NIGERIA ON A CLIFF EDGE:
NIGERIA ON A CLIFF EDGE:
A SHARP WORKING CLASS POLICY AND STRATEGY NEEDED TO PREVENT TOTAL RUINATION
Segun Sango, DSM General Secretary
Socially and economically, Nigeria appears set for a rapid race to a bottomless pit. Presently, the combination of several years of pro-rich, anti-peoples’ policies adopted and embraced by both the military and civilian sections of the capitalist ruling elite have now driven Nigeria to a brink of an unimaginable socio-political disaster. Economically, the sharpest expression of this disaster is the continued and deepening mass poverty in the midst of abundant resources with only a tiny proportion of the population (i.e. the top politicians, state officials and their capitalist allies) wallowing in stupendous, but needless, personal wealth. This, it must be stressed, is primarily responsible for the Catch 22 situation, which dominates Nigeria’s political landscape today. There is in power ruling elite, which, for all useful purposes, is a complete failure and irredeemably corrupt. In a truly democratic atmosphere, the kind of ruling elements that holds sway in Nigeria would not be tolerated in power by the people let alone being expected to win elections. But such is the brazen recklessness of these rotten and horrible elite that every election is manipulated in such a way that only themselves, and or their surrogates, emerge winners!
Despite the prevailing widespread disaffection and anger across the country against the palpable failure of the PDP controlled central government, regardless of promises to effect electoral reforms, the 2011 general elections will not be fairer than the farce called the 2007 general elections. Suffice to warn, this will only deepen the prevailing mass discontentment within society. Already, there are barely hidden calls for military coups. But still heavily weighted down by the burden of its own past crimes, the military has apparently, for now, not decided to once again come out as “saviours” of the country and its eternally suffering masses. However, the retention of power by the PDP, in another farcical exercise come 2011, will certainly aggravate all the current elements of tensions arising from socio-economic deprivations as well as religious and nationality crises. The kind of explosive atmosphere, which another rigged mandate will bring about, could push significant sections of the ruling elite, to once again resort to support for a military putsch, as an option to effect regime change so as to prevent/behead a mass revolt that will challenge the entire capitalist system.
Here, it must be bluntly stated that all the socio-political perquisites for a reactionary, right-wing military coup are very latent in Nigeria’s situation at the moment. There is in power a ruling elite/party that is completely bankrupt economically, socially and morally. Nothing functions or is functioning as it is supposed to be doing and this is despite Nigeria’s super abundant natural and human resources. At the same time, you have opposition ruling parties that are completely indistinguishable in all essential features from the PDP, which they all, severally and collectively, wish to displace from power. And most unfortunately, you have a labour movement led, at best, by elements who generally make correct analysis/critique about the inherent failure of the capitalist system but permanently shy away from adopting the necessary political and economic strategy, and taking action, that can bring an end to the system which has turned life into a permanent nightmare for most ordinary people. Therefore, depending on timing and other factors, a military coup in Nigeria’s given situation may be seen, even by sections of the wider population, as the best way to defuse the social tension building up already. However, such is the enormity and ferocity of the problems and crisis facing Nigeria today that another military take over of power may actually be the trigger that would set in motion the beginning of the end of Nigeria as a corporate entity, and this with all the calamities this process entails for the ordinary people.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
The only way to avert the looming socio-economic disaster is to fight to put in place a working peoples’ government that will be prepared to implement a democratic socialist economic transformation of Nigeria as a basis to enhance rapid economic development of the country with a view to meet the social needs and aspirations of every Nigerian. Today, massive unemployment and mass poverty pervades the land. Despite abundant natural and human resources, the vast majority of people continue to sink deeper into the misery. This is primarily the direct consequence of the profit-first approach of capitalism to the issues of development and social needs. Hundreds of billions of dollars, which ought to be judiciously used to develop the economy and guarantee the social needs of all, are being routinely looted and shared by a few capitalist elements, both local and foreign. Partly this is because, with the world economy being dominated by the major imperialist powers, the Nigerian elite see no point in investing in developing the country’s productive resources and look instead to short-term gains through speculation and downright theft.
