2017 May Day: A Review
2017 May Day: A Review
Workers Angry Over Economic Hardship
Demand a New National Minimum Wage
This year’s May Day was held amidst seething anger by workers who are among the worst hit by the worst economic crisis in years. The situation is worsened by the crisis of unpaid salaries affecting workers in about 24 states and a serious of erosion of income by double-digit inflation. Many had come to May Day rallies with hope that they would go home with sweet news on a new minimum wage but left disappointed. The Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress had formally demanded a new minimum wage of N56, 000 before last year’s May Day. Also the United Labour Congress (ULC) is demanding N96, 000. Sadly, almost a year later, apart from occasional hot air, the labour leadership has not demonstrated any iota of seriousness to fight for this demand.
However, the mass revolt of workers at the main May Day rally in Abuja that saw top government functionaries running for cover and reports from other rallies, some of which we participated in, show that the labour leadership is painfully tailing the consciousness of the ordinary workers. Worse still, it is now over two weeks since May Day without anything that suggests the labour leadership has acted on the clear message the spirited action of workers conveyed. No tripartite committee has been set up and 2017 budget has been passed without provision for minimum wage. Yet, it has been all a resounding silence from labour leadership.
On our part, the Democratic Socialist Movement has issued an open statement that draws the lesson of the May Day protest and calls on the labour leadership to declare a series of actions including a one-day general strike and national protest as the immediate step side by side with mass mobilization of workers for the actions. We also call on trade union activists and ordinary workers to begin agitation or organize independent actions to demand serious steps and actions from the labour leaders on new minimum wage and unpaid salaries without retrenchment. (See: “ANGER AND REVOLT BY WORKERS ON MAY DAY: Labour leadership under pressure to match workers’ anger with bold actions“)
In addition to Abuja where our comrades played crucial roles in giving direction to the protest that broke out at the rally, we participated in other 10 rallies across the country and organized independent activities in three towns. We participated and intervened in May Day activities organized by labour in Abuja, Agege Lagos, Surulere Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Edo, Kano, Kaduna and Niger states while we held paper sales and mass circulation of leaflets in Ile-Ife, Ilesha and Ogbomoso.
In Osun, where workers have been placed on half salaries for close to two years by the government in connivance with the labour leadership, the NLC and TUC labour leaders cancelled the May Day rally ostensibly in honour of the first civilian governor of the state who died a few days to May 1. However, while the official reason given for cancellation is shameful enough, the truth is that the rally was cancelled not for that reason but for fear of a possible outbreak of workers protest against the state governor. This underscores the depth of the rottenness of the leadership of labour in that state.
In Lagos there were two rallies. One held at National Stadium, Surulere, was the main rally of the United Labour Congress, a new trade union federation that recently split from the NLC. This grouping had held similar rallies at the same venue in two previous May Day as a faction of the NLC. The Lagos chapters of NLC and TUC held their joint rally at Agege Stadium. There were similar instances of separate May Day celebrations in other states. So this is the third year workers have celebrated May Day with a divided labour movement. In our leaflet circulated at rallies we reiterate our argument and call for unity of labour movement on the basis of struggle for improved welfare of workers and against attacks on the working people. We also call on ordinary workers not to allow themselves being divided on account of personal ego or ambitions of labour leaders but rather insist on united struggles of labour on all issues that affect the working people including the currently growing agitation for a new national minimum wage and also unresolved crisis of unpaid salaries.
Below are reports of different May Day rallies and other activities in which DSM members participated or organized.
By Fidel Davynovich
The Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress held this year’s May Day rally at Agege Stadium. Hundreds of workers attended with a good number holding placards that raised demands about issues that do affect them directly.
Members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) actively took part with our paper Socialist Democracy, Marxist literature, SPN manifesto and posters. We also had a special banner calling for actions on a new minimum wage.
We circulated a SPN leaflet calling for united struggle of labour including a 24-hour warning general strike for new minimum wage of N56000 and payment of arrears of salaries and pensions.
