Socialist Democracy Nov – Dec 2002
Socialist Democracy Nov – Dec 2002
Political Violence, Election Rigging …
Only The Masses Can Save Civil Rule
The recent period has witnessed an upsurge in political violence as a result of unbridled rivalry between the different factions of the capitalist ruling elite in different parts of the country. During the same period, the so-called Independent National Electoral Committee (INEC) conducted a national voters’ exercise which was riddled with fraud and incompetence, preparing the ground for massive rigging in the coming elections.
Hardly a day goes these days without an incidence of political violence in one part of the country or the other. All this shows that as the next elections draws nearer, the various gangs within the ruling class are becoming even more desperate and are prepared to use any means either to retain power or to get access to it in order, in most cases, to be in the best position to loot the public treasury.
While the December 2001 murder of Chief Bola Ige, the former minister of justice and attorney-general of the country, has attracted the greatest publicity, in reality, dozens of lives have been lost in and 100 lives respectively were lost in Plateau and Bayelsa states alone during clashes between rival factions during the election primaries of the People Democratic Party (PDP). In some cases, the violence and killings are perpetrated by state-sponsored militia groups such as the Bakassi Boys in the south-eastern states like Anambra and Abia. In some of the states in the northern part of the country, which had introduced the Sharia Islamic legal code, state-backed Sharia enforcement vigilante groups are also being used to intimidate and harass groups and individuals who are opposed to policies of the government. In the south-west, the capitalist politicians are also playing the card of Yoruba nationalism, and would not hesitate to use a group like the OPC against their political opponents. With this trend of violence, it is very clear that the next election will be far from free and fair if everything is left to members of the ruling elite.
Without the positive, correct intervention of the working masses and the labour movement, the elections will be characterised by massive rigging and widespread violence, similar to the electoral crisis of 1963/64 and 1983 which paved way for military interventions on both occasions.
It shows why the working class and the labour movement must act now before the nation is plunged into another round of vote rigging, orgy of political violence, and possible return of military dictatorship.
Thus, the DSM calls on the trade unions, students’ unions, NANS, NLC and the NCP to set up grassroot, local, popular and democratic committees to monitor and police the elections in order to ensure free polls. These committees will also ensure that the ranks of workers and youth are not divided and used for selfish purpose by the rival groups of capitalist politicians as it used to be the case in the past.
Beyond this, the renewed wave of political violence and election rigging confirm the inherent instability and insecurity of lives which capitalism means for the Nigerian working masses. The masses will continue to be confronted with the problems of mass poverty, political violence and instability, so long as neo-colonial capitalist rule prevails in Nigeria. Hence, a lasting solution to these monumental problems lies in ending capitalism and replacing it with a workers’ and poor farmers’ government with a socialist programme which will make the real needs of the overwhelming majority of society and not the greed of a small rich minority the basis of governance. And to achieve this objective, the workers movement, the NCP, labour and youth activists must take as a priority the building of a mass, independent working people’s party which will serve as the tool for the actualisation of this historic objective. It is only in this way that the working masses can begin the process of real change, the desire for which informed the struggle against military dictatorship between 1984-1999
A Major Victory For NCP
On Friday, November 8, 2002, the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision dismissed the appeal of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) against the Federal Court of Appeal judgement of 26th July, 2002 which had declared as illegal and unconstitutional the guidelines used by INEC for the registration of political parties.
It will be recalled that it was these obnoxious guidelines that INEC used to disqualify the National Conscience Party (NCP) and many other political parties during the last registration exercise. NCP and four of the parties took INEC to court to challenge the guidelines. The Supreme Court ruled, in agreement with the Court of Appeal, that while INEC has the power to publish guidelines, it cannot issue guidelines that violate sections of the 1999 constitution which deal with party registration.
The judgement is no doubt a big victory for the National Conscience Party (NCP) and the other parties which jointly institute the court case. It is indeed a victory for the Nigerian working people who for long had been denied an independent political platform and voice of their own by the capitalist ruling class. The major lesson from this victory is that it pays to struggle consistently and persistently, and that if we fight we can win.
THE CHALLENGES BEFORE THE NCP
But this victory also poses a lot of challenges for the NCP. In a sense, this is the real beginning for the building of the party. While the party has a lot of potential support and the national chairman, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, is very popular among the downtrodden working masses, a lot of political and organisational work still needs to be done.
Chase Out All The Capitalist Rogues
For Immediate Elections On A Genuine Multi-Party Basis
A Workers� And Farmers� Government Needed
The political situation in Nigeria in the past three months has been dominated by the move by National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives, to impeach President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday, August 13th, 2002, at an emergency sitting in Abuja, adopted a resolution calling on the president to resign within two weeks or face impeachment for alleged constitutional breaches. The president was also accused of running the affairs of government like a dictatorship. As at the moment, 32 allegations were listed against the president by the House of Representatives.