While Nigeria presently needs lots of workforces to develop its industry, constructions, housing, education and healthcare sectors, tens of millions of Nigerian youths, including many educated ones, are now permanently condemned to roam the streets for non-existing jobs. But this does not have to be the case. If the commanding heights of the Nigeria’s economy are publicly owned and democratically planned in such a way as to provide jobs for every able person and at the same time guarantee the social needs of the teeming masses for decent accommodation, healthcare and education, it will be entirely possible within a very short period of time to transform the present gloomy atmosphere which prevails in the country into a very buoyant one. By putting in place a gigantic master plan to pave all necessary roads, build all necessary schools and houses to accommodate the educational and housing needs of the people, a massive healthcare programme that will ensure that every Nigerian has access to quality medical treatment irrespective of their social status, it would be entirely possible to rapidly transform the prevailing economic decay and backwardness.
This kind of approach, of course, sharply contradicts the neo-liberal thrust of the capitalist economic agenda of privatization and liberalization, which specializes in mass retrenchment in order to maximize profit. In a working peoples’ economic paradigm being advocated, the country’s major natural resources, including its finances will be massively mobilized to meet the needs and provide services for all. Of course, this kind of centrally planned economy can only flourish if placed under the direct democratic control and management of the working people themselves. Towards this end, the opposition of the labour movement, particularly the trade unions, to the constant quest of imperialism and the ruling elite to fully liberalise and deregulate the economy including the oil sector is in order. For a very long period up till now, the trade unions, particularly the NLC had always opposed the regime’s effort to fully deregulate the oil sector, a situation which labour has correctly argued will only lead to sharp increases in prices of petroleum products which will only have adverse effects on living standards and the economy as a whole, especially that the economy and society heavily rely on petroleum products in the absence of functional and stable electricity. Labour’s opposition to this anti-poor economic policy has never been limited to propaganda and intellectual disagreement. In fact, labour has in this respect, organized and led several general strikes and mass protests across the country to drive home its opposition and rejection of the deregulation of the oil sector with its attendant incessant hike of fuel prices.
LABOUR’S UNSCIENTIFIC OPPOSITION
Characteristically, the ruling capitalist elite have always insisted that there is no alternative to its anti-economic growth, anti-poor policy. While most Nigerians expect that as a major oil producer, petroleum products should be made available and affordable within the country, the ruling elite had always claimed that even the current prohibitive prices of these products are being subsidized by the government. Now however, they’ve now somewhat changed the tune, claiming that the hundreds of billions of naira allegedly being spent to subsidize petroleum products in actual fact, are monies going to the pocket of oil racketeers and other fraudsters. For this central reason, the PDP capitalist government has resolved to carry through the total deregulation of the petroleum sector.
In its recent press statement issued on January 19, 2010, the NLC leadership among other things had stated in this respect: “The NLC has since 2000 when government began its mindless and endless increase in the prices of petroleum products, stood firmly on the side of Nigerian people and led them in mass strikes and protests to ensure government sees reason. We are not about to change our position nor shirk our responsibility to the Nigerian people who have not benefited from the dividends of democracy”. The statement goes further to say: “The NLC’s position is that if, as government officials consistently told us, the reasons for fuel shortages are hoarding, corruption and blackmail by private oil marketers, the solution cannot be to hand over the entire sector to the same unpatriotic marketers”.
Unfortunately however, while the NLC leadership has continued to loudly proclaim its opposition to deregulation of the petroleum sector, statements like that quoted above and its overall general conduct have only shown that labour lacks a coherent ideas and scientifically verifiable strategy to take the economy forward outside the framework of neo-liberal capitalist options. This point of view can be manifestly confirmed from the communiquÃ© issued after the emergency NEC meeting of the NLC held on December 20, 2009. In the communiquÃ© in issue, the NLC had made the following submissions and proposals:
1. “The petroleum sector needs a holistic restructuring in order to ensure stability of production, distribution and even pricing”.
2. “Corruption is endemic in the sector and immensely contributes to the problem of the sector”.
3. ” While agreeing to the issue of restructuring of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry for effective delivery, it is unequivocally opposed to any increase in the prices of petroleum products” and “that government should repair the four refineries, build additional ones solely owned by government or through private sector initiative”.
4. “Regulatory Agencies to be strengthened to be able to sanction potential defaulters”.
5. “Power projections must be attained to encourage manufacturing and boost industrial growth”. “Roads be fixed and railways reactivated”.
6. “Government must take immediate steps to ensure availability of petroleum products”.
