On Friday March 26, 2021, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju made history by becoming the first President-General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) to be returned unopposed for a second term.
Adeyanju was first elected as the President-General of MWUN on March 17, 2017, during the union’s 4th Quadrennial Delegates Conference held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, after securing a landslide victory against his opponent and former Deputy President-General of the union, Comrade Dahiru Talle Abubakar.
Adeyanju garnered a resounding 132 votes to Abubakar’s 27.
“We are here to work for all our members. We will serve them diligently and ensure better welfare for them,” Adeyanju declared shortly after his victory.
Despite that the series of the underhand tactics and smear campaign launched against him in the run up to the election, Adeyanju extended a hand of fellowship to his political opponents, declaring that he would “not pay evil for evil”.
“I will not pay evil for evil. Writing of petitions is part of the system and maybe if they did not do that, nobody will know me. So I won’t say because they did not support me and throw them away. I will not do that.
“I still need them because they are part of the system and I have already told all of them after my swearing in that my door is open to all of them. Dahirru is my friend and we have been friends for more than 20 years. I won’t say because some of my colleagues followed him, we will now be having issues of disaffection. I don’t think I will want to allow that to bother me and I won’t say because I won the election, I will want to retaliate by sending them away from the port.
“I won’t do that because it is not in my character. This is not the first time I will be vying for an elective office but what always come to my mind is that if the head of the family is no longer there, the children will suffer. So it is my belief that there is no need wearing grudges but to cooperate with ourselves. I have said my door is open to everybody. All of them have started coming and we have forgiven them. It is politics,” Adeyanju declared.
True to his words, the MWUN President-General worked uncompromisingly for all members of the union. He did not look back in delivering exceptional leadership to his teeming supporters and every other member of the union.
Understanding the importance of oneness and unity within the fold of the union, Adeyanju, upon assumption of office, immediately announced the disbandment of the various ethnic groups formed by members of the union.
“I don’t know any other association like Alliance Maritime Forum, Ekiti Forum, Oyo Forum of the union and their activities should cease from today.
“I want to say that all associations, all forum at the ports have been banned from today. The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria is the only authority that we have. The establishment of such forum may likely lead to crisis at the seaports. So I want all the leaders of the respective forums to sit with me on a round table for a meeting,” Adeyanju declared at the union’s secretariat on March 22, 2017 when he formally took over from his predecessor, Comrade Tony Nted.
Adeyanju stated that the ban placed on the groups was necessary for the union to concentrate and stay focused.
He said the union’s constitution did not permit dockworkers to form any other groups apart from MWUN district units.
The new MWUN leader assured that the union under his watch would continue to live up to the expectations of its members, promising that ego and pride would not be anywhere near his administration.
The place the union on a solid pedestal, Adeyanju ensured that elections were promptly conducted in all four branches of the union. Elections into the Seamen, Shipping, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Dockworkers branches were peacefully and successfully held to enable the constitution of the union’s Central Working Committee and National Executive Council.
A few days into his leadership of the union, Adeyanju set out to give the dock labour industry a facelift, by declaring an end to thuggery and hooliganism at the port. He said dockworkers must be seen as professional port workers, who deserve to be paid living wages and who must earn respect in the industry.
To the delight of maritime operators of and service providers, Adeyanju declared that the era of shutting ports, picketing companies was over.
He said, “Everybody knows me as a peacemaker and I don’t like crisis. That alone with the experience I gathered from my former boss, I will apply it. I was just like a defence minister then and many people do not know that I was also part of the engine room that made it work.”
To achieve speedy transformation of the union and its members, the new President-General wisely decided to give priority attention to the training and retraining of dockworkers and other members of the union.
Comrade Adeyanju clearly understood that training is important because it represents a good opportunity for employees to grow their knowledge base and improve their job skills to become more effective in the workplace. He knew that while training could take a huge financial toll on the union, it was a sacrifice that must be made to guarantee a better future for the workers. He also knew that training reforms the mind.
In his words: “With me coming on board now, all the stakeholders can sleep with their two eyes closed; there won’t be any picketing of any company and unnecessary destruction of properties. These are part of what I am going to emphasize on – let there be peace.
“The training of dockworkers is very essential and it is part of the transformation that the former PG left behind. So part of our agenda is to train the trainers and the dockworkers and other member of the Maritime Workers Union in other branches with the support of all stakeholders.
“The former PG was able to succeed because he also used his resources to train some of our members being the philanthropist he is. He trained the dockworkers, shipping, NPA and seafarers. So we will also do the same for our members now and we ask that they give us that understanding. I will continue to make use of the little experience I have to allow peace to reign and bring about transformation for all our members.
Adeyanju walked his talk. He delivered fully on all his campaign promises. He did not make excuses or shift blames. The confidence in his leadership style grew by the day. Even his political opponents agree that he is the best person to lead MWUN at this time.