In reaction, President Obasanjo, his supporters and some other commentators described the impeachment move as uncalled for, ill-timed and capable of destroying the so-called nascent democracy in Nigeria.
To us in the DSM, President Obasanjo does not deserve to stay a day longer as Nigerian president as a result of the innumerable economic and political atrocities which his government has committed against the Nigerian working masses in the past three years. Equally, the members of the National Assembly have for the past three years been primarily preoccupied in fighting for their own selfish interests in the past three years rather than the well-being of the electorate who elected them into office.
Therefore, rather than defending or backing either the president or the National Assembly, we in the DSM call on the Nigerian working masses to demand for the resignation of both President Obasanjo and members of the National Assembly and the holding of immediate elections on a genuine multi-party basis. Instead of supporting one faction of the ruling class or the other, the labour and trade union movement must provide a lead and mobilise the working masses to chase out of office all these capitalist rogues in the corridors of power.
The Obasanjo presidency has clamped down on the basic rights of people, and implement numerous pro-rich, anti-poor policies of privatisation, trade liberalisation, currency devaluation, increment in price of petroleum products, removal of subsidy on social services like education, health care, transportation, etc, leading to a chronic state of high unemployment, poverty, homelessness, starvation for the poor, toiling masses, etc. As a willing tool in the hands of forces of global imperialism and their local agents, he has implemented policies which have left the Nigerian poor, toiling people in a state of uncertainty, hopelessness, poverty, starvation, destitution and despair. Only government contractors and others close to the corridors of power have benefitted from the so-called dividends of democracy.
THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
But contrary to their claims, the impeachment move against Obasanjo by the lawmakers was not motivated by any altruism, or the interests of the larger society. In fact, the present National Assembly has been as pro-rich and anti-poor as the Obasanjo presidency. It has also proved to be no less corrupt and inept. It is largely an assembly of capitalist rogues and looters, who, just like Obasanjo and the executive, have preoccupied themselves with the act of money-making rather than law-making.
It would be recalled that on its inauguration, the first assignment carried out by the National Assembly members was to award to themselves a ‘paltry’ sum of N5 million each as furniture allowance! Following public outcry, the allowance was (officially) reduced to N3.5m, only for it to be exposed later that the members actually collected the originally demanded N5m and had only pretended to reduce the money to N3.5m in order to shield themselves from public outcry. This was at a time when all states were busy retrenching workers and labour leaders due to their claim of inability to pay N5,500 minimum wage! So, while governments of various states were claiming not to have money to pay to workers above N5,500 and while the Obasanjo federal government itself could not yield to the demand of the NLC for a N20,000 minimum wage, senators and House of Representatives members, the now true defenders of “peoples’ democracy” were busy lining their pockets fraudulently with millions of naira under one nomenclature or the other.
It would also be recalled that on 11th September 2002, while the controversy over the impeachment issue was still raging, the senate resolved to nullify the reports of both the Kuta and Oyofo panels which had found some leaders of the senate guilty of inflation of and non-execution of contracts running into millions of naira and pardoned all those found guilty in the spirit of ‘reconciliation’!
The National Assembly and its leadership have never opposed privatisation of public assets, commercialisation of social services, oil industry deregulation and other anti-poor policies of Obasanjo regime. It also passed the undemocratic and unconstitutional 2001 electoral bill, which is designed to prevent the participation of popular, pro-working people political parties in the electoral process and exclude the masses from power. In essence, what we have is a National Assembly whose members are political contractors and whose major disagreement with the presidency is on the terms of trade.
In fact the major reason behind the impeachment bid is the struggle for supremacy between the various factions of the capitalist ruling class in general and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in particular as the 2003 general and presidential elections draw nearer. It is instructive to note that many of the misconducts listed against Obasanjo, such as the massacre at Odi in November 1999, took place two to three years ago, without any opposition or condemnation by the National Assembly.
FOR INDEPENDENT WORKING CLASS ALTERNATIVE
Based on the above analysis, DSM calls on the working masses and the labour movement not to support either the presidency or the National Assembly, the two sets of capitalist rogues, who are involved in the imbroglio.
Instead, the working people should demand for the resignation of both Obasanjo and the National Assembly. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), National Conscience Party (NCP), trade unions and students’ unions should organise mass struggles, strikes and protests to force them out of office should they refuse to quit. In this respect, we call on the leadership of the NLC, especially the NLC president, Adams Oshiomhole, to stop its present romance with the Obasanjo administration and, instead, champion an independent working class economic and political agenda for the labour movement.
As alternative, we call for earlier elections on a genuine multi-party basis with all political parties, including NCP, being allowed to field candidates. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be immediately re-composed to comprise representatives of all political parties.
A SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE NEEDED
What the impeachment crisis has once again revealed is the rottenness and failure of the entire Nigeria’s neo-colonial capitalist economic and political structures in general and the 4th republic in particular.