A majority of the workers we approached with our paper, expressed dissatisfaction about the Buhari led APC government, saying nothing has worked in this administration for the past two years.
Most of the workers we engaged with in discussion who willingly collected the leaflet issued by SPN lamented that, “salaries for months haven’t been paid by many state governors. They are tired. Coming to May Day without money is painful”. “We want our salaries to be increased”. Lagos workers are not among those owed backlog of salaries but inflation has seriously eroded their income, hence the demand for a new national minimum wage.
The response of DSM members, who were in the rain selling papers and circulating leaflets, to most of the workers is that there is need for a campaign to demand a new minimum wage and force labour leadership to fight for it. We also stressed the need for a mass working people’s alternative on a socialist program and invited them to join the SPN as the immediate step.
For labour leaders in their speeches it was mostly praises for Governor Ambode who was present at the rally, eulogizing him for purported construction and rehabilitation of 114 roads in Lagos State. But nothing was said by the labour leaders about the current wanton demolition in Ladipo, Oshodi market, riverine communities etc. by the Ambode administration running capitalist anti-poor policies without alternative provision and compensation for the victims.
The illegally sacked dock workers and Dangote Truck drivers also took part in the event. They were able to fly banners and raised placards to further expose the management of Energy Neftegas Limited (Nig) and Dangote manufacturing company respectively on the devilish atrocities unleashed on them. The banners and placards also called on other workers to solidarize with them and for the labour leaders to join in the fight against victimization and casualization of workers. The Scavenger Association of Nigeria was also present to protest against their daily ill-treatment by the government.
By Bestman Michael
The National Stadium, Surulere, was greeted with loads of enthusiasm and excitement as workers marched in their numbers into the belly of the Stadium (Training Pitch) to celebrate an event that holds once every year on May 1.
The United Labour Congress (ULC), the recently formed trade union federation, held its May Day activities at the National Stadium Surulere. The event started with a march from Ojuelegba bus-stop down to the Stadium. The Lagos state chairman of ULC, A. Korodo, gave a welcoming address in which he touched on issues affecting the masses such as unemployment, job losses, inflation, food prices, etc. After the welcoming address, there was a march past by workers under the umbrella of different affiliate unions while the president of ULC Joe Ajaero and his Vice, Igwe Achese (President the National Union of Petroleum and National Gas Workers) received the salutation. There was no government representative at the rally.
After the procession, the president of ULC Joe Ajaero gave a lengthy speech on the theme: “TRADE UNION IN A RECESSIONARY ECONOMY”. The speech touched on the state of the labour movement, the economy, corruption, the evil of unpaid salaries and national minimum wage (where they called for an increment of N96,000). Also, issues of insecurity and the state of the power sector featured and the ULC used this May Day celebration to raise some demands which are:
i. Revamping the usage of the public sector
ii. Stop privatization of the railway industry
iii. For government to return the local refineries to full capacity and invest on new ones.
iv. Encouragement of decent work places and enhanced terms of and conditions of service for Nigerian workers.
v. Building domestic industrial capacity and indigenous economy with local manufactures.
vi. Steps to salvage the steel industry.
vii. Government to review privatization of steel industry.
viii. Restructuring the federation: autonomous local government area from the choke of state government.
However after the speeches were delivered, the event came to an end without a clear program of what will move the demands forward, either by calling for day of action or launching a mass rally/protest to force the government of Buhari APC on these issues, specifically the N96,000 national minimum wage raised by ULC national leadership. But the ULC labour leaders never had that on their agenda. Instead, it was just the usual hot air.
However, the members of Democratic Socialist Movement engaged in discussion with some of the workers who stressed their plight and argued the need for a genuine change not the one currently pounding the poor people with neo-liberal capitalist policies. We also circulated a SPN leaflet calling for actions on minimum wage and another leaflet on the ongoing electricity campaign in Ajegunle.