When plainly decoded the NLC position in this respect centrally means a conditional acceptance of the ruling class’s deregulation agenda. Specifically, the NLC’s particular demands are both contradictory and utopian in character. Most worrisomely, the NLC leadership currently appears to be at the end of its wisdom and initiatives to take forward to a logical victory the struggle against the total deregulation of the petroleum sector and other neo-liberal, anti-poor policies. The NLC leadership has, for instance, correctly argued that the solution to perennial fuel scarcity and corruption in the oil sector cannot be achieved through a total hand over of the entire sector to the same unpatriotic marketers in the name of deregulation. But very lamentably however, its demand for “a holistic restructuring” of the oil sector “in order to ensure stability of production, distribution and even pricing” only begs the questions requiring concrete answers. Indeed, the ruling elite can always argue that they are precisely interested in ‘holistic restructuring’ hence the deregulation policy
Yet what ordinary working class elements would like to know is the fundamental difference between the capitalist government’s own “restructuring” and what labour means by its own “holistic restructuring”? Instead of appearing to try to tinker with the current system Labour needs to clearly state that, to achieve its goal “to ensure stability of production, distribution and even pricing”, the entire oil sector, including ownership, production and distribution, need to be publicly owned, planned and democratically run for the primary purpose of generating enough energy and resources to meet the needs of all Nigerians. As long as the present profit-first consideration of capitalism remains the cornerstone of production and distribution of the petroleum products, as well as that of the other key sectors of the economy, for that long will product instability and high prices continue to hold sway in the society.
Unless the NLC’s “holistic restructuring” of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry is carried out in the above democratic, socialist manner, frequent price increases cum scarcity of petroleum products would always remain the rule and not the exception. In this regard, it is very illusory and utopian to believe for a second that the capitalist ruling elite and their foreign counterparts who mostly benefit from importations and racketeering of fuel products would have the incentive and moral integrity to put in place policies that can effectively regulate the scarcity and corruptions which have continually crippled the oil sector. On the surface it sounds radical to demand that the existing four refineries be made to function optimally and build more where necessary with a view to meet the domestic demand for the petroleum products, guarantee stable electricity, make roads motorable and reactivate the railway system etc. However, asking dyed- in-the-wool capitalist, neo-liberal elements, who have only been able to prove their mettle by selling public properties and institutions to themselves at give-away prices in the name of privatisation, to now begin to spearhead a programme of massive public investment in roads and rail constructions is totally unrealistic. Asking elements that have allegedly spent, over a period of time, hundreds of billions of dollars to do the turn-around maintenance of the nation’s refineries as well as boosting electricity generation and distribution with nothing concrete to show for these, to begin again to assume responsibility to develop the nation’s refineries, electricity, roads and rail systems, is nothing but an hopeless illusion and deception.
The emergency NEC meeting of the NLC, which held on December 20, 2009, specifically called on the government “to take immediate steps to ensure availability of petroleum products”. Since that day and up till now, and despite the NLC’s statement dated January 19, 2010 restating congress opposition to deregulation and hike of fuel prices, scarcity and high prices of products have remained the lots of Nigerians and the economy. Most significantly however, the NLC leadership has conspicuously failed to highlight government’s failure to meet its demand in this respect and neither has it come forward with concrete proposals of action to force the government and oil marketers to ensure availability of products at the normal prices.
Throughout the series of the mass rallies embarked upon by the NLC, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the pro-labour section of the civil society under the canopy of LASCO against the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, for a new minimum wage of N52,200 and a radical electoral reform to guarantee free and fair election in the country, the NLC leadership had always threatened to call a mother-of-all industrial strike and mass protest across the country if the government failed to accede to its demand in this respect. Sadly however, now that government has, in reality, imposed its deregulation agenda through artificial scarcity of petroleum products and its concomitant high increase in the prices of petroleum products, the NLC leadership appears helpless and bereft of ideas to struggle against same. The main reason for the ominous silence and paralysis from the NLC leadership where bold ideas and actions are required is because the leadership does not have the coherent socialist ideas and strategies needed to replace the unpopular capitalist options in existence.
