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Homage to uncommon revolutionary scholar

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Unions Without Unionism, Governments Without Governance: Essays In Honour Of Professor Funminiyi Oladele Adewumi; Edited by Owei Lakemfa & Ahmed Aminu Yusuf; Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Abuja, Nigeria; 2018; 306pp

Professor Funmi Adewumi (1960-2017) died so painfully at the height of his powers. As the dedication of this book committed to his memory goes, Prof Adewumi “devoted his life to honest intellectualism, a better society based on social justice, and to the emancipation of the poor, the disinherited and the defenceless.”

Unions Without Unionism, Governments Without Governance is a compilation of some of the papers presented at a “National Symposium” following Prof Adewumi’s death which held at the ETF building, Hall A, College of Humanities, Osun State University (OSU), Ikire Campus. The symposium sponsored by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung had the theme “Democratic Space, Labour and the Socio-Economic Liberation of Nigeria.”

According to the editors, Owei Lakemfa and Ahmed Aminu Yusuf, in their Preface, “Professor Funmi Adewumi, in his thoughts and deeds, was an intellectual of the universe, not just because he taught in various countries and crisscrossed the universe seeking and spreading knowledge, but because his worldview, learning, research and work had universal origins and applications.”

In his Foreword, Funmi Adewumi’s comrade in the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Femi Falana (SAN) pays deserving tribute to “a committed and dedicated intellectual, who devoted his life to the study of the working class, the political education of union leaders and activists, and was an active participant in the struggles of workers for improved working and living conditions, national development, the enthronement of social justice and the emancipation of the poor.”

Divided into four parts and made up of 18 chapters, Unions Without Unionism, Governments Without Governance starts with an Introduction, “Funmi Adewumi: In the Race of Time”, written by one of the editors, Owei Lakemfa, who recounts how as a 19-year-old University of Ife sophomore he met his age-mate, Funmi Adewumi, who was already in the third year as a History Education undergraduate and they bonded as “part of a tribe of youths who had consciously decided to either change our country from its underdeveloped and dependent political economy or dedicate our lives fighting to do so.”

The title of the book is taken from Professor Funmi Adewunmi’s 2009 Inaugural Lecture at Crawford University, Faith City, Igbesa, Ogun State, to wit, “Unions Without Unionism: Towards Trade Union Relevance In Nigeria’s Industrial Relations System And Polity,” which is included here. As in the case of Nelson Mandela, the struggle was Funmi Adewumi’s life as he writes: “As a Part 1 student at the University of Ife, Ile-Ife (1977/78), I got involved in prosecuting the Ali-must go struggle in 1978, thus marking the beginning of my involvement in political activism. I got elected into the Students’ Representative Council during the 1978/79 academic session and by the time I was in 300 Level; I became Chairman of the Students’ Union Electoral Commission.

The Central Executive Council that was elected that year remains one of the most dynamic in the history of students’ unionism in the university.” The elected student leaders went on to distinguish themselves in Nigeria, notably Wole Olaoye (President), Greg Obong-Oshotse (Secretary), Femi Falana (Public Relations Officer) etc. Professor Adewumi concludes the essay by stating that it is “necessary to re-invent trade unionism in Nigeria as a necessary step in ensuring the relevance of trade unions within the Nigerian social formation.”

Unions Without Unionism, Governments Without Governance is a compilation of in-depth essays by academics, activists, journalists, researchers, trade unionists and a public servant, namely: Owei Lakemfa, Professor Sola Fajana, Funmi Komolafe, Ade A. Ola-Joseph, Olutoyin Mejiuni (Ph.D), Oluranti Samuel (D.Phil.), Comrade Ismail Bello, Jubril Olayiwola Jawando, Aderemi Medupin (Ph.D), Ahmed Aminu Yusuf, Comrade Martin Adekunle Babawale, Professor Tunde Babwale, Baba Aye, Femi Aborisade, Abiodun Aremu, Oluranti Afowowe and Comrade Gbenga Komolafe.

Aside from proclaiming the bona-fides of Professor Funmi Adewuni and what he stood for and why he stood for the principles, Unions Without Unionism, Governments Without Governance interrogates the Nigerian state’s implementation of undemocratic, nondemocratic and anti-democracy neoliberal policies as exemplified by the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).

The trade unions come up for censure for not adequately promoting and advancing the interests of the working classes. The need to move Nigeria onto the path of development, true democracy and social justice by instituting people-centred and driven developmental policies cannot be over-emphasized.

However, a future edition of the Unions Without Unionism, Governments Without Governance should ensure the correction of some editing errors such as the use of “being” instead of “been” in places at the back of the book.

Professor Adewumi lived and died fighting for the lives, struggles, well-being and welfare of the working class, students and other vulnerable people in Nigeria. With the existence of a book such as Unions Without Unionism, Governments Without Governance, it is very obvious that Professor Adewumi did not die in vain.


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