BEKO 2ND ANNIVERSARY SYMPOZIUM
BEKO 2ND ANNIVERSARY SYMPOZIUM
The 2nd memorial anniversary of Beko Ransome-Kuti, the former chairman of Joint Action Forum, the civil society arm of Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), was held on Sunday February 10 2008 at the Nigeria Labour Congress Secretariat in Yaba, Lagos. It was LASCO that led the seven general strikes and mass protests against the last Obasanjo regime over the incessant increases in fuel price.
Democratic Socialist Movement members were among those present, selling copies of its latest pamphlet, “President Yar’Adua’s Era: A new dawn fro the masses?” and distributing to the participants a special publication by DSM on Beko produced in 2006 after his death.
The participants are different NGOs, left organizations, bourgeois radicals, activists and right-wingers. There were about 200 participants at the programme.
Personalities and speakers present were the former NLC president, Adams Oshiomhole; Deputy NLC President, Assistant National Secretary, Owei Lakemfa; General Secretary, Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Segun Sango; Convener, United Action for Democracy (UAD) Convener Biodun Aremu; former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu; former NUPENG general secretary, Frank Kokori, President of the Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), Federick Fashehu; the immediate family of the late Beko Ramsome-Kuti etc.
Apart from eulogies on what Beko stood for by some of the speakers, there was no concrete call to build an alternative pro-masses’ platform. Adams for instance called for the people to be organised without any concrete suggestion on how pro-masses’ and labour oriented organisations should begin a process of building a mass organisations.
Former Governor of Lagos State, Tinubu on his part criticised the anti-corruption war of the federal government on the basis that it was selective. He questioned the rationale for prosecuting the governors whom he described as “rodent” compared to the bigger looters like Obasanjo who sold NITEL to himself whom he called the “fat cats”. He betrayed his right wing character by calling on the striking judicial workers to suspend their action because of the various election tribunal cases going on across the country, of course, without offering solutions on how the demands of workers would be met. Tinubu equally called on civil society groups, lawyers, NGOs to join forces in order to expose the mass rigging that took place in the 2007 general election in different electoral tribunals as a means to guarantee victory to Action Congress (AC) candidates. In between his speech, some youths jeered him in a local song that implies that all ruling elite including Tinubu are responsible for the woes of the poor working people.
One significance aspect of this event compared to all others in recent past was the overwhelming attendance of the bourgeois and their radicals. Apparently these elements are trying to build forces with the left and labour leader as a means of settling scores with the other rival section of the bourgeoisie.
The only slogan by the labour leaders present and some other bourgeois radicals was the call for the removal of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) boss, Prof. Maurice Iwu. Apparently they are trying to raise campaigns on “Iwu must go”, which might take the shape of protests, demonstrations etc., in the coming period and will get the support of a section of the ruling elite some of whom feel cheated at the last 2007 general election.
DSM General Secretary, Segun Sango in his speech stated that there was a need for building of a mass working peoples’ political party to challenge the rot in the system. He challenged all the acclaimed radicals in bourgeois political parties to leave and join forces with labour and pro-masses’ organisations to build a fighting and formidable mass party if they are truly pro-masses, as they wont claim. He argued that such party should be used to wrest power from the thieving ruling elite, deploy the resources of nature and society to provide for the needs of all and fight interests of poor working people in and out of office. He underscored his point by saying that the radicals in bourgeois parties robbed in the 2007 election could not mobilise mass support to defend their vote because they had not contested on pro-masses’ platforms. Sango’s speech was well received by the audience; indeed, one of the Action Congress (AC) gubernatorial candidates met him thereafter to express that the messages made sense and were well understood
As part of the lined up program, Dagga Tolar, a member of National Executive Committee (NEC) of DSM, recited a poem on Nigeria situation, which was well received by the participants.
By and large, the roles of Beko in popular struggle were emphasised. He was acknowledged as one of the few bourgeois radicals that matched their words with concrete action.