The Obasanjo regime, state and local governments and all the capitalist parties are creating conditions for another military intervention through the mass disenchantment and disillusionment caused by their acts of massive looting and plundering of the nation’s resources, political violence, retrenchment of workers, non-payment of salaries and pensions, implementation of numerous pro-rich, anti-poor policies of privatisation, trade liberalisation, currency devaluation, increment in price of petroleum products, removal of subsidy on social services like education, health care, transportation, etc, with the concomitant high unemployment, mass poverty, and homelessness.
Hence, the present crisis once again underscores the need for the labour movement to struggle to end the neo-colonial capitalist system and to put in power a workers’ and poor peasants’ government with a socialist programme. Such a government will put into pubic ownership the commanding heights of the country’s economy under the democratic control and management of the working people and use society’s resources to provide for the basic needs of the society. This approach is the only way by which the working masses and society in general can get out of the present capitalist rot and bring an end to corruption, money politics, political violence, mass poverty, insecurity and instability. Only this type of arrangement can bring an end to corruption and capitalist misrule by basing economy and governance on the real needs of the masses and the larger society rather than the selfish interest of a minority class of the super-rich as it is presently the case.
To actualise the above programme, labour and youth activists must consider, as a matter of immediate priority, the building of a mass independent working peoples’ party which would be different in orientation, programme, policies and method from the pro-rich capitalist political parties. The NCP, NLC, NANS and other working peoples’ organisations should organise a conference at which the strategy and method for the emergence of such a party would be discussed.
Don�t Kill Amina Lawal
Repeal All Undemocratic, Dehumanising And Anti-Poor Laws
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) joins several women, labour and youth activists and organisations both in Nigeria and internationally in condemning in its entirety the judgement of the Upper Sharia Court in Funtua, Katsina State, which confirmed the death sentence, by stoning, earlier passed on a nursing mother, Mrs. Amina Lawal, by a lower Islamic sharia court in the state, on the allegation that she committed adultery.
We equally condemn the death sentence, by stoning which an Upper Sharia Court in New Gawu, Niger State, passed on Ahmadu Ibrahim (male, 32) and Fatima Usman (female, 30) who were also found guilty of alleged adultery.
These cases are coming after the case of Safiyat Hussain, the nursing mother in Sokoto State who was equally condemned by stoning but who was later freed by a sharia court of appeal on 18th March, 2002, as a result of local and international pressure. These death sentences are not only barbaric, dehumanising and antiquated, they amount to gross and monumental violation of the democratic rights of the victims. In particular, they represent vicious attacks on the rights of women. We therefore unequivocally call for their immediate reversal.
THE RIGHT OF RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS
The DSM supports and defends the rights of religious believers, both Muslims and non-Muslims, to practise their religions. We fight against discrimination on the basis of religion, gender, ethnic origin or race. In this sense, the right of Muslims to practise those aspects of sharia which pertain to worship, mode of dressing, naming of children and other personal matters must be respected.
At the same time, socialists, labour and youth activists, and working people�s organisations like the trade unions, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and National Conscience Party (NCP) have a responsibility to uphold people�s democratic rights to life and human dignity, and to oppose violations of these rights and any policy and action which dehumanises and demeans ordinary working people.
STATE AND RELIGION
In particular, we demand that religion should be a personal affair and should be separated from the state. This is even more imperative in a multi-religious society like Nigeria. The failure to adhere to this principle by successive capitalist governments in Nigeria, both military and civilian, is one of the main reasons for the rising wave of ethnic and religious conflicts in the country, particularly since the beginning of the introduction of sharia law by some states in the northern part of the country from year 2000. In all, about 10,000 lives have been reportedly lost to ethnic and religious violence since military rule ended in May, 1999.
All post-independent constitutions of Nigeria, including the current 1999 Constitution (chapter 2, section10) forbid the adoption of any religion as state religion by any level of government. In reality, all sections of the ruling capitalist elite, both christians and muslims, have never adhered to this principle because of their selfish personal and political calculations. Every year, governments at all levels spend billions of naira to promote religious causes, including sponsoring pilgrims to Jerusalem and Mecca and building or sponsoring of the building of mosques and churches. About two years ago, President Obasanjo commissioned a church inside Aso Rock, the seat of government. In a sharia state like Zamfara State, the state radio station refused paid adverts from churches and christians are forbidden from taking alcohol and to interact freely with women in public. All these actions create room for suspicion and allegation of state�s bias for a particular religion, thus fuelling religious and ethnic conflicts.
SHARIA CRIMINAL CODE
The bourgeois politicians who introduced the sharia penal code with severe punishments such as stoning and amputation for crimes like stealing, prostitution or so-called adultery argue that these type of harsh law and punishments are necessary to curb the increasing wave of crimes in the society. Even, some sections of the working masses both within and outside the sharia states, perturbed by the violent crimes and social decadence which pervade society, genuinely support the penal code in the belief that it is the solution to these problems. The penal code is also informed by the false idea that the harsher the punishment the lesser the crime rate.
