of the NURTW to the union president and his team and that the union agreed with the security chiefs that maintenance of peace and security is non-negotiable in the state.
Adisa went on to say the governor is ready to lift the ban so long the union members in the state are ready to maintain peace among their members.
The lifting of the ban was not to be as no words came from the state government concerning this before Yasin exited office as the National President of the union.
But another ray of hope was raised early in October when factional heads and chairmanship candidates of the Union in the state agreed to conduct an election for the emergence of a chairman and members of their executive council by October 23.The revelation came after a reconciliation meeting organised by the state government in conjunction with the national leadership of the union.
The meeting, presided over by the state Commissioner for Works and Transportation, Prof. Raphael Afonja, addressed the rancour between the warring factions of the leadership of the NURTW to ensure harmony among members.
Afonja in his speech, reiterated the need for the union to represent the state by not allowing personal interest to affect the peace and tranquility of the state. He assured them of the readiness of the Governor Seyi Makinde-led administration to ensure peaceful coexistence among the union members. He urged them to be law-abiding and follow the dictates of their constitution, stressing that they should warn their members issuing tickets to motorists at various motor parks on behalf of the government to stop until further directives were given by the state government. He said investigations were ongoing to ascertain the actual revenue to be generated from the union to the coffers of government.
The Deputy General Secretary, NURTW, Abuja, Kayode Ogunyanbi, who is the Acting Chairman, NURTW Oyo chapter, who appreciated the efforts of the Oyo State Government and the National President of the union, Prof. Tajudeen Baruwa, for facilitating the meeting to put an end to the rancour among the six leaders contesting for the position of the NURTW chairman in the state, added that the different factions had agreed and pledged to the state and people of the state that they that there would be no more fracas among them.
Present at the meeting were the six leaders jostling for the chairmanship position in the union in the state which included Alhaji Abass Adigun; Alhaji Mukaila Lamidi (Auxiliary); Alhaji Raufu Oloruntobi; Alhaji Waheed Adeoyo; Alhaji Abideen Olajide (Ejiogbe) and Alhaji Lateef Opeyemi.
The election however did not hold and both the state government and the national leadership of the union have refused to give reason(s) for this.
What is not lost on many observers is that the activities of the NURTW is often linked to political campaigns for gubernatorial candidates since the advent of the democratic experience in 1999. With a relatively huge war chest, godfathers’ influence, traditional rulers and religious leaders backing, and more importantly, ability to deploy pockets of violence, which most times are provided by the often dreaded members of the NURTW.
While Governor Makinde could be said to be taking his time to lift the ban on the activities of the NURTW in the state and install new leadership, political analysts in the state believe that he is in the league of successive governors who involved transport unions for their electoral victories. For instance, at the inception of the administration of former Governor Lam Adesina, who was at the helm of affairs between 1999 and 2003, Alhaji Lateef Akinsola (aka Tokyo), shot to limelight. Indeed, his rise as a powerful man in Oyo politics, was rather dramatic. Tokyo alongside some pro-democracy activists that include he late Chief Bola Ige, Alhaji Adesina and a host of others, were arrested by the late General Sani Abacha government and thrown into Agodi Prison for organising protests against the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. The prison experience and his relationship with pro-elements was interpreted to mean that Tokyo contributed to the emergence of Adesina as governor. Adesina did not only back Tokyo for the state chairmanship of the NURTW as payback, he also ensured that government fundded transport union activities while his government lasted.
During the tenure of Governor Rashidi Ladoja in 2003, his administration threw its weight behind some forces in the state NURTW, led by Alhaji Wasiu Abubakar (Tawa) against Tokyo. However, the deposed Tokyo, backed by the strong man of Ibadan politics, late Chief Lamidi Adedibu, under whom Ladoja rode to become governor, was to engage Tawa in a fierce battle to control motor parks.
The fierce battle continued till the tenure of Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala who supported Tokyo. Indeed, with Alao-Akala as governor, Tokyo and his men became more fierce, with the NURTW becoming a formidable arm of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the era was marked with violence and brigandage.
But the bloodbath and the killing of innocent citizens and residents alike was to reach its peak on June 6, 2011, with Governor Abiola Ajimobi, who had barely spent one week in office, proclaiming a ban on the activities of NURTW in the state . He said security agencies had been directed to arrest all the perpetrators of the crimes leading directly or indirectly to the mayhem in the state and recover all illegal arms and ammunition.
The former governor disclosed that the activities of the union posed a great risk to the state, adding that politicisation of the activities of the union, attempting to control revenue, access to arms and ammunition, abuse of court processes were the major causes of the crisis. Ajimobi however lifted the ban months after a lot of investigation and conclusion of a judicial commission of enquiry, which indicted some union officials, including Auxiliary, who was barred from motor parks by the union’s headquarters in 2012. Auxiliary was again charged for murder and spent six years in Agodi Prisons before he regained freedom last year.
The subtle reforms in NURTW activities by the former governor was to put paid to the ambition of both Tokyo and Auxiliary from regaining the control of motor parks till date. Thus, a relatively unknown union member, Alhaji Taofeek Oyerinde (Fele) became the beneficiary of the factional clashes and public disturbance. He however died last year, after spending over six years as the chairman of the union.
His death led to the emergence of Alhaji Abideen Olajide (Ejiogbe) who was expected to complete his tenure which expired late last year.
A senior government official who preferred speaking on condition of anonymity, assured that the administration of Governor Seyi Makinde was ready to lift the ban on the activities of the union in the state, stating that the government wa more concerned about peace in the state.