Oyinkan Olasanye is Titular Member, Women Commission, Uni-Global; member Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSSBIFI); Chairperson, Women Commission of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria; First Deputy National President, ASSBIFI; Titular Vice President, Professional and Managers Committee, Uni-Africa, and the First Substitute of Women Committee, Uni-Africa. She is presently one of the delegates at the on-going National Conference. Senior Reporter Anthonia Soyingbe had a chat with this comrade.
Can you let us into your foray as a unionist?
While working, I started noticing injustice and inequality and finally I noticed that it seemed as if those involved in unionism are not enlightened. I decided to join the union just to prove a point that those involved in union are not nonentities. I started my career with Eleganza as a Material Manager before moving on to the Royal Exchange Group in 1993. That is where I have been till date. I have worked with the Central Agency Account and the Credit Control. I have also worked as a National Product Manager, Royal Personal Pension Plan, as an Administrator. Presently, I am a manager in the company. I joined the union when we were trying to enlighten people that unionism is not about banging of tables, but about superiority of arguments.
Trade unionism is a male-dominated field, how do you cope with the many meetings? Are they not affecting your home?
I am one of the few women in unionism. When I joined, my children were very young and I am one of those who believe that if you live in Lagos and you work in financial institution, it is better you enrol your children in boarding schools, because, you won’t be of any assistance to them either in doing their home work or in their upbringing. I leave my house as early as 5.am and I return very late in the night. I ensure I apply for my annual leave during their holidays so I can give them necessary parental care. My husband is also a very busy person. We don’t really meet in the night, except when we are outside Lagos.
How easy was it for you to earn your husband’s trust?
I tell people that my husband is my tap root. He is the silent person that is nourishing me. He so much believes that no man can monitor his fellow being. He trusts me so much and he believes that Holy Spirit is always around me to work with me. I have always worked in the midst of men. Even in my family, we have more men than female. I have been so fortunate that I have not really faced any sexual harassment. When I suspect that you are trying to try anything funny, I speak out and you know that pisses men off you.
You are representing Trade Union Congress (TUC) at the on-going National Conference. Many Nigerians believe most of the delegates in the conference are there for the financial reward. Isn’t the money so enticing?
How much is the money?
Is it not multi-million naira?
Due to corruption in Nigeria’s system, many people believe that whatever you want to do for the Federal Government is all about financial reward and nobody sees the value. I don’t blame them. I am aware that FG gave out lots of money for the 497 delegates. So, Nigerians divided the amount by the 497 delegates. Don’t forget that there will be provision for so many things from the money and they will run a secretariat. We are only being paid accommodation and transport fees with sitting allowance. For those of us who stay outside Abuja, you all know what accommodation is all about in Abuja. Don’t also forget that most of the delegates are bigwigs who are used to travelling with their entourages. If you look at the money and the expenses, you will realise that it is not that much. Even if it won’t benefit you financially, you will make more contacts, which at the end of the day may metamorphose into political appointments…
(Laugh) We all crave for relationships, we desire relationship and relationships make us function better. I network anytime I have the opportunity to network. The essence of the confab is for us to talk and this is an opportunity for us to come together, engage ourselves in talking and listen to others. Before now, we have been doing one-line communication. This confab will make us understand ourselves more as Nigerians. I have been able to listen to others, sell the opinion with other people and take a decision that will be of benefit to the country. It will definitely work.
Would you have done this for free?
As at present, I am not making any gain out of this; I abandon my family, I sleep in hotel in Abuja, I eat whatever I see as I don’t have option. I travel every Friday to return to Abuja on Sundays at the risk to my life, my home and my environment. Everybody now believes that I am a multi-millionaire. People who ordinarily won’t ask me to do things for them before now ask for it. Going to Abuja has been so expensive for me, but I have great joy because I am offering a great service to my fatherland.
Before now, we have the impression that unionism is all about Aluta and strikes. Is this still the same?
A good unionist must be very soft, very polite and he or she must be able to stand his ground when the need arises. I may not look tough, but an African woman must be able to pass on her information with a soft voice, expressing herself and keep on knocking until the door opens.
Many activists like you have ended up becoming politicians. Do you see yourself embracing partisan politics in the nearest future?
I don’t see myself becoming a politician. I have so many things I can do without being loud about it. I have come to realise that unionism is not about force, but about goodwill; it is all about somebody somewhere trying to fight for the right of others. Even when I retire, I will prefer to be a consultant and letting people know more about unionism. I don’t want to be a politician.
You are so involved in your career and unionism, how do you blend these with your home?
I have a wonderful husband and don’t forget I have extended family members who look up to me for one thing or the other. I believe that no woman should be idle and I don’t believe any woman should be a full-time housewife. We need to complement our spouse’s efforts. God is always with me when I am on the table to negotiate and there is nothing I have not achieved on the table of negotiation. I am fulfilled as a unionist.