About 50,000 artisans and traders drawn from up to 168 trade unions in Oyo state literally put Ibadan on lock down on Monday when they took to the streets in support of the state governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.
The supporters who came from the 33 local government areas of the state comprised of tailors, hairdressers, technicians, shoe makers, traders, butchers, commercial drivers, students and a host of others. They drummed support for Ajimobi’s policies and called on striking workers to dialogue with the government to end the industrial crisis in the state over non-payment of salaries.
The march started at Mapo Hall, Oja Oba, Ibadan at about 9am and the train moved through major roads and terminated at the state secretariat where they were addressed by Governor Ajimobi.
Fuji musician, Rashidi Ayinde performed at the rally where Ajimobi addressed the crowd of supporters.
Ajimobi was joined by his deputy, Chief Moses Alake-Adeyemo; the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr Olalekan Ali; his Chief of Staff (CoS), Dr Gbade Ojo and other top government functionaries.
Union leaders took turns to address the crowd, each, commending Ajimobi’s policies including the new schools management initiative which labour and teachers had disagreed with.
Leader of food canteen operators in the state, Alhaja Iyadunni Lawal, said:
“Let all stakeholders sit down and resolve all issues amicably.
All of us voted. We are all stakeholders. All we want is peace and progress in the state. Let workers dialogue with the government so there will be progress and our children will return to school.”
President, Marketing Advisory Council, Mrs Labake Lawal, said:
“We appeal to all workers not to inflict pains on us. Sit down with the government and find a peaceful solution. Traders and all of us in Oyo State are feeling the negative impact of non-payment of salaries. We are recording low sales. So, both parties need to sit together and dialogue on all grey areas to come up with an amicable solution. We also want to affirm that all market women are solidly behind Governor Ajimobi. When finances of the state improves, all stakeholders will benefit through patronage of our businesses. When two elephants fight, the grass suffers.
In his address to the crowd, Ajimobi stressed that he was committed to his campaign promises. He blamed the opposition for sponsoring lies against him on the education initiative and condemned teachers for setting children on the streets to start destroying public property.
“When we campaigned, we made promises. We stand by those promises. Those sponsoring disharmony are the opposition elements. We promised to run an all-inclusive government. When we discovered that our schools were not doing well, we organized education summit in 2012 and certain recommendations were made. Democracy is about thinking together. Hence we invited all stakeholders to a meeting. But some labour leaders gathered and disrupted the meeting. The violence we had stamped out was what they brought back again and we won’t let that be.
“If anybody opposes any policy, you complain through proper channel.
Yet, we are not fighting with workers because they never supported those leaders who employed violence. Why should anyone fight over planned policies?
We have 631 secondary schools, 33,000 classrooms several thousands of students and teachers. Then, some people came and offered to collaborate with us. During past administrations, stakeholders came up to assist them. These labour leaders have schools and their children don’t attend public schools.
“But we are planning to revamp schools and you sent our children to start abusing the governor. The children are not their own children. Their own children were in their schools learning.
“With that behaviour, they are teaching the children to be hoodlums. They are teaching them not to honour elders. They are teaching them not to respect constituted authority. And they are teaching them how to lie. An end must come to misleading people with outright lies.
“After all these, we held a meeting with enlarged labour leaders. They saw that what their local leaders did was not good. And they apologized. So, we have forgiven them.
The initiative is yet to transform to a policy. We just asked everyone to come and dialogue. Most of our workers are good. Workers, we are not fighting with you.
“When they saw that the school management card did not work, they resorted to salary issue. But we already have an agreement on salaries. Not only Oyo State is having this salary problem. When our finances were still good, we increased salaries thrice and that of pensioners. We paid 13th month for three years. We provided free buses, increased car and housing allowance, gave training allowances etc.
“When the problem of salaries started, I gave them three options. I came up with an option of payment that would see workers on the junior cadres receive their salaries while the balance of government income is used to pay part of senior workers’. But they rejected the idea. I offered the option of retrenchment, they rejected. Then I suggested payment of half salaries, they also rejected it.
“As at that time, salaries alone gulped 80 per cent of our federal allocation. I asked them what they wanted and they said they wanted 100 per cent of the federal allocation coming to the state to be committed to salaries alone. I consented. Now the entire allocation is insufficient. They are complaining. Let them come up and let’s dialogue to fashion the way forward.
“However, workers in the local government and primary school teachers are not affected. They are collecting their salaries. They are only owed one or two months.
“One of the reasons they are doing this again is because of the local government election that is coming. So, go and educate our people.
“But let everyone know that we won’t allow holligalism in Oyo State. We shall also revamp Oyo State while thinking together. We won’t let labour alone control the entire state. Go and tell labour to come back for dialogue.
We are not fighting with workers. But we must realize that we are all stakeholders in this state. Let us dialogue. Nobody can intimidate us!”