By Victor Ahiuma-Young
WEDNESDAY, October 13, 2010, for a long time come, certainly will remain indelible in the annals of labour movement in Nigeria. It was a day four officials of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) including the President, Comrade Hamman Gidado, met their untimely death in a ghastly auto-crash along Abuja Airport Road, on their way to catch a flight to Lagos.
Others that died in the auto-crash were the union’s General Secretary, Comrade Mudashiru Amao, the President’s driver, Yusuf Saleh and his personal aide, Yonana Tijzhe.
What an irony of fate that officials of Road Transport workers had to met their untimely death on the road through an auto-crash.
There is no doubt that their death has created a vacuum in NURTW and labour movement in Nigeria that would be difficult to fill.
It is arguable if the union has not lost its best in the persons of Comrades Gidado and Amao at this critical period.
Comrade Gidado who also was the Deputy Treasurer of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, was a refined, a complete gentleman and unusual President of road transport workers, a class of workers many Nigerians see violent, unruly, uncultured and above all, illiterates.
In fact, many people who knew him had wondered how such a gentlemen, could be the President of NURTW which in Yoruba parlance, are called Agbero , (Touts).
Under his leadership, he tried to bring discipline into the union and never failed to sanction erring members and tried his best to ensure that unscrupulous politicians did not influence members for political gains.
Typical examples were in Lagos and Ondo State where the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, under Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, SAN, as Minister tried to meddle into the affairs of the leadership of the union.
Comrade Gidado stood his ground against the Federal government and threatened that NURTW would withdraw members from the road across the country should the federal government continue to interfere in the affairs of its state councils especially Lagos and Ondo.
Even the crisis that has engulfed the Oyo state council of NURTW did not go unnoticed by the Comrade Gidado led leadership of NURTW.
Until his untimely death, Comrade Gidado did not fail to inform the general public that crisis in Oyo state was government induced and that the council did not have a leadership recognised at the national level.
A pillar of Labour movement
Reacting to his death, Edo state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who worked closely with him as NLC President, noted that late Gidado as one of the pillars of the labour movement.
According to him: “The late Gidado was a courageous and trustworthy officer. He was one of the pillars of labour movement. He would be missed by all who knew him.”
National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN, in a condolence letter to NURTW, noted that Comrade Gidado Hamman was a tested unionist, a patriot, Pan-African and Internationalist.
In the condolence letter by its General Secretary, Comrade Issa Aremu, Textile union said: “Comrade Gidado Hamman was a tested unionist, a patriot, Pan-African and Internationalist. We wish to place on record his tremendous achievements and contribution to the growth and development of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in particular and the Nigeria labour movement in general. Also worthy of remembrance was his struggle which led to remarkable stability in the NURTW.
We particular remember his contributions, consistency and steadfastness to all the struggles of the labour movement. Comrade Gidado Hamman was a very close friend of our union. He was represented by the late National Organising Secretary Comrade John Olaoye at the opening ceremony of our 22nd National Education Conference held on Tuesday 28 September 2010 in Kaduna. We cannot say that we sincerely mourn these Comrades if we don’t honestly put an end to cheap wastage of human lives, low or high alike on our roads. Tears are not just enough for the comrades. There is an urgent need to rebuild our roads and ensure safety rules are observed with a view of reducing accidents on our roads.”
On his part, Comrade Adetunji Ademisoye, Lagos State Secretary, Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), said the death was a shock to the organised labour.
He said: “It is a calamity to the labour movement. It is the state of industrial unrest in the society that has contributed to loss of such gallant men. If there is stability in various sectors of the economy, labour leaders will not be moving from one place to another.’’
Wogu, TUC mourn
Reacting, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, described the tragic death of five officials NURTW, in a ghastly motor accident in Abuja as a rude shock.
Chief Wogu in a statement by Samuel Olowokere, Assistant Director (Press), said:“Words fail to convey my feelings over this development at this time, but suffice to say that I share in your sorrow and I ask God Almighty to comfort the families of all those involved in the ghastly accident. I am completely at a loss over this sad development with its potentially distressing implications for your great union and the labour movement in general. I am equally touched by the impact of this bereavement on the families of all those involved.”
On its part, TUC in a statement by its Assistant General Secretary/head information, Mr. Jerry Amah, said: “ The President General of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), the National Administrative Council (NAC), the Central Working Committee (CWC) and all affiliates and states councils offer our heart felt condolence to our sister labour centre, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over the untimely death of key national officers of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in a ghastly motor accident in Abuja. Their death coming after the Abuja bomb blast in which scores of Nigerians lost their lives, have further plunged the nation into another round of bereavement.
“It is sad the incident occurred at a period when the leadership of the union led by Comrade Gidado Hamman, has almost restored credibility and respect to NURTW family nationwide. Today our motor parks and garages are safer than what was obtainable in the past. The entire labour family will surely miss these worthy comrades and their wealth of experience on not only labour related issues, but also on the transportation sector.”
PENGASSAN laments road conditions
On its part, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, mourning their demise, called on government to pay more attention to traffic and safety management along this very busy Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Road particularly with the ongoing road constructions and the various link roads that are encumbering easy flow of traffic on this major road.
In a statement by its President and General Secretary, Comrade Babatunde Ogun and Bayo Olowoshile, respectively, PENGASSAN said: “Our Union notes that Government needs to pay more attention to traffic and safety management along this very busy Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Road particularly with the ongoing road constructions and the various link roads that are encumbering easy flow of traffic on this major road. We join our fellow Comrades and the general public in sympathising with the entire leadership, members and staff of NURTW as well as their families and the labour movement at large during this difficult time.”