Dagga Tolar Elected As the New Chairman
Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Lagos, Teachers’ Union Election
Dagga Tolar Elected As the New Chairman
Victory Is Recognition of Consistency in Defence of Interests of Teachers and Other Sections of the Working Class People
By Moshood Osunfunrewa, DSM Ajegunle Branch
Dagga Tolar, photo DSM
The victory of Comrade Dagga Tolar in the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) election, held on May 16, to become Chairman of the Ajeromi-Ifelodun (Ajegunle) branch has been described by many teachers in Ajeromi-Ifelodun area of Lagos State as a harbinger of positive change to the teachers’ union. It is celebrated as the beginning of the liberation from the hostage the teachers and their union have been held for years by jobbers and careerists.
The 2013 Ajeromi-Ifelodun NUT Branch election was principally a contest between two platforms: United Teachers Forum (UTF) and Dynamic Teachers Congress (DTC). The DTC is made up of careerists and bureaucrats who were in leadership for years but have practically lost the support of rank and file teachers both in the primary and secondary schools. They only employed divide and rule tactics and the becks of office and resources of the union to create a clientage and patronage system to help preserve themselves in office. Four years ago they got the state government to transfer the teachers, including Dagga Tolar, who wanted to challenge their continued stay in office at the union election, to other local government areas of the state so that they would not contest in that election. Though then the struggle of teachers saw the recall of the affected teachers, it was only after the nomination into the principal offices of the union had closed.
The UTF on its part is largely made up of teachers who have various misgivings on how the affairs of the union are conducted or spurred by various motives, including unfortunately a desire to get into office for its sake and the ends they can personally make out of it. This explains why the DTC finds it comfortable and easy to win over known members of UTF to contest on its platform. While Dagga Tolar belongs to UTF he is generally seen by teachers as someone who will defend and truly protect the interest of teachers, and different from union jobbers and bureaucrats.
Two comrades of DSM, Dagga and Victor Osakwe, participated in the election under the platform of UTF but also independently reached out to teachers with Socialist Teachers Forum (STF). About 2,000 copies of STF leaflet containing their programme were circulated among the teachers in addition to UTF campaign materials.
STF and UTF raised in their campaign activities and programme the issues of the defence of public funded education, since this was central to jobs of the teachers and the need not to only to oppose commercialization and privatization of education but to also agitate for adequate funding and democratic management as well as provision of adequate and functional teaching facilities like classrooms and laboratories. They also raised the question of democracy in the union, calling for delegates to be elected by all teachers in the school, instead of being merely hand-picked by heads of schools who serve the interest of the union bureaucrats. Also placed in the front burner were finances of the union, the administration of teachers’ pensions and the welfares of teachers. All of these issues raised during the campaign were warmly received by the teachers as the UTF candidates led by Dagga moved from school to school.
MILITARIZATION OF THE ELECTION VENUE
The false propaganda being peddled by DTC that the UTF candidates, especially comrades Dagga and Victor, were sponsored by the PDP to destabilise the state governed by the ACN was readily dismissed by many teachers having known our comrades over the years as class fighters, who cannot be bought by any anti-poor, anti-worker capitalist parties like PDP and ACN. They could not even convince the state government to act with this falsehood which was aimed at securing the state’s helping hand to make it impossible for principal UTF candidates to participate in the elections as obtained four years ago.
So they turned over to the police and Directorate of State Security, accusing UTF candidates of being violent and having a plan to disrupt the election. So the state security outfits came fully armed to the teeth to intimidate and harass teachers. They were not only at the entrance but also moved around with guns, and at a time attempted to send out or arrest members of the Ajegunle branch of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) that stood beside their stall, selling Socialist Democracy (SD) and other socialist materials. But the attempt to arrest was resisted by the teachers who made it clear that the DSM members meant no harm to teachers.
The election is a mixed blessing to the UTF. It was only Dagga that won among its candidates. Others lost but got votes that showed a significant support among the teachers. But it was the members of DTF that were brutally shell-shocked with the Dagga’s victory. They had begun preparation for celebration having won 12 offices remaining only the result chairmanship contest to be announced. They left the venue with their heads down. But for the majority of teachers it was a wide celebration on hearing that Dagga had defeated the incumbent union chairman.
The election result itself is a victory for the consistency of Dagga who over the years has been identified as a class fighter and a defender of the wellbeing of teachers. While a series of manipulation and malicious propaganda against UTF candidates could have influenced the overall results, for Dagga, the fact that he was accused of being an atheist, with dreadlocks and unfit to represent teachers did not hold sway when it came to the election of the chairman.
VICTORY OF DAGGA TOLAR (UTF)
The victory of comrade Dagga Tolar as chairman of the AJIF branch of NUT is a demonstration of the strength of our work in the past period and indeed a confirmation of the correctness of Marxism as a guide to a consistency in class struggle
Defeating the incumbent by 170 to 164 votes despite all spiteful campaigns and massive bribing of teachers with stolen resources of the union, confirms that change is possible, and that working people cannot be fooled continuously, so long that there is a consistent leadership they can identify with to lead the struggle. It is another confirmation of the prognosis of Trotsky, the leader along with Lenin of the 1917 Russian workers’ revolution, that the continued saving grace for capitalism and its bankrupt system is not the unwillingness of the masses to struggle or the fact that they easily fall under the sway of the ruling elite or feel helpless before the mighty weight of the state coercive instruments, but rather it is the absence of the necessary revolutionary leadership and organization armed with an appropriate working class programme for change and transformation of society.
Now the DSM comrades in Ajegunle will reposition themselves to allow for effective intervention and support for our teacher comrades who may have to operate under a hostile climate in the union leadership given its composition. The need for worked-out activities to build support from the rank and file of teachers becomes imperative. Also important is the immediate task of building the Socialist Teachers Forum among teachers not only in Ajegunle but throughout Lagos state.