When we first met mid-80s, he strikingly exhibited all the attributes of a courageous, determined, focused comrade optimistic, like the rest of us, of the imminence of a revolution that would ‘’soon’’ upturn the entire system that viciously divides the society in an unbalanced class of exploiters and the exploited; oppressors and the oppressed; the poor and the rich.
Beyond that, he displayed an exceptional glee in compassion for everyone around him, in addition to his clear passion for the struggle for a better society where equity, fairness and justice would prevail in the socio-economic, political lives and wellbeing of our people.
His presence and roles in organisations of left extractions were colossal, as huge as his frame, though most times anonymous but not underscoring his high level of commitment and discipline.
Comrade Didi Aifediyi Adodo was an epitome of humour, compassion, organised, selfless and focused individual in astonishing manners. The struggle was his life; he was never carried away by whatever circumstances he found himself.
In the students’ movement, Didi was a major figure at the University of Benin where he read Political Science and leader of the University’s branch of the Patriotic Youth Movement of Nigeria, an underground coordinating organisation of all campus based left organisations in Nigeria. He attended meetings and protests across the country.
He left the university to serve the labour movement dutifully throughout his adult life; though briefly in the service of Edo State Government as a Commissioner and cabinet member for eight years in the administration of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
He joined the staff of the National Secretariat of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, as Administrative Officer. Though working with a few other colleagues, he was practically the driving force of the secretariat, then located at the campus of the University of Ibadan. He was always on the roads, hardly in one city for one full week.
Routinely, when he receives his salary at the end of every month, he will invite comrades in the student movement, members of the Marxist Socialist Movement at the University of Ibadan and gave each of us part of his salary for feeding, without our prompting. He was full of extraordinary compassion; very natural without any pretence.
He left ASUU voluntarily to become General Secretary of the Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ISSAN) where he diligently organised steel workers across the country at a period the steel industry faced serious financial crisis fundamentally due to bad governance and it’s attendant fleecing fingers of government functionaries who saw the government owned steel firms as conduit to syphon funds meant to stabilise the companies to produce materials capable of lifting the country’s manufacturing capacity.
He fought from Ajaokuta Steel Company to Aladja, Oshogbo, Katsina and several others to defend workers whose rights were threatened with declarations of redundancies, outright sacks or non-payment of salaries that ran into months and in some cases, years. He fought against government policies driven by neo liberal economic interests that ultimately circumscribed the survival of the industry till date.
He was an astute trade union negotiator; a collective bargaining expert who knew where the shoe pinches workers and what are to be done to assuage or annihilate the pains.
Didi was a resourceful and courageous organiser par excellence. He did not only organise workers in the steel industry, he organised other trade unions to form the Senior Staff Consultative Association of Nigeria, SESCAN at a period the military, under the dictatorship of Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha descended on trade unions in the country, constraining their rights to independently organise and defend workers as well as advance our collective struggle for democracy.
As the onslaught continued, SESCAN was transformed to Congress of Free Trade Unions to ensure all trade unions can be affiliated to it in the event that the Nigeria Labour Congress is brought down by the military government who had already seized the NLC Secretariat and imposed a Sole Administrator to decimate the labour centre’s capabilities as pro-democracy struggles heightened in the country.
Though trade union and workers rights were deliberately circumscribed during the Abacha military dictatorship, CFTU provided platforms that kept the movement alive to its responsibilities through sustained agitations, conferences and meetings, most times clandestine in planning.
Didi worked tirelessly with several other comrades to connect trade unions to the pro-democracy struggles that studiously combated military dictatorship in Nigeria; which eventually led to the return of civil rule. He was either a founding member of several organisations or a key member of numerous civil society groups that grounded the country against military despotism.
He was actively a member of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights led by late Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, Campaign for Democracy and United Action for Democracy; working closely with Beko, late Alao Aka-Bashorun, late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, late Baba Omojola, Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, Comrade Femi Aborisade, Comrade Jonathan Ihonde, Comrade Lawson Osagie, Comrade Femi Falana, Comrade John Odah, Prof. Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, Comrade Tony Iyare, Prof. Itse Sagay and many others. Amongst all, he was closer to late Dr, Festus Iyayi who was President of ASUU when he was employed as administrative Officer at its headquarters. He was also a member of the Socialist Congress of Nigeria.
He also played active role in the formation of the Labour and Civil Society Coalition which brought together several civil society organisations in labour’s struggles against bad governance in the country.
He played a major part in ensuring the reunification of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the defunct United Labour Congress recently. He was the General Secretary of the ULC. He knew what a strong, united labour movement meant to the struggle.
Didi was also a founding member of the Labour Party at both national and Edo State levels. He played active roles during the campaigns for the first term of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole for the Governorship of Edo State which initially started with an alliance between Labour Party and Action Congress of Nigeria.
Indeed, he faced several fatal attacks during the campaigns in 2007 and protests that followed the elections up to the judgement of the election petitions tribunal in Benin City.
Didi Adodo left behind a wife, Ngozi and three children who are all university graduates. A decent family man who never modulated his family’s importance in all his activities. Son of a Reverend gentleman of the Anglican Church, Didi, like many of us in the left started as an atheist but later became a passionate Christian and was made a Knight of the Anglican Church.
The death of Didi is one too many for the movement in Nigeria as our ranks has recently faced unexpected decimation, though threatening the sustenance of our collective struggle; in their memories, those left behind must strive harder to ensure the deepening of the struggles and deliberate expansion of the movement. That way, the souls of all our departed Comrades will rest well in power and in eternal peace.
Denja Yaqub is an Assistant Secretary (Industrial Relations) at the headquarters of Nigeria Labour Congress, Abuja