Labour and Civil Society Coalition
Labour and Civil Society Coalition
Celebrating REVOLUTIONARY GANI FAWEHINMI (1938 – 2009)
â€“ An Outstanding Working Peoples’ Leader and Senior Advocate of Masses (SAM)
As We Celebrate Gani, Arise Nigerians!
- Demand the Implementation of the Teachers Salary Structure (TSS) for primary and secondary school teachers.
- Support the Struggle of ASUU-SSANU-NASU and other workers in the education to save Public Education.
- Join forces with university teachers, non-teaching staffs and students for Adequate Funding of the University, Academic freedom and improved conditions of service.
- Fight for a Minimum Living Wage and Better Living Conditions.
- Oppose the Government’s plan to impose the anti-people policy of Deregulation, and Reject Fuel Price Increases.
- Demand the full implementation of the Recommendations by the Justice Uwais’ Electoral Reform Panel.
The Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) joins millions of workers and ordinary Nigerians in the celebration of the life and times of Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the inimitable fighter for good governance, human rights, rule of law, genuine democratic culture and social change. Gani was a foundation member of LASCO, which is the coalition of trade unions (Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress) and pro-people civil society organizations and individuals. LASCO has led a number of general strikes and mass protests since 2000 against the neo-liberal policies, in particular, incessant fuel price increases; and Gani participated actively in some of the protests even in the face of police brutality.
The struggle for social change in Nigeria ran through his legal and political career. He defended the rights of all the strata of the oppressed viz. students, youths, workers, poor masses and citizens with disabilities. He used law as an instrument of social justice and set numerous precedents in the Nigerian legal system. He was the first that made law reports that used to be exclusive preserve of very few elitist lawyers available to rank and file legal practitioners. In spite of Gani’s immense contribution to legal system, he was denied the award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) for a long time by both political and legal establishment; and this removed the shine, respect and credibility from the award that is supposed to be the pinnacle of legal practitioners. However, this was realized by a section of the legal establishment who practically begged him to reapply for the award.
While the legal establishment denied him the SAN, students of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife in 1988 conferred him with a special award as Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM). This is in appreciation of his committed defence of rights and interests of the poor masses on whose behalf he used the court of law to fight against tyranny and abuses by those in government. The award also underscored the relationship between him and Nigerian students whom he had been vociferously defending since early 1970’s in the case of brutal killing of Kunle Adepeju of University of Ibadan. Also important is the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Garba and others of University of Maiduguri who had been arbitrarily expelled by the university authorities when Senator Jubril Aminu was the Vice Chancellor. The judgment, which is a legal precedent, defines the limit of authorities in imposing disciplinary actions on students particularly on matters that bother on alleged criminal offences, and emphasizes the respect for fundamental rights of students.
Gani’s love for education is legendary. He wished every child to have access to education. He instituted scholarship programme for indigent students. Beyond this he canvassed for commitment of adequate public resources to public education in order to guarantee quality and functional education to every child.
He was in the forefront of the spirited struggle against the military regimes. But to him the struggle for a better society is beyond exit of the military. He did not take it for granted that civil rule would guarantee socio-economic and democratic rights of the people. He therefore continued the struggle with the same tempo following the transition from military to civilian rule in 1999. Despite gross limitations of the 1999 Constitution, he was able to maximize some provisions to entrench democratic culture. Most of the political parties in Nigeria today owe their existence to the titanic legal and political struggle he led to liberalise party formation in the country.
The formation of the National Conscience Party (NCP) represents a most qualitative move to elevate struggle from individual cases to finding political solution to the socio-economic crisis in Nigeria. The party came to existence in 1994 in defiance of the military dictatorship of Sani Abacha whose government had banned party formation in the country.
Beyond the formation of NCP, Gani concluded that only a working class alternative can adequately resolve the crisis of society. This explains why he participated actively in a number of mass struggles led by Labour. Also, it should be recalled that he called on Adams Oshiomhole to contest for Presidency as against the Governor of Edo State. This is because he believed that Oshiomhole’s contest would mobilize a pan-Nigerian movement of workers, youths and poor masses in the struggle to defeat anti-poor neo-liberal policies of the government.
THE STRUGGLE MUST CONTINUE
To us in LASCO, we hold strongly that we don’t need to mourn Gani but must all rededicate ourselves to the ideals and struggle for a better society which he lived and fought for. In the last one decade of the civil rule, in spite of huge revenue realized from crude oil, the living conditions of the majority Nigerians have been getting worst with no electricity, decent jobs, good health care, quality education, etc. The state of infrastructure is comatose and this explains the high cost of doing business and the attendant mass unemployment. The development of Niger Delta has been reduced to lip service and racketeering by the government. For the past 10 weeks, lecturers and non-teaching workers in universities have been on strike in the struggle for better funding of education and improved working conditions. Teachers in public primary and secondary schools in 19 States including Lagos State are also back on indefinite strike to demand implementation of the TSS. The last few months have also witnessed a number of industrial unions going on strike for one set of demands or the other.
It should be clear to all Nigerians from the instances mentioned above that we must intensify the struggle for a new Nigeria society that will work for the majority Nigerians. A society that will ensure that governance at all levels (local, state and federal) are oriented towards the benefit of all.
LASCO is calling on Nigerians – workers, youths, artisans and traders, professionals, citizens with disabilities, etc – to prepare for the incoming struggle against the policy of Deregulation and the plan by the Government to outrageously increase fuel prices. Nigerians should join forces with LASCO to demand for a living wage for workers, and an electoral system that will make our votes count.