Segun Sango @ 50 Political Celebration: A Testimonial of Life Commitment to Working Class Struggles
Segun Sango @ 50 Political Celebration: A Testimonial of Life Commitment to Working Class Struggles
Segun Sango at 50 celebration – photo DSM
It was indeed a testimonial of commitment to struggle for social change. The political celebration of the 50th birthday of Segun Sango, the General Secretary Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), on July 26 drew the crÄme de la crÄme of labour movement and left leaning civil society in Nigeria. Adams Oshiomhole, the former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), who chaired the occasion, led the pack.
On the roll-call include Odia Ofeimun, poet, author, former private secretary of the late Obafemi Awolowo; Dipo Fashina, former President, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU); Sylvester Ejiofor, General Secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE); Femi Falana; Ngozi Iwere; Owie Lamkefa, Deputy General Secretary, NLC; Olumide Fusika; Abiodun Aremu, Convener, United Action for Democracy (UAD) and Michael Alogba, Chair National Union of Teachers (NUT) Lagos State.
Others present included Kayode Komolafe, Managing Editor, ThisDay Newspaper; Bamidele Aturu, Didi Adodo, General Secretary, Iron and Steel Senior Staff Union; Joe Ajero, General Secretary, National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE); Motajo, Assistant General Secretary National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Adedeji Arije, Chairman Labour Party Lagos State.
Also in attendance was Rauf Aregbesola, the Action Congress (AC) gubernatorial candidate in Osun State. Gani Fawehinmi could not make it obviously because of his ill health, but sent his wife, Ganiat, to grace the occasion.
Adams Oshiomhole, the former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), chaired the occasion of Segun Sango’s 50th, with Odia Ofeimun, poet, author, former private secretary of the late Obafemi Awolowo – photo DSM
In all over 150 people including comrades, labour activists, students, relatives and friends were in attendance at the event held in the conference all of the Textile Labour House, Ogba Lagos.
Oshiomhole in his opening remarks recalled with relish the immense contribution of Sango in all the general strikes and mass protests that were led by labour under his stewardship. He recollected the strategic and well-thought interventions of Sango at all planning meetings that gave direction and shape to the struggles.
Sango is one of main leaders of civil society organisations that, via LASCO (the Labour Civil Society Coalition), usually hold meetings with the leadership of Labour on the strategy and tactics of the popular struggles. However this is not to say that the proposals of Sango and the DSM are always supported by the labour leadership, sometimes there have been serious disagreements on issues of how to struggle and what should be labour’s attitude to the government.
Dipo Fashina, former President, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) – photo DSM
Speaking on the theme of the event, Working People Political Alternative: the Way Forward, most contributors agreed on the need for a working peoples’ political alternative, though in most cases they went off at a tangent in their submission. The programme however achieved one of its objectives, which is to keep the discussion on the imperative of political alternative for workers and poor masses alive among leaders and activists of labour and pro-masses’ organizations.
Flagging off the discussion was Ofeimun who dwelt much on the issue of party formation and the need to address the question of party funding. He stressed that to get people committed, politically and financially, they have to realize that their destiny lies in the party. This he said could be achieved by campaigning to make people conscious of the programme of such a party. He averred that if people contributed to a political party’s funds there will be little room for moneybags to take over the soul of the party. He stated effort should be commenced to build such a party. However, he did not mention the nature of the programme of the party and character of its leadership. But he averred that NGO’s cannot take over power because they are apolitical.
The prominent labour leader Ejiofor on his part attached a higher premium on the character of contestants to political office than the party platform. He was of the opinion that political agenda of any contestant of left background irrespective of political party should not be condemned but supported. For him, instead of criticizing the platform he would gladly ask the “leftist” on how or where he could contribute to the realization of his/her ambition. Unfortunately, despite being also one of the main leaders of Labour Party, he not offer any concrete proposals on the ways of building a fighting mass working people party.
Ngozi Iwere, one of the very few women who were active in radical students politics in early 1980’s and presently one of the leaders of LASCO, condemned what she termed as the undemocratic character of the so-called opposition parties. She maintained that they are not different from the PDP in outlook and objectives. She agreed that there is need for a political alternative. To achieve this she believed that civil society could start educating the people on the alternative while LASCO integrate with the daily struggles of working people.
