PENGASSAN president’s death takes shine off TUC delegates conference
The sudden death of the President of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Comrade Francis Olabode Johnson took the shine off the 11th Triennial National Delegates Conference of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), concluded at the weekend in Abuja.
The usual excitement, heavy solidarity songs and activities that usually characterized the conference were obviously absent, even as PENGASSAN, the most buoyant and visible among the affiliate unions of the TUC stayed away from the conference, still mourning their late president.
Comrade Johnson, whose burial comes up Thursday, July 18 and Friday, July 19, in Abuja, had been slated to become the National President of TUC, during the delegates conference. Without any opposition, it was agreed by all the affiliates of TUC, that Comrade Johnson would take over from the immediate past TUC President, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama.
PENGASSAN was however absent from the delegates conference, saying that it was still mourning its late president. However, to settle any misgiving about the union’s absence besides this, PENGASSAN acting president, Comrade Frank Esanubi, appeared on the second day of the conference to address the delegates.
He said the union could not be part of the conference because of the unexpected and sudden death of its president, who died less than two months to the conference.
Comrade Esanubi assured them that PENGASSAN was in support of the conference and whoever emerged as president at the end, adding that the union will also continue to play its role in TUC.
He said: “Whatever leadership that will emerge from this congress today, PENGASSAN will continue to play its supporting roles to the congress.”
Meanwhile, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, from the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association (FOBTOB), emerged the new president of TUC, for the next three years. Olaleye was overwhelmingly voted the new TUC President after the list of National Administrative Council (NAC), proposed by the 11th Triennial National Delegates Conference Committee, was adopted by the congress.
In his inaugural speech, the new president paid glowing tribute to Comrade Johnson, who he described as a bosom friend and a colleague in the struggle, saying that his legacy would remain indelible.
Comrade Olaleye said: “Fellow delegates, this short speech is incomplete without paying glowing tribute to my bosom friend and a colleague in struggle – Late Comrade Francis Olabode Johnson. Like an explosion, the news was broken to me. In the beginning, it was a shock, and it quickly turned to discomfiture then numbness. I could feel my breath going away and for a moment, I was completely lost and helpless. I tried to say to myself, it can’t be true, no, not Comrade Johnson, there must be a mistake somewhere. I was involuntarily muttering all these before it was finally affirmed.
“My dear friend, your legacy in the labour movement will remain indelible. Adieu my good friend!”
Though he said his emergence came as a surprise, he pointed out that “what we are witnessing today is more than just a change of baton, it is also a call to service.”
According to him: “Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, by this election, has just fulfilled the aspirations of the founding fathers of my great union – FOBTOB – and has also chosen to reaffirm the confidence we have in the current leadership of this great Congress.
“In the past few months, we have engaged each other on the way forward for the Congress likewise, charting a new course in order to further build on the democratic process that was established by the founding fathers of the congress. These efforts made us to realize that majority of our comrades are eager and determined to build a new Congress that is respected and also enjoys the confidence of the Nigerian working people.”
However, he told his colleagues that for the Trade Union in Nigeria to succeed in the new dispensation, it must be determined to tackle myriads of problems plaguing the labour movement and the nation at large.
“In this new dawn, it would no longer be business as usual if we want a congress that works for everyone. As I mentioned earlier, this came as a surprise. Notwithstanding, the unflinching support of seasoned professionals, in diverse fields, in our various affiliates will make this task achievable.”
The TUC President added: “You would agree with me that our congress has gone through turbulent periods in the time past, but the challenges facing our trade unions are real and cannot be solved in a short span of time. Consequently, with determination and our resolution to choose hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord, all will become history.
“I want to mention here without mincing words, the task ahead is arduous. I am confident that with the help of Almighty God, we will surely succeed. Let me therefore reaffirm my commitment to work assiduously to pursue our planned programs and implement them with a high sense of responsibility, honesty and integrity and in line with the constitution of the congress, without undermining the collective efforts of other elected officers.”
He commended the efforts of the immediate past president, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama, for his immense contributions during the struggle to ensure that TUC remained one indivisible element, despite their differences.
He assured them that he would run all inclusive administration, with the interest of the congress at heart, while collaborating with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in ensuring that Nigerian workers are not denied their rights and privileges.
Olaleye admonished all the members of the congress to be good ambassadors of the congress, saying, “the world of work has changed, our nation has changed, our union has changed and we must be ready to key into the change mantra without wavering.”
Other elected officials are: Innocent BOLA Audu, the First deputy president; Oyinkan Olasanoye, second deputy president; Hyginus Onuegbu, third deputy president ; Mohammad Yunusa, National Treasurer; Isaac Egbugara, Financial Secretary; Chris Okonkwo, Auditir I; Obinna Chimela, Auditor II; Ambi Karu, PRO; Benjamin Akintola, Adeyemi Ademola, and Samuel Omaji, National Trustee I, II, III respectively; Shaibu Afusatu, Chairperson TUC Women Commission and Bobboi Bala Kaigama, the immediate past president as ex-officio.