… Can Sego fit into his predecessor’s shoes?
Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo, is set to move to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). A strong loyalist of President Bola Tinubu and a very controversial figure within the ranks of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in Lagos State, where he once served as the chairman, Oluomo disclosed his next move on his social media handle recently.
Oluomo was the chairman of the NURTW in Lagos State for over six years before the sudden announcement of his retirement recently, which prompted reactions across the state, considering the roles he played during the last election.
For many years, the NURTW in Lagos under him had been considered an extended arm of the ruling party in the state as most members are ‘foot soldiers’ of the ruling class in Lagos, or better put; the militant arm of the ruling party in Lagos.
MC Oluomo’s influence
Oluomo, acknowledged as one of Lagos’s wealthiest and most prominent “Agberos” (local terminology for thugs, touts, etc.), resigned shortly after securing re-election for a second term. He was first elected in September 2019.
His journey from a primary school dropout to the apex of the Lagos NURTW provided him with immense wealth and influence.
Over time, Oluomo became a central figure in the NURTW, exercising control over transport operations in Oshodi, a densely populated area and major transport hub in Lagos.
The union’s extensive network, comprising over 200 branches and numerous units, generates billions of Naira annually from motor parks, garages, and statutory dues. Despite the reported annual revenue of ₦123.08bn by the International Centre for Investigative Report in 2021, the union denied the figure.
Oluomo’s ascent to prominence escalated when he assumed the treasurer position in the previous NURTW executive. His financial success and popularity earned him the title of the richest “Agbero” in Lagos State.
Additionally, Oluomo cultivated ties within the state’s ruling elite, sparking speculation about his involvement in mobilising thugs for political leaders during elections. Beyond these speculations, he was recognized for his philanthropic endeavours and support for artists in the entertainment industry.
A staunch disciple of President Bola Tinubu, Oluomo aligned himself with the All Progressives Congress (APC). The significant support for the APC within the NURTW underscores the union’s role in political campaigns, even preceding Tinubu’s presidential declaration.
Oluomo’s influence in Lagos politics was profound, evident in the state government’s implementation of his recommendations and advisories.
For instance, a disagreement between the national body and Lagos NURTW led to his suspension from the union in 2022.
As soon as his suspension was announced, Oluomo quickly convened a meeting of other branch leaders who make up the State Administrative Council of the NURTW to announce that they have decided to pull out of the union.
He also directed the state government to immediately take over the management of parks and garages by appointing a committee that would run the affairs of the parks.
Though it was an advisory he issued to the state government, his admonition was swiftly implemented as the state banned activities of NURTW in the state.
His influence in Lagos is not arguable. Oluomo and his state executives were re-elected in December 2023 for a second term in office. Himself, Sulyman Ojora, the deputy chairman, Mustapha Adekunle (Sego), the treasurer, and 28 other executive members, were elected unopposed at the 10th Quadrennial State Delegates Conference in Lagos.
Speculations rife on his next moves
In a twist of event that took everybody by surprise, MC Oluomo resigned his position as the chairman of the state chapter without any hint about his next line of action, which has now been tagged as an indication that he is planning to move higher within the NURTW ranks.
“What we heard is that he is going up to national, but after I look at the matter from another perspective – it’s like they wanted to remove him from office because those in national will not vacate their office for him; when they are not dead,” Hamzat Omotoso, secretary, Coaster Yellow Busses told BusinessDay.
Omotoso said that the former Lagos chair might find it difficult moving to the national office contrary to the thinking in some quarters.
“So, I don’t think national office will be easy for him; they just want to use that to remove him. He has spent six years as the chairman in Lagos,” Omotoso told BusinessDay.
On the insinuation about a possible political undertone in Oluomo’s resignation, Omotoso said that the “chairman was changed about a week ago; but they are yet to appoint other executives.”
According to him, there is currently no disagreement among the rank and file of the NURTW in Lagos to warrant any sudden resignation by the chairman or any of his executive members.
“There is no infighting between us anymore because we are together, and sometimes when MC needs us at the top in Agege – we go there to meet together. And when anybody appears rude, they make us understand that they will mend the situation. So, we have rapport between us for now,” Omotoso said.
However, speaking to other disturbing issues affecting the transport sector in Lagos, Omotoso disclosed that there might be another case of removal in another union within the transport sector, if some allegations are confirmed with the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN).
“The other association that we deal with apart from NURTW is Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (they wear yellow); they are rampant around the Iyana-Iba axis; so they are also insisting that their own over-all chairman should step down. There is serious infighting between them at the moment.
“The Oniba of Iba is their chairman in Lagos State, but the union has asked him to step-aside and embrace his office as the Oba of Iba land. They wanted the man in Abule-Ado (Okanlomo) to step-in as the new chairman; but members are not in support, which is the reason for the infighting,” he disclosed.
Samuel Odewumi, director of research and innovation, Institute of Open and Distance Learning, Lagos State University (LASU), told BusinessDay that the recent change in leadership by the transport union is more of a political game to the people involved.
According to him, politicians as game masters will naturally sacrifice big things for bigger opportunities.
“That is a small thing for politicians’ game masters. It is a political game; big things will be sacrificed for bigger things,” he said.
Odewumi, a professor of transport, environment and logistics further said that political consideration may not work in Oluomo’s favour. However, he said that there was a need to appreciate the progress made within the sector in the recent past.
“Oluomo is a shrewd, very calculative leader. He knows the game and you have to credit him with astounding native intelligence. I guess he has his sights on leadership at Abuja level. Of course yes. It is the best of other viable options,” Odewumi said.
Speaking to the change between MC Oluomo and the former treasurer who has been appointed as chairman, Odewumi said that a non-transparent system will always do everything to cover its tracks.
