Perhaps, never in the history of this country has any government ever thought of recognising the essence of workers to the extent of naming a monument to honour them.
This is exactly what happened in the first week of March, 2018, in Osogbo, capital city of Osun, when one of the major roads in the state, newly reconstructed to modern taste, was commissioned and christened Workers’ Drive.
The dual-carriage way, a 2.80km stretch, Olaiya to Itaolokan, constructed by the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is a masterpiece by all standards in aesthetics, quality and durability. It is estimated by experts to have a lifespan of fifty years at the minimum.
Why a Workers Drive? The relationship between Osun governments and its workers has a chequered history behind it. And one may not be wrong to suggest that it was anything but cordial, at least in this forth republic. But all these have, thankfully, been consigned to the dustbin of history because of the atmosphere of understanding that now exists in the relationship.
Going down memory lane, the government of Chief Bisi Akande, had its nose bloodied as a result of its flexing of muscles with workers, due to widespread downsizing, an option which the then opposition feasted upon to ride to power, costing the man his second shot into the government house. It was a battle-royale for the Progressives, represented by the Ogbeni, to return to power in 2010. All things looked so good from 2010 between workers and government until the unfortunate financial conundrum began to rear its head sometimes in 2013, which also threatened the 2014 reelection bid of Ogbeni with the conspicuous connivance of the powers in Abuja, logistically and monetarily. 2015 was a defining moment as government didn’t have the ability to pay even a dime to the workers. Organised labour in Osun was adamant in demanding for workers’ right to be paid their wages. It was indeed a very trying period for the governor.
The opposition, known for waiting to latch on to such opportunity, quickly pitched its tent on the side of the workers, even without caring to appreciate the cause of such unfortunate financial situation. Expectedly, issue of salary payment became a political tool in the hands of opposition. But a section of workers and pensioners as well as the grassroots citizenry, women leaders, students and trade unions showed understanding and did everything in their capacity to campaign for and return the government back to power in 2014. The dire financial situation continued into 2015 but thanks to the financial ingenuity of the governor and his team as well as the active support of organised labour led by Comrade Jacob Adekomi and his team as well as veteran labour leader Comrade Hassan Sunmonu, (who agreed, despite all odds, to chair a committee on monthly revenue allocation). This committee acts the go-between the workers and government during the long trying time, and even till present moment. The impeccable integrity of Comrade Sunmonu played and is playing no small role in reducing the tension.
In all, this special kudos is reserved for the workers in their entirety and their leaders, led by Comrade Adekomi, who found themselves in dilemma of identifying with the workers whom they represent and protect as well as sympathy for a government which they know is truly handicapped. Distant observers will think Comrade Adekomi is antagonistic to government cause, but this was denied by him. He exuded happiness with this unique gesture of government such that he even rode in same vehicle to and from the venue with Ogbeni.
In a chat, Comrade Adekomi reiterated workers’ support for the government because, according to him, “no governor has named any monument in the name of workers; and despite all the challenges, the governor has not retrenched any worker. The governor will be remembered as he who came at the period of serious challenges and was able to face it and surmount it.”
This Workers Drive naming is very symbolic. It is a symbol of appreciation for the teeming workers who have endured despite overpowering challenges over-hyped by the Osun opposition. So, it is an epoch making bid to show appreciation for workers’ understanding, support and sacrifice during the yet-to-be-over financial crisis orchestrated by the general national economic woes.