By DSM Reporters
We set out from our office to the venue of the May Day at Eagle Square around 8am. On getting to the major roads that leads to the venue, the road was blocked with police vans and armed policemen and police dogs moving around. All workers were checked and any material critical of the Buhari regime was seized. We were armed with about two thousand five hundred copies of the leaflet of Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) that raised the issue of new minimum wage and other publications.
There were five checking points from the first road blocks around the federal secretariat, the main venue of the rally. We managed to enter by embedding ourselves within the mass of workers who were also trooping into the venue. After entering the federal secretariat we shared the copies of leaflets between comrades and started circulating. The leaflet was well received by the workers many of whom came out to hear the good news of new minimum wage and majorly to ventilate their angers against present hardship.
As comrades were circulating the SPN leaflet and heading towards entering of the Eagle Square our leaflets were seized by the operatives of State Security Services (SSS). The SSS operatives ordered the comrade circulating the leaflets to go and call their leader. Then the comrades ran to Dimeji Macaulay who joined them to return to the SSS. They requested to know the organization we belong to and what are the leaflets for. Dimeji Macaulay answered all questions and told the SSS that we have rights and obligation to be at May Day rally as a pro-labour organization. All the copies of the leaflet were returned and comrades continued to distribute them to workers. The SSS operatives however requested Dimeji’s personal number and contact address, but this was declined. They however saw the address of SPN secretariat and promised to visit. Many of the workers commended us for our efforts.
As comrades continued the circulation of leaflets, some workers wanted to know whether we had any idea on minimum wage. We responded that our leaflet calls on the labour leaders to seriously fight for new minimum wage starting with one-day warning strike and mass protest. Many of the workers commended us for the effort. One also acknowledged seeing us last year distributing similar material.
There was a long queue of workers still struggling to enter the main stadium around 11:30am while all the seats in the venue had been filled up. This indicates the massive turnout at May Day this year fuelled by expectations that something positive would be said about the demand for an increase in the minimum wage. We displayed our materials at the entrance urging workers to buy. Many of them expressed their dissatisfaction with the Buhari regime and the way things were going. Some said they have not received salary and finding it difficult to spend with present economic situation. After the end of queue we entered the venue with additional two check points with armed DSS, civil defence and mobile police officers.
On getting to the venue we saw mass of workers lamenting and complaining over economic hardship. We moved closer to join them but Dimeji Macaulay was initially chased away by workers thinking he was a labour leader because he was dressed in the same branded May Day attire as the labour leaders. But following his pro-worker agitation and solidarity slogans, many workers gave him opportunity to address them.
The protest broke out when the Minister of Labour and Productivity, who was present, asked Permanent Secretary in the ministry to address the workers on his behalf. Workers who were already livid with anger against the government considered that action as an insult and lack of respect. They took over the podium in protest chanting anti-government slogans. An attempt to use Adams Oshiomhole, former President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and former Governor Edo state, to calm the workers was resoundingly rejected with workers raining different invectives on him. He felt embarrassed and left after he couldn’t get attention from the angry workers.
After the protest which had lasted for one hour was already subsiding, the police came with force to chase the workers that had taken over the podium. However in response more workers came to the podium to support their colleagues. The police opted for calm as the protesting workers were now moving toward the VIP box where the government top functionaries were present. This apparently forced the government officials including Senate President and Speaker to run out of the venue.
Macaulay urged for calm and addressed the crowd on the need for workers to struggle for political power on a socialist program as the major lesson to be drawn from the failure of Buhari and APC to bring about the real change.
As we moved back, we saw a water cannon truck coming in to the venue speedily. This further inflamed the anger of mass of workers who ran towards the truck and took over the water cannon truck. The police had to again appeal for calm and urged workers to allow the water cannon truck to go back from where it came from.
After this, thousands of workers moved out en masse from the venue in anger, by shouting “no marching, no marching, we can continue to march every year in front of our oppressors”. However, the rally continued with just three unions out of about thirty unions affiliated to both the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
As we moved out of the venue in company of other workers, a television station interviewed Dimeji Macaulay on the protest. He responded by condemning Buhari/APC government with its anti-poor policies that make life difficult for working people. “What happened inside today shows that workers have power and can be organized to fight until victory”, he stressed. He called for sustained mass action until the new minimum wage of N56, 000 is won.