But all these views are erroneous. Crimes, violence, prostitution and other social vices are products of worsening mass poverty and unemployment, which are engendered by the Nigeria�s crisis-ridden neo-colonial capitalist economy. Only the abolition of the causes of endemic poverty, the provision of decent living, full employment with a living wage, free and qualitative education and medicare and adequate housing for all can lead to the eradication of crimes.
This explains why the DSM always campaigns against and calls on the labour movement and the NLC to organise mass struggles against privatisation of public assets, commercialisation of social services, retrenchment of workers, non-payment of wages and pensions and other anti-poor neo-liberal capitalist policies which fuel mass unemployment, hunger, homelessness, destitution and general mass poverty. Above all, we call on the working class to organise to overthrow capitalism, the principal root cause of endemic mass poverty, misery and ignorance, and to transform society along democratic, socialist lines through the coming to power of a workers� and poor farmers� government. It is only this type of arrangement that can guarantee decent living for all and eradicate crimes.
On the contrary the floggings, amputations, stoning and other harsh sentences being used in the sharia states will on the long run fail to reduce or eliminate crimes. Since the early 70s, armed robbery has been punished by execution in Nigeria. But this has failed to reduce armed robbery. On the contrary, violent robberies have continued to escalate due to worsening economic crisis and huge youth unemployment.
A POLITICAL DIVERSION
In reality, the introduction of sharia by the capitalist politicians in some of the northern states was a deliberate strategy to seek cheap popularity by using religion to divert the masses� attention away from their failure to provide the basic necessities of life, jobs and social security for the populace. In the same manner, the capitalist elite in the southern part of the country are hypocritically pretending to be championing the interests of their people, through agitation for resource control.
AN ANTI-POOR LAW
Most importantly, the DSM opposes the sharia penal code as presently enacted and practised in these states because it discriminates against the poor working people in general and poor, marginalized women in particular. Since the introduction of the code, several poverty-stricken peasant farmers and traders have had their limbs amputated and incapacitated for life for allegedly stealing items like cattle, goats or hen. Many ordinary workers and traders have been flogged and humiliated in public for consumption or sale of alcoholic drinks. All those who have been sentenced under the code have been poor working masses, women and men. These include Mallam Jangbedi, the peasant whose arm was amputated in Zamfara State allegedly for stealing a cow, Safiyat, Amina and Ahmadu, to mention just a few of the poor victims.
In contrast, the capitalist politicians and top civil servants who enacted this degrading and inhuman penal code continue to get away with brazen acts of fraud and the looting of several millions of naira from public treasury. In the same Zamfara State, a top official of the state hosuse of assembly was indicted for stealing an official car and selling it for N2.1 million. Though he was found guilty by a sharia court, his hand was not amputated. A member of the assembly explained to journalists that the reason for this was that the official�s offence was not stealing but betrayal of public trust! In addition, these rich elements have relationships outside marriage without having to suffer the indignity of being dragged to court or sentenced to death by stoning. Surely, if anybody truly deserves to be sentenced to death, it is these corrupt and rich elite who embezzled public funds which ought to have been used to provide jobs, education, food and healthcare for the populace.
In addition, we oppose some of these sentences because they attack individual freedom, particularly the right of women to marry partners of their choice. In the case of Fatima Usman, for example, she was dragged to court because she refused to marry the man that her father wanted to force on her and instead entered into a relationship with Ahmadu Ibrahim. We believe that women, like men, should have the right to enter into free and voluntary marital and sexual relationships.
Debasing Women For Profit Sake
On 7th December, Nigeria will host the Miss World “beauty” pageant in Abuja, the federal capital. Private interests as well as the government are investing millions of dollars in this programme. Among the leading personalities behind it is the wife of the president herself, Chief (Mrs) Stella Obasanjo.
Socialists are opposed to this programme. This is essentially because modern day beauty contests are one of the means by which women’s oppression is perpetuated. The concept of beauty pageants view women not as complex persons, but primarily as sexual objects which exist only in relation to the male desire. No doubt it has been associated with rise in cases of sexual harassment.
Organisers of the contest are desperately trying to make the contest appear as modern and not sexist by stating that some of the contestants are studying for degrees, and that some have professional jobs, etc. This may be true but it is a token gesture to try and claim that it is not just looks that determine the winner. The question to ask is why are all the contestants of a certain height, no more than size 10 and generally look the same?
The reason for this is that these contests are increasingly linked to the need of the multinational corporations to sell their products and boost their profits through the use of women for advertisement. A certain “acceptable”
image of women is therefore being promoted. Models are getting thinner as the pressure is on from these industries for women to look a certain way. While women are made to debase themselves, the multinational companies and show promoters like Silverbird and Ben-Bruce rake in millions of dollars and smile to the bank.