For instance, the NLC leadership since year 2000 has led about seven general strikes and mass protests across the country against incessant hikes of fuel prices. Yet and despite these struggles, the price of a litre of petrol has risen from N20 to between N100 and N120 being presently paid for these products. In some parts of the country, including the oil producing Niger-Delta, the prices are actually sometimes higher Thus, the threat of a general strike and mass protest over this same issue today immediately raises the issue of why that approach has never succeeded, in the past, from deterring the government and the oil marketers from insisting on incessant hike of fuel prices. It immediately raises the question of whether the same anti-poor capitalist government will remain in power or not after such general strikes and mass protests. As past experiences have shown if the general strike and mass movement fails or is not able to remove from power the self-centred capitalist elites running the country, then sooner than later whatever limited gains that may be won by mass movement and struggles can be expected to be rapidly eroded by a more ferocious social attack and policies of the ruling class. The only way to take the mass struggle of the working people out of the vicious circle of a determined struggle followed by a more anti-poor policies and regime is for the masses’ struggle to be consciously waged within the framework of an agenda and strategy of replacing the current capitalist government with a government of the working people and the general poor built on a democratic socialist foundation.
Consequently, instead of the NLC and TUC leaders making futile calls on capitalist politicians and government to implement pro-poor policies and agenda, concrete steps must be immediately set in motion to create a truly working people’s political party or build the Labour Party as a genuine political platform of the working class committed to fight for a workers’ and poor peoples’ government to take power from the hands of the self-serving capitalist elements so as to be able to optimally harness Nigeria’s natural and human resources for the benefit of all. Under the present dispensation, the capitalist ruling elite will always oppose workers’ demand for a genuine living minimum wage, while they themselves live in obscene opulence. They will always claim that the country’s economy cannot guarantee people’s needs and aspirations. However, if the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy are publicly owned, democratically run and planned by the working people themselves then there will be more than enough resources to meet the needs and aspirations of all without any retrenchment whatsoever. Similarly, the demand for a free and fair election within the framework of a credible electoral system will only be beneficial to the ordinary Nigerians if this will lead to the emergence of a truly pro-working peoples’ government. Hence the necessity for labour to have its own party with an independent ideological outlook different from that of the capitalists who only rejoice in the creation of a few millionaires while millions live in abject poverty in the midst of super-abundance.
ETHNO-RELIGIOUS CRISIS: A REOCCURING DECIMAL OF TRAGEDY
There is an increasingly urgent need for labour to give a correct and decisive leadership to the struggle of the working masses for better living standards and genuine democratic governance. Otherwise, the country would only remain on the path of its current rapid race to total economic decay and social disintegration.
Take for instance, the current national tragedy unravelling in Jos, Plateau State. Within a period of three days, over three hundred persons, mostly ordinary Nigerians, have been killed as a result of the perennial ethno-religious strifes that have become more pronounced in the northern part of the country especially in the past twelve years of unfulfilling civil rule. In particular, the current mayhem resulting in hundreds of deaths and colossal destruction of properties with the concomitant displacement of tens of thousands of people from their homes, is the third ravaging Jos and Plateau state in particular following the previous tragedies which happened in 2001 and 2008. Similar tragedies had befallen many cities across the north and the south of Nigeria at one time or another in the past ten years of aggravated socio-economic crises.
As usual, Nigeria’s failed capitalist state has responded to this perennial tragedy with its customary after-effect brave words and big threats. Law abiding citizens have been assured for the umpteenth time to go about their lawful duties with the usual promises to bring culprits and perpetrators to book. Of course nothing of this will ever happen. This is because the main issues behind the escalating ethno-religious strife in the country are both political and economic, being a consequence of the increasing economic privations under which most Nigerians live. It is political to the extent that most of these ethno-religious conflicts and crises were always most invariably the consequences of the lopsided manner with which the country called Nigeria was created by British colonialism. Many tribes and nationalities with different cultural and religious backgrounds were arbitrarily lumped together with and subjugated under the rule of their most populous neighbours who, for most periods before colonialism, had never coexisted under same political or religious authority.
Unfortunately, the local capitalist ruling elites that succeeded British colonialism have done everything under the sun to make it impossible for the ordinary Nigerians to democratically discuss and negotiate genuine conditions for a peaceful coexistence among the diverse nationalities and tribes that make up the country. In this respect, every independent effort to convoke a truly democratic sovereign national conference have always ended up being distorted and sabotaged by the capitalist ruling elite through their divisive politics and narrow-minded self-interest.