By Daniel Akande
The event started at 10am at Sani Abacha stadium with the solidarity song and National Anthem. Workers that were present at the events doubled that of last year with hope to hear update on new minimum wages. We commenced circulation of our Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) leaflets and set up a stand for Socialist Democracy newspaper and other publications.
Leaders of the two trade union federations gave opening remarks. First was Kabiru Ado Minjbir, the Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and second was the chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC) Masur Adamu. In their speech, they both made demands for a new minimum wage and other things affecting the workers. The Emir of Kano Muhammad Sansui was also present at the event.
The union also gave awards to some individuals that had purportedly performed very well in the last one year. We marched with our materials along with the Kano civil society forum.
Our SPN leaflet caught the attention of the Department of State Security Services (DSS). They request to have our contacts and leadership of the organization.
Three comrades of SPN participated in the rally with the posters with message demanding the registration of the SPN. Many workers asked about Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and we told them that it is a new party formed by socialists, youth and workers.
By Kayode Salako
The program started around 10:30am with an opening prayer. This was followed by solidarity songs and the speech from the NLC chairman Yahaya Idris Ndago. In his speech, the NLC chair highlighted the problem faced by the workers such as the unpaid pension, non-implementation of promotion policy, poor working condition, etc. He said he did not want to offend the Governor as the Quran does not permit him to disrespect the governor but rhetorically asked the workers if the Quran permit him to tell the governor what challenges workers are facing and their problems. They all answered resoundingly in affirmation. The governor was not present but was represented by Alhj Isah Ladal the secretary to the state government (SSG).
He however commended the purported effort of the Governor Alhaji Abubakar sani bello in transforming Niger state through the beautification of Minna, Niger’s state capital, and construction of roads and rehabilitation and in agriculture. He added that workers would continue to support the government in fighting against corruption. After praising the Governor the NLC chairman said that despite all the work the Governor has been doing, the living standards of workers are low which is why they are angry with him. He said they had given the SSG the message for onward delivery to governor and demanded the following:
First, the workers should be given opportunity of getting to the peak of their career in the service. Second, the politicization of the civil service in Nigeria and particularly in Niger state has made the career progression a mirage. For instance, according to him, the appointment of the permanent secretaries from outside the civil service has brought indiscipline, inefficiency and mediocrity which were alien to the civil service in the past. Thirdly, increment in the wages of workers and lastly, employment of more teachers.
After the speech there was a short drama presentation by GWAFE INTERNATIONAL DRAMA GROUP. The prelude was a message by the producer for the SSG that whatever he observed in the drama he must tell the Governor. The drama cast a governor that keeps telling the workers that the reason for the delay in their salaries is the implementation of their promotion. But workers asked him whether until after they have died of hunger that they will paid by the state government or has the governor or the SSG seen where dead body spends money. Workers were happy about this message passed by the drama group.
The programs continued with the turn of SSG Alhj Isah Ladal to give speech on behalf of the governor. But his action provoked a protest by workers as he refused to come to the podium which was placed in scorching sun. The workers got angry and were shouting at him to get out of the tent stating they would not listen to his speech until he moved to the podium. He eventually obliged the workers.
In the course of our intervention many workers asked questions about the SPN which showed that they are open to a working people political alternative. We urged them to join us in the campaign for the registration of SPN. Two people signed to join us at the venue while one person also called to join us after reading the SPN leaflet.
By Nuhu Zira
In the late 19th century, socialists, communist and trade unionist chose May 1 to become international workers day. Nigeria is also one of the countries that celebrate international workers’ day. In Kaduna, the May Day celebration took place in the union headquarters office along Magadushi. The theme for the day celebration was “labour relation in economic recession: An appraisal in Nigeria”.
