WAHAB, Omorilewa Goodluck

A Life Dedicated to Work by(Owei Lakemfa). WAHAB Omorilewa Goodluck was one ofthemostdisciplined, politicallycon scious,perceptiveandresourceful mass mobilisersinNigeriantradeunionhis tory. Hebuiltthemostenduring structures, andpro ducedthe bestand highestnumberof cadres inthe trade union movement in20thcentury Nigeria. Underhisleadershipandsupervision, hundreds of workers and theirchildren were trained abroad as trade union and party cadres, while his Patrice LumumbaLabourAcademyinLagosproduced thou sandsof suchcadres.Tothe manpopularly referred toas TheGoodluck ofNigerian Workers', trade un ionism wasnotacareer, butahistorical responsibility tomobilizetheworkingclassagainst'exploiters'.He soughtto build a workers-farmers alliance that would overthrow the capitalistsystem and replace it with socialism. He was detainedseveral times bythe military on various charges including coup plotting, but his greatest battle against military regimes was in 1975. Thatyear,there was a military coup againsttheGen eral Yakubu Gowon regime. The new leaders under Generals MurtalaMohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, decimated the ranks of virtuallyallthe institutions inthecountry, including the armed forces, police,judiciary and civil service. One formidable institution that was left was the trade unionmovement and Goodluck was the mostpower ful labourleader ofthe day. He was presidentof the NigeriaTrade UnionCongress(NTUC),and laterthat year became president ofthe Nigeria Labour Con gress(NLC). Hewas simultaneously thegeneralsec retary ofover adozen trade unions includingtheOc topus, UAC, University ofLagos, CMS Bookshop, FlourMills,Normalon,IkejaAsbestos, NigeriaEnam els, Lever Brothers, the Public Works Department (PWD), and Aerodrome. In addition, his lieutenants and cadres ran dozens oftrade unions ranging from those inmunicipal transportto the docksm, and from steel to textiles. Ifthenewmilitarydictatorshipwas torulewith out opposition, the labour movement had to be smashed and to do so, Wahab Goodluck had to be crushed. Goodluck was born on 11 July 1923. He at tended Arabic schools and the Lagos High School, finishing his post-primary education in December1944 at the CMS Grammar School, Lagos. The following year, he joined the Post and Telegraphs (P&T)Department as an accounts clerk. Three years later, he and two others, Akanbi Giwa and John Mmaha, were charged and found guilty of assaulting a fellow worker, Henry Fajemirokun, a P&T clerical staff from Ile-Oluji who had allegedly tried to sabotage a workers strike. Goodluck said of the conviction: "That was the first baptism we had as trade unionists and it decided my future." After this incident, Goodluck went to work in a timber company in Sapele,became a teacher and then acolumnist in the Statesman newspaper. He became a full time trade unionist in 1950 when he was appointed secretary of the West African Soap Company. Goodluck emerged' from the shadows of the more charismatic Michael Imoudu when he led cad res of the Independent United Labour Congress (IULC)to throw out the Imoudu leadership in 1963. At its 2-4 August 1963 conference at the Hotel Ma jestic in Yaba, the IULC changed its name to Nigeria Trade Union Congress(NTUC) and elected Goodluck as national president.His fellow socialist,Samuel Udoh Bassey, was elected scribe. Good luck as NTUC president,teamed up with the Nigeria Youth Congress(NYC)to found a political party, the Socialist Workers and Farmers Party (SWAFP) in December 1963. He was elected second Vice Chairman of the party.During the 1964general elections, Goodluck and SWAFP scribe, Dr. Jeremiah Olatunji Otegbeye, stood as candidates in the two Lagos constituencies. On the eve of the 1964general strike, Goodluck was one of the labour leaders detained by the government in the hope that his detention would scuttle the strike. He said of this strike "We were arrested but the strike went on because it was fully planned. We were taken to court but we were allowed bail. We came out and started to organize the strike in ear nest...All civil servants were to be given sack paper. We told them if they were given, they should keep themas souvenirs for the future. But government said if they (workers) do not go back within forty eight hours, it would dispense with all their services. We replied government that within forty eight hours, it should resign." On 15 January 1966, there was a coup which toppled the civilian administration. On July 29, a bloody counter coup removed the General Aguyi-Ironsi regime. Thirteen days after this counter coup, armed soldiers shot their way into a workers meeting in Ikeja presided over by Goodluck: False information that