Apart from this, the frequency and scope of the ethno-religious crises of the past one-decade and more is directly caused by especial excruciating economic conditions under which most ordinary Nigerians are forced to live. With the ruling elites’ perpetual looting of the hundreds of billions of dollars that ought to have been used to develop the economy and improve the masses’ living standards, most ordinary Nigerians are left in social conditions that make them more easily susceptible to supernatural, religious explanation of their conditions and the way out. This must be stressed, is responsible for the upsurge in Islamic and Pentecostal fundamentalism of the recent years.
Therefore, the working class needs to take power from the hands of the self-serving thieving elite and bigots that presently control the society and its polity. With a bold socio-economic programme aimed at addressing the basic needs and aspirations of all, a workers’ and poor peasants’ government will then be able to organize genuine democratic discussions and decisions on how best to achieve peaceful coexistence among Nigerians without the fear of any nationality, tribe or religious creed wanting to lord themselves over other nationalities, tribes and religions within and across Nigeria. Unless labour hastens in this direction, more explosive tragedies like the ongoing one in Plateau state will become more frequent across the country, as the crisis of capitalism deepens in Nigeria.
A TIME BOMB CALLED NIGER DELTA
The Niger Delta issue represents another time bomb that can lead to the ghastly and horrible disintegration and destruction of Nigeria as a corporate entity with all the calamitous social consequences, which that will entail for most people of Nigeria. Presently, oil from Niger Delta region fetches over 80% of Nigeria’s total income. For decades, most of the oil wealth being extracted from this region has always been pocketed by foreign oil corporations and the local capitalist ruling elite. In consequence, the entire country and most especially the Niger Delta region have remained in an unimaginable state of economic decay and prostration. This is the primary factor that has given rise to the development of armed militia groups, ostensibly fighting for the liberation of the Deltan masses.
Based on intensive campaigns of bombings of oil installations, kidnappings and hostage-taking, the activities of these militia groups have temporarily succeeded in forcing the Nigerian state to come up with a so-called amnesty programme, offering cash for weapons and temporary cessation of military crack-down on militants who are willing to drop their weapons with a claim that the state needs an atmosphere of peace to effect the necessary rapid economic and social development of the Niger Delta region.
However, going by the inherent weaknesses of capitalism particularly of the prevailing, global neo-liberal brand of capitalism and the especial kleptomaniac characteristics of Nigeria’s thieving ruling elites, very little of the desired and promised development of the Niger Delta or the whole of the country will ever happen. Predictably therefore, the current graveyard peace, which obtains in the Niger Delta, should be expected to shatter sooner than later. On its own, the activities of the Niger Delta militia may not be sufficient to topple the Nigeria state. Even then the certain atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, which their activities will engender together with the drastic disruptions of oil productions and massive reduction of oil incomes will be enough to put Nigeria on the path of permanent political instability which, at a certain conjuncture, may provide a perfect and ultimate excuse for the military to once again attempt to take over political power in the country, ostensibly to ensure stability, with all the dreadful consequences which this will have on the struggles of the Niger Delta people and that of the rest of Nigeria for bread and democratic freedom.
The only way to avert this looming disaster is for the working class to take power armed with a massive socio-economic programme and policy of using the Niger Delta’s oil wealth to develop and meet the basic economic aspirations of most ordinary Nigerians as opposed to the current capitalist economic arrangement where only one percent Nigerians consume 80% of the oil wealth coming from the Niger Delta. Only this kind of approach can ensure that the ordinary masses of the rest of Nigeria and that of the Niger Delta come together in joint struggles with a view to defeat the local capitalist vampires and their imperialist backers and exploiters.
AN UNSCRUPULOUS AND RECKLESS RULING ELITE
The capitalist ruling elite are totally bankrupt and at the same time reckless. While they acquire power in the name of democracy, their reign is actually dominated by acts of impunity. While Nigeria’s 1999 constitution stipulated a maximum of two terms, of four years each, for presidents and governors, former President Obasanjo, nonetheless spent hundreds of billions of naira to subvert the constitution when plotting to remain in power beyond the constitutionally stipulated tenure. Happily, his “third term” agenda was defeated. However, because the forces that thwarted Obasanjo’s unbridled ambition in this respect belong to the same camp of corrupt, anti-people politicians, they subsequently colluded with the same Obasanjo to foist on Nigeria a person known to be suffering from a chronic medical disease as president.