Many speakers at the event spoke about improving welfare of Nigerians workers and the way forward. The head of service who was represented by a senior director at the event postulated to the union labour leaders that the government of the state has been trying in term of prompt payment of salary and promise to uplift the welfare of the workers.
The state chairman of the union, Adamu Ango in his speech said Nigerian workers are the least paid in the world. He said corruption, mass poverty, exploitation of casual workers, price instability, indecent working condition environment, slave wages, delay of salary and payment of arrears as at when due is affecting the wellbeing of Nigerian workers in the state. He said that such act will not be tolerated any longer in the state and the struggle for better pay has just started.
At the verge of concluding the May Day celebration, the senator representing Kaduna Central Shehu Sani made an appearance at the event. In his speech, he said he was not invited but as an activist, he will always stand by the labour union at all times. The activist said the working class represent all the oppressed who are the majority in the society but they are not appreciated in the country by the ruling class. He said civil servants can display their pay slip to anybody but that cannot be done by any national assembly member. He called on the labour leaders to continue the struggle for better pay because the N 18,000 is too small, and he is recommending three hundred dollars ($300) which is equivalent to â‚¦ 109,500. The activist also added that the 18,000 minimum wage is an insult to Nigeria workers in the State. The host thanked the senator for his appearance even though uninvited and promised to invite him to union’s programmes in future.
By DSM Reporters
Pre-May Day Symposium
The state chapter of the DSM organized a pre-May Day Symposium on Saturday, 29th April 2017 at the Federation of Informal Workers’ Organizations of Nigeria (FIWON) Secretariat on the New Ikirun road. The programme, with a total attendance of 29 persons, had in attendance members of DSM, ERC and SPN, workers, activists and youth.
The DSM mobilized for the programme through posters, handbills, text messages, social media and radio announcements. Unions were officially invited with comrades moving round various unions across the state to discuss with their leaders on the need to participate in the programme. Through this efforts, some gains were made including financial supports from some union such as COEASU, Osun State College of Education, Ilesa Chapter and NUEE Osun State Chapter. A total of about N30, 000 was raised as financial supports as well as paper sales from discussions with unions. Unfortunately, workers and union attendance at the symposium was poor as a result of lack of serious commitment of the unions to political education as well as serial betrayal of workers by union leaders. Unions like NUEE and COEASU, who gave financial support of N10, 000 each could not mobilise their members to the programme as a result of previous commitments. Other unions did not show serious interests while others only gave excuses. Worse still, aside from NUEE Osun State, which organized a Pre-May Day Symposium, no other union organized any activities towards the May Day. This further shows the degeneration in the labour movement which used to have a series of activities towards the May Day. In our various discussions with the labour leaders and bureaucrats, we enjoined them to try and organize union programme towards the May Day, but most of them were non-committal.
The symposium which started around 12.30 was opened with a keynote speech by Kola Ibrahim, the state secretary of DSM, who detailed why the APC and its predecessor, PDP, had failed to solve the social, economic and political crises facing the country. He gave graphic details of how the Aregbesola government in Osun State has pilfered the resources of the state to private ends. He called for a new political movement of the working people and youth. His speech was followed by that of Akin Ashifa Gofment, the immediate past chairperson of Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) in Osun State. He also bemoaned the current economic and political milieu in the country, while also highlighting the backwardness of the labour movement leadership. He called for a new political structure of the working people to take power.
Comrade Alfred Adegoke, the Osun State chairperson of Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), gave further boost to the speeches of Kola Ibrahim and Gofment. He stated that only socialist democratic planning and control can guarantee better lives. He however maintained that such cannot be achieved unless the working people build their own political party. He highlighted the struggle currently being waged by the SPN to have the party registered. He explained that despite meeting all the constitutional requirements for registration, which according to him are even undemocratic, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has continually refused to register SPN, necessitating the party’s recourse to the court to enforce its rights to registration.