“As it is with governors always trying to install their own man to succeed them, so it is for this association.
“We should even be grateful in this instance because the usual succession practice is usually a warfare and violent forceful take over,” Odewumi said.
He hinted on the need to transform the transport sector holistically and bring some level of sanity into the sector. “I believe the state government must sanitise the practice. It is not only a crude, inefficient, non-transparent method but obstructs traffic flow and is very prone to cause violent fracas.
“The advice is that these people should collect their dues inside their garages or the state government can collect it using technology and share it to the stakeholders.
“But it is opined that there is no political will on the part of the government to take this step,” Odewumi said.
Similarly, other members of the union told BusinessDay that the change in leadership at the state level is a welcome development.
One of such persons is Ojo Mighty, controlling UNIT4 (Costain) of the NURTW, who emphasised the need for proper handover and anticipates reforms under the new leadership of Adekunle Mustapha (Sego).
It is noteworthy that MC Oluomo’s departure sparks a broader debate on the role of transport unions and figures in Lagos’ complex transportation system.
As the union undergoes leadership changes, addressing legitimate needs and potential issues within the transport system becomes crucial for fair treatment and smooth operations.
Furthermore, the evolving landscape calls for a collaborative effort between unions, drivers, and the government to find sustainable solutions to the menace on the Lagos roads caused partly by toll collections by the NURTW and its sister agency.
My next move, by Oluomo
In a release last Sunday on his social media page on MC Oluomo wrote: “I am pleased to inform the Lagos state council National union road transport workers members and general public that the little misunderstanding between us, Alh. Mustapha Adekunle (Sego), Alhaji Sulaimom (Kudeleti) and I has been amicably resolved.”
“While I will be moving to the federal and becoming the National President of our NURTW, Alhaji Mustapha Adekunle (Sego) will be taking over from me as the Lagos State chairman of NURTW.
“To all of our followers, I urge you all to maintain peace and harmony that we currently enjoy in Lagos. My esteem appreciation and gratitude goes to his HE Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Executive Governor of Lagos State; Hon. Tayo Ayinde (Chief of Staff); Commissioner of Police, Lagos State; Director of DSS, Dapo Amao; Commissioner for Transportation and S.A. on transportation. I appreciate your fatherly roles and intervention.”
The national crisis
In October 2023, Tajudeen Baruwa, a factional NURTW president, accused the former minister of Labour and Employment, Solomon Lalong of bias by taking sides with Agbede’s faction, backed by MC Oluomo in the ongoing reconciliation process.
Baruwa accused the minister of working in cahoots with a former president of the union, Najeem Usman Yasin to foist on the union someone who forcefully took over the national secretariat of the union with thugs and hoodlums from Lagos.
Baruwa disclosed this in a statement issued by the General Secretary of the union, Anthony Asogwa Chukwudi in Abuja.
It was alleged that the minister held a meeting with the Agbede-led group of the union in his office where the minister allegedly asked the group to organise a fresh national quadrennial delegates conference in contravention of the provisions of the union’s constitution particularly Article 8 Section 2 (1).
Similarly, the Lagos State Government in September 2023 dissolved its Park and Garages committee to allow NURTW to manage activities at motor parks and garages in the state.
The dissolution was made after the state government lifted the indefinite suspension placed on NURTW barely one year and a half earlier over internal leadership wrangling among members.
It also came barely 24 hours after MC Oluomo publicly returned to the NURTW with thousands of his members in the state. It was alleged that he led his Parks Management Committee to Abuja a few days after returning to the NURTW.
Also, his re-election for a second term created some in-house crisis in the Lagos State chapter of the NURTW, which might also be responsible for his resignation.
The election fall-out
The Lagos Chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) re-elected Musiliu Akinsanya (MC Oluomo) as chairman.
Oluomo, along with his deputy chairman, Sulyman Ojora, the treasurer, Mustapha Adekunle (Sego), and 28 other executive members, were elected unopposed during the 10th Quadrennial State Delegates Conference in Lagos.
“Gone were the days when NURTW members took to violence to effect leadership change,” Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by Lateef Tiamiyu, a director in the ministry of transportation, stated at the inauguration.
Can Sego fit into his predecessor’s shoes?
Oluomo’s departure paved the way for Tafa Sego to assume the leadership as the new chairman of Lagos NURTW.
The question on the lips of many is, “Can Sego match Oluomo’s influence in Lagos?”
Sego’s roots traced back to Lagos Island, where he controlled parks before rising to the treasurer position under Oluomo’s administration. Like his predecessor, Sego aligns with the APC, Lagos’s ruling party.
Divergent views on Sego’s capability
Opinions on Sego’s influence vary among drivers and union members. While some believe Sego possesses comparable power to Oluomo, others express skepticism.
A bus driver operating between Iyana Ipaja and Igando area of the state believed that Sego is as powerful as Oluomo, saying that he also has his men who are very loyal to him.
The driver, who spoke with BusinessDay on condition of anonymity said he loves the new chairman and that he believes that Sego will perform better than his predecessor.
Speaking on the dues and taxes collected by the union, the driver said the field agents are the ones inflating the prices of the tickets with the knowledge of the leaders. He urged the new chairman to look into this.
Another driver simply identified as Jude operating in the Ikeja area of Lagos said he is less concern about the leadership of the union, he, however, called for the reduction of dues and charges being paid by Bus drivers.
A unit chairman who spoke on condition of anonymity in the Alimosho area of Lagos said Sego can never match Oluomo’s popularity in the state.
“Sego sef na boss, but he no fit reach MC Oluomo for Lagos. Oluomo don tey for the game and he sabi person,” he said.
He justified the levies and dues collected by the union, saying they are necessary to run the association.