In his contribution, Abiodun Aremu also raised the need for working peoples’ party but felt that the best approach was to work within the existing left parties, citing the heroic activities of the NCP in 2003 election.
Olumide noted that nothing much has been achieved on the campaign for a working class political party since he first learnt of the campaign from Sango 25 years ago. He took a swipe at the left elements participating in bourgeois parties and wasting their energy on the imperialism created NGO’s. He said this together with the failure and failing of labour leaders is one of the factors militating against building of working class party. He specifically mentioned and condemned Oshiomhole for standing for the Edo governorship on the platform of pro-establishment Action Congress (AC). He recalled the gains of the NCP participation in the 2003 elections and explained how opportunists had taken over the leadership of the party and oversaw its degeneration to the right.
In his submission, Dipo Fashina stressed that only socialism is the alternative to rotten capitalism. He said it was a socialist planning could bring development in Nigeria. He said we need a party of the people while also emphasizing the impotance of political education. He called for rebuilding the Labour Party as a genuine left party.
While responding to the critique of his contest for power on the platform of AC as against Labour Party, Oshiomhole argued that his choice of party cannot prevent him from implementing a pro-people programme especially on education, health care and infrastructure development. In apparent allusion to the character of the Edo State House of Assembly dominated by the PDP, he however agreed his assumption of office will mark the beginning of another struggle. The Labour Party does not even have any member in the Edo Assembly as a result of the working agreement with the AC which forbade the Labour Party candidates contesting the 2007 election. In one of the issues of Socialist Democracy on Edo State elections, the DSM has called on Oshiomhole, when assuming office, to initiate a “Working People Assembly” that could defend the mandate and implement the proposed pro-masses reforms and build a fighting labour party that could contest political beyond Edo State on the basis of socialist programme.
In his speech, Segun Sango thanked everybody present at the event. He challenged the labour leaders to wake up to the imperative for a fighting working peoples’ party that could wrest power from the thieving ruling elite at all levels. He informed the meeting of the resolve of the DSM’s members and collaborators to join Labour Party and help build it as a fighting mass party of the working people. He concluded that the profound socio-economic crises faced daily by workers and poor masses in Nigeria in the midst of huge resources and economic potentials have only shown that the Nigerian economy cannot be built or developed on the basis of capitalism with its inherent anti-poor neo-liberal economic programme and endemic corruption. He argued for the embrace of socialist ideas as the programme for a fighting working class party in order to guarantee commitment of huge resources to the provision of basic needs of all and infrastructure for meaningful economic development on the lasting basis.
One of the highlights of the event was an almost 5-minute phone call by Issa Aremu from Kaduna to contribute to the discussion. Issa Aremu, who is the successor of Oshiomhole as the Secretary General of Textile Labour Union and also the Vice-President Nigeria Labour Congress, apparently urged Oshiomhole to leave AC and help build organization that could wrest power from the rogues in power. In his words, “Adams should come back home. We have left charlatans in power for so long. We have to start building an organization that can change this country.”
The event, which was moderated by Comrade Lanre Arogundade, was not just cut and dried political speech making, as there were entertainment and merriment. A musician, Edaoto and Dagga Tolar treated the audience to melodious song and inspirational poem respectively. There was cutting of cake led by Oshiomhole to mark Sango’s birthday.
Though the Sango had clocked 50 on May 7, the event was conceived and organised by comrades and collaborators including Abiodun Aremu, Tony Iyare, Wale Salaam Don in order to put on the front burner and celebrate the political essence of Sango who has committed his life from the university days about 3 decades ago to the propagation of socialist ideas and building of revolutionary organisation through the DSM and its forebears. It is worthwhile to mention the comrades who worked on the organizing committee for the hugely successful political celebration; they are Lanre Arogundade, Dagga and Demo.
The DSM expresses profound gratitude to those who contributed financially and materially to the event. Without their support the programme would have been hardly possible. In addition N1550 worth of Socialist Democracy, the DSM’s paper, were sold.
Obviously, the attendance and contribution of all were a tribute to our socialist ideas and contribution to the popular and daily struggle of workers and poor masses. This has indeed helped strengthen the resolve of comrades, young and old, to remain committed to the organization and socialist ideals.