Editor's note: Dr. Tommy Okon, the national president of the association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) has left a mark as he rebuilds the association, writes ThankGod Ofoelue in this opinion piece.
Every leader is unique, of course, but there is something special about Dr. Tommy Okon, the National President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN). His associates who know Dr. Tommy Okon well often have it difficulty describing him: optimistic but not naïve; articulate but not glib; intelligent yet guided by common sense; well-mannered but never pretentious; friendly but not a pushover; charismatic but real; principled but not intransigent.
He is all of these and so much more. Perhaps the key to understanding Dr. Tommy Okon is that he is genuinely loved by his union members, and he is comfortable with who he is, a humble servant of Senior Civil Servants in Nigeria and he doesn’t get tired serving the senior citizens.
His leadership is rooted in a deep-seated belief that togetherness makes the impossible possible. He is one of the most brilliant, effective and ambitious union leaders in African history, and he plays a substantial role in creating better working condition for workers in Nigeria. For instance, he has proposed and he is pushing strongly for the return of gratuity to the pension scheme. He also championed the increase in the Duty Tour Allowance which was recently approved by the Government for worker to take effect from February 2022. Equally, he is championing the salaries harmonization program at the national level, with is strong believe that equal work deserves equal pay.
His accomplishments are yet to be determined, but his footprint so far cannot be erased, as under his leadership, ASCSN members have won major victories to improve their jobs.
Dr. Tommy believes that to build an inclusive, sustainable economy there is need to empower all workers therefore he has facilitated overseas educational trainings for the chapters, branches and units leaderships of ASCSN across the federation. Latest was the recent
In the face of certain challenges and a still-uncertain set of risks, leaders like Dr. Tommy are rightly concerned about how to sustain the gains of ASCSN and keep all nights thinking on what his leadership can do next for the betterment of Senior Civil Servants in Nigeria.
Why is he so loved? Dr Tommy defiantly stands up for workers against a society that exploited or shortchanged them. For Dr. Tommy who is so loved by the entire members of ASCSN, the opposition’s salvos against him are “misguided” and “a serious mistake”, his achievements as President cannot be tossed away. The whole thing that animates as views of the opposition is antipathy towards Dr. Tommy, It’s pathetic. The opposition is vindictive. Their petitions to law enforcement agencies pushing a conspiracy theory questioning the credibility of the leadership of ASCSN, is repugnant; it mocked the entire Nigeria senior civil service's ambitions without mercy
But the main reason for Okon’s popularity is simply that he delivers for his members. More than anyone else, he is responding to the transformation of the ASCSN from a crisis-ridden union to relatively humane one.
As a significant head of the largest, most powerful and most politically independent unions in Nigeria, by whatever means necessary, Okon would, and do, to unite the ASCSN, establish unusual retirement funds, and in general treat all civil servants with utmost respect.
The central mission of Dr. Okon remains relevant: to build union, leaders must be willing to confront employers, aggressively and methodologically, stand up for the material interests of members and stay close to the rank and file.
His focus has remained to have an organised workers’ leadership of active unionists, not aligned-politicians who are not ready to serve the interests of working-class and through which ASCSN can no longer be secured at the bargaining table.
Rather than pointing fingers elsewhere, Dr. Okon, is focused on reforming ASCSN for better bargains. For instance, he advocates a strong preference for a positive relationship with organisations, rather than adversarial ones. A better bargain allow such options; and with collective bargaining and social dialogue, ASCSN will continue to create impacts on social, political and economic fabrics of Nigeria.
From the start of his leadership, his exhilarating attributes such as charisma, empathy, and high intellect have won him many strong accolades, that in 2022, the TIME AFRICA magazine named him one of the 50 most creative and visionaries leaders in the African Unionism in reshaping African continent.
Giving workers more power in the labour market and voice in the workplace to improve their economic outcomes and job satisfaction. Improved competitiveness and enhance civil society, require union leaders and policymakers with pedigree like Dr. Tommy!
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