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Pa Michael Aikhamen Omnibus Imoudu

Pa Michael Aikhamen Omnibus Imoudu is Nigeria's first labour leader. He mooted the idea of a union as an apprentice turner at the Nigerian Railway Corporation, Lagos. From that he never relented in mobolising other workers for better condition of service.Born in Sabongida Ora, Edo State on September 17, 1902. in the era when Nigeria was in the grip of British colonialism. He started his working career as a lineman in the department of posts and telecommunications, before moving on to the Nigeria Railway Corporation. Iduring his stintt was
there that Imoudu developed a deep interest in trade unionism and politics. His was fired by the colonial dialectic that exploited African workers on the basis of their class and their race.

It was this heady and potent brew that fired Imoudu into action. He organised and became the first president of the Nigeria Union of Railwaymen in 1940, and his tenure in office was marked by unprecedented militancy.

He first came into the limelight when he led over 3,000 railway workers to Government House to put workers' grievances to the colonial governor.

Following the great depression of 1931 in the metropolitan countries and in the colonies, Pa Imoudu organised and got registered the Railway Workers' Union. The mission was to stop the movement of production capital used to establish commerce and assemble exploration and extraction of resource machinery.

He was so much committed to this first love that he reportedly gave out half of his salary to sponsor trade union activities. Having spent so much on unionism, he was unable to build a house of his own after 50 years of labour.

Harry Nwana, a colleague of Pa Imoudu's, testifies to the measure of the man. On an occasion when Imoudu was meeting with Sir Ralph Emerson, chairman of the railway corporation, Emerson made the opening remarks and left his deputy  a gentleman with well known negrophobic tendencies  to chair the meeting. Imoudu immediately called the meeting to an end and demanded Emerson's return to the meeting. On his return Emerson was subjected to a severe tongue lashing by Imoudu.

In 1945 Imoudu was one of the leaders of a general strike that was ostensibly over a cost of living allowance for workers, but was also about the continued existence of British colonial rule in Nigeria.

The strike was rock solid and lasted 44 days. It is said that this unprecedented strike demystified colonial rule and made independence for Nigeria inevitable.

Even though Imoudu resigned from active trade unionism in the early 1960s, he was still very active in workers' struggles against the African elite that had assumed the position of the departing colonialists.

In 1962, aware that workers needed an independent voice, Imoudu and other like-minded patriots such as Eskor Toyo founded a short-lived Labour Party.

In the second civilian republic (1979-83), Imoudu joined Aminu Kano's People's Redemption Party (PRP), a populist party based on the struggling masses of the northern part of Nigeria.

When a group of PRP members broke away from the party, seeing the need for a more ideologically based struggle, Pa Imoudu was their rallying figure.

In the 1980s, during the uprisings against the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in Nigeria, Pa Imoudu was part of a conference called by the progressive forces at the Labour Congress headquarters in Lagos to determine an alternative to SAP.

Pa Imoudu's life of struggle against oppressors, both black and white, leaves many valuable lessons for the younger generations of class fighters.

At time when Africa is being forced onto the precipice of a barbarism worse than colonialism, only the working class and other oppressed strata can maintain a consistent liberation struggle.

Pa Imoudu believed Africa, nay, the world needed to be cleansed of all the oppression, filth and dirt of capitalism and bring into being a socialist society where the free development of one will be the free development of all  a society that will put people's needs before profit, that will not tolerate the neo-liberal induced famine, poverty of deprivation of any kind.

Pa Michael Imoudu and his 500,000 Trade Union Congress comrades defeated the indomitable colonial government in a general strike that lasted for 44 days. Imoudu had no telephones or GSMs, yet he concentrated 500,000 men to defeat the British colonial administration

Imoudu's birthday is annually celebrated by the labour movement because of his outstanding contributions to the struggle for the nation's independence and the improvement of working conditions for workers. During his active days, Imoudu who was an employee of the Railways, was imprisoned. While in prison, he mobilised prisoners against the colonial government and the prisoners embarked on hunger strike. 

Imoudu was a former President of the Railway Workers Union and first President of the independently formed Nigeria Labour Congress.

Pa. Michael Imoudu, the nationally acclaimed number one labour leader died July 22, 2005 at the age of 103 years.

He was acknowledged by many renowned progressives as selfless and inspirational. He was noted to have unrivalled courage, commitment, discipline, tactical depth, mentoring skills and capacity to organize.
Last update 20-07-2011

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