BUHARI GOVERNMENT AND LOOMING AUSTERITY POLICIES
BUHARI GOVERNMENT AND LOOMING AUSTERITY POLICIES
LAGOS DSM HOLDS AGGREGATE MEETING
By DSM Reporters
The Lagos State Chapter of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) held its aggregate meeting on Saturday, November 21, 2015. In declaring the meeting open Ayo Ademiluyi, who chaired the meeting, noted that the meeting was taking place at a period of dramatic events in the socio-economic sphere including but not limited to widespread fuel scarcity, dip in electricity supply among several other agonizing conditions of the working masses.
In his lead-off on the topic for the Political Discussion which was “Buhari’s Regime and Looming Neo-liberal Attacks: What tasks ahead for the Working Masses?”, comrade Pelad noted that Nigeria’s economic crisis in itself is a fallout of the global economic crisis which the world economy has not been able to fully recover from since the 2008/2009 global financial crisis. During that crisis, Nigeria’s economy was able to overcome the initial shocks by deploying savings made up of oil proceeds. He noted that now, especially for Nigeria and other commodity exporters, the crisis has been worsened by the slowdown of the Chinese economy which is a key factor in the falling raw material prices. The primitive characteristic of Nigerian capitalist ruling elite exemplified by the rapid depletion of Excess Crude Account meant that the crisis of oil price decline which became apparent in June last year had immediate impacts on the economy and working people shortly after its outset despite prior enjoyment of oil boom for many years.
He submitted that the discovery of shale oil in the United States has reduced its dependence on crude oil imports. This, together with the refusal of the OPEC at the instance of Saudi Arabia not to cut supply in order not to lose market share as well as a strategy to run the shale producers out of business, has led to the fall of fortunes for Nigeria’s oil in the world oil market as crude oil prices remain low.
He noted that the effort of the Buhari in streamlining revenue through the Treasury Single Account is arguably positive but it cannot resolve the question of corruption. Besides, it cannot generate enough resources to run the economy. To ensure resources are available to begin to address the socio-economic travails ravaging the nation, the pays (i.e. salaries and allowances) of all political office holders must be reduced to no more than that of the highest paid civil servants while the commanding heights of the economy like oil and gas, banking industry, etc. must be put under public ownership with a democratic control.
He hinted that the current widespread fuel scarcity is to vindicate the need for the removal of fuel subsidy and the possibility of fuel price hike in January, 2016 cannot be ruled out. He observed that the leadership of the labour movement, apart from issuing press statements, does not show the disposition to take up resistance against these looming attacks. He said the failure of labour leadership to demand a minimum wage increment despite the inflation and devaluation of naira apparently emboldened the Governors to now threaten to slash the existing N18, 000 minimum wage. He said the labour leadership, working people and youth have to prepare to resist all attempts to make the poor pay for the crisis of capitalism including the corruption of the ruling elite which have already started in states like Osun, Oyo and Ekiti with increase in the school fees in primary and secondary schools.
Working People Alternative
On the question of building a working people’s political alternative, he noted that it is a sheer waste of time, or a calculated pretext, attempting to reclaim the Labour Party through a caretaker committee which is not recognized by law, INEC or on account of holding the party’s original Registration Certificate, which is more or less a stolen property handed over to the NLC by the former Labour Party chair. He however added that even if the mis-named Labour Party, is “reclaimed”, under the influence of current leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (APC), it could become no more than a proxy of the All Progressives Congress as the labour leaders are currently under the influence of “Buharism”.
Pelad therefore submitted that the campaign for a mass working peoples’ party must be linked with the need for a struggle that demands a democratic and fighting labour leadership who genuinely represent the aspiration and yearning of workers and other sections of the working people. He reiterated the approach of the DSM which combines the campaign for a mass working people party with an effort to register and build Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) whose struggle for registration is being currently waged both legally and politically. It is imperative in the absence of a mass party of working people to have an independent party through which we can intervene in the daily struggles of working people and youth, contest elections as working people representatives and win working people and youth to socialist ideas.
The lead-off was followed by comments. Moshood Osunfurewa raised the need to build mass resistance against the coming capitalist attacks, given that the current regime will be bound to take such steps. Comrade Amaechi, a trade unionist who joined the DSM a few days ago, said that there is capitalist influence in the labour movement and that the workers’ movement has to be transformed in order to play its historical role in socialist revolution. This is why the work of DSM in the trade union movement is very important. Soweto also submitted that an efficient capitalist government, such as what the Buhari regime is trying to build, would not necessarily meet the yearnings of the working people.
