LASCO Holds Rally in Asaba
LASCO Holds Rally in Asaba
On Friday May 15, 2009, the Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) organised a second protest-rally in Asaba, Delta state, South-South Nigeria, as part of its nationwide activities to mobilize Nigerian workers and poor to demand a new national minimum wage of N52, 200, a halt in the deregulation of the oil sector by government and electoral reforms.
The first of these protest-rallies held in Lagos on Wednesday 13 May 2009 with about 5,000 workers and oppressed Nigerians participating. The next port of call was meant to be Kano, North-West Nigeria, on June 16; originally this was scheduled for May 19 but has been postponed at two days notice. Likewise the rally planned in Maiduguri, North-East Nigeria, for May 21 has been pushed back to the last week of June.
The protest rally started in Traffic Light Junction, Asaba and from there protesters marched a distance of about 10 kilometres to the state Government office with the Police tailing the march. Workers came to join the protest from Bayelsa and other adjoining states. Leading over 1,500 protesters were NLC President Abdulawahed Umar, his Deputy Peter Adeyemi, NLC Secretary John Odah, LASCO Secretary Abiodun Aremu, Co-Chairman LASCO, Dr. Dipo Fashina and the NLC leadership in Delta State.
Placards were held high by workers carrying such bold inscriptions like “Reduce Salaries of political office holders to pay new minimum wage”, “Minimum wage must be a living wage” etc. The march was energetic and carnival-like as a motorised musical live band rendered a repertoire of songs by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Sunny Okosun and other popular songs of struggle. The DSM banner was displayed throughout the protest as it was tied to the truck of the Musical live band.
Protesters marched with unending pockets of curious and sympathetic oppressed people along the route which allowed continuous interaction, discourse and sale of the DSM paper Socialist Democracy. There were stop-over for speeches from the NLC President and other labour leaders.
On getting to the Government house, the gate was locked with the government representatives desiring to receive workers at the gate. But this was turned down by the workers, the protesters filed into the government house where we were received by the Deputy Governor of the State, Prof. Amos Utuoma. After the NLC President Abdulwahed Umar had made a speech, a copy of LASCO petition to the Federal government containing all the demands of the struggle was submitted to the Deputy Governor for onward transfer to the President.
However, one obvious shortcoming was the low mobilisation before the rally. Many of the mobilisation materials were not distributed beforehand to sensitize the people. This must have accounted for the low participation. In fact, many of the workers and people along the route displayed ignorance of the rally. Some inquired about the reason and demands of the protest. It was therefore our responsibility to inform these people thus enhancing sales of our paper. Despite this, the rally shows the depth of the disillusionment of wide range of people in neo-liberal government policies. It also shows the immense potential of the current protest which can be built by the labour leaders into a general movement uniting both public workers and those in private employment, the middle class, youths and oppressed people, through the building of a mass workers’ party with socialist policies, for a struggle against neo-liberal policies and an end to capitalism.
We sold hundreds of copies of Socialist Democracy and a number of people were interested in joining the DSM. Right from the rally Dagga Tolar, from the DSM Executive, was participating on live broadcast of the rally by a Lagos FM radio discussing the protest and the demands. At the end of the rally, protesters converged at the NLC secretariat where a small leadership discussion held to review the rally with Dagga Tolar in attendance.