Only a Mischief Maker Will Say Prompt Payment of Salary is Not an Achievement – Oyo TUC Chairman, Ogundiran

Comrade Ogundiran Olusola, is the current Chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Oyo state council which is the umbrella body of all senior staff unions in the State. He was also the immediate past three term chairman of the Public Service Joint Negotiating Council popularly referred to as (PSJNC). In this interview with FLORENCE OLUGBODI, he speaks on the state of affairs of the union in Oyo state and Governor Seyi Makinde’s administration especially as it affects the union. Excerpts


As the Chairman of TUC, how did your journey into unionism start?


My sojourn to unionism dates back as far as 1992 when I was in the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), I was the Zonal Coordinator of the graduate teachers association in Oyo zone. Then I transferred my service to the Oyo State Civil Service in 1995. It was my struggle not to be cheated because my colleague was in level 9 and I was given level 8 and that when you transfer your service to civil service it is a norm that you will be stepped down but going through the public service rules, all the Bible and Quran of the public service, I found out that the level 8 and 9 are combine establishment. If you are coming from somewhere with level 8, they should give you level 8 in the civil service even to some up to level 10, then I started looking for a union.


I made bold to say that prior to my transfer of service to the Ministry of Agriculture, there was no union that caters for the senior civil servants, the union they had here then was Agriculture and Ally union and that was union for Agriculture workers on grade level 1-6. So it was me that was brought in in 1996 to be precise the Association of Senior Civil Servants and thank God it was accepted by the management of the ministry and I was the secretary of the union in the Ministry of Agriculture here.


We fused the erstwhile existing Agriculture and Ally union and the new union, so the executives’ members of Ally workers union then came in to the association and so experience counts, the man heading Agriculture and Ally workers union then was given the chairmanship of the union while I became the secretary but with too much pressure. Pressure made him to step down but he did one thing that gladdens my heart, he just resigned from all unionism altogether, so upon his resignation I was elevated to the chairman.  So variably I may say as much as I am not the pioneer chairman, because the man did not last for more than three months, I became the chairman and since then, we thank God. So if you calculate from 1992 to 2022, that is 30 years of active service in fighting for the rights, privileges and welfare of workers.


So how will you describe the experience in unionism so far?


So far so good, the journey has been good, it is a calling! You know some people say they are coming into unionism just anyhow, No! If you see an active unionist, a lot depends on that your innate gift in all ramifications. I don’t think anybody needs me, I know I hate cheating in whatever form, I don’t like cheating at all, so far so good, I have taken it as a calling, I believe and I know from my experience that it is a thankless job. If you do anything for your members and some of them come back to say kudos or whatever, you are very lucky, so it is a thankless job but I will say in the last 30 years, so far so good.


What are the challenges you have encountered in the course of unionism so far?


That is why I said so far so good. You see if you try to look at challenges, look at our slogan,  ”Aluta continua, victoria Ascerta” , the struggle continues until victory is ascertain, if there is no challenges there will be no struggle and if there is no war to be fought you will  not be talking of victory.  So that is one. Two, we always say an injury to one is an injury to all, if anything happens to you if you don’t nip it in the bud, you will not know who is the next person, it may likely hit you after that person.  There have been challenges and we thrive on challenges.  In fact somebody like me remains like this because God allow me to overcome challenges, I made bold to say it that as far as unionism is concerned in Oyo state today, I think it is only one man that has the experience than I do, only one man, and he is a paid secretary, the man worked in the civil service, he retired, he got a job of his union as a paid secretary and the man is old enough and he is still serving the labor movement.


Going to the challenges workers are facing, one; you start from the condition of service because you are not a member of any union until you are employed, so once you are employed, you may become the member of the union, membership is voluntary but we put it as membership is compulsory. So you fight for the condition of service, you fight for the work environment and now welfare. So those are the things that we majorly do, any other thing maybe coming up to join the three – the condition of service, the work environment and the welfare.  So any other thing may come. For condition of service you know what it means, there is no way your salary shouldn’t be paid when others are being paid, your work environment there should be safe, whoever provide the job must provide the tools to do the job such that productivity that is expected of you will be up to the level that is expected and for the welfare you know it encompasses a lot of things.



