May Day 2014: A Story of Compromised Labour Leadership, Clampdown on Democratic Rights and Independe
May Day 2014: A Story of Compromised Labour Leadership, Clampdown on Democratic Rights and Independent Actions by Workers and Youths
DSM Members Circulate over 20,000 Leaflets
By Peluola Adewale
Protest against LASU Fees at 2014 Lagos May Day Rally, photo by DSM
The cozy relationship between the Labour leadership and government has never been this deep. While this has always been characteristic of the workers’ day rallies in recent years in Nigeria it has now got to a disgusting and shameless level. When there were independent actions by workers at these rallies to protest against anti-poor policies, the role played by the Labour leaders is to shield the president or governor from embarrassment. This was the feature in the centres like Lagos, Oyo and Niger where there were independent protest actions by workers. The security situation in the country has further given the government, acting in connivance with Labour leaders, the excuse to further attack and repress democratic rights of workers. Every May Day centre was heavily militarized.
For second year running DSM and SPN materials were impounded by security operatives in Abuja, where the main rally was held. Though no DSM comrade was arrested this year, they were sent away right on the security-check queue to the venue and denied participation at the rally. A DSM comrade who managed to enter the venue was bundled out less than 10 minutes after he had started circulating leaflets. The security operatives were not only searching for bombs or explosives at the rally, but also materials like banners, leaflets and papers that exposed the anti-poor policies and failure of the government. If the material goes further to call for resistance or an alternative government it is termed seditious or considered as dangerous as a bomb. President Jonathan was the special guest at the Abuja rally. The Labour leaders considered it a duty to protect him not from bombs, but from protest actions.
CRIN Workers lead CDWR Protest March in 2014 Ibadan May Day, photo by DSM
Comrades decided not take materials into the venue of the rally in Oyo after getting wind of the plan to impound any anti-government materials. Last year our papers and leaflets were impounded and comrades were arrested. We had organized an independent action in solidarity with the sacked workers of Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) Ibadan in addition to intervention at the May Day rally. Therefore, it was wise to avert losing the materials to the security operatives. So this year materials were distributed outside the rally and during the protest march with the sacked CRIN workers.
DSM stand in 2014 Lagos May Day Rally, photo by DSM
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC), a DSM initiated platform, has helped raise a very aggressive and spirited campaign against the fees. It was through the #SaveLASU campaign initiated by ERC that issue of the fees was brought back to the front burner when the government, school authorities and many thought it had come to stay.
In Rivers the pensioners protested by boycotting the rally while the Deputy Governor was booed by workers in Niger State.
Seun Anikulapo Kuti led a protest by youths to May Day Rally in Lagos, photo by DSM
While the Labour leaders have continued to water down the essence of May Day, there are sections of working class people and youths who still consider the May Day rally as the avenue for protest actions. Seun Kuti, one of the musician sons of late Fela Kuti, led some youths protesting against unemployment, corruption and insecurity to the Lagos rally. Some NGO’s also used the occasion to raise a campaign over the abduction of school girls in Chibok, Borno State, by Boko Haram.
TUC women with a placard on Chibok abducted girls – 1May 2014, photo DSM
In all the DSM participated at 9 May Day rallies across the country viz. Abuja, Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Rivers, Cross-Rivers and Niger. We intervened with the current edition of our paper Socialist Democracy and the “Struggle for a Working Peoples’ Political Alternative”, the book the DSM published last year as well as the SPN Manifesto, leaflets from the SPN, CDWR and ERC along with SPN banners.
As planned we used this May Day to further propagate the program of SPN among workers and youths with hope of recruiting them into the party. Some contacts were made. The leadership of SPN, formed by DSM and like minds across the country, is in the process of submitting a formal application for registration of the party with INEC. The party, which has a functional NEC, has paid to INEC a non-refundable fee of N1 million which was raised from donations from members and collaborators.
The CDWR leaflet raised issues and demands of the working class people at workplaces and communities while the ERC leaflet strove to mobilize mass support for the striking lecturers of polytechnics and colleges of education whose actions have led to the closure of these institutions for many months. In Oyo and Osun states CDWR and DSM leaflets respectively were also produced and circulated to address peculiar issues affecting the working people in the states.