For over two months now, the same ailing President Yar’Adua has travelled out of the country for a medical treatment without the decency and humility to permit the Vice-President to take over as Acting President as stipulated under the 1999 constitution. Even though, the entire PDP leaders including Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice-President, subscribes to the same pro-rich, anti-poor agenda, ailing President Yar’Adua and his closest supporters in government have refused to allow Jonathan to become Acting President because of their fear of losing out in new power equations in the event that a person from the south-south becomes president. Thus for this narrow and very selfish calculation, the capitalist ruling elite are recklessly pushing the country to the brink of another ethno-religious conflicts and civil war.
Within the frame work of the neo-liberal capitalist agenda supported and being pursued by all the major capitalist ruling parties (PDP, ANPP, AC, APGA, PPA), a Jonathan or any other person either from the north or south being made president would only go ahead to implement policies that will deepen the agonies of the ordinary masses. Nonetheless, this has not stopped all sorts of bourgeois radicals from exploiting the issue of Jonathan being prevented from becoming Acting President to present themselves as champions of ethnic equality and rule of law. There is in fact an ongoing campaign being led by major bourgeois opposition figures within the AC, ANPP and sections of the civil society, asking that Goodluck Jonathan be made Acting President. According to these bourgeois elements, their campaign is aimed at preventing a constitutional and political crisis that may eventually degenerate into a situation where the military will come back to power again.
While some unnamed trade unions are reportedly planning a “symbolic” one day strike in favour of Goodluck (Nation, February 2, 2010) ASUU President Ukachukwu Awuzie correctly stated that “the swearing in of Jonathan as Acting President will not solve the misery and suffering being faced by Nigerians because he is a product of a rotten system. ‘We shall be therefore careful not to give false expectations to Nigerians, that when Goodluck Jonathan is in power, the people will be better for it. In fact, it is the same party, same programme and therefore will not bring about any desired change in the country’.” (ThisDay, February 2, 2010). This is why Labour must oppose any idea of participating in or simply supporting any so-called “government of national unity”, something which would be a way of the ruling class trying to maintain capitalism by involving Labour leaders in attempting to hold back struggles in the name of “national unity”, “reconstruction” or some other nice sounding public relations phrase.
Of course, no sane person will like to encourage and support any conduct that might once again bring back a dictatorial military rule. However, the strategy of endorsing and or legitimizing a Goodluck Jonathan Acting Presidency or even de-facto presidency is the surest way to socio-economic catastrophe that may sooner than expected bring back on agenda once again, an undesirable era of military dictatorship.
Presently, everything is grounded. Apart from crude oil exploitations, there are very little productive activities going on in the economy. The so-called private sector has been virtually reduced to the level of pure parasites where companies that are supposed to be producing goods and services have virtually become lottery firms using tricks to entice people to become instant millionaires as they try to attract the few customers that live above poverty line. At the same time, the country’s polity is firmly trapped under the rule of corrupt bourgeois elites that have no scruple and regards for democratic ethos. The current set of rulers have only succeeded in reducing the overwhelming majority of Nigerians to a state of abject poverty despite the stupendous incomes which the country has earned under their tenure. Yet, if an election is held tomorrow, it is this same set of hated looters that will emerge as winners across the country. Faced with this kind of dead-end situation, the military, which today is still being haunted by the ghost of its past crimes and as such unable to make a direct bid for power might become emboldened to once again stage a come-back to power.
Of course, the prospect of another military coup under the current volatile socio-economic crisis, may in fact, lead to a process that will detonate a greater socio-economic calamities for the long suffering people of Nigeria. It may even turn out to be a phenomenon that will hasten the total disintegration of Nigeria as a corporate entity.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE NOW?
Labour needs to act fast to arrest the gloomy atmosphere of helplessness, which currently reigns among the masses as a result of the perpetual misrule of the ruling elite and labour’s seeming inability to fight for decent living for the ordinary masses. As a starting point, labour needs to draw or dust up a programme of action deliberately aimed at improving the living conditions of the masses and against the pro-rich, anti-poor, neo-liberal policies of the capitalist ruling elites while also defending democratic rights. Here, a fresh but short ultimatum needs to be given to the government to forthwith stop all plans to deregulate the petroleum sector and at the same time guarantee availability of petroleum products at current prices. Side by side, labour must press for the immediate implementation of the N52,200 new minimum wage demand and firmly resist retrenchment.
