Comrade Adewale Adeyanju is the President General, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN). In this exclusive interview with Shulammite Foyeku, Adeyanju speaks on some of the set goals he hopes to achieve during his tenure. He also speaks on the need for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to address the influx of unregistered dockworkers working at the port among other issues.
How do you on your recent election as the President-General of MWUN?
I thank God for taking me this far. I know it is not going to be easy but for me, I think with the little experience I have gathered as the National Treasurer of MWUN before I became the National President of the Dockworkers Branch and now the President-General, I can manage the affairs of the union in collaboration with all the stakeholders. 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.
What are your set goals or priorities for the union?
Well, everything is in the hands of God. When we came in we met a lot of challenges in all the four branches of the Maritime Workers Union. We started with the elections because we can’t do anything without conducting elections into the four branches. So far, we have conducted elections in the Seamen, Shipping and NPA (Nigerian Ports Authority) Branches respectively remaining only the Dockworkers Branch, which has been put on hold. But we have to do it because without conducting the elections in all the four branches, the Central Working Committee and National Executive Council cannot hold. I cannot do anything now without constituting the Central working Committee of all the branches. 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 they gave to Nted. 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.
Why have you decided to put the dockworkers branch election on hold?
We tentative put it on hold for security reasons. At present, we have 13 candidates vying for the post of President of Dockworkers. That is why we don’t want to rush into conducting the elections. We need to consult widely and we have started doing that and some of the candidates too are trying to step down for one other. The Dockworkers Branch is very key in the union and we don’t want to rush into the election because of the crisis we have now and if you don’t consult very well, you may likely shoot yourself in the foot. Any officer of the union that slaps a worker because of this election is on his own. I will even ask that they arrest the person because the era of thuggery and creating crisis in the port is no longer there. So that is why we are taking time to talk to all the candidates so that they will see reason why one should step down for the other. I have always said that the era of thuggery has passed and we don’t want it in the system anymore. If I was part of the people that always advocate for peace at the port and now that I am the PG somebody is trying to incite crisis, it will not augur well. So that is why we say we should consult very well and talk to all the contestants and many of them have started seeing reasons. Hopefully before we fix another date, we should have concluded the arrangement for the dockworkers branch.
In the next three months from now, what do you hope to have achieved?
Achievement is in the hand of Almighty God but after the elections will we go into business of the day. We want to take the leadership to the corridor of the workers. We want to let the workers know that they have gotten new executives and we will do what God asked us to do for the workers. First, we have challenges in all the branches and the type of leadership we want to introduce now is to allow peace which is part of my agenda and let the workers have hope that a new executive who will fight for their right is in place. I don’t want to be an armchair President-General that will just sit down in the office with my executives. As a foot soldier, I will personally go to the people to know what their challenges are.
Recently you raised alarm about the influx of unregistered dockworkers at the ports and jetties. What are you doing to address this problem?
It is a serious matter and I will continue saying it until the concerned authority in charge of registering the dockworkers and other stakeholders do the needful. The registration of the dockworkers has in the last two years expired and we expected them to have re-registered the dockworkers. The issue of influx where everybody will just go to the port without having anything to do there is a serious matter because those who claim to be dockworkers and do not have anything to do at the port are the ones causing problem in the port. So we expect the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to do the needful by registering all the dockworkers. Not only to register them but also look for employment for them.
What efforts have you in place to engage the stakeholders concerning this?
After our branch election, we are going to meet with NIMASA, Nigerian Ports Authority and other stakeholders.
Some of your members wrote series of petition before the election that brought you in was conducted. What do you intend to do with these people. Will you be ready to work with them?
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 believe that there is no need wearing grudge 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.
How will you describe the relationship between MWUN and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC)?
I will say it is cordial but since we are just coming on board. We will study the environment. We don’t have any issue with the NLC and as you know, we are an affiliate of NLC. So our relationship with the present leadership of the NLC is 100 percent cordial. We will build on the past relationship with the new one we just established.