In all, about 20,000 leaflets were distributed nationwide by comrades. It appeared that many workers at the rallies were of low consciousness. Indeed, most workers at the May Rally rallies are union stewards who were kitted out and paid to attend by the unions. There was also a category of workers who were sponsored to the May Day rally by companies to market their products. The character of workers at the rallies together with clampdown in Abuja and Oyo affected the sales. Sales of the SPN manifesto is instructive as it shows that workers are ready to pay to know about the program of the party. Besides, we are sure that the messages in our materials which argue for socialist ideas or provide socialist alternative and circulated nationwide will definitely strike a chord with some working class people and youths. This will help win them to the struggle for socialist change.
By Ayo Ademiluyi
DSM stand in 2014 Lagos May Day Rally, photo by DSM
This year’s commemoration of May Day celebration in Lagos was different in every way. The event, which was held at the Onikan Stadium, was heralded with the declaration of the May Day in Lagos as a day of protests by the Joint Action Front (JAF) to protest the fee hike in Lagos State University in conjunction with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and the Senior Staff Union of Universities (SSANU) branches of the university. A small but determined protest jointly held earlier in the morning by the Joint Action Front and the Change Nigeria Movement had taken off from the CMS Junction, defying teargas shots from the Police to protest the abduction of the 234 girls, the insecurity in the country, mass unemployment and education attacks like the fee hike in Lagos State University.
Members of the Lagos state branch of the Democratic Socialist Movement had taken the initiative of setting up a stand at the entrance of the May Day venue with the Socialist Party of Nigeria banner for mass circulation of SPN, ERC and CDWR leaflets. Thousands of these leaflets were circulated among workers at the May Day with enthusiastic response, particularly in respect of the Socialist Party of Nigeria.
Apart from joining the LASU fees protest, the issue with which it has played most prominent role, the ERC also kept alive with leaflets and banner the demands of ASUP and COEASU whose strikes have led to the closure of polytechnics and colleges of education for over 10 months and 3 months respectively.
Protest against LASU Fees at 2014 Lagos May Day Rally_2, photo by DSM
The mood of the event changed spontaneously with the mass protest led by members of the Joint Action Front and members of ASUU, SSANU and NASU as well as students into the May Day venue. Protesters carrying placards for the reversal of the LASU fee-hike stormed the VIP section of the gallery where the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Adejoke Adefulire and gubernatorial aspirant, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, who are equally leaders of the All Progressives’ Congress in Lagos state, were seated.
Fashola and Minimum wage banner at 2014 lagos May Day rally, photo by DSM
Things took a sharper turn when the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola entered the Mayday venue. He was stampeded by the protesters who chanted songs calling for the reversal of the fee hike in the Lagos State University. The entire programme came to a standstill with the protests rocking the whole venue. More workers joined the mass protest, especially Aviation workers who led a protest to the May Day venue against mass retrenchment in the aviation industry. The dais from where the Governor was to take salute of the march past was entirely barricaded by protesting education workers and students and JAF activists.
The rotten collaboration of the Lagos state leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress with the Lagos state Government and some key personalities in the ruling All Progressives’ Congress like gubernatorial aspirant, Senator Ganiyu Solomon was exposed at this point. The labour leaders’ attempt to stifle the agitation of their protesting affiliates did not succeed as the protesters were supported by the mass of other workers.
Abiodun Aremu JAF Secretary speaking at 2014 Lagos May Day Rally, photo by DSM
It was on this basis that concession was given to Abiodun Aremu, the JAF Secretary to speak at the May Day rally. He pointedly called upon the workers to resist the attempt to turn the May Day into another event for the bourgeois politicians as the May day should be a day for mass protests by workers against their oppressors and reiterated the demands for the reversal of LASU fees. On that note, JAF and ASUU/SSANU-LASU leaders marched out of the Stadium in defiance to the Governor, who was the next to speak.
Responding to the protests and agitations, Babatunde Fashola cynically submitted that the ASUU leaders in LASU were not in touch with the official leadership of the Students’ Union who had already submitted a proposal on the fee reduction to him. In other words, he was alluding to the divide-and rule tactics with which they would confront the mass movement that is bound to break out on the LASU issue in the coming period. He also insinuated that the protest was sponsored by opposition and slated the Labour leaders for allowing “their program” to be hijacked by the protesters. The state government as usual might have been the major sponsor of the event. He was perhaps angry that he had paid for a platform that used to embarrass his government. He did not however miss the opportunity to use this May Day rally to repeat his now annual tirade against strike action as a weapon of struggles by workers.
