NUJ: The Price For A Divided House | Independent Newspapers Limited
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NUJ: The Price For A Divided House

Posted: Aug 1, 2015 at 2:52 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

It’s no longer news that 882 delegates from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and 36 states councils of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) gathered in the nation’s capital of Abuja from Thursday, July 23, to Saturday, July 25, 2015, for the 5th triennial delegates conference. It’s no longer news too that the conference climaxed with the election of new members of the Central Working Committee (CWC) with Alhaji Abdulwaheed Odusile as the President to run the affairs of the union in the next three years.

But the news here is the why and how Odusile eventually emerged as the president of the union after two unsucessful attempts. I must say here that the emergence of Odusile was divine because it was his time, given some unexplained events that took place before and during the conference, especially in the Lagos and Ondo states Councils of the NUJ. Odusile contested to be the deputy president of the union at the Port Harcourt delegates conference of 2006 and lost to Mohammed Garba. Again, he contested the same office at the Abuja conference of 2009 and lost to Rotimi Obamuwagun, the man he now defeated last week in his attempt to become the president. That is, Waheed’s two attempts to become the deputy president failed but the first shot at the highest office of the union paid off. Who says the hand of God is not in this?

It is instructive to state here that Waheed lost in his two attempts because the Lagos State Council of the union that projected him went to those conferences a divided house. All efforts by well-meaning members of the council to reconcile the warring factions yielded no good result. Former council chairman, Deaconess Olufunke Fadugba, desperately wanted to be president on both occasions, on her own, without the council’s endorsement and she failed. Again, the then incumbent chairman of the council, Wahaab Oba, also contested with Mrs. Fadugba in Abuja 2012. That is, three candidates, Fadugba, Wahaab and Waheed, contested from the same council, seeking the highest office and the second highest office of the union. Three of them lost due to division and bitter rivalry among them. Contestants from other councils capitalised on the cracks, routed them and inflicted serious injuries on the council. On the two occasions, the highly respected Lagos Council was demystified due to factionalisation. Sad enough, it led to the embarrassing loss of Odusile despite the council’s endorsement of his candidacy. On both occasions, the council went home empty, being the price paid for going to the election a divided house.

Having realised the futility of going into election a divided house, all hands were on deck with determination to go to Abuja 2015 a united family. So, the entire council was on the same page, it went, fought and conquered, and came back home with the highest trophy in the NUJ. That is 21 years after it won the trophy at the Sokoto delegates conference, courtesy of the late Ladi Lawal. Ironically, the Lagos Council won the trophy with a margin of 21 votes after 21 years! Yes, that was the margin with which Waheed defeated his closest rival, Rotimi Obamuwagun, the immediate past deputy president. That is the gain of unity. For that, the council is better for it today.

At this juncture, I have to give an account of why Obamuwagun lost narrowly to Waheed. He is from the Ondo State Council of the union and, as the outgoing deputy president of the union, I must say that Obamuwagun gave a good account of himself at the polls. Like Waheed, he crisscrossed the length and breadth of this country canvassing for votes. Despite all the efforts, he failed because unlike Lagos that put its house in order, Ondo Council came to Abuja a divided house, full of bitterness. The council presented two candidates for the presidency and it was its greatest undoing. The immediate past vice president of Zone B, which comprises the six states of the South West, Dele Atunbi, locked horns with Obamuwagun for the presidency. Both have also been involved in a bitter quarrel over the years, which led to the factionalisation of the council. Despite all entreaties by elders in the council, none of the combatants was ready to shift ground; it was a fight to finish. At the end of the day, both of them lost out, crashed and went back home empty, to the embarrassment of the council. It was a colossal waste of human, material and financial resources. Dele Atunbi was the Secretary of Ondo Council when Obamuwagun was the chairman. He eventually succeeded him as the chairman of the Council when Obamuwagun was elected the vice president of the union at the 2006 delegates conference in Port Harcourt. Ever since, the relationship has never been smooth.

At the end of the keenly contested election, Odusile, who emerged the president, garnered 354 votes, Obamuwagun 333 and Atunbi came a distant third with 51 votes. It, therefore, followed that but for the division in the Ondo Council that led to the split in their votes, Odusile would most likely not have emerged the president because the Ondo votes would have been consolidated to defeat a “common enemy.”  But as I said earlier, the hand of God was in the emergence of Odusile. This is a man who has paid his dues in the profession and in the NUJ. He has all it takes to take the union and the profession to the next level. For the Ondo Council, the combatants refused to reconcile and the council went to the polls factionalised because God wanted Odusile to be the president. Today, Ondo is leaking its wounds while Lagos is home celebrating. Those whom the gods want to destroy, they first make mad. A lesson for all!