By Chris Nwachuku in Lagos and Juliana Taiwo in Abuja, 07.23.2005
Nationally acclaimed number one labour leader, Pa. Michael Imoudu, has died. He dird yesterday at his Oke-Ora home, Sabongida-Ora, Edo State at the age of 103 years.
Announcing the news of the demise of the centenarian, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said that the foremost labour leader passed away peacefully at 8.30a.m.
President, Nigeria Labour Congress Adams Oshiomhole who suspended for hours a crucial meeting he was involved with officials of local government employees to commensurate with the family, said that with the death of Imoudu, Nigeria has lost a patriot who committed his life to the emancipation of the country especially the workers.
Family sources disclosed that Imoudu did not exhibit any sign of discomfort or ill health when he passed on peacefully at the early hours.
Already NLC had opened a condolence register at its national secretariat, while directive has been given to all the 36 state council and Abuja to do same.
Oshiomhole who announced the death last night said the labour movement was saddened by Imoudu's death, but nevertheless took pride in the good life he lived and his preeminent and pioneering contributions to the development of the Nigeria labour movement and the Nigerian nation.
"The impact of the Nigerian labour movement on the nationalist efforts and the birth of modern Nigeria owed a lot to the meticulous networking and grassroots work pioneered by Imoudu. In this respect, he stood shoulder to shoulder with the leading nationalist figures projecting the working class banner in the struggle for independence" NLC President said
Oshiomhole noted that Imoudu’s legacies remained the leading source of inspiration to today’s generation of labour leaders and activists noting that he would be remembered as a "front-line patriot, nationalist, and pan-Africanist, humanist, trade union organiser, progressive politician, elder statesman, democrat and good family man, who gave his best to our movement, our nation and the continent"
Reflecting on his career, the NLC President said that Imoudu was a first class organizer which culminated into the birth not only of Nigeria Railway Union but also of NLC. Particularly, Oshiomhole who pride himself as grandson of Imoudu said his advent of the trade union scene brought unprecedented militancy and a radically activist dimension to the movement.
According to him, Imoudu first came into lime light when he led over 3,000 workers of the railway union to storm the colonial Government House based on some workplace demands. However, right from the incipient stages of his career, he had always aligned workplace demands with the wider interests of Nigerians, especially the imperative of independence from colonial rule.
He said that Imoudu used his railway union platform to build the Nigerian trade union movement. He was president of the All-Nigeria Trade Union Federation from 1947 – 1958 and was the first president of the then Nigeria Labour Congress. "This was a testimony to his unrivalled courage, commitment, discipline, tactical depth, mentoring skills and capacity to organize, which his peers uniformly deferred to"
On his part, the General Secretary of Amalgamated Union on Public Corporation and Technical Workers, Slyvester Ejiofor said that Imoudu was the best the trade union movement could offers.
According to him " Imoudu was a legendary nationalist, an embodiment of trade union crsader. He represented the finest tradition of the labour movement"
The Congress of Free Trdae Union described late Imoude as the epitome of the core values of the trade union movement, noting that he laid the foundation for a vibrant NLC. According the General Secretary, his death marked the end of an era, of unparalleled self sacrifice, an unquantiable commitment to the couse of Nigerians.
"There cannot never be another Imoudu who can champion the course of Nigerians selflessly, unperturbed about the material needs. He maintained a tradition of true unionism"
The Food union also described Imoudu as an inspiration to the mordern unionists. According to the President of National Union of Food Beverages and Tobacco, John Onyenemere "Imoudu shaped the vision and direction of the present labour movement. A patriot is gone, our mentor is gone"
Pa Imoudu was born in Oke-Ora, Owan West Local Govern-ment area of present day Edo State. He had his education at various schools – Government School, Ora, Roman Catholic School, Onitsha, Roman Catholic School, Agbor and Government School, Agbor.
He started his formal working career as a Lineman in the Department of Post and Telecommunications before moving to the Nigeria Railway Corporation. As a railway worker, he developed deep interest in trade unionism and politics, fired by the intensity of exploitation in the colonial world of work and the second class status of Nigerian people.
Lagos State Governor Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu extolled the virtues of number one labour leader, Pa Imoudu, urging the Federal Government to give him a befitting state burial.
Thanking God for preserving the late democrat and working class leader for 103 years, Asiwaju Tinubu said his life demonstrates that longevity is a divine reward for those who commit their lives to the advancement of the human race and the liberation of the human being from the shackles of oppression and repression.
“A glorious chapter in the history of the struggle for Nigerian independence has closed, the hero of the working peoples all over the world has departed, the man of courage, the great tactician, the consummate strategist and the relentless fighter has gone. Nigeria has lost a gem, the world has lost an avatar” he stated.
Asiwaju said those who forced Pa Michael Imoudu to retire by force by making a law to ban him from continuing to exercise his right to participate in the leadership of the labour movement thought Pa Michael Imoudu would not survive their despotic regime but God has used his life to show that the voice of the people is the voice of God.
He called on labour leaders to follow the path of the late working class leader by protecting the interests of workers and the common people at large against the predatory antics of anti-people politicians who have increased the economic burden of the common man in the last six years of misrule.
In his condolence, Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi in a press release said Pa Imoudu's death did not come to him as a shock, considering his age, "He was one of the few Nigerians to die at that age."
Fawehinmi noted that "the significance of his death was his life. Pa Michael Imoudu was the greatest trade unionist and the leader of the Nigerian working class that ever lived," adding that, "He was dedicated and committed to the cause of the working class. he fought for the welfare and progress of the workers. In doing this, he was extremely courageous and transparently honest."
The fiery lawyer said though Pa Imoudu had little formal education, but his untainted and unwavering pursuit of the welfare of the masses coupled with his honesty of purpose, he carved for himself an exemplary niche which can hardly be equaled by any other trade unionist in this country.
"In the course of his courageous and honest leadership of the working class of Nigeria, he paid virtually no attention to his own personal well-being and welfare. No wonder when he retired, he had nothing. Not even a house to live in."
THISDAY NEWSPAPER OF SATURDAY, JULY 23, 2005.