However, he was prevented from completing his speech by the Stolen Dreams protesters led by Seun Kuti, son of the musical icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who stormed the May Day venue and brought the entire event to standstill. On this note, the Governor was embarrassed by the wafts of protests and was forced to leave the venue abruptly. The labour leaders follow suit and ended rally abruptly apparently in solidarity with Fashola. Many workers’ groups which had taken position for the traditional march past left disappointed. This was a blessing anyway as it saved workers of parading like colonial soldiers before anti-poor governor that daily attacks rights and means of livelihood of the working class people in the state.
What all these events point out to genuine socialist activists is the overwhelming mass anger latent in the society and the possibility of mass movements breaking out in the immediate period. A united action of workers, students and youth will be needed in order for government not to break our ranks, but ultimately the imperative of a genuine working class political alternative is apparent. The Socialist Party of Nigeria serves as a pole of attraction in this regard with all the possible gains for genuine socialist activists in the coming period.
By HT Soweto
Mayday at the Eagle Square, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, was marked by heavy militarization. Having conceded to the Government’s so-called war against terrorism, the labour bureaucrats have by this token also bargained off the democratic rights of workers. Setting the tone for this, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had issued a statement a day earlier saying that no bags of any sort and unknown vehicles would be allowed inside the May Day venue.
The immediate result of the militarization of the May Day was a systematic clampdown on the democratic rights of workers and other participants’ cardinal freedoms which the labour movement has for decades struggled to win and the celebration of which workers’ day was all about.
Four members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) intervened. We got to the venue early, around 6:45am. A group of worker activists were already around with union flags, T-shirts and insignias. For another three (3) hours, the crowd came in trickles.
Even at this early hour, all routes leading to the venue were already lined by armed soldiers, uniformed police, mounted police, State Security Service, Special Forces and other categories of the capitalist state’s “bodies of armed men”. Vehicles were asked to stop several distances away while the occupants could only continue the journey to Eagle Square on foot after being thoroughly frisked. Of course the Labour bureaucrats were saved this embarrassment as they drove into the venue in their chauffeured cars and under security escort.
Unlike last year, access to the Eagle Square was restricted to a narrow gate through the Federal Secretariat car park. Since we arrived early, we immediately set out to organize a stall. This drew the attention of the few workers around and we began to circulate our leaflets and sell our papers. Inside the Federal Secretariat car park, a couple of police dogs trotted around sniffing the ground, their handlers struggling to keep up the pace.
For the better part of the next three (3) hours we circulated our leaflets and talked to workers. Sales were slow but we felt better off than last year when all our materials were seized and we were arrested without giving out a single leaflet. Not only were we able to talk to workers, we also made a contact. We thought perhaps this year’s May Day would be without incident. But our luck soon ran out.
Precarious work placards – 1 May 2014, photo by DSM
Around 9:30am, when the police dogs had somehow communicated to their handlers that the area was safe and okay, the gate was opened and workers lined up in a single file to gain entry into the venue. Here they were subjected to frisking. This is okay if the purpose is to ensure the dreaded Boko Haram does not let off a bomb here. But it soon became apparent that bombs and weapons were not the only thing the security operatives were concerned about, they were also concerned about other forms of “weapons” especially placards, leaflets and banners. These were seized immediately once their content was read and certified “unsafe” to be allowed inside.
The process worked with deadly efficiency. A few low rank police men walk around the line scanning faces as if Boko Haram is printed on foreheads. One in dirty uniform came close to us and asked us to step aside. We were clutching bundles of leaflets of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) and Education Rights Campaign (ERC) as well as an SPN banner. He asked us to unfurl the banner which we did and the bold slogan “A party for the millions, not millionaire/billionaire looters” caught his attention. He immediately referred us to a burly man in suit. Obviously the SSS man is better paid than the police but not as efficient. He stared lazily at the headline of the CDWR leaflet which simply read “Workers and Trade Unions Everywhere Must Unite in Solidarity to Defend Their Interests”. With a grunt he asked the police to allow us inside. We were elated but it did not last two seconds. The policeman was unrelenting. Snatching the SPN banner, he unfurled in haste and asked the man in suit to take another look. That was it. The man looked at the banner, checked the leaflets again and discovered to his surprise there were not one but three different leaflets calling for mass struggle against the anti-poor capitalist policies of the government. All these were seized without wasting any time.
