Ibadan stands still as supporters stage rally for Ajimobi …Governor to striking workers: ‘let’s dialogue


Ibadan, the Oyo State capital literally stood still for Governor Abiola Ajimobi yesterday as his supporters across all walks of life staged a rally in support of his policies and called on workers to dialogue with the government in the ongoing impasse over non-payment of salaries.

This came as the governor waved an olive branch to the striking workers to come for dialogue, stressing that it is an element of democracy.

The supporters, numbering about 50,000, were made up of members of about 168 trade associations across the 33 local government areas of the state.

They had gathered at the historic Mapo Hall by 9:00 am from where they moved through the city, drumming support for the governor and his policies.

The crowd of supporters were made up of various associations such as traders, market women, hair dressers, tailors, commercial drivers, auto technicians, shoe makers and Fuji musicians. Others include association of farmers, butchers, food and fruits sellers, students and politicians.

As they moved through the popular Beere/Oje/Agodi Road, they were joined by other independent supporters.
Anchoring the achievements on enthronement of peace, the supporters called on residents and labour leaders to shun violence and any act that is detrimental to the progress of the state.

The crowd moved to Agodi from where it went to the State Secretariat where the governor addressed them.
As Ajimobi appeared, his praises rented the air with people gyrating to the tunes being rendered by the Ibadan based Fuji musician, Rashidi Ayinde.

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 Grade Ojo and other top government functionaries.

Taking their turn to address the crowd, leaders of five unions including that of students, commended Ajimobi for his efforts on restoring peace to the state. They also hailed his school management initiative which had been misinterpreted as selling public schools,stressing that they had sought facts about the initiative and found that that it was a good way to rescue dwindling standards in the public school system.

Speaking on behalf of canteen operators in the state, Mrs Iyadunni Lawal, who is the president of the association, said all residents and voters are stakeholders in Oyo State. She emphasized that the association was interested in peace and harmony between the government and workers.

“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.” She said.

Also taking the same position, the President, Marketing Advisory Council, Mrs Labake Lawal, said: “We are here today to assure all that Governor Ajimobi is not selling schools. 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.

“All of us are concerned that government is not able to pay salaries because it is affecting all of us. But dialogue should be embraced so Ajimobi can concentrate on governance.”

Addressing the crowd, the student leader said they were happy to be part of the solidarity rally for Ajimobi because his administration brought an end to violence against students in the state. He recalled the sad incident of June 5, 2011 when some students were gruesomely murdered by hoodlums at the Iwo Road interchange.

According to him, the Ajimobi administration has since stopped violence among commercial drivers while the city of Ibadan has known peace.

His words: “We have come in a solidarity trek for peace. For the first time in six years, students and NURTW are working together. Recall that some students were killed in Iwo Road in 2011. But Ajimobi has returned peace to Oyo State. Let no group disrupt the peace in Oyo State. Let labour unions dialogue with the government.

We have sought information about the school management initiative and the governor explained to us that he was not selling schools. We want to say that today, students walk anytime in the day and night. We say thank you sir. Nigerian students have come up with a proposal on how Oyo State can be helped. We shall be glad if the government looks into that proposal.

We appealed to our teachers that our children should not be used as weapons of destruction.”

Other leaders of the associations also called for understanding on the school management initiative. They urged the two parties to come to a truce
Addressing the crowd, an elated Ajimobi explained that he was committed to his campaign promises. As a way of initiating a discussion process, he said the government invited labour as a stakeholder to the first meeting but that some labour leaders chose to disrupt the meeting in a violent way.

Ajimobi vowed to sustain his administration’s achievement on peace and emphasized that he would continue to encourage every democratic means of governing the state.

He blamed the opposition for sponsoring lies against him on the initiative and condemned teachers for setting children on the streets to start destroying public property.

His words: “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!”

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