MWUN today enjoys unprecedented peace and unity within its fold, such that it could, for the first time in its chequered history, hold its Quadrennial Delegates Conference in Lagos. Past conferences, due to fear of violence, were usually held away outside Lagos. It appears Adeyanju’s leadership style has put an end to such fears.
The peace and unity among MWUN members was manifested in the weeks preceding the Delegates Conference and election as members of the union led by the four branch Presidents declared their support for Adeyanju’s re-election bid. The large gatherings were devoid of the heavy security presence that characterize such events. The proceedings of the gathering went as peacefully as any other civil gathering in the corporate world. Indeed, MWUN has turned full circles and come of age.
Aside training, Adeyanju and his team deployed dialogue and persuasion, as against arm-twisting tactics, to negotiate better deals with the employers of labour. For instance, dockworkers, who did not have any condition of service in the pre-port concession era, now boast of a good one with regular increase in salaries, allowances and retirement benefits.
The latest Collective Bargaining Agreement signed between the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) and MWUN, which was signed in Lagos last week, is a clear indication that Adeyanju’s peaceful disposition and conciliatory leadership style is serving the best interest of the dockworkers.
The new agreement guarantees new salary increase and retirement benefits for all dockworkers across the country. Adeyanju said dialogue with port concessionaires led to the successful signing of the new agreement, even as he commended the terminal operators for ensuring success of the 2006 port concession programme.
Adeyanju said private terminal operators, who are the port concessionaires, have improved the welfare of port workers through progressively increased salaries, allowances and retirement benefits since they took over operations at the port 15 years ago.
He said prior to the port concession in 2006, the wages of dockworkers were nothing to write home about but all that has changed since the concessionaires (terminal operators) took over.
“The era of using dockworkers as slaves in their fatherland no longer exists. We want to thank the Federal Government for concessioning the ports because that reform has changed the lives of dockworkers all over the nation’s seaports.
“Before concessioning, the wages of dockworkers was nothing to write home about. In those days, an average dockworker that worked for eights hours a day would go home with four thousand naira at the end of the month. We used to have stevedoring contractors but they did not care about the welfare of the workers. Some of the stevedoring contractors even ran away with the pensions of dockworkers.
“But since the terminal operators came in, we have seen the difference between the stevedoring contractors of those days and the terminal operators of today.
“We have been enjoying the present arrangement. My happiness today is to see the dockworkers retire back home with something reasonable as retirement benefit,” Adeyanju said during the signing of the new three-year Collective Bargaining Agreement.
This assertion was corroborated by the Chairman of STOAN, Princess Vicky Haastrup, who noted that the prioritization of the welfare of dockworkers by terminal operators has ensured industrial peace and harmony at the seaports.
She said, “We are happy as employers of labour to give the dockworkers the wages they rightly deserve. It is always our joy to bring succour and joy into the hearts of the our workers.
“Before the 2006 port concession, the monthly income of an average dockworker was less than five thousand naira but today, we make bold to say that we now pay our dockworkers very well. Our dockworkers are now well respected and well compensated for the work they do. This is because we acknowledge dockworkers as the bedrock of port operation.
“Before we became their employers, dockworkers were not respected. They were seen as troublemakers and thugs at the ports. But today, we have worked together with the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria to change narrative.
“Dockworkers are professional quayside workers who are vital to port operation. They are essential workers and we are happy to treat and remunerate them as such.
“I am proud to say that the present crop of dockworkers at the various ports across the country are well trained and they conduct themselves professionally.”
Adeyanju’s passion and concern for workers’ welfare made it possible for him and his executives, after several unsuccessful attempts by past leaders, to secure the approval of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), to pay severance benefits to tally clerks and onboard security who were disengaged in 2005.
Adeyanju has also led engagements with shipping companies for increased welfare packages for MWUN members in the Shipping Branch.
Fondly called ‘Baba’ because of his exemplary leadership qualities, Adeyanju also approved an upward review in the salary of MWUN staff, as well as set up a cooperative and thrift society to provide credit facilities to members of the union. He also established a healthcare scheme for MWUN members to reduce the financial burden of hospital bills.
Another unique approach to the repositioning of the union by Adeyanju was the setting up of a haulage business unit of MWUN. The idea was to diversify the union’s revenue source and make more money available for the welfare of its members.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Adeyanju-led MWUN was instrumental to the designation of dockworkers and seafarers as key workers. Also, with the support of port terminal operators and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), several personal protective equipment including coverall, face masks and hand sanitizers were distributed to port workers and seafarers across the nation’s seaports as part of measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Indeed Adeyanju has done well for the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria and indeed the labour movement by sustaining industrial peace, improving workers’ welfare and in several other areas.
A second term would certainly enable him to consolidate on his numerous achievements as well initiate new developmental projects to further advance the course of the workers.