He called on working people and youth looking for genuine change to join the SPN. He however maintained that SPN is just a first step towards building a mass party of the working people, and that SPN will join hands with other working class organizations and unions in building such a mass party which will have the capacity to unseat the current capitalist ruling elite.
Peluola Adewale from the national secretariat of the DSM spoke in the same vein. He highlighted why the APC, in spite of its so-called “Change” and “Anti-Corruption” mantras cannot move the country forward. He maintained that the pro-capitalist economic arrangement through deregulation and fraudulent contracting system being maintained by the APC government cannot allow for serious development of the economy, but rather engender worse economic crisis. He maintained that why the rise in oil wealth receipt may lead to end of recession on paper, the real recession facing the working class people through inflation, low income, etc. will not go away with the current arrangement.
He also rejected the fraudulent argument of the ruling politicians that if they pay adequate salaries, they will not be able to embark on developmental projects. He stated that the so-called developmental projects are actually aimed at lining the pockets of the politicians in power and their big business partners. If resources are democratically utilized with functional public works departments, many projects will be carried out while working conditions of the working people will also be improved significantly. He mentioned the fact that many projects were carried out by the Jakande government in the second republic despite the slump in revenue and the economic crisis of the period, yet this did not lead to job losses for workers or cut in their salaries. On the contrary, it led to mass employment of workers and raising of minimum wage in 1981/82. He also called for registration of the SPN, and supported Alfred Adegoke’s position on the need for a mass working people’s party to dislodge the current set of political class. He however stated that SPN has the capacity, if registered to set a shining example, citing the rise of the Socialist Alternative party in US, where Kshama Sawant, who was only a city councilor inspired a national movement that has helped raise the profile of not just the Socialist Alternative party, but of socialism as an idea in the US.
Many comments were made by the audience with some seeking for regionalism, while others called for constitutionalism and good leadership. There was a clear sense of anger among the wide layer of participants. The comments and questions were well attended to by the speakers. One striking comment was that of an elderly but educated Mr. Abiodun. He said he was particularly inspired with the programme in spite of the low attendance. He said he had already given up on the country until when he attended the programme. His main concern was not about the present per se, which he noted is very important, but more about the future. He called on members of the DSM not to relent, but rather look for other means of reaching a wider layer of the oppressed people, many of whom are looking for ideas just like him. He promised to support and to participate in the activities of the DSM.
The programme ended with interviews to Galaxy TV and Rave FM, who came to cover the symposium.
Osun May Day Interventions
Members of the DSM in Osun State intervened in the May Day programme with independent activities and some interventions. The state leadership of NLC and TUC had called off this year’s May Day rally, to ‘honour’ a deceased politician in Osun State. This condemnable action was not arrived at through democratic participation of workers, rather behind their backs. The cancelation of the May Day event, which was not officially condemned by the national leadership of the trade union centres, denied the workers in the state the opportunity to raise issues pertaining to their welfare. Currently, the Aregbesola government owes Osun workers and pensioners more than 20 months arrears of half-salaries and half-pensions, yet the government with the connivance of labour leaders, is still paying the illegal half-salaries and half-pensions. Clearly, it was the possibility of mass revolt by workers at the May Day rally, coupled with the political rottenness of the labour leadership that was behind the cancellation of the May Day Rally in Osun State. Worse still, none of the affiliate unions of NLC and TUC at local or state chapters made attempt to organize independent activities. All this had impact on the DSM intervention in the May Day.
However, a silver lining opened with the NUEE and the newly-formed United Labour Congress, which organized a May Day Symposium/Get-Together. This programme had in attendance about one hundred workers, mainly from NUEE. We intervened in the programme, where Kola Ibrahim shared podium with labour leaders from NUEE and ULC, to address workers. The main theme of the programme was about organizing the union in the privatization era. From the various comments of NUEE and ULC leaders, it is obvious that aside the IBEDC that allowed a veneer of unionization, albeit the one that does not threaten its interest so far, most electricity companies do not allow unionism. Worse still, there is shortage of manpower in all the electricity companies, while workers’ welfare has dwindled. According to a worker, there has not been promotion for retained workers in the last three years of privatization.
