The Sunmonu Twins at 80: 3 Critical Instances They Were Mistaken for Each Other

The Sunmonu Twins at 80: 3 Critical Instances They Were Mistaken for Each Other

Tuesday, January 5, 2021 2:51 pm

Hussein and Hassan Sunmonu


Hassan Adebayo and Hussein Oyekanmi Sunmonu, who will mark their 80th birthday on Thursday, 7 January 2021 are so identical a set of twins that they could, if possible, use only one driver’s license! One was a public servant while the other, Hassan, was a trade unionist. He was founding president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and secretary general of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU.

Their bond was (and still is) so strong that they took risks for each other. In fact the two were mistaken for each other. Three of such instances were supplied by Owei Lakemfa, journalist, labour unionist and public affairs analyst, in his tribute on them, enitled, Hassan and Hussein Sunmonu: Indomitable African Lions at 80.

He wrote: “In May, 1981 when Hassan led Nigerian workers in a crippling general strike and the desperate state menacingly pursued him through the streets of Lagos with vehicle loads of armed men, Hussein took the dangerous decision to distract the hunters. Given the fact that they are like-twins, he switched positions with Hassan by wearing the same type of dress and appearing to be the NLC President. So the security forces ended up chasing Hussein around while Hassan in safety, coordinated the strike which gave the country its first National Minimum Wage.

There were of course hilarious moments such as happened at the NLC inaugural conference on February 28, 1978. When Hassan emerged from a pack of six contestants as founding NLC president; the person carried shoulder high by jubilant workers and whose photographs were splashed in newspapers was Hussein!

In 2010, I watched a television programme as Hassan was being honoured by the Michael Imoudu Institute of Labour Studies, MILS, in Ilorin, Nigeria. I called him in his Accra, Ghana base and said I was watching him delivering his address at the occasion. He laughed; we both knew that the person on television was not him, but Hussein who was covering up for his brother.”

Read Lakemfa’s full tribute on them here

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