OGUN WORKERS STRIKE, OBAS AND A SINISTER 2019 AGENDA
By Chief Kayode Odunaro JP
On Thursday, October 20, 2016, Ogun State Workers on the directive of Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNC), Nigerian Labour Congress, (NLC) and Trade Union Congress, TUC embarked on an indefinite strike to press for series of demands relating to various entitlements of several months from the state government. Ordinarily, this is part of governance process and should only call for adroit management to resolve contending issues. But that is not happening in Ogun State as regretfully things are falling apart, not only between the government and the workers some of whom have gone underground for fear of their safety but also among traditional rulers and some people in the state.
Before I continue let me declare my interest in this matter for proper appreciation. I am a citizen of Ogun State from the Ogun West axis. I am a patriotic Nigerian. I had served the state government and the people of the state in several capacities both in and out of government. I have seen and been involved in the management of similar altercations between the state government and its workers in the past. I have also seen and participated in the exit process of various administrations in Ogun State. This interjection is not on behalf of ANYBODY as I write as a stakeholder desirous of the best for Ogun State and its people. However, I am particularly disturbed by a distortive agenda being spurn on the social media in relations to the reconciliatory role of the Traditional Rulers in the ongoing strike action and attempts to play political games on the Obas’ intervention. I am a traditional title holder and respect ALL our rulers and other constituted authorities like religious and governmental bodies seeking to promote peace and development in society. I fear no individual and detest unbridle pursuit of self-aggrandizement against the general good of the people
That said I must confessed that I was shocked on the lame excuse purported to be behind the workers agitation for their rights and the attempt of some to single out the Chairman of Ogun State Traditional Council Oba (Pst) Kehinde Olugbenle, MFR, the Olu of Ilaro and Paramount Ruler of Yewaland, for blame on what was a joint decision of ALL Obas in Ogun State. I suspect the latter is pursuant of an unfolding agenda that should not be allowed to deny the workers their genuine entitlements. Indeed why politicize labour issues that predates 2015 elections and that has seen repeated interventions in the past by the same Traditional Rulers. Such politicization manifested glaringly in a State Government Statement warning the workers not to embarked on the strike as such will be illegal and further linking the then proposed strike to the event of World Teacher’s Day as organized by Ogun State NUT! In my experience in government such linkage may be relevant to the issue at hand during electoral campaigns or a period preceding an election. But to my knowledge no political campaign is ongoing in Ogun State. The last LGA/LCDA election was peacefully conducted without any hue and cry and is now an event in an unfolding history of our dear state. Or is the State Government already working on the 2019 election that is years away in place of governance issues like finding ways to address genuine entitlement of workers? At all events such politicization can only detract from good governance in Ogun State.
Of major concern to me however is the skewing of the event of the Ogun State Traditional Rulers Council intervention through a Press Conference addressed by Oba Olugbenle. One is not here to discuss the merit or otherwise of the penultimate intervention before the strike but it is pertinent to note that such interventions is a usual practice even in my experience under a military government in the state. From what I gathered also this was not the first time that the Traditional Rulers will be intervening on this particular matter. The fault may not lie with the rulers or the deprived workers but that too is not a matter to delay one here in an ongoing disruption of Government-Labour Relations. But following that intervention a horde of social media commentators across the world and at home have wittingly or unwittingly, innocently or induced pursue an agenda of casting blame on Oba Olugbenle as if the young Oba expressed a personal opinion on the strike issue. Oba Olugbenle as the NEWLY appointed Chairman of the Ogun State Traditional Council read the joint position of the Traditional Rulers of Ogun State and if anything is blameworthy in their position, then ALL traditional rulers in the state are culpable. Oba Olugbenle indeed was flanked by two other Paramount Rulers namely the Awujale of Ijebuland Oba Kayode Adetona and the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo at the conference alongside many other members of the Councils. As I write, none of the Obas has disown the press conference or any part of their joint position but some people are making it look as if the position was that of the Yewa Oba alone with a motive to yet again undermine Ogun West in the scheme of things. This misinformation and possible propaganda for a yet unfolding agenda is highly condemnable whoever is behind such. Indeed one gathered that it was one of the paramount rulers (Not Oba Olugbenle I supposed) that insisted that the video of the 2016 World Teacher Day by Ogun State NUT be played for journalists to justify politicization allegation of workers agitation pursuant of legitimate demands and agreement. I am convince that linking that video with the re-conciliatory role the Obas were playing is pursuant of a sinister agenda and is linked to the attempt to single out Oba Olugbenle by some people for blame for what was a joint decision of a council. I have not seen where the spokesperson of a group like State Government EXCO or Federal Executive Council can be blamed for the position of the council. The ongoing blame game of Oba Olugbenle is in that light and I see a sinister agenda therein, more so when some are ignorantly insinuating that he was ‘reluctantly’ made the chairman of the Traditional Council pursuant of some brewing agenda against the interest of Ogun West. We are watching. But in the meantime Government should find a way of settling the issues occasioning the strike in the interest of all. There is no election around the corner yet and good governance of our dear state must go on.
Chief Kayode Odunaro JP
Former Chief Press Secretary to Ogun State Military Administrators
Former Chief Press Secretary to Ogun State Governor
Former Senior Consultant (Public Affairs) to Ogun State Governor
Former Special Adviser to Speaker House of Representatives
Former Chairman, Oronna Ilaro Festival Central Committee (2012-2016)