Talking about the welfare of workers as you mentioned, the take of some of them by the end of every month is nothing to write home about. What can you say to this?



You think so; you are just talking about the situation in isolation. You cannot take the value of a civil servant’s salary away from what the economy is saying, you cannot take it away from the exchange rate, and you cannot take it away from what type of ideology we run in the country, so maybe you wish to say that salary earners live from hand to mouth. It is not only the civil servants or the public servants alone because as the chairman of Trade Union Congress, I am not only the chairman of Unions  in the public sector, I am also chairman of unions in the private sector so I know what it means to earn a salary.


You see, Nigeria is one of the countries where salary is being paid at the end of the month, that means you have allowed your workers to work for thirty whole days without minding how they come to work, how they eat and how they give you whatever you are producing. It is after they have produced, maybe you have sold whatever you wanted to sell, you will now come back and remember the geese that are laying the golden eggs. In a saner country, it is never that way. So it might look like they are living from hand to mouth but remember the source of income is assured, that at the end of every month, there is going to be something.  


Also, I will not deceive you and I will not deceive myself, if you are not working for yourself in this economy nowadays, you are likely to be living from hand to mouth. You have to find other means to make ends meet.



How have you been piloting the affairs of the union without having any issue?


Thank you very much for that question,  I told you when I was talking about one man, the man  that was to be the first chairman of my primary union in this ministry, I talked about one factor, experience; experience matters most. Before I became the chairman of the Trade Union Congress in 2016, you can calculate from 1992 to 2016, how many years of experience have gathered and boxed up.  That is one; two, my area of professionalism, I am first and foremost an Agriculture  Officer, I deal with animate and inanimate objects, with living and non-living objects, two I have my masters in Managerial Psychology. So a lot of management and a lot of psychologies. So bringing all together, if you are an employer, if you are a leader, you manage both man and human resources, so my profession and my experience give me that opportunity to be able to annex the human resources  to bring out their best.


I can say that in my years, I think if you know when somebody like Colonel Usman was the Military Administrator of Oyo state, when you think of the period of Nwosu and now come to think of the time of Lam Adeshina of blessed memory, when you now come to think of  the Ladoja, Akala, Ajimobi, I think it is only now that we are enjoying a relatively peaceful work environment. I don’t think there has been any major shake-up, we have not been able to sing for the sitting Governor, we pray for peace to continue to reign because it is only during peaceful times that you have the best of everything you need. It is only during a peaceful time that your employer can think of how he can improve the lot of his workers. I think it is now that workers are not seen as a tool just to be used and dumped, so with that you will see that when challenges came one as a leader was able to overcome.


We were put in place to serve as an intermediary between our employers and our members, and unfortunately, you know what? The employer sees us as a threat and it is only the loyalty of our members that has kept us going, but when it comes to their demands, majority of our members they also see us as betrayers but we know that whatever they say, they always want us to give the best and that is always what we have been striving to do, always giving the best within the shortest possible time and I place it on record that I have been involved in negotiations of workers welfare since the era of Colonel Usman, Nwosu, I was a unit leader here but maybe because of my contribution at our SEC meetings, they always single me out. The state executive picked me along and with those experiences when I came into the leadership position especially as the state chairman of public service joint negotiating council when we have to negotiate minimum wage, those experiences came in handy for the state to have successfully overcome the Ajimobi era.


I told some people that Ajimobi left without owing the workforce a dime, in our salary, No! We didn’t allow him to go with our kobo; we collected our salary, even some states, and the majority of the states except Lagos state are still battling with the economic problem that bedevils the Ajimobi era and his groups as State Governors. Ogun state is still there, they have not collected their deduction up till date because they are paying them net salary. Ondo state is owing about 6 months’ salary, in fact, as at the last count now since then, Ondo state just collected November salary when Oyo state was collecting April salary, that’s five month salary, Ekiti state, Osun state, Kwara, Kogi states, move up, so a lot of them but we thank God.


