A chance encounter with Comrade Abdulazeez Adekunle Lawal a.k.a. Kunle Poly, a Lagos Island branch chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in Lagos State, has proven many wrong about his personality and lifestyle. Before now, members of NURTW were categorized as thugs, jobless and visionless.
Fortunately, the story changed with the leadership the Union now enjoys at both the national and state levels and with the likes of Kunle Poly who with unique commitment have earned the Union a good name. A cheerful giver, Kunle, in this brief chat with Global Excellence editor, FOLORUNSHO HAMSAT, speaks about his journey to NURTW, how he earned his now popular nickname, Kunle Poly, and his mission and vision. Excerpts…
Kunle Poly as a person has different meanings to different people. What kind of personality is behind Kunle Poly?
The man bearing Kunle Poly is a simple person. Those who attended primary school with me at Ebute Ero and secondary school at Ilupeju, all in Lagos, can tell you that I was an easy-going boy. I finished my secondary education in 1994 before I proceeded to KwaraPoly in Ilorin. One thing about life is that if you are not close to someone you can’t tell the kind of person he or she really is. When people don’t understand who you are, they tend to misread you. I hear some people saying that Kunle Poly is dangerous or he is a strong man, I don’t know what they mean by that. Of course, I understand their innuendo. But I should know who I really am; I’m a gentleman. And I also understand why some think I’m tough, it is because I don’t allow cheating. You can’t cheat me and go free and you can’t cheat anyone that I know without facing the consequence. I don’t think that should mean I’m dangerous. You can say I’m stubborn with my principles.
How did you rise to become a major force in the NURTW?
I thank Almighty Allah. I have been in the NURTW for 15 years now. Why I thanked God first was because being a member of the transport union in say 15, 20 years back was something you would not be proud of. You could not carry yourself with pride as a member of NURTW; in fact you wouldn’t want your family members to know you work there because of the tag on union members as hooligans and never-do-wells. But today, it is a different story and it is because the leadership of NURTW had evolved with time. I started my NURTW membership under the leadership of Alhaji Shina Ajayi. I was the assistant organizing secretary of Ehin Eyo Unit then. From there I moved into full time transport business. I was driving a bus and I bought buses for fellow drivers to empower them and they delivered returns to me. I also bought for others to pay back in installments. Later, I came to Idumota where I am now. Getting to this stage in life, I would say, is by the grace of God not by power of man.
What is your view on people’s perception of NURTW members being thugs and low-lifers?
Like I said earlier, the quality of the leadership we have in place now at the national and state levels is making us proud. The NURTW leadership of Alhaji Najim Usman Yasin, the national president who is also the deputy president of Nigeria Labour Congress, is being commended everywhere. Also, the leadership of Alhaji Tajudeen Agbede in Lagos State is exceptional. And it is their footsteps we at the back are following. We just can’t afford not to and that is why we are having this unique transformation that was not there in the past. The nonstop menace of hooliganism that you had before the present leadership has been reduced substantially.
Tell us about the regular fights between you and another popular NURTW man, MC Oluomo. What actually happened recently between both of you that became a topic around the world?
Let me put it this way. If anything had happened between MC Oluomo and I at all, that thing has become a thing of the past. But there is one thing I want the people to know. I was not behind the attack on Oluomo at the APC rally. Mischief makers just took advantage of the rumour that both of us were nursing the same ambition for NURTW state leadership to spread falsehood. I have known Oluomo since I joined the NURTW. We remain friends and good colleagues. In fact, we are both born in March and I say happy birthday to him in arrears because he celebrated his birthday some days ago while mine is March 23. MC Oluomo is the head in Oshodi while I’m the head in Lagos Island. We are both under the leadership of Alhaji Tajudeen Agbede of Lagos State NURTW and we are getting along very well now, thanks to the leadership of NURTW under Alhaji Yasin and all state excos.
Will that crisis affect your ambition to contest for the office of president of Lagos State NURTW?
As a matter of fact, the national headquarters had asked anyone that has such ambition to hide it at the corner of his room for now. When the time is ripe, we will talk about that.
Kunle Poly is a popular name. But not everybody knows who you really are. Could you tell us who Kunle Poly is?
I’m Alhaji Abdulazeez Adekunle Lawal. It’s true that everybody knows me as Kunle Poly but not all know how I came about that name. I got the alias, Kunle Poly, during my days at Kwara State Polytechnic where I obtained ND in Business Studies between 1995 and 1996. When I returned to Lagos after my ND programme, everybody, including my friends and family members, started calling me Kunle Poly. There were many Kunles, so it was just a kind of identity for me as Kunle from Poly.
Having been around for a while, could you highlight some of the challenges you face on the job?
Honestly, there had been no challenges bigger than what God could solve. Yes, there had been challenges but God has been able to see us through. One thing that we have been able to do to surmount whatever challenges that come is being focused. If you carry out your assignments well, you will make progress. We have a leadership that cares and we have not disappointed them. Daily, you will find me in my office at 5 o clock in the morning because I had to lead by example. Our job is about traffic control, so we have to be on the road ahead other road users. It is our duty to make sure that traffic flows so we must be outside of our homes before others wake up. That is what I do every day.
How do you relax and what do you enjoy eating?
I don’t relax much. My philosophy of life is that if you want to be a good leader, you can’t use all of your time to relax. A good leader must devote a substantial part of his time to care for his people, listen to the needs of his community. Sometimes, I eat once in a day. Even food I don’t have time to eat regularly because I have to attend to people. And that is my only weakness as I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t womanize.
How do you give back to the society?
I give back regularly from what God has blessed me with. We have Kunle Poly Foundation which we use to constantly empower the less privileged. I had to do this because a lot of people would come to me for aids and I would do the little I could. Later, some elders advised me to set up a foundation that would be a vehicle for charity and I obliged them. And helping people became a lot easier through the Kunle Poly Foundation because I already know that with the Foundation in place, I have to allot certain percentage of my earning to it. I have made it a ritual to reach out to the less endowed during my birthday celebration. I was born on March 23. So this year’s is not going to be an exception as we have mapped out plans to visit the orphanage homes and the old people to donate cash, clothes and food items to the people as a way to appreciate God for His blessings upon me. Aside giving donations, we are also doing other big things. For instance, when I had my birthday event in 2018, I built a mosque for a Muslim society. It was built from my personal purse. This year, we are going to do a bigger one which I want to keep under wrap for now. I believe when you are blessed you must also impact on communities around you.
Do you have plans to go into active politics?
When the time is ripe, we will see. But I’m a member of APC in Lagos State. The constitution of our great union does not bar any member from going into politics.