Kola Ibrahim commended the NUEE for organizing a May Day programme, and called on the leadership to build on the initiative by organizing education programme for members. He noted that one of the cardinal aims of privatization is mass retrenchment of workers and castration of unions, especially NUEE. He stated that the fact that members were able to sustain the union despite privatization shows the enormous power of labour if they decide to unite and act. He opined that the failure of labour centres to give direct support to NUEE against privatization made privatization to be successful. He stated that the DSM does not support avoidable fractionalization of labour movement, but stated that there is need to build united movement of workers on issues affecting all categories of workers irrespective of which labour centre they belong to. He therefore called for united struggle of workers and labour centres on new minimum wage, against casualization, etc. He concluded that there is the need to build a political alternative of the working people as workers cannot continue to vote their enemies to power every four years.
15 copies of Socialist Democracy (SD) were sold at the programme while copies of the SPN leaflet were also circulated. The DSM also mobilized the electronic media to help cover the programme, a gesture the NUEE leadership appreciated. A solidarity support of N2000 was given to the organization by NUEE leadership for participation at the programme.
On Monday, 2nd May 2017, two comrades went to the Osun State Government Secretariat at Abere in Osogbo to circulate SPN May Day leaflets. All the leaflets were well received by workers, many of whom were in gloom mood. Four copies of the SD were also sold there.
Eleven DSM comrades in Ilesa also organized a rally in Ilesa town and circulated leaflets of the SPN in communities. They also visited a local radio station, Unique FM where two comrades were interviewed. The statement of the branch was also used by another radio station, Orisun FM in Ife.
Members of the Democratic Socialist Movement in OAU commemorated this year’s workers’ day by organizing a paper stand at Lagere Junction, Ife, and distributing the SPN leaflet. This is despite the cancellation of the workers’ day by the reactionary leadership of the workers’ union in Osun state to mourn a demised pro-capitalist senator. Five members of the Democratic Socialist Movement participated in the tabling and leaflet distribution. The table was provided for us by a seller who was endeared to our ideas and even joined us in agitation. Members spent about three hours agitating and distributing our leaflet.
Before we began the tabling, members met a worker protesting against the horrific state of things and demanding improvement. We engaged him in discussion, as he also lamented the betrayal of the workers leadership to have canceled the workers day celebration, in fact, he joined us for agitation and we shared contacts.
Many persons were attracted to the paper stand, as such has not been seen in recent period, which made the tabling successful.
Many of those who joined us commended the organization for taking the initiative to form the SPN and advised us to deepen our works among the masses, in fact, one of them suggested market places. However, the branch assured them of more public activities. After, the tabling, members agreed to continue such action once in a month.
By Moshood Oshufunrewa
The worker’s day celebrated in Ogun state is evidently a reflection of total failure of capitalist system to uplift the working conditions of the working masses and the vast majority of the toiling people across the length and breadth of the country. All workers in the state were yet to collect their April salary not talk of the backlog of allowances and illegal deductions by the government. This was evident in the workers anger and total dissatisfaction expressed against the neo-liberal policies and program of the state governor, Ibikunle Amosun led APC government in the State.
Aside, this year May Day experienced lower turn-out of workers at the celebration venue, Moshood Abiola stadium. This is unconnected to the recent series of attacks by the government on workers, who for the past few months have been staging one form of resistance or the other against the tyrannical reign of the APC government in the state. Besides, three leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Ogun State chapter have been arbitrary sacked for their role in the struggle against the anti-worker actions of the governor.
The NLC chair who was among those sacked did not deliver any speech though he was on the podium with the governor for salutation of workers during the march past. This was apparently a compromise entered by the labour leadership in order to have the presence of the governor at the event.
The governor in his speech announced the commuting of the punishment of two of the sacked leaders into retirement while the NLC chair remains sacked. He was also silent on the issues like illegal deductions, non-remittance of pensions and dues, outstanding allowances that led to the industrial actions and victimization of labour leaders.
