As Governor Rauf Aregbesola celebrated his last birthday in Office as the Governor, State of Osun, the state Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Jacob Adekomi listed the pains and gains of the labour movement in the last seven years in this interview with KEHINDE AYANTUNJI. Excerpts
OSDF: What can you say about government and labour relation under the leadership of Governor Rauf Aregbesola?
Adekomi: I came in direct contact with the governor while I was the President of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employee (NULGE), and one of the first thing I noticed in him was honour and integrity. He came at a time that the NULGE was yearning for carrier development in the civil services and at our first meeting, we demanded four good things from him, among which are; no Local Government Staff must be retrenched, more local government workers should be appointed Permanent Secretaries, that we want a capacity building through local and international workshop, and that local government workers should be able to reach level 17 which he promised to do. During my first tenure as the NULGE President, he fulfilled all those promises, he appointed three local government workers as Permanent Secretaries for the first time in the history of the state, local government staff are now reaching level 17 in the civil services.
So, I know him to be a man of his word, a man of honour and a visionary leader that loves workers. When I became the NLC Chairman, I renewed the covenant that no one should be sacked in the civil services despite the financial crisis that confronted the state and I am glad to tell you that as at today, no one has been disengaged. So, I see him as lover of development and I wish him happy birthday.
OSDF: What are the important benefits that you think Governor Aregbesola would be remember for after leaving office?
Adekomi: Governor Aregbesola performance would continue to linger in the mind of the Osun labour movement, especially for resisting temptations to disengage workers despite daunting economic challenges. We all knew what happened in some other states where some state governors resulted to mass sack. The only area that the governor should continue to work on is the arrears of salary which he has promised to pay, he has started the process and we have confidence in him that he would pay the arrears.
Another outstanding aspect that the Nigeria Labour Congress would continue to remember is Workers Drive, the dual carriage road from Olaiya Junction to Ita- Olokan named after the workers in recognition of our sacrifice. He also named a Lake Resort after one of our own, the former Permanent Secretary who was killed on her way to Abuja, no government has ever shown such appreciation to the teeming workers in the state.
He would be remember for his depth on issues, he would be remember for his revolutionary solidarity and mutual respect for the workers, no matter the disagreement or governance pressure. He recorgnises the cardinal responsibility of labour leadership in agitating for fundamental welfare issues that directly or indirectly concern their members, his activism background was brought to bear in governance as only the deep can come to the deep; he has tolerance for superior arguments and strong opposing views. No doubt, his depth on labour matters and revolutionary synergy has assisted the state to progress in the face of intimidating economic challenges. I am bold to say that without the revolutionary synergy between the labour and the government, the story would have been different today.
OSDF: What is the situation on the implementation of the civil servants confirmation, promotion and conversion approved by the governor during the May Day celebration?
Adekomi: I can confirm to you that they are already distributing the confirmation and conversion letter. The governor has fulfilled his promises, all machinery has been put in place to ensure the implementation of Mr Governors’ directive and we are grateful for that gesture.
OSDF: As a Labour leader, what is your critical assessment of governor Aregbesola’s performance in office?
Adekomi: No doubt, he has done his best and he is still doing his best, he has tried, as you can see a lot of infrastructural development in the state of Osun. The only question mark is the area of the salary arrears which I am aware that he is working very hard to pay; outside that, the governor has set a standard that will be practically impossible for anybody to reverse. We are praying for him fervently to be able to pay the arrears.
OSDF: By November 27, another governor will succeed Aregbesola, what is the interest of the Labour in the succession politics?
Adekomi: As a labour movement, our primary concern is a successor that will provide leadership by improving on what is already on ground, that will priorities the welfare of the people and protect the interest of the workers, we do not want a governor that will disengage workers, we want a governor that will respect the workers and see them as partners in progress in the development of the state. That is our interest and those are the issues that will serve as the basis of engagement.
OSDF: As a labour leader with NULGE background that is so keen about local government autonomy, with your demand to have more permanent secretaries and become head of services, is the agitation for autonomy not a contradiction?
Adekomi: When you are talking about local government autonomy, there is no absolute autonomy, despite that we are all agitating for local government autonomy. There are some areas that still need control, supervision and power to legislate on local government by the State House of Assembly as stated in the constitution. What is important is financial and administrative autonomy, such autonomy cannot prevent anyone from being a permanent secretary or head of service.