Interestingly while this was happening, a comrade had managed to enter the venue with a few materials. He did not last 10 minutes inside. He managed to circulate a few leaflets before he was spotted and sent out. According to him, the venue was filled with security cameras. Unfortunately despite the heavy militarization and show of force, Boko Haram struck in the evening of the May Day just few metres from the scene of April 14 bomb blast.
This unfortunate incident only goes to confirm the futility of seeking a military solution to the Boko Haram insurgency and the danger of the methods of the Labour leaders. Without ending capitalism and its evil of poverty and unemployment in the midst of abundance, violence and terrorism will be a regular occurrence as people become more hopeless, frustrated and desperate. By supporting the Federal Government’s military strategy which includes ever-increasing budget on military hardware and expansion of security capacities, the Labour leaders have only helped to build the repressive capacity of the State.
Ultimately, the arms the government is acquiring today will be turned against the working people. This was seen on Tuesday, April 29 2014 when the peaceful protest march of Polytechnic and Colleges of Education lecturers in Abuja was fiercely repressed. Leading the charge against protesters were two sparkling new water cannon trucks. Only a strategy that links the fight against Boko Haram with the need to end capitalism and enthrone a democratic socialist system that can end social and economic injustice can begin to yield fruit.
By Kola Ibrahim
This year’s May Day in Osun State has more than ever before raised the necessity of a working class political platform. This is necessary, as workers cannot successfully fight the capitalist policies on industrial plain alone; they need a political platform to raise their struggle for better living conditions.
This is glaringly clear as governorship election in Osun State draw nearer. To many workers, it is indeed a choice between two sides of the same coin. The ruling Aregbesola/APC government has not hidden its contempt for better working conditions for workers. It sees workers’ welfare as a sacrificial lamb for securing profits for its big business backers. Workers instinctively know that Aregbesola’s second term may spell doom for the working people, as the government will be emboldened to attack, in brazen manner, their welfare, which it is already tactically carrying out now.
The opposition PDP, with its ignominious anti-worker record, is hoping to profit from this situation as August 9, 2014 governorship election approaches. However, workers know that the PDP is not different from â€“ if not much worse than â€“ the APC, when it comes to attack on workers’ welfare. The over seven-and-half-year rule of the PDP meant serial attacks on workers welfare. This is in addition to the cynical attitude of the party to workers’ welfare, both in the state and nationally. For instance, the ousted Oyinlola/PDP government introduced the anti-worker compulsory retirement for workers â€“ a policy the current APC government, rather than stop, has continued to implement. The import of this analysis is that workers have already been disenfranchised by the no-choice situation they find themselves.
This reality was clear in this year’s May Day. The ruling APC government did not receive any support of workers at the May Day Rally, which held at the Technical College, Osogbo, despite the governor’s razzmatazz and grandstanding. The opposition PDP, on the other hand was not even reckoned with. On the contrary, the atmosphere was one of political indifference and confusion. When we tried to engage workers at our stand, on the alternative we are providing through SPN, there was deep interest in our analysis of the no-choice situation between PDP and APC. Some of the workers easily agreed with us that there was no difference between the two parties. For instance, when one new worker, who is a supporter of the ruling APC party in the state, tried to ridicule our initiative in a discussion, she was excused out of the pavilion, on the ground that workers are politically neutral. Meanwhile, our stand was allowed to stay, while we were able to engage fully with workers.
Some of the workers asked if our party has been registered or not. We explained the progress we have made so far. However, many workers felt disarmed politically. All this shows the huge vacuum the lack of political alternative of working class is creating. Moreover, it shows the potential for us to build within the working class.