There was an advert in the Nigerian dailies in July last year promoting the sale of a brand of car. A car and a lady was used in the advertisement. The caption of the advert is: “
if you want it open she will take off her dress; covered, she will put on her dress”. Also the fast food chain, Tantalizer advertisement says: “Have you tantalised her lately”. This contest and all these adverts promote the idea that there is some “ideal”
body image which women must aspire to, and that they are to behave in a submissive manner. In particular, this gives young men a completely false and dangerous idea of how women should look and behave.
The resources which will be wasted on this jamboree would have been more productively utilised by investing in education, skill acquisition, provision of jobs with decent pay, childcare facilities, healthcare, and other social services in dire need of resources. This would have contributed in reducing the rate of illiteracy, unemployment, prostitution and crimes among women.
But this cannot be possible under capitalism, a system which puts selfish, private greed above public interest. This is why the working people as a whole, and working class women in particular, must see the need for real change, the overthrow capitalism and introduction of a democratic socialist arrangement. Through this, the process towards ending the oppression of women can be started.
Meanwhile, the Miss World show is being threatened by boycott by many of the expected participants. The planned boycott is to protest against the death sentence on Aminat Lawal by the Sharia court in Katsina state for allegedly committing adultery. Among the contestants who are planning to boycott the event are those from Denmark, Kenya, South Africa, Switzerland, Australia, Spain, France, Belgium and Costa Rica. Miss France was quoted as saying- ‘ when a woman faces the most agonising death, there are more important things in life than winning a crown for being beautiful’.
Ivory Coast Slides Into Civil War
Ivory Coast, the world largest producer of cocoa, has been plunged into a civil war. This followed a mutiny by soldiers opposed to the government of president Laurent Gbagbo. As at present , the ‘rebels’ are controlling the northern and central parts of the country.
Since the beginning of the crisis, many lives have been lost including that of former military president, Robert Guei. Thousands of people, particular foreign plantation workers, have been turned into refugees. It was widely reported that Guei was killed by troops loyal to the President Laurent Gbagbo for his alleged leadership role in the crisis.
For almost three decades after independence from France, Ivory Coast used to be viewed as a model of stability in the West African sub-region which is renown for military coups, civil wars and general political instability. But that was until 1999 when late Robert Guei overthrew Henri Bedie, the successor to Hoeuphet Boigny, the country’s founding president, in a military coup. Before then, Boigny ruled the country for almost 33 years, that is 960 to 1993 when he died.
The present crisis could, however, be traced to the year 2000 presidential elections. The popular candidate then, Allasane Quattara, a former prime minister and a muslim from the northern part of the country, was barred from contesting by the then military president, late Robert Guei, based on the allegation that he was from Burkina Faso. His disqualification was not unconnected with the fact that late Robert Guei wanted to succeed himself by contesting the election. Since that time, the crisis in the country has increasingly assumed ethnic and religious dimension. However, the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, a christian from the southern part of the country, defeated Guei. An attempt by latter to declare himself the winner led to a mass uprising and the military dictator was forced to flee.
The crisis is similar to the June 12 crisis in Nigeria when the Babangida military junta annulled the presidential elections won by M.K.O. Abiola, a member of the capitalist ruling elite from the Yoruba south-west. The incident plunged Nigeria into political crisis and led to rise in ethnic conflicts. The break out of civil war along ethnic and religious line in Ivory Coast should serve as a warning to the Nigerian working people. It shows how the country can be plunged into interminable and fratricidal conflict when a so-called civilian capitalist government fails to solve the socio-economic crises facing society.
France and Nigeria have sent troops to the troubled country allegedly to protect their citizens and ‘democracy’. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also vowed not to allow the ‘rebels’ to truncate civil rule and has resolved to send a military force to Ivory Coast to maintain “peace” and prevent the government of Laurent Gbagbo from being overthrown by the rebel soldiers.
Socialists oppose the sending troops to Ivory Coast by ECOWAS and the imperialist powers like France and US under the pretence of ‘protecting’ civil rule. It is only the working people of Ivory Coast themselves that can protect civil rule and solve the crisis facing the country. Imperialism and the Ivorien ruling class are only fighting to protect their own selfish economic and strategic interests in the country and the sub-region.
The labour movement in Ivory Coast should work to ensure that the working people, youth, students, etc, are not divided along ethnic and religious line or to support any of the warring factions of the ruling class. Instead, the working people should organise themselves and fight for economic and political demands that can unite the working masses. Above all, they need to struggle for the formation of an independent working people’s party that will serve as a tool for fighting against capitalist attacks on the masses, for workers’ unity and the transformation of society along socialist line through a workers’ and poor peasants’ government.
