By DAPO OLAWUNI
In this interview session, President of dockworkers branch of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) Comrade Tajudeen Ohize said that the President General of the Union, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju played a major role in securing Nigerian seaports during the EndSars protests that rocked the nation recently.
He said the plan of the hoodlums was to gain access into Apapa and Tin Can Island Port and probably set a vessel on fire in order to prove to the world that Nigerian ports was not secured. When the hoodlums could not succeed at entering the Apapa Port and Tin Can Island Ports, they went ahead to burn the NPA headquarters.
He revealed that Comrade Adeyanju and the dockworkers worked round the clock to ensure that the port remained secured.
Ohize noted that dockworkers at Nigerian ports today under Comrade Adeyanju are more enlightened and reformed, adding that the years of thugry and hooliganism at the port is over. In the past, he said the workers might have joined the protest.
Ohize also spoke on reasons why dockworkers recently bestowed awards on the MWUN boss and endorsed him for a second term in office.
What informed some members of your branch giving an award to the President General recently?
The PG has done a lot in this maritime industry, the easiest example I can give you is this ENDSARS protest that just happened, if not for the grace of God and the PG, they would have burned down the port. When the information came in, he called me to find out what was happening, and he directed me to tell all the dockworkers to protect where they are working, and they all did. If you are working with the PG, you need to be active, the man does not like people that are not active.
The ENDSARS protesters were about going into the port when I called one or two people from Tin Can Port, even before that time, my branch officers were already in Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports since early morning.
So when the protesters wanted to gain access into the port, with the help of the workers, the police and the Nigerian Customs, we were able to chase them away. Nobody was expecting them to try gaining access to the port, they were at the roundabout around Eleganza bus stop where they set up stage and they were singing and demonstrating, but after sometime they started coming towards the port.
All through that time, the PG was calling us and he directed that once it is 2pm, everyone should close work and go home, except for the important people that would mount the gate.
The hoodlums attempted gaining access into the port first, when they couldn’t succeed, they went and destroyed the NPA headquarters at Marina. What the MWUN PG did during that protest, the federal government did not even know it, until they start hearing stories from people.
Secondly, during Comrade Adeyanju time as PG, there was peace inside the port, you cannot see dockworkers fighting inside the port again, the PG touched all the branches and solved all the problems he met on ground, if you want to see the other side of the PG, you just try to cheat the workers, then you would see the other side of him, as a leader, he would never allow you to cheat the workers.
Again, the group that came on Monday to give the PG three awards were the guys that came to the NPA headquarters to protest sometimes ago, their leader was the one that presented the award that day, they have come to realise that the man was excellent. When he came in, he took the good, the bad and the ugly and decided that everybody must work together for the industry to move.
We are now having four months before our elections, but, you cannot hear any grumbling or feel any tension, about four years ago, there was tension everywhere, for you to know that everybody is cotented, they are okay and working fine, that is why you see the peace, the PG deserves a second term, if there is a third term, if the constitution permits, we would give him.
He took over from Tony Nted, and Tony never made a mistake by bringing him onboard, when Tony was bringing him onbaord, some people were grumbling and kicking against it, but Tony has seen something in him before he endorsed him, and all of us have now seen it today.
The problem we have at the branch before were the dockworkers, whenever there is an election, the dockworkers are the ones that would stand up and say we dont want this person, but now, it is the dockworkers that are coming out to say that we want this person, let him stay, definitely, they have seen his ability and benefitted from him.
The protest was carried out nationwide, and we have ports in Calabar, Warri, Onne and Port Harcourt, how were you able to secure that region?
The protesters wanted to burn down Warri Port also, the PG has called and directed people to man the port, he equally notified the Managing Director of NPA of the unfolding situation, the MD today is addressing my PG as “Defense Minister”, this is for you to know the role he played.
Comrade Adeyanju is a workaholic, he doesn’t rest, even if you call him at 1am, he would answer his phone. If you see me coming early to work today, I learnt it from him, even when I was still a Chairman at ENL Terminal, I resume very early, I normally come into the port by 5am, and if you are coming by that time, you would meet Comrade Adeyanju by the gate.
So, all over Nigeria, no port or terminal was tampered with?
None was touched because, this is the only place that we are eating. During the COVID-19, the PG could have stopped everybody from working because of the risk involved, but he never did that, he only gave us guidelines on how to go about it. The tension in the country as at the Covid-19 period was not so serious because the port workers were still allowed to be working, we never closed down the port because of COVID19, and the PG comes everyday to address everybody and tell us what to do, he calls meetings often to enlighten us. If you see any government that is having problems, it is from the grassroots, if information is not disseminated to the grassroots, there would be problems. Nigerians don’t need much, what they need is shelter, good roads and food, this is the major cause of the protests here and there.
Before now, dockworkers were restricted from jetties and tank farms, has the situation changed?
Yes, at some of the tank farms now, we are working there, we won the case some years back, and you can see the man we have as our leader today, he is a very easy going man who does not want anything done by violence, this is why he is approaching all these issues and challenges with caution. Some of our boys are working in some tank farms now, but there are some of them that we are yet to gain access to work, the system that MWUN under Comrade Adewale Adeyanju is using is different from thuggery and hooliganism.
Would you also be seeking a second term in office?
The second term belongs to the workers, before I got here, the workers and the leaders said I should go there, and that is why I am here, if they find me fit to go for a second term again, then no problems, but if the workers say No, it is not a do or die affair.
But, from the award bestowed on you, it shows that the dockworkers are seeking your second term
The award given to me is to appreciate the good work I have been doing with the PG, one thing with this our job is that, as a leader, you dont force yourself on the workers, if you desire to have a good government, let the workers themselves decide.
We have dockworkers in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri, Onne and so on, but here is headquarters.
How have you been able to manage the eastern ports effectively?
It is easy when you work with a good leader, my PG has helped me a lot in terms of this job we are doing today, he is a man that has been here before, and he knows everything, he knows all the corners. So, i communicate with all the officers at eastern ports, and regular meetings is helping us a lot, the leadership of this union never relent in talking to the workers, even when we are not there, we send people to speak to the workers, if I cannot go there, and the PG also cannot, we usually send officers there to speak with them. If not for the EndSars protests, we have have planned to tour round the port with the PG to see what is happening.