Contrary to insinuations and serial allegations against him as the President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Uzoije Ukamuanna has disclosed that his travails which led to his removal from office by the Federal Government.
Comrade Ukaummuna had remained silent since then. But he spoke last Friday to Shipping Position Daily, whose team accompanied the leadership of the MWUN on a visit to the veteran labour leader.
The MWUN delegation was led by its President General; Comrade Adewale Adeyanju. He was also accompanied by national and branch executives of the union.
Recall that the leadership of the union had in December 2023 paid a first visit ever to the home of its pioneer President General, where Comrade Adeyanju expressed the readiness of the union to bury the hatchet. The erstwhile President General; Ukaumunna also spoke in the same vein, even as he sought to be forgiven for all that happened in the events leading to his exit and thereafter.
But, last week, in a remarkable reunion that stirred nostalgia and reflections on past struggles, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria again opened its arms to formally welcome its pioneer President General, Comrade Uzoije Ukamuanna, after a hiatus of about 23 years.
Com. Adewale Adeyanju who led executives and some members of the union on a second visit to Ukamuana’s house, said the gathering served as a platform for reminiscing on Ukamuana’s tenure and the pivotal role he played in shaping the union’s history.
Adeyanju expressed joy at the state of the pioneer union leader’s health who at 82 years, saying he still looked vibrant and sound like he had always been many years back. He added that the union is planning a day for his grand welcome-back to the national secretariat of the union in Olodi-Apapa, Lagos soon.
Ukamuanna, speaking to Shipping Position Daily candidly during the reunion, reflected on the challenges he faced during his tenure, particularly his resistance to port concessioning, which ultimately led to his removal as President General.
The veteran union leader recounted the tumultuous period when the Nigerian ports were facing privatization pressures. “I told the Minister of Transport and the officials who were there at the meeting,. I said if they privatize Nigerian ports, we are going to privatize the Ministry of Transport, then you people will go”, Ukamuana recalled.
He explained that his staunch opposition to privatization earned him criticism within the union and beyond. He said, despite facing immense pressure from government, he remained resolute in his stance, asserting the rights of the workers whom he represented.
“Once you know you are right, no matter what; just go ahead and do it, even if your wife is against you”, he stressed.
He also seized the opportunity to clear the air on various allegations, including compromising and terrorizing the ports. He also denied using mystical powers (juju) to lord it over his followers.
The ex-PG, MWUN declared that he was never a corrupt union leader and that the allegations of corruption and others, were orchestrated by the Federal Government to make him unpopular among members of the union and before stakeholders in the maritime industry as a whole.
Throughout the interaction, Ukaumunna affirmed his faith in God. Responding to allegations of practicing ‘juju’ or black magic, he asserted that: “The highest ‘juju’ I have is Jesus”, he stressed, even as he attributed his strength and resilience to his faith. He said, “when I am moving, I’m confident that I’m doing the will of God on my people.”
Reflecting on his transformation, Ukamuana revealed that he had been a ‘born-again’ Christian since his tenure as the leader of MWUN. “From that time, I’m a born-again Christian,” he affirmed, attributing his newfound perspective to divine intervention.
Expressing admiration for Ukaumunna’s steadfastness and principles, the President of the Dockworkers branch of the union, Com. Tajudeen Ohize acknowledged his legacy as a formidable union leader, who stood firm against formidable odds. “What you did for dockworkers is what has made dockworkers to be respected up till now and you inspire us and we are following in that legacy” he said.