Ikorodu Factory Fire
Putting Profit Before Lives
On September 15, 2002 at 1.30a.m, fire struck in West African Rubber Products (WARP), Ikorodu, killing scores of workers on night duty. Days after the gory fire disaster, the scene of the horror was littered with half burnt bones and decomposed human bodies.
According to an eye witness account, fire broke out of the warehouse section of the company and roasted all workers on night duty except three workers who miraculously escaped in the preventable calamity to tell woes of what they encountered. Many workers could have escaped or rescued but there was no escape or exit route. All entrances leading to the factory were locked to prevent workers from stealing, according to the General Manager. The only expatriate supervisor on duty locked the only available exit and went home to rest promising to come back, but before he could return the damage had been done.
Though, the immediate cause of the inferno was not known, the deplorable workers’ working conditions leave much to be desired. In fact, the policy of locking doors against the workers while on duty under the pretext of preventing stealing is nothing but turning the company into a prison yard where inmates cannot escape even in the face of death. The management of WARP attached no value to human lives; minimum national laws and international conventions on occupational safety and health are not observed. There are no enough ventilation facilities, no escape routes in case of emergencies and no fire equipment in spite of the fact that fire outbreaks cannot be ruled out in such a company that uses and produces inflammable materials like bathroom slippers, rubber sandals, shoe soles, etc.
On morning duty, once workers resume at 7.00a.m, it is non-stop work until 7.00p.m when workers on the night shift takes over, who will equally work under the same harsh conditions without observing a break period or allowed to even talk to the next person on the production line. Workers earn peanuts between N6,300 and N8,000 per month. They are either casual or on contract. There are many workers who have put in two to three years as casuals and any agitation for confirmation leads to termination of employment.
After the incident, nothing concrete was done by the company’s management to pull down the burnt structure in order to bring out bodies trapped in the collapse building. While the General Manager claimed only 10 lives were lost, the workers’ union chairman claimed that over 100 workers perished in the fire. There was no record of workers on duty, therefore, getting the correct number of workers who lost their lives could prove difficult. But 35 bodies have been recovered as at the time of filing this report.
ATTITUDE OF MULTI-NATIONAL COMPANIES
WARP is a typical example of many multinational companies operating in Nigeria with evidence of flagrant violation of labour laws and workers’ rights, negligence and apparent lack of concern for workers’ general safety. In fact, this is just one out of thousands of companies, both foreign and locally owned, operating slave labour and poverty wage. Unfortunately, their nefarious activities are aided and perpetuated by Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity whose responsibility is to make sure companies comply with the laid down regulations on safety and workers’ welfare. According to an eye witness, workers, neighbours and villagers who attempted to jump into the premises of the company on rescue mission were reportedly shot by the company’s expatriates from their nearby residence.
We demand that the local union and the NLC should set up an independent enquiry to investigate the incident with a view to bring those found guilty to face the law and to serve as deterrent to other exploiters of labour in the country. Adequate compensation should be paid to the families and depedants of the killed workers. the victims A national campaign ought to be organised by the labour movement to tackle inhuman, slave labour conditions in the country.
Reinstate Akele And Others Now
The Campaign for Independent Unionism (CIU) has renewed its call for the reinstatement of the Lagos State civil servants and trade unionists sacked by the state government.
Between February and April 2001, thousands of civil servants including several trade unionists in the employment of the state government were arbitrarily sacked
in a massive retrenchment exercise.
The retrenchment exercise was part of the policy of cuts in government spendings on social services, on education, health, jobs and housing, etc, which has been pursued by various governments in Nigeria since the early 1980s to the detriment of the living standards and working conditions of workers and the poor strata in the society.
The retrenchment exercise was also used to unjustly get rid of scores of trade union activists from the state public service particularly those who played leading role in the struggle for the implementation of N7,500 minimum wage, which culminated into a 22 day strike by the entire state civil servants between June and July, 2000.
On top of the list of trade unionists sacked and victimised is Ayodele Akele, the leader of the strike and chairman of the Council of Industrial Unions (COIU), the umbrella body of trade unions in the state public service. Others include 5 members of the union branch executive at Lagos State Electricity Board, 2 branch executives at Lagos State Development and Property Corporation, the state auditor of Amalgamated Union (AUPCTRE), among others.
The present Lagos State Government is notorious for its anti-working class policies. Since it came to power in May, 1999, it has reduced the state public service workforce by almost 50%. In its first massive retrenchment exercise, carried out in August, 1999, almost 10,000 workers lost their jobs. On 5th July, 2000, a worker, Adigun Popoola, who was a driver in the state Ministry of Works, was killed when armed policemen sent by the state government shot at a peaceful procession of the state civil servants at Alausa, Ikeja, during the strike for the N7,500 minimum wage.