Based on the irrefutable experience of the failure and corruption of the different sections of the bourgeois elite and the ruling parties, labour, as part of its struggle for a genuine democratic elections, must immediately begin to prioritize the creation of a genuine political party of the working people that seeks to build a mass movement with the goal of forming a workers’ and poor peasants’ government to bring to an end the rule of capitalist self-seekers and looters. ASUU President Awuzie has called for the formation of “a people’s political organization to contend for power, reorganize the country and build a popular democracy”. This is a step in the right direction but needs to be made more concrete and then seriously campaigned upon, not left just as words in a press conference. In today’s situation the DSM holds that the Labour Party needs to be transformed from the status of the most favoured dumping ground for capitalist politicians that lost out of power games within their own parties into a conscious, revolutionary platform specifically created to bring forth and develop working class leaders and candidates. If the Labour Party cannot serve such a purpose then the broader labour movement will have to take the initiative, perhaps under the LASCO banner, to form a working people’s party that can bring together the forces that can challenge capitalism.
Labour leaders need to use the period of the short ultimatum being advocated by the DSM to send out struggle signals to all labour rank and file members and the generality of the people in the society. Specifically, labour must prioritize and champion the formations of struggle committees within the industrial unions, communities, schools and workplaces. The struggle committees must be saddled with the task of mobilizing, organizing and educating the masses towards the attainment of the set goals. Labour must once again be prepared to resume mass protests/rallies and industrial actions where necessary to ensure that its demands and objectives are actualized. Already, there is a huge ground swell of disaffection and opposition to the capitalist elites misrule and corruption. What is presently missing and which only labour is in a position to provide, is a comprehensive programme of economic and political demands predicated on a clear strategy of bringing into being a genuine working peoples’ government. Once the programme of action and leadership resoluteness to pursue this to a most logical conclusion is assured, the DSM is confident that the overwhelming majority of the working people across the country will massively and rapidly rally around labour to save the country and its long-suffering people from capitalist economic and political ruinations.
If you are dissatisfied with the various anti-poor policies of Yar’Adua government at federal level and governments at state and local council level and you are interested in fight back against these policies, the organisation to join is the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM).
The DSM has played active roles in all the general strikes and mass struggles against fuel price rises that have repeatedly taken place since 2000. DSM members have played prominent roles, nationally and locally, in LASCO, the Labour Civil Society Coalition, and JAF, the Joint Action Forum, consistently arguing for determined action to both stop fuel price rises plus a wider mobilisation to remove the rotten Yar’Adua regime and replace it with a workers’ and poor peasants’ government committed to carrying out the socialist transformation of Nigeria. This is why we have been calling on the Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress, trade union leaders, socialists and pro-masses’ organisations to build the Labour Party as a fighting working class political alternative that could wrest political power from the thieving ruling elite at all levels. Also in this respect, we and other socialists and trade union activists formed the Campaign for Mass Based Labour Party (CMB-LP) to mobilize workers, artisans, traders, youths and working people in general into the party. It has been campaigning for opening up of the Party, setting up of functional secretariats and structures at workplaces, communities, schools, local government areas and state levels; democratic running of its affairs and building it as a fighting working class political alternative.
DSM has been active, both as participants and supporters, in many different trade union protests and struggles for better pay and improved working conditions. We work in the Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) in defence of democratic rights in workplaces and communities. We also work in community organizations like the Ajegunle Peoples Movement in Lagos.
Among students and youths, we campaign against outrageous fees and other neo-liberal attacks on education, for respect of democratic rights of education workers and students, and against victimization of workers and student activists. The DSM also stands for the rebuilding of a campaigning and fighting national students’ movement. Also in this respect, we work in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) which has student and youth activists as members and also campaign for adequate funding of public education. ERC, while campaigning for rebuilding of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) as a fighting and truly democratic organ of Nigerian students, it has been trying to fill the void created by the right-wing, moribund elements that have continuously led the student body in recent times.
One of the major activities of DSM is the education of a new generation of working class and youth activists in the genuine ideas of Marxism as propagated by Lenin and Trotsky. Towards this end, seminars, symposia and schools are organized and educational materials published from time to time. An important way to help spread DSM ideas and further building a socialist alternative is by making regular donations and helping sell our publications.
The DSM works alongside all activists seeking to defend and improve the position of working people and the poor, but we always stress the necessity of building a mass socialist movement to change society. This is a key plank of our activity in mass movements, including the trade unions, and in the Labour Party and why we urge all those who agree with our ideas to join with us in the DSM in fighting to break the grip of capitalism over Nigeria and for a socialist future.