In summing up the discussion, Dagga Tolar noted that the ongoing agitation for a sovereign state of Biafra may take further dimensions as a 5 million-man march is being planned and hinted that any attacks on democratic rights of those involved in the protest should be condemned. He pointed out that behind this new clamour for Biafra is a legitimate anger felt by many Igbo working class and youth at the inequality, poverty, joblessness and lack of social amenities under which they exist. But this is the same condition which confronts the working masses and youth of all sections of country, whether Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Ibibio, Ijaw or Efik.
Dagga, who just returned from a visit to Kaduna, regaled the audience with his experience of the chronic poverty and destitution he had always read about the North. He saw for the first time the street urchins, called Al-majiris, who flock local restaurants waiting to pounce on any leftovers. He proposed that Socialists should try to actively participate at pro-Biafra protests where possible with a view to engaging the demonstrators with a socialist perspective. It gives an opportunity for us to stress that if Biafra becomes a sovereign nation on the basis of capitalism, the yearning and aspiration of working people and youth would not be met as shown by the state of the region under pro-capitalist state governors. He however added that while socialists are not advocating separation, we recognize the right to self-determination up to the extent of secession provided it is a democratic resolve of the people.
He also called for the Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) to take up a campaign for a new national minimum wage with the possibility of a Public Symposium on the same issue.
Regarding socialist activity and the current position of the DSM in Lagos, Ayo gave an overview that included the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), the state of the branches in Lagos, community struggles and the CDWR. Ayo informed that at the last federal court sitting over the registration of the Socialist Party of Nigeria, the court adjourned the matter to 17th December, 2015 based on the failure of INEC to take practical steps on out-of-court settlement, which they applied for at the preceding adjourned date. He also informed that the Lagos State Chapter of the SPN is planning a picketing of the Headquarters Annex of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Yaba, Lagos as part of the mass campaign for the registration of the SPN. He also informed that the CDWR is planning a campaign against the criminalization of the poor in Lagos State.
Ayo cited different community struggles where our comrades either individually or collectively are undertaking community struggles. From Chinedu Bosah in the Akinola Aboru community movement to Dagga Tolar in Ago-Okota community movement, he challenged comrades to emulate these examples. He also informed that the DSM’s Ajegunle branch is also providing leadership to the Ajegunle People’s Community Movement.
Contributions were taken on the state of the branches and community struggles. Fidel Davynovich and Moshood Osunfurewa reported on the community struggles in Ajegunle on issues of crazy billing and exploitation which comrades are taking active part in. Fidel noted that a campaign on mass unemployment becomes necessary in the face of the failure of the National Assembly to approve even the paltry N5, 000 stipend for unemployed and the fresh position of the Governors that they cannot pay N18,000 minimum wage. Soweto commented that such a campaign which should argue for a figure higher that N5, 000 as unemployment benefit must be linked with the demand for decent jobs provision and payment of a living minimum wage.
Bashir from Ikotun reported how his circulation of a few of the DSM’s “NO LIGHT, NO PAYMENT” leaflets in his street compelled the electricity distribution company (disco) to ensure improved power supply in the communities. They panicked just at the thought that the mass community movement developing across Lagos on issues of electricity was coming to their neighborhood. Imagine what would happen if a movement actually developed!
On campaigns and tasks ahead, Soweto gave a report on the students’ branches in Lagos. He informed that a branch has been kick-started in LASU, which was a result of the intervention at a Students Union symposium where 24 students penned down their names to join the ERC. 10 students attended the first meeting of the branch. He submitted the ERC is planning to kick-start a campaign on teachers’ shortage in Lagos State
Pelad called for solidarity messages for the workers involved in the ongoing struggle at the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) in Ibadan. The workers are protesting the highhandedness and anti-worker policy of the Institute’s director. Recently they hit the front pages when female workers protested half nude in response a threat to use police against them. The struggle enjoys support from the communities and community leaders and people often join workers at the daily picketing. To a rousing applause, Pelad explained how our comrades are playing active roles in the struggle and how at a symposium organized recently, comrades sold 80 copies of the new edition of the Socialist Democracy (SD). Also Dagga informed the meeting about the planned execution of a Saudi Arabian poet and the need for us to participate in all solidarity activities to campaign for his release.
A sum of N2, 200 was collected as Struggle Funds. The meeting came to an end with solidarity songs.