NON-PAYMENT OF ENTITLEMENTS
To show the heartlessness and callousness of the Tinubu government, it has not paid those retrenched civil servants who had accepted their retirement or termination of the service with the state government. . Rather than paying the rightful dues of these workers, the government has been ejecting those living official quarters among them. In furtherance of these assaults on these retrenched workers, during the last May Day rally on 1st May, 2002, at Onikan Stadium in Lagos, pro-government thugs attacked the workers who had come to protest peacefully for the payment of their entitlements. A fifty-five year old retiree, Mrs. Desalu, was severely brutalised by these government thugs as a result of which she was hospitalised for weeks.
The CIU calls on trade unionists, workers, students, youth, human rights and community organisations world-wide to put pressure on the Lagos State Government to recall all the unjustly retrenched workers, stop the victimisation of trade union activists and pay all the gratuities and pensions of retirees and pensioners.
Okada Operators Demand End To Oppression By Tinubu Govt.
Governor Tinubu of Lagos State is at it again with his usual anti-poor, pro-rich policy. This time, he is carrying out an attack on the commercial motorcycle operators popularly called Okada riders by introducing a notorious and repressive edict.
The edict contains stringent and expensive conditionalities to be met before an Okada could be allowed to be used for commercial purpose in the state. The following are materials/document to be purchased by Okada operators:-
(1) Procurement of road worthiness renewable yearly N1,200
(2) Procurement of driving licence (rider’s licence) for Okada riders N3,000
(3) Provision of 2 crash helmet N1,500 each
(4) Provision of reflective jacket N1,000
(5) Procurement of hackney permit N300
(6) Personal identification cards.
Tinubu and his supporters claim that the edict is to reduce accidents involving okada riders. But in outlook and design, there is much to the edict than the position presented to the public by the state government. What has hackney permit, identification cards and rider�s licence got to do with safety of Okada passengers as claimed by Tinubu administration? Road-worthiness can only be meaningful if there are good roads, which are non-existent. In reality, the main purpose for this anti-poor policy is to raise money into the pockets of Tinubu government by exploiting Okada riders.
In fact, since the enforcement of the edict on August 1, 2002, there have been incessant and arbitrary arrests of Okada riders by the police in connivance with Lagos State government agents. Many motorcycles are being detained at Lagos state secretariat, Alausa and various police stations in the state while N200 is being charged daily as demurrage until the materials/document are procured. The edict has imposed enormous hardship on the okada riders, many of whom are just managing to survive.
In short, since the advent of Tinubu administration in the state in 1999, the poor masses have been faced with series of attack and anti-poor policies. Between 1999 and 2001, more than 15,000 civil servants were unjustly retrenched while their entitlements have not been paid. In government hospitals, it is boldly written that treatment is free but in reality, treatment is not free. Drugs and other materials are purchased by patients before treatment is given. The much advertised Tinubu good roads is just a political slogan, the deplorable conditions of most roads show that this is a government by deception.
Another Tinubu’s gimmick is the much popularised housing for all. Tinubu’s housing scheme for the masses is a mere propaganda as no poor can afford the least of which is put at N1.2 million. Furthermore, under the pretext of keeping Lagos clean, any breakdown vehicle along the road is made to pay a minimum fine of N4,500 by the traffic agency, LASTMA. Any argument or complain will attract a special fine, while N500 is charged daily as demurrage.
Okada riders are demanding:
* Immediate abrogation of the edict
* All motorcycles detained under the edict to be released
* All demurrage and fines collected must be refunded
* Adequate compensation for all motorcyclists detained or punished under the edict
* Rehabilitation of all deplorable roads in the state.
US: “Living Conditions In Decline”
The General Secretary of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Segun Sango, recently visited the United States. During the tour, he met several labour, youth and anti-globalisation activists and spoke on the situation in Nigeria and the African continent in general. In this interview with Demola Yaya, he narrated his experience during the tour.
Socialist Democracy (SD): The United States is the world’s dominant economy and now the sole super-power. What are the effects of these on the conditions of the American working class?
Sango: On the average, the quality of life of the US working class is generally higher than those of the working class of even Europe and most especially, the third world countries. This can be glimpsed from the type of housing, education, healthcare and general access to socio-services such as telephone and internet. For instance, almost every comrade I visited at home has a computer with full internet services. This, of course, is just an aspect of the condition of the US working class.
Beneath this seeming easy life lies a ruthless exploitation of most US workers. Compared with their forebears, the current generation of US working class suffers worse working condition. Most workers and youths spend their virtual lives barely struggling to be able to maintain their basic living standard. A typical feature of capitalism is most brazenly manifested in the US in an obscene manner. For example, 0.2% of household controls 40% of household wealth while 40% of household controls 0.2% of wealth. In a society where wealth is more equitably distributed, it should be possible to increase the present living standard of the American working class ten times while at the same time reduce the needless agonies and stress they have to go through under the prevailing unjust capitalist order.
SD: The 11th September, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US was an important turning point in the global political situation. The Bush administration and other world capitalist rulers have since launched a “war on terror”
in response to that event. A year after 11th September, what is the mood and attitude of various layers of US society to this issue, particularly with the determination of the Bush regime to wage war against Iraq?
