DSM Oyo State Public Meeting:
DSM Oyo State Public Meeting:
Debating the way forward for building a genuine working people’s political alternative
By Ayo Ademiluyi
Against the background of the outcome of the 2011 elections, it was necessary to draw together workers, trade unionists and youths across Oyo state to deliberate what the consequences are for the working masses and the tasks ahead. It was within this context the Oyo State branch of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) held that a Symposium on Monday May 30th, 2011, a day after the inauguration of winners of the just-concluded general elections, at the Nigerian Union of Journalists Press Centre in Ibadan.
Prior to the day, DSM comrades in Oyo had gone round to mobilize the trade unions, pro-labour organisations, students’ unions of University of Ibadan, Ibadan Poly and LAUTECH Ogbomoso, and rank and file workers and youths for the programme. About 120 people attended the public meeting.
The speakers at the symposium were Biodun Aremu (Joint Secretary, LASCO), Bashiru Olarenwaju (NLC Oyo State Chairman), Mr. Olojede (NUT Acting State Secretary), Bashiru Apampa (Oyo State Labour Party Chairman), Olisa Muojomo (Representative of ASUU, University of Ibadan) and Daggar Tolar (DSM NEC member)
Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye (Abbey Trotsky), the Coordinator of DSM Oyo state Chapter, in his welcome address stressed that given the background of elements that were sworn in at the inauguration held on May 29th and the neo-liberal capitalist programme promoted by their parties, they offer no tangible solution to the prevailing socio-economic crisis and the sufferings of the working masses. He therefore concluded that the expectation of the organizers was that the forum would provide the means for charting the way forward.
The first speaker, Mr. Olojede (Acting NUT Secretary) dwelt on the topic: Crisis of education sector and the way forward. He clearly traced the root of the education sector to the backward neo-liberal policies of successive governments. He equally decried the attacks on the working conditions and remuneration of teachers, particularly the immediate past Alao Akala administration.
Olisa Muojomo, the representative of Academic Staff Union of Universities (University of Ibadan Branch), was the next to speak and took up what prospects are there for the working masses after the 2011 election. He highlighted the struggle of working people against deregulation, privatization, etc. He went on to state that on the basis of capitalism, the prospect for the working masses after the 2011 general elections is bleak. He argued that the solution is political, meaning the working people have to put into practice the ideas of scientific socialism as expounded by Marx and Engels and struggle for political power.
In his speech Bashiru Olarenwaju, the State NLC Chairman, traced the struggles of working people right back to the period of the 1945 general strike. He pooh-poohed all forms of illusion or hopes being sowed by the bourgeois press in President Jonathan. He observed that Jonathan was apparently the first Southerner from oppressive ruling elite to be so eulogized. He held that the coming period would be full of attacks and cuts on the living standards of the working people.
On the issue of the new minimum wage, he revealed that organized labour in the state would go to the fullest length to fight for its implementation, possibly calling a general strike if the newly-sworn in Abiola Ajimobi government refuses to respect the agreement the trade unions had signed with the out-going administration on the N18,000 minimum wage. He countered the position of some town criers of the government that minimum wage would cause inflation. He said the ruling elite, who are talking of inflation in respect of minimum wage, award themselves jumbo pay and outrageous allowances in addition to the brazen looting of public resources. He called for massive job creation and pledged the commitment of organized labour to fight proscription of private sector unions and casualisation in workplaces.
Daggar Tolar started with illustrations and argument to support his emphasis that the central lesson that working masses must draw from the ceaseless attacks on living and working conditions and the failure of the thieving capitalist elite to position the economy for the benefit of all is the need for the working people to organize to take power. He quoted copiously from a news report in which Goodluck Jonathan had tried to state that his government could reposition the economy for the better if only the people support him. In other words, Dagga argued, Jonathan was saying that it is the people, and not himself, that should be blamed for the failure of his administration.
Dagga decried the failure of the Labour Party in putting forward genuine working people political and economic alternative. He stressed that the Labour Party must be reclaimed by the trade unions and the working people or a new mass based working people political is formed. This, he said, would entail chasing out the current self-serving party leadership at the helm of its affairs who have sold the party to anti-poor politicians as one of their political platforms. He concluded that a genuine working class leadership is needed to build a mass workers’ party on a sharp socialist programme.
Dagga also asked the leadership of trade unions in the state to immediately start mass mobilization and sensitization of workers and the public on the minimum wage in order to defeat the attempt by the state government to disrespect the agreement already reached with the previous administration on the subject. The trade unions must organize rallies, symposia and warning strike in order to mobilize public support and also drive home their demands.
Bashiru Apampa, Oyo State Labour Party Chairman, while calling on workers to join the party argued that politics is different from trade unionism. For workers to take power, according to him, they must arm themselves with large sums of money to take on the big politicians Apampa is one of the leaders of the Labour Party who believe that it cannot be built unless the party tickets are placed on the counter for the moneybags on the basis of “cash and carry”. He has made no concrete efforts to mobilize workers to join the party, though he also doubled, until recently, as the state chairman of the NLC.
Abiodun Aremu, who spoke after Apampa, vehemently condemned the idea of money politics. Among others, he gave examples of governors of Awolowo’s UPN in the Second Republic who were not moneybags and ran welfare programmes. They did not leave government houses richer. For workers to engage in politics, he said, it must be with the correct ideological understanding. To fund a workers’ party, over six million workers in the NLC can pay sixty million naira monthly as dues, and should each contribute N100. On the Labour Party, he informed that there had been a call tasking the NLC to root out the party leadership in order to reclaim it or begin the process of building a genuine new party.
During the period of comments and questions, the National Union of Pensioners (NUP) State Chairman called on the NLC to intervene on the pensioners’ struggle. A worker from Zartech equally called for the NLC intervention in the private sector on the issue of minimum wage. By and large, the discussion on how to fight and win the minimum wage struggle was also one of the highlights of the symposium. Some contributors also decried the state of the Labour Party as a debate ensued when Dagga Tolar correctly countered the poisonous position of the state Labour Party Chairman.
Fifty two (52) copies of Socialist Democracy were sold while a fighting fund of N5,160 was collected.
The programme was a success and helped measure the consciousness of workers in the state and their determination to fight for improvement and political alternative if provided with correct labour leadership. DSM comrades would continue to strengthen its base in Oyo State by consistently putting forward socialist alternative, arguing for independent political platform of the working people and identifying with daily struggles of working masses for improved living and working conditions, and against neo-liberal capitalist offensive and attacks on democratic rights in workplaces, communities and schools.