Treachery of Labour leadership
The Labour leaders have been feeding fat on the political vacuum, as they prostitute among bourgeois politicians. This was clear in this year’s May Day. Aside Labour leaders openly and shamelessly campaigning for the ruling party at workers’ rallies, there seems to be division among labour leaders on who gets the biggest spoil from politicians. This is reflected in the two different May Day rallies organized by two factions of the Trade Union Congress. While the mainstream leadership under the outgoing chairman, Francis Adetunji â€“ a politically treacherous individual â€“ joined the NLC in the main rally at Technical College, an aggrieved layer of the TUC leadership organized another rally (scanty however) at the Freedom Square in Old Garage, Osogbo. The main bone of contention is who takes over the leadership prior to the governorship election.
The May Day rally that was to start around 10.00 a.m. could not start until around 2.00 p.m. because the Labour leaders were waiting for the governor, who is neither a worker nor friend of workers. By the time the governor arrived, many workers were worn out, such that immediately after marching in front of the governor, most workers left the venue. It did not even mean anything to the Labour leaders that workers were not able to hear their leaders, at least once in a year (none of the labour centres has called congress in a year). The speeches were not even in the magazine circulated. Definitely, it is safer for them, as the content of their speeches were mostly watery, centring mainly on promoting the government, and excusing it of all its failings.
For instance, while the TUC chair used 100 percent of his speech to praise shamelessly the Aregbesola government without mentioning a single issue affecting workers, the NLC chair could only manage to beg the governor to pay suffering pensioners. Not even a mention of any action the union will take if the government fails to pay pensioners. The rest of his speech was mere praises for the governor. He even went to the extent of justifying (to a wide applause by government officials) why workers’ salaries are delayed by government.
The rottenness in the Labour movement is also reflected in the student movement. For instance, while students, under the banner of NANS, also marched at the rally, they did not even bother to raise the issue affecting the students, especially the closure of the four state-owned tertiary institutions, caused by government’s failure to accede to the demands of the striking staff unions. Our proposal that the students should have placards to raise the demand fell on deaf ears. It seems the students were mobilized by government officials.
Five comrades from Ife, Esa-Oke and Osogbo participated in our intervention. We sold close to N4, 000 worth of materials at the May Day rally. Our leaflets were well circulated with workers coming in droves to collect the leaflets especially the SPN leaflets. We also produced and circulated a special DSM leaflet. We were engaged in serious discussions with workers, many of whom appreciated our initiative. Eight contacts were made during the rally, including those who had earlier identified with us, but wished to reconnect with us. Of course, as a result of poor financial conditions of most workers coupled with the uninspiring character of the labour leaders, we could not sell much, yet several workers identified with us. We hope to consolidate on this in the coming period. Already, a tentative plan of May 29 Symposium has been agreed to, at a review meeting after the May Day.
By Mustapha Olawuni
As early as 6am on the Thursday, 1st of May, 2014, the entire premises of Lekan Salami stadium, Adamasigba, Ibadan, the venue of this year international workers’ day rally in Oyo state was heavily militarised with huge presence of members of security agencies like Nigeria police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC; State Security service (SSS) etc.
The May Day rally which ordinarily is supposed to be the day workers demand an improvement in both their working and living condition was turned a campaign ground for the re-election of the incumbent governor of the state. This is so ridiculous given enormous numbers of attacks on working conditions of workers in the different sectors in the state.
For instance, the N18, 000 national minimum wage which has been signed to law since March 25th 2011, has still not been implemented for public workers in the state. This is in addition to the 95 workers that were sacked in Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) since January this year. The most recent attack on workers is the sack of 580 electricity workers who were just served sack letters a day before the May Day celebration.
Unfortunately, in the face of all these of attacks on workers, the bureaucratic labour leadership in the state, like their counterpart at the national level, went ahead to make a rotten agreement with State Security Service operatives that leaflets, placards and other agitational materials expressing the workers’ plights must be banned from the venue of the May Day.
While labour leaders connived with SSS to ban the circulation of leaflets and display of placards just to guarantee the presence of the state Governor, posters soliciting for the re-election of Senator Abiola Ajimobi as the governor of the state were posted everywhere within and outside the stadium. In fact, one of the music played for entertainment was the campaign jingle of the incumbent Governor of the state.