It was members of the DSM that took up the challenge with leaflet and placards demanding the unconditional reinstatement of labour leaders while also arguing that the issues and demands that led to their sack must not swept under carpet. The materials called on the government to meet all the outstanding demands of workers and for workers to resume struggle to fight for them including reinstatement of their leaders.
During the march past, DSM raised the placards directly in front of the governor, demanding unconditional recall of all victimized union leaders and immediate refund of illegal deductions to workers.
Our action during the march past received overwhelming support from workers who came to commend comrades at the end of the parade. This apparently prompted four workers to show interest of becoming members of the organization, giving their contact and buying Socialist Democracy (SD) paper. 14 copies SD were sold while two workers paid solidary price of N500 and N1000.
In addition to DSM leaflet on Ogun workers plight, five comrades who participated at the rally also circulated the SPN leaflet calling for a new national minimum wage, 24-hour general strike on minimum wage and unpaid salaries and united struggles by all the trade union federations.
By Wole Olubanji (Engels)
This year celebration of the workers’ day in Edo State held at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium of the state. The DSM intervened with our paper Socialist Democracy and the leaflet of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), which boldly calls for a day of general strike over non-payment of arrears of salary and pension, as Socialist Democracy were also sold at the event.
Workers expressed immediate satisfaction with our intervention, and even joined in circulating leaflets of the SPN. The refusal of government to pay backlog of salaries and pension made the rank and file of workers in the state a hotbed of sympathy for radical actions. For example, local government employees in the State, under the aegis of NULGE, are owed eight months arrears of salaries. Yet the government blamed, flimsily, the non-payment of these workers on the rapacious activities of previous Local government administrators in the State. Pensioners in the State came to the venue of the workers’ day dressed in black attires to show their gloom and anger over government’s attitude to workers and pensioners’ welfare in the State.
In our interaction with some of the pensioners, they expressed dissatisfaction with the indifference of the NLC and TUC leadership in the State over the plight and unpaid pension of pensioners. Average workers too were not oblivious of the sterility of the attitude of their leaders to the government over issues that affect workers in the State.
The labour leadership demonstrated its sympathetic attitude to the Obaseki-led government in the May Day address of the Edo State NLC chairman. A major part of the speech applauded so-called “change in government businesses” that has taken place since the inception of Obaseki-led government. But the contradictory nature of this change was soon reflected in the Chairman’s speech which outlined “potential areas of industrial dispute in the state”, especially in respect to local government workers and teachers and other education workers in the state who are owed backlog of salaries. Portraying full illusion in, and obeisance to, the government, the Chairman’s statement was rife with apologies, rather than articulate demands for legitimate benefits of workers in the state.
The response of the State government was no less sterile than evasive in respect to the demands of workers for payment of outstanding arrears and employment. The Governor “explained” that the administration is focusing on raising internally generated revenue to be able to pay salaries.
But this is an absurd excuse, considering the fact that the so-called effort for revenue generation means taxing of workers or extortion through various schemes of the State government. And in fact, genuine efforts of planning the economy of the state, and taking over government’s businesses are completely neglected. For example, while addressing the demand of workers of the Bendel Breweries, a company owned by both Edo and some private investors, for payment of salaries and a government takeover of the company, the governor declared that his administration is not ready to invest in a company that would again be wrecked down by mismanagement.
In truth, it is politicians and their political allies that would wreck down government’s businesses; but putting such companies under the democratic control of workers would prevent recurring cases of mismanagement that shrouds businesses in both private and public sectors. This is part of what we believe in the DSM and the SPN that government should take complete control of economic production, and put it under public and democratic control of workers and masses.
The workers showed a predominantly indifferent attitude to the speech and rhetoric of the governor, because like most workers, they are tired of empty promises. There is huge potential for the expansion of the DSM’s work in the state within the rank and file of workers, all copies of the SPN leaflet were circulated and received enthusiastically by the workers.