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As ABU honours Hassan Sunmonu and Dangote

Understandably all stakeholders in the education sector in particular and nation building in general, hail the weekend conferment of Honorary Doctorate Degrees of Letters on…

Understandably all stakeholders in the education sector in particular and nation building in general, hail the weekend conferment of Honorary Doctorate Degrees of Letters on both the founding President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Comrade Hassan Adebayo Sunmonu and foremost African Industrialist, Alhaji Aliko Dangote by Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria as part of the 41st Convocation Ceremony of the University last Saturday in Samaru Zaria.

The news had captured public imagination during the week when the Registrar of the university, Ahmed Abdullahi Kundila, in a statement said Aliko Dangote and Comrade Sunmonu were to be honoured for their immense contribution to the economic and human development of the nation. Precisely because yours comradely was involved with both of them, Alhaji Hassan Sunmonu, (being my mentor in the labour movement!) and Aliko Dangote, (for friendship, enterprise and reindustrializing Africa), I bear witness to the shared class collective glory (not expected class struggle!) at the weekend in the university famous for battle of ideas between socialism and capitalism in the 70s and 80s. I commend the Governing Council of ABU for the recognition of the duo of enterprise and labour. Inadvertently ABU had made the statement that recognition must be given equal to labour and capital as critical factors of growth and development and social justice in Africa. All other universities must learn from ABU in this regards. The recognition of Alhaji Hassan raises the nostalgia of his outstanding leadership as the founding President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) from 1978 to 1984. NLC under his leadership fought and won the battle to make May 1st a public holiday, fought and won the struggle for a new minimum wage of N125 ($240) in 1981 under President Shehu Shagari’s administration.

Notwithstanding the divisive strategy of the second Republic politicians aimed at splitting the labour movement into “democrats” and “Marxists” Sunmonu commendably sustained the unity of the trade union movement through all inclusive ideologically driven movement; a lesson for the current leadership of NLC to overcome the ruptures of 2015! As Secretary General of the Organisation of Africa Trade Unions Unity (OATUU) he ensured that the voice of Africa workers was heard and respected in the global arena. Born with his identical twin brother, Engr. Hussein Sunmonu on 7th January, 1941 at Oshogbo, in Osun State, the Sunmonus are the most spectacular identical twins to see any day! It seems age sharpens their similarities in mannerism and outlook. In 2010, HA (as he is fondly and comradely addressed) was hounoured by Micheal Imoudu Labour Institute, Ilorin. His twin brother Engr Hussein Sunmonu represented him. As a privileged reciter of the profile of the receipent, only me and the Director General of the Institute, John Olanrewaju knew it was Engr. Hussein Sunmonu who took the centre stage NOT comrade HA! Many were in disbelief when Engr. Hussein disclosed he was receiving the award on behalf of his twin brother. The difference was not clear in their voices and jokes. HA is a global citizen of profound integrity.

A product of the then functional missionary/public schools, he started his education career at Ansar-Ud-Deen School in Oshogbo between 1948 and 1950. He attended All Saints School, Oshogbo from 1950 to 1954, where he got his First School Leaving Certificate in December 1954.          He went to Yaba Technical Institute in September, 1957. He obtained General Certificate in Education (GCE) Ordinary Level in 1961, later bagged the Secondary Technical Certificate, moved to Yaba College of Technology between 1961 to 1964, obtained the Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in Civil Engineering, the Higher National Diploma (HND) in Civil Engineering. HA proceeded to Italy for a Post-Graduate Diploma Course in Highway Engineering.

HA’s educational grounding shows that contrary to the false class assumption of the ruling (ruining!) elite, the labour movement is indeed knowledge led. One essential imprint of HA is cultivating a knowledge based movement. As the founding President of the NLC he consciously attracted first class conscious graduate activists to the NLC as full time officers. I am a living testimony. On graduating in the late 80s, he single handedly pulled me out of fulfilling  job to the NLC to swell the ranks of the NLC Secretariat ably led by late Dr Lasisi Osunde, supported by tested comrades like Lawson Osiagie, Dr yahaya Hashim, Salisu Muhammed, Femi Aborishade and a number of others. He pioneered the inclusion of labour candidates on the participants list of NIPPS, Kuru Jos.

A witty wag and a “mobile library”, Trade unionists and comrades alike globally cannot wait for his compelling memoir! HA also talks in proverbs! As the President of the NLC, he was a resource fellow at the seminar series of Senior Executive course (SEC 2) of 1980. After the usual Q & A session, he demanded for the labour participants at the executive course initiated by Obasanjo military regime meant to build capacity for executives drawn from the tripod of government, business and labour communities with the objective of working Towards a Better Society. Since then NLC/TUC had sent scores of participants who are now members of the National Institute. HA was almost an activist by birth. And he is still organizing (a trustee of ASUU!) not agonizing as most young comrades do today. He still matched on the street for good governance and against corruption.

A honour for Aliko Dangote as a leading African investor and industrialist was well deserved given his  globally acknowledged contribution to industrialisation and mass job creation in the continent of Africa. He is not just the richest man but the most value-adding entrepreneur in Africa. His bold imprints in global corporate social responsibility are remarkable. He manifested that again at the convocation with the commissioning of blocks of hostels worth N1.2 billion for ABU students! Congrats to Aliko and HA both!

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