Interestingly, in spite all obstacles and bottle-necks to prevent workers and pro-workers organisations like Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights’ (CDWR), the campaign platform formed by the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), was able to successfully expose the Labour leaders imposed false impression that all is well. The CDWR which has been organising the 95 sacked CRIN workers in a struggle for their unconditional reinstatement led over 60 of the affected workers in a match past at the May Day with their demands.
Prior to the commencement of the march past, there was an agreement between the state leadership of CDWR and sacked workers on the need to hide the placards and not to be displayed them until we got to the point where it would be visible to the Governor and other representatives of the state.
This tactic became necessary to avoid the repetition of the last year’s experience where members of DSM were prevented from participating in the match past by state security agents because we were the only group with placard and other educating materials demanding for an improvement of workers’ conditions of service. In the process our materials were not only seized but also destroyed immediately while no fewer than 4 of our members were arrested.
The above stated tactic really worked in the sense that immediately we get to the position of the Governor after successfully passed the security agents, all placards kept under the wears were publicly displayed. This did not only caught the labour leaders and security agents unaware but suddenly changed the entire atmosphere of the stadium such that Workers who whom had been groaning under one attack or the other were forced to solidarised with the CRIN workers even while the possession was still on.
The intervention of CDWR also caught the attention of the media. Abbey Trotsky the Oyo state co-coordinator of CDWR and a member of DSM granted interviews to no fewer than four media houses. One important highlight of the intervention was when a pensioner approached to solicit the intervention of CDWR in the non- payment of over 17 months’ salary arrears and other entitlements of pensioners in the state.
Thousands of CDWR leaflets (both National and the one specially produced on the CRIN issue) were massively circulated at the May Day Rally.
The CDWR led the sacked CRIN workers from the May Day rally to the state secretariat of Non-academic Staff Union (NASU) where the union was holding its state council meeting as parts of workers day activities.
The 95 sacked CRIN workers are members of NASU. This procession to the NASU state secretariat thus provided the sacked workers under the banner of CDWR to call on the NASU leadership to lend more support to the ongoing campaign against the mass sack of workers in CRIN.
Abbey Trotsky who made this appeal while addressing the leadership of the union also commended the union for taking the initiative of challenging the mass sack and other despotic policies in CRIN at the industrial court. He however warned that such effort must not be used as an excuse to relegate the agitation and campaign activities to the background.
In his response the State Chairman of the council, thanks the CDWR for its effort so far while mandating the state treasurer of the union to discuss with the leadership of CDWR on the area where the union can be of financial assistance to the ongoing campaign of CDWR against the mass sack.
While members of the Oyo state chapter of DSM/CDWR recorded a tremendous political gain during this year Mayday intervention, the reality is that there was a serious decline in term of SD sale. This is because we did not attempt to sell any of the SD, SPN constitution and DSM publication within the stadium so as to avoid the situation where our materials will be seized and destroyed by the official security agents that heavily dominated the venue of the Mayday. As a matter of fact, the security agents in attendance almost outnumbered the workers who participated in the events
The May Day in Cross-River State held in Abraham Odia Stadium at the University of Calabar. Workers were already gathered at the venue at about 8:00am discussing and waiting for the programme to commence. Flowing from the general experience of last year’s May Day in all the States, it was not surprising that the venue was heavily militarized with several armed forces and paramilitary agents.
The atmosphere was celebratory and not different from States where the governors hold sway on the Labour leadership and try to extend it to the workers. This was expressed in the NLC leader’s speech which holistically painted the false situation that all is well and commended the governor for being ‘labour-friendly’. The governor was there in person to take the ‘glory’. He went ahead to maintain his grip on labour leadership by donating two vehicles to them.
One thing that was clear from the speeches is that the issue of minimum wage remains unresolved. Also, there has been no real transformation of the lives of the workers in the State in spite of special oil revenue allocation.
A comrade was there to interact with the workers and bring them to the realization that the past 100years have been years of capitalist exploitation. Workers were made to realize that capitalism cannot meet their yearnings and aspirations. Therefore, it is high time workers took a bold step to draw the political conclusion of forming a mass based working peoples political alternative. The Socialist Party of Nigeria was on this basis introduced to the workers as a step towards this end.