They were even asking Chairman how were you able to do it with that your Governor that we held he is not okay and I told them, he was okay; Ajimobi was just highly cerebral and you don’t fight physically with someone that is highly cerebral, you have to put up your thinking cap and be a step ahead of such and that was what we did. Kudos to the NLC Chairman then, Comrade Dr  Bashiru Olanrewaju, we were able to move, in fact my conference room there was where we came together, mapped out our plan and with God on our side, with the commitment, dedication and loyalty of our members we were able to exercise that patient, even when we were among the states that were being owed 7-9 months’ salary. In Oyo state, the highest we were owed was 7 months but we collected the seven months and what made it possible was the understanding that existed between the workers and the employer.  It never happened in any other state. Go and find out, which is why the majority of them still owe till now.


The then administration paid a two month salary for three consecutive months, so they were able to upset the arrears of salary. So I said, struggle, activism has never been easy, whoever told you it has been a bed of roses is lying, maybe one or two years when my memoir will be out by his grace, a lot of things will also be revealed, maybe something  that one cannot be revealing now or cannot recollect, what goes into negotiation. 


There was a time I will not mention the administration when my life was being threatened, when I was speaking with hired killers, who were monitoring my movements, so it has been full of travails, but glory to Almighty God.


So what can you attribute as your major achievements in the union?


Hmmm! Major achievements? Let me put it this way, succinctly, the major achievements of any labour leader in a state like Oyo is the relative industrial peace and tranquility, it is an achievement. It has not been war, even when there was to be, I am not making mouth, if there is anything that is going to happen on labour movement, the Governor will say please invite Comrade Ogundiran, even if it is not from my council, the government will invite comrade Ogundiran to come and mediate, observe and make my contribution.


So one major achievement is the existing relative peace and tranquility in the industrial movement, that’s the relationship between the employer and the employee i.e.the workers and the government. thank God so far so good, I think the last time we had a turbulent era was during Ajimobi era, it has been something of a culture that when there is going be a transition, one regime is going, another one is coming in, labor in Oyo state has always been at loggerhead, we were always on strike, but for this sitting government, we made sure it didn’t happen. It almost happened but later reasonability prevailed and the government came in.


Another thing was taking care of the welfare of the workers within the permissible available resources. You see I am not that type of leader that will say this because my counterpart in Lagos or some other states is earning so much, so in Oyo state, we should earn so much. When you consider the numbers of workers in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo and you consider available resources, you will know that it may not work that way. So our negotiations have always been on the factor of affordability and sustainability.

 Is the employer going to afford and after affording at that point of negotiation, is it sustainable? Look at what is happening in the majority of the states including Ogun state, they negotiated, when the new regime came on board, they said know, we cannot pay this, it has never happened like that here, Once we make the employer to open his book and the employer is truthful, we cannot say you should give what you don’t have, no reasonable leader will want to ask for what the employer doesn’t have, only if the employer is truthful but if the employer is something else, instead of being transparent if the employer is opaque in their level of operation, we might be asking for the moon before you can even see the moon, but if the employer is transparent enough, then the labour leaders will be reasonable enough to negotiate what the employer can afford and will be sustainable such that we will not be trying to shift goal post in the middle of the game. 


So many states in the federation today, it was almost immediately after our negotiation that covid-19 came in. We knew states that cut salaries based on covid-19 and the aftermath of covid-19, but go check Oyo state, nothing like that. In fact, the Governor promised when he was campaigning that God willing, 25th or before 25th of every month, salaries would be paid and he has been doing that.



As regards prompt payment of salaries by employers as you mentioned, some people will say it is not an achievement that the government or politicians should be bragging about. What is your opinion on this?



See whoever says it is not an achievement is a mischief maker. Can Kogi state say prompt salary payment is not an achievement?  You see when politicians talk, they talk from both sides of their mouth, let such a person come in, he will say the number one achievement is paying a salary. If such a person is able to pay a salary, when he was outside, he thought it was normal, he has to pay. What I am saying is because it has been prompt, it has not changed. Look I am not making a mouth or irrationally supporting the government that is there, in my years, even when the economy was good, it has not been as easy as this.


