By Bimbola Oyesola, Seye Ojo, Ibadan [email protected]
The two names, Ayuba Wabba and Lateef Idowu Oyelekan, are not strange to people in the organised labour movement and Nigeria as a whole. Wabba is the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), while Lateef Oyelekan, until early last Saturday, was the president of the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE) and the vice-president of the NLC.
The NLC tomorrow is likewise holding its delegates’ conference to usher in new leadership after Wabba directed the affairs of the nation’s reputable labour centre for eight years.
The similarity between the two is not about the fact that they are exiting the leadership of their organisations at the same period, but the fact that the two are leaving memorable and indelible records for the next generation of labour leaders coming after them.
The NLC, this afternoon in Abuja will commission a tastefully furnished guest house built by the Wabba led administration as part of his many projects executed during the time he held sway as the NLC President. Wabba has achieved similar feat when he was the president of the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), leaving the union with state of the art secretariat and several guest house.
The guest house, tagged Hassan Sunmonu Court, according to an official from the NLC is named after the first president of the Congress, as a mark of honour.
“Labour has a way of honouring its own, that’s why it is named after the first president of NLC. It is part of Ayuba Wabba several legacy,” the official said.
He explained further that though the facility would be a commercial venture, hence members of the public can patronize it, but it is built for the workers’ comfort and affordability.
The NLC president however was in Ibadan on Thursday to commission the 85 rooms hotel built by the outgoing leadership of NUFBTE, led by Lateef Oyelekan.
Thursday, February 2, 2023 might have come and gone, but the excitements that greeted the day will resonate for a long time in the minds and hearts of active players in the food, beverage, and tobacco industries in Nigeria.
It was a day that the leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), officials of the federal government, and employers of labour stormed Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, for a development oriented project.
The team of NLC was led by its President, Ayuba Wabba to Ibadan on the special day and he was the special guest of honour. The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, who was the chief guest of honour on the occasion, was represented by the Federal Controller of Labour in Oyo State.
The critical stakeholders, in one voice, but in separate speeches, commended the National President of NUFBTE, Idowu Lateef Oyelekan, for the unprecedented achievements he has recorded, which they described as a good examples and a challenge to union leaders in Nigeria.
NUFBTE as an Organised labour union was formed in 1978 as a house union under the founding president, K.O. Lawrence and Valentine Awalu, the General Secretary, in a rented office at No 6, Oba Akran, Ikeja as national secretariat.
The union took a giant stride by acquiring one and half acres of land at No 9, Mortune Avenue, Off Lagos-Abeokuta Express Road, Cement Bus Stop, Lagos State. The foundation stone was laid by Hassan Adebayo Sumonu, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President, on November 4, 1983.
The administrative block was completed within six years, commissioned and officially opened by then then Minister of Employment, Labour and Productivity, Alhaji Abubakar Umar, on Friday 30th June 1989.
The one storey building remained the only property of the union for 20 years, until the emergence of Lateef Idowu Oyelekan in 2008. Within the period of five years, Lateef Idowu Oyelekan changed the narrative by transforming the union to a project builder.
Oyelekan built a world-class multipurpose event centre, a five-star hotel containing 80 rooms and suites at Ojodu Berger in Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State, and also a first ever bottle water factory exclusively owned by a trade union.
He did not stop there. He also also built another 95-room hotel and suites at Apata, Ibadan, Oyo State, for the NUFBTE. This is the project that its commissioning brought excitement to Ibadan, and attracted people from all walks of life.
In his welcome address, Oyelekan, said the Food Union Hotel and Suites Limited, Apata, Ibadan, is the fourth edifice put in place for the union by his administration, to shore up the revenue base for the union with a view to making life better for members of the union.
According to him, Nigeria can be great. But everyone must play his or her roles on the road to make Nigeria a great nation.
The country, he stated, “would not just be great by itself, but people in every stratum of the society must do what is right and leave a positive legacy behind for future generations.”
He said his administration has committed N3.4billion to the projects so far.
Oyelekan, however, fired some salvos against the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), saying they should work at borders. He told them not to jump on the food industry for economic prosperity of the nation.
The NLC president, Wabba, said on the project: “I am really delighted and lack words to commend the union under the leadership of Oyelekan for this outstanding leadership and performance, which you can see from this edifice. Many governments would have found it difficult, even to build such a structure. But with transparency and accountability, we can see that the union has been able to put this structure in place.”
“So, this is a shining example for what we can be able to do, both in our union, and in the society, if we are able to deploy transparency and accountability for the rule of law. This speaks volume about what is possible. It is not about what is impossible. It is about possibilities, where you have leaders.
“So, the leadership question can address a lot of issues. This is what has come out here. Before he (Oyelekan) came in, there were many leaders. But you can see that within a space of few years, what he has been able to do and achieve in terms of very concrete, and tangible investments that he has been able to do for the union.”
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, who was represented by the Federal Controller of Labour in Oyo State, saluted the leadership of the union for putting up the edifice, which he described as a clear indication that the union has been blessed with visionary leaders.
He said, “I recall that few years ago, precisely in 2016, the Food Union Hotel and Suites in Lagos was commissioned by me. It is surprising that within a space of six years, your union could raise enough money to put up another big hotel here in Ibadan. This is commendable and should be emulated by other trade unions.
“I want to specially commend the outgoing president of this union and other members of his team for this laudable achievements. I know you must have put in a considerable measure of additional time in getting the project completed, and the outcomes are indeed gratifying and satisfying.
The Minister noted that the project will, no doubt, strengthen the revenue base of the union, as well as provide jobs for the citizens of the country.”
He however challenged the incoming executive to ensure that the hotel is well managed to the extent that the proceeds will also give birth to another big project in the nearest future.
Goodwill messages were also presented on the occasion by the Managing Director of Nestle Nigeria Plc, Chairperson of NLC in Lagos State, Director of Human Resources, British American Tobacco, Corporate Affairs Director of Coca-cola, Head of Human Resources of 7-Up, representative of National Productivity Centre. They all commended the NUFBTE national president, Oyelekan, for the unprecedented achievements in the union, and charges those that would take the baton of leadership from Oyelekan to ensure there is no retrogression.