Four copies of the Socialist Democracy were sold. This is an impressive one considering the fact that there has been no intervention of the organization in the state for a long time. There are plans to make more interventions in the State starting with the ongoing Doctors’ strike in the Federal University Teaching Hospital in Calabar and the non-implementation of minimum wage in the State.
Conclusively, workers in the State are urged not to have illusions in the government but to rather force their leaders to ultimately organize themselves to politically challenge the system. Yes, you can fight the ruling class and get better deals, but that will only amount to postponing evil days. The ultimate aim should be to end this exploitative system and enthrone a working peoples’ government where the resources of the society can be utilized for the needs of all.
By Eko John Nicholas
Workers in Ogun state joined their counterparts both nationally and internationally to mark this year May Day celebration. Unlike last year May Day, this one had low turn-out of workers in attendance.
The low attendance at this year May Day, is a reflection of the increasing attacks on workers condition of service by the All Progressive Congress (APC) led government, despite its claims as progressive party. Across the state, the workers are largely angered by both public and private sectors employers. This is due to backlog of unpaid salary and allowances; massive retrenchment of workers; non implementation of N18,000 minimum wage agreement; lack of affordable housing; hike in fees in the state owned tertiary institutions; pension fund scheme; access to car loans etc.
The inability of the state government to address these issues raised by the workers, since inception of this present administration despite strikes by some unions like the Nigeria union of Teachers (NUT), and repeated threats of strikes by other unions, without positive response by the government, accounted for the low turn â€“out of workers, and the general low morale among workers present at this year May Day.
The workers were not excited by the presence of the state governor at the rally as they read it correctly he was only around to woo them for the next coming election in 2015 despite his failure to meet their legitimate demands.
The state chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ambali, in his speech failed to demand courageously, that the government accede expeditiously to all issues highlighted above that agitated the minds of the workers. Rather, he chickened out and tried to patronize the governor.
Expectedly, the governor, in his response to the questions bordering on issues affecting workers’ conditions and welfare, parried them, and urged workers to be more prayerful to enable to the government surmount the deluge of problems -security, unemployment, power etc- currently facing nation. He also solicited support of workers for his government! His speech was however greeted with murmurs and grumblings from the workers.
Like last year, our Leaflets- Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and Campaign for Workers and Democratic Rights (CDRW), were massively circulated, and enthusiastically received by the rank and file workers, including the security forces, who were heavily present at the venue. Many workers engaged us in discussions on SPN programs and manifestoes, with some giving out their contacts for further discussion.
By Lexan Ali
DSM Stand at 2014 Rivers State May Day Rally, photo by DSM
The May Day celebration in Rivers State was held at the Isaac Adaka Boro Park. There was every presence of heavily armed policemen everywhere in and around the park, and workers were subjected to stop and search.
On arrival we immediately positioned our stand and displayed the SPN banner, which began to attract the attention of workers towards our stand.
Amongst those who were first to be attracted to us were members of the National Union of Civil Engineering, Construction, Furniture and Wood Workers (NUCECFWW) who had met us last year and wanted to know if the party has been registered. We told them we had paid outrageous, non-refundable registration fee of 1 million naira and that we are at the stage of completing the registration application forms for submission to INEC. It appears the explanation did not satisfy the curiosity of some of the workers who were expecting to hear that the party had been registered. This apparently shows their interest and longing for a working class people alternative.
There were others from the non-academic staff union of universities (NASU) who refused to buy our materials because of our opposition to the Jonathan anti-poor government. No doubt, the Jonathan sentiment as regards his 2015 presidential ambition for second term is very high amongst workers in the south-south region.
Again, the May Day celebration in Rivers State, took place under very tense and polarized political climate dominated by political rivalry between Governor Rotimi Amaechi and President Goodluck Jonathan. In the absence of a working people’s party to chart an independent direction and alternative way forward for workers in the state, especially given the failure of the labour leaders to lead determined struggles for a working people’s political alternative and against anti-poor policies, the self-serving political rivalry between the two gangs of the same thieving elite class, between the APC and PDP in the state, has shaped the political outlook and prospect of the workers now and towards 2015. This influenced their attitude toward us.
It is important to note that the May Day celebration was boycotted by pensioners in the six states across the south-south over neglect by the state governors and failure by the labour leaders to fight and defend their interest.