What I know is come what may, you know during the last interface prayer, I openly said, “Mr Governor, people may say it is not an achievement, we don’t want to know what magic you are conducting, whether allocation comes or not that alerts sounds on the 25th of every month, please continue to conduct that magic. It is that magic that makes my members dance here and they are dancing honestly and truthfully, if anything happens to that wand, these people dancing here can sing the other way round.” Even till today Mr Governor will say he doesn’t pray for anything to cause issues.


You see many may not believe the stability in the economy of the state, Oyo state is a salary worker operated economy. Let’s try it, let that salary be delayed for two weeks, even a week and look at what will happen to the economy of the state. So whoever is not a mischief maker will know that promptness of salary payment is an achievement. This is the same Oyo state when we receive salary on the 70th of the month, when I say 70th that means it is rolling over the second, third month before the previous month salary is paid but now if it exceeds two days, that is if not on the 25th then by 27th the salary must be paid, if not it will not be funny, that is where the reliability of that promptness is.

 So please when such politicians accost you when they want to address an issue and you are there, tell them that the state where salaries are not promptly paid like I just told you about Ondo state,  I am very sure Ondo state just collected the November 2021 salary. Okay if salary is not an achievement, when Edo state said he will be paying forty thousand naira minimum wage, people shouted, is that not an achievement? We are also working towards that in Oyo state, once we see that there is an improvement in the income of the state, because it is a clause in the agreement we signed with the government, when we notice an improvement, we come back for a salary review. So these are the things.


If people are talking they cannot talk to somebody like me that it is not an achievement because that achievement, that singular act has given me peace, it has not been meetings upon meetings and because of our members that will be shouting they have collected money, we may attend five hours meeting at a stretch, not taking a sachet of pure water because if you do that, our members will say what do you expect, we saw them drinking pure water now, if they have not eaten, how will they be drinking? So something like this is supposed to be a damping factor to us, but it is a motivating factor to us. So it is an achievement.


How will you describe Governor Seyi Makinde’s administration in the last three years?


You know what, government comes and government goes, the union, the service remains and while politicians have a limited tenure of eight years, the workers have their tenure to be thirty five years or when they attain 60 years of age. So with that, we have the opportunity, I told you I came in during the era of Colonel Nwosu till this present administration of Governor Seyi Makinde, so within my period in the office, from the last eight era, I can tell you Seyi Makinde administrator wants to run like when Nigeria economy was okay but unfortunately, available resources is not allowing. 


He provided bicycle for transportation, aside from transportation, for you to exercise, he sustained the provision of commuting bus for workers, he is giving face lift to offices, I think Ajimobi employed only teachers, he had employed teachers and other workers, shooting up the wage bill, whereas the allocation coming in, in fact, is not that it has remained stagnant, it is dwindling. So for us, we don’t want to talk about what he is doing outside because I think people outside can talk about that but as foremost labour leader,for Seyi Makinde, I will say he is trying his best, his best may not be to the contentment of everybody, but for him to have at least make sure there is this industrial peace and tranquility since he assumed office, I will give him a pass mark.


This is a government that met arrears of promotion, he conducted four years, people were dismissed and we knew some were wrongly accused and we appealed to him. I think Ajimobi was using 100 million naira for backlog of pension gratitude, this man came and he was able to increase it to 125 plus another 55 that is around 240 million naira, from 100 to about 240 million to service gratuity monthly that is aside about 1billion every month that he uses to service that of the local government, and he is not even stopping at that, pension payment goes pari-passu  with salary payment, how he does that, as at the last count when we knew, salary wages in Oyo state waivers around 7.1, 7.2 billion monthly, I don’t know when last a state as Oyo as collected 7billion naira as monthly allocation, so you can see why some of us say it is an achievement. 


This is also a tenure that made a promise and  he appointed one of us, the immediate past NULGE President and NLC Chairman, Comrade Bayo Titilola Sodo as the Special Adviser to the Governor on Labour Matters. So even before we cry we will reach out to S.A, he wades into it that is the extent to which the governor himself doesn’t want issues between us. If the Governor has brought in one of his people that has no experience on labour matters, who does not understand the peculiarity of the state, you might have been hearing us almost on a weekly basis, but we thank God. That is why I said so far so good.