the radical, Goodluck, was holding a meeting to un seat the military regime by force had been given to the new military regime of Yakubu Gowon. Goodluck was tortured at the Ikeja Military Cantonment over the alleged coup plot, but was eventually rescued by Gowon himself. During the 1967-70 civil war, Goodluck cam paigned for a united but socialist Nigeria. After the war, he became a thorn in the military's flesh, organizing strikes not only for better conditions of service, but also to campaign for an end to military rule. The military regime detained Goodluck again in 1970 after he made the public proclamation that "The civilians have ruled, the army is still ruling, after the army, it should be workers turn to rule". The Gowon regime, however, was not followed by a workers government but by a new military re gime. The regime, in seeking to smash the labour movement and its leaders, alleged that there was corruption in the trade unions. It proscribed the NLC and all labour centres, and established a tribunal headed by Justice Adebiyi. The Adebiyi tribunal's work was mainly to try Goodluck, but he successfully punctured all accusations. The government banned him from trade union ism, not because he was found guilty of any crime, but because he was too powerful. Goodluck's reaction to this was "Neither the Adebiyi Commission nor the government white paper has accused me of corruption, embezzlement, abuse of office, etc. The one outstanding grouse was that I was rather too power ful. The other was that of my politics in the trade unions. I accepted the rulings of the present military government today because I have no other alternative in a confrontation with those who have monopoly of violence. Right or wrong, banning me by decree is a gun-point order. The Nigerian working class has suffered a temporary set-back. It shall rise again, more militant and united, fulfilling its historical mission as the vanguard to usher in socialist Nigeria, whether any capitalist agent likes it or not". After the ban, the military re-organized trade unions and approved 42 industrial unions. Some of Goodluck's cadres emerged as leaders of some of these unions. The epic battle was over leadership of the new labour centre, the NLC. The elections were held on 28 February 1978, and Comrade Hussein Adebayo Sunmonu, who emerged president, was a Goodluck cadre. He immediately promised to run the NLC along the lines Goodluck had taught him, in cluding evolving a system of collective leadership. A contented Goodluck took the back seat, having the last laugh at the military's expense. With his ideological soul mate, Comrade Hassan, he established a trade union consultancy called IFWOG which also published the news magazine NEW HORIZON. Goodluck's foresight ensured that after his protege, Hassan Sunmonu,ran the NLC for six years, his cadres and allies determined Sunmonu's succes sor. Indeed, the AH Chiroma executive had aGoodluck cadre, Lawrence Peterside as First Deputy President; and another such cadre, Dr. Lasisi Osunde as NLC General Secretary. In an October 1999 lecture delivered at the 6th Kolagbodi Memorial Foundation, Hassan Sunmonu, now General Secretary of the Organization of Afri can Trade Union Unity (OAUU) said of Goodluck "He was almost the most honest trade union leader I have come across anywhere in the world. In the days of house unions in Nigeria when a trade unionist could be general secretary of many house unions, he was the only one I knew that was never a signatory to the union account. He always maintained that he was an employee of the union. He was a disciplined hard worker; first at work and the last to leave the work place. He did not tolerate drinking of alcohol during office hours, and even then not in the office. He was a disciplined hard worker; first at work and the last to leave the work place. He did not tolerate drinking of alcohol during office hours, and even then not in the office. Goody was a voracious reader and he encouraged his subordinates and union members to equip themselves intellectually. He maintained that a trade unionist should be 'a jack of all trades and master of all' Goody was a first class negotiator. He also had patience. He was a fantastic organizer, initiator, mobilizer and administrator. He was also a courageous leader that inspired confidence in his members. He had the courage of his conviction. He had integrity. He never lied. Today, twenty-four years after he was banned from trade unionism, and nine years after his death, several Goodluck cadres remain in the leadership of the labour movement - a befitting tribute to a man who dedicated his life to workers' struggles.
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