Yet the theme of this year’s May Day celebration in the state, which is “Building Enduring peace and unity: Panacea for sustainable national Development” betrays the class collaborationist approach of the labour leaders, which has done nothing but to betray and derail workers struggles and distort their consciousness.
The state governors annually turn the May Day celebration to a campaign ground or platform to make false promises to workers. The Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi was no exception. He told disillusioned crowd of workers that the problem they have is the labour leaders who fail to fight against bad government and their policies, while giving workers the illusion that the APC is the alternative.
By Dimeji Macaulay
Members of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) drawn from different affiliates gathered at the 123 stadium in Minna Niger State to celebrate workers day on May first. We in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) intervened at the rally with leaflet of Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) that calls on workers to join the party. Thousands of copies of the leaflet were circulated.
We also circulated Education Rights Campaign (ERC) leaflets produced in support of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP)and the Colleges of Education Association Staff Union ( COEASU). The two unions have been on strike for about ten months and three months respectively, while the Federal government has turned a deaf ear to the demands of both unions.
Also was the leaflets of Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) which calls on workers to unite and defend themselves against the onslaught from the rogue ruling class.
We also had with us our New Publication ‘DSM AND STRUGGLE FOR WORKING PEOPLE ALTERNATIVE” and current edition of our paper Socialist Democracy to sell at the rally.
The rally proper did not start until the arrival of the deputy governor. After speeches from Deputy Governor and both chairmen of NLC and TUC there was march past by workers. The only union that came boldly with different placards was the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employee (NULGE) the union in various slogans like “No local government no democracy” “Local government is the real place to benefit democracy” and lot more.
The state chair called on the state Government to fulfil all the promises it made to them since the inception of the administration. They listed salary increase, payment of the national minimum wage, improved working condition and car loans as the promises that the state Government is yet to fulfil.
The state deputy Governor, Musa Ibeto, who represented the Governor, Babangida Aliyu, at the event while acknowledging the demands of the workers, promised that the state Government will address them very soon. The phrase “very soon” in the deputy governor reply is nothing but a lie and deceit. The current government has been in power since 2007 without fulfilling any of the promises. It would be foolish of labour leaders to expect him to now fulfill them now at the twilight of the administration. The state governor is one of the governors who were furiously outspoken against national minimum wage and said that state government cannot pay the new minimum wage. This was shortly after his re-election in 2011.
As the deputy Governor was rounding off his speech he repeated a statement he started with that Niger workers were satisfied with the government that was why they did not come out in large number for the May Day rally. Workers this time replied him with a resounding heckling. “No no no”, “we are tired of your lies”, “Liar, every May day is the same story” and other unprintable expletives greeted the statement.
This is an expression of anger of the workers that apparently had come to the rally hoping to hear good news on minimum wage that has not been fully implemented. One could observe from the mood that workers are not satisfied and they are ready to fight back but for the reactionary labour leaders who have perpetually condemned them to criminal silence in the face of onslaught from government.
However the workers left the rally to continue to receive the pang of attacks the state government has unleashed on the working class people in the state. Hundreds of workers were stranded as there were no cabs or tricycles to convey them back to their different destinations as commercial motorcycle operation that could have served as alternative has been banned in Minna the state capital. We of DSM in Niger state have argued in various statements that banning of commercial motorcycle called kabu in Minna is anti-poor.
By Ojo Olajire
As usual workers of Ondo State came out in their numbers to celebrate this year May Day. Like last year all the unions in attendance came with their attire to appear that all is well with workers of the state. But major issues affecting workers are unattended to. This obvious reflected in workers response to the labour leaders who are openly on the side of government.
No concrete issue raised from the speeches of labour leaders rather than to singing praises of the governor. Except for the speech of the TUC chairman that briefly raised the huge amount government is deducting from their monthly allowance for pension and the impending crisis between NURTW and RTEAN on who to control a particular motor park.
Those issues mentioned openly caused debate and verbal attacks amidst workers. Having looked at mood, the governor tacitly responded to them when he started his speech. That ‘government will look at issues raised’
The May Day rally has been turned to a market square that even the corporate bodies see need to cash in. No political material was on display asides our materials. 3 copies of DSM book, 10 copies of SD and a copy of SPN Manifesto were sold, and SPN, CDWR and ERC leaflets were distributed.