Sango: The 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington was a major turning point in global politics. In one respect, the terrorist attack shows vividly how a good cause can be ruined by a wrong methodology. By attacking the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the organisers of the 9/11 calculated that they were striking at the heart of US imperialism. In reality, the overwhelming majority of the casualty of the attack were working class elements. On top of this, the US and capitalist leaders internationally have also capitalised on this counter- productive attack to further tightening the noose of political oppression against the world working class movement.
Capitalising on the revulsion of the working class people internationally, the Bush administration together with its counterparts internationally had in the wake of 9/11 attack, initiated or promulgated a wide range of legislation, all which variously seek to further derogate from the democratic rights of the working people. It was against this background that the Bush administration, with its imperialist allies, launched the war against Afghanistan.
The then prevailing atmosphere also contributed to discourage combative working class actions in defence of class interest. However, all these are beginning to change now. The clearest manifestation of this can be seen from the growing anti-war movement building up against the US planned war on Iraq. There have also been crucial industrial disputes and actions involving teachers, long shore men, firemen, etc in US. There is a growing awareness among the working class elements that waging a war on Iraq will only deepen the danger of terrorism, and far from eradicating it. Significant layers of anti-war elements are also demanding that the huge amount usually spent on instruments of mass destruction be invested in socially beneficial ventures.
SD: While you were in the US, an important labour dispute involving port workers on the western coast of the US took place and President Bush in fact had to invoke an anti-working class labour law, the Taft -Harley Act, to force the workers back to work. What is the situation in the US labour movement?
Sango: The situation within the US generally mirrors what is happening in labour movement internationally. It is a situation where virtually most labour leaders hold the believe that there is no alternative to the capitalist system. Most of the time, their efforts are always directed at proposals which only tend to resolve the problem of capitalism at the expense of the working class interest. Because of this, the consciousness of average working class elements lags behind their objective conditions even when compared with their European counterparts. Nonetheless, there are indications that more and more workers will be compelled to take actions in defence of their interest in the coming period with or without the enthusiastic backing of their official leaders.
That President Bush was forced to invoke an anti-workers act to enforce a temporary truce between the workers and the employers of the port sector is an indication of the restive mood and the fear of workers� potential power by the American ruling class.
SD: You also visited some university and college campuses. How is the student movement in the country?
Sango: As an organised political movement, the students’ movement in tertiary institutions does not exist in the US. Most students’ unions or organisations that I encountered were largely creations of the school authorities. This state of affair to me partially reflects the relative privileges of the students in the past period. Things are beginning to change now. A greater number of students now have to take up employment in order to sustain themselves in school. More and more students are beginning to grumble about the growing nature of school fees with a lot graduating with huge debts.
In a few of the universities that I visited, comrades of our sister organisation, the Socialist Alternative (US section of CWI) were beginning to build campaign for ‘Tuition Free Education’. The more this kind of struggle goes, the higher the chances of having independent and politically active student movements developing in US schools.
SD: What level of awareness and interest about events and issues in Africa did you observe during the visit?
Sango: There were lots of keen interest shown by workers and students about happenings in Africa and events in the world but as usual, very little meaningful report can be found in bourgeois or capitalist press. For this reason, awareness of the comprehensive situation in Africa and the rest of the world is usually low.
SD: What are the role of socialist activists in the US and the challenges they face having to work in the world’s most dominant capitalist nation?
Sango: As I indicated earlier, the living condition of the working class element in the US is not as desperate as those of their counterparts in Africa and most of the Third World countries. Of course, within the framework of the available wealth within the US society, the conditions of the workers can be greatly improved than what entails at the moment. However, against the worldwide right wing shift in the post Stalinist era, most workers and youth are forced to accept their conditions under the false notion that there is no alternative to the inequities of capitalism. Operating in this kind of environment, the socialists in the US and the advanced capitalist countries in general are waging a very difficult battle at this stage.
Here in Nigeria for instance, the evidence of utter failure of capitalism daily steers you in the face. In the US, a significant majority of the working class are able to afford certain degree of decent living standard which encourages, in the absence of a revolutionary alternative, a false notion that capitalism is not incurably bad. But as these relative conditions and living standard come under greater attacks and onslaughts of the capitalist sharks, anti-capitalist consciousness will become a greater phenomenon and in the same ratio, the activities of socialist activists will become more rewarded. The various anti-global capitalist protests which started in Seattle in 1999, the growing opposition to the US imperialist proposed war on Iraq, etc. are pointers of the more objective favourable situation which could develop in the coming period.
SD: Most of Nigerian youth will want to go to US by any means, what are the conditions of life for the immigrants in US?
Sango: Contrary to the false impression that regards immigration to the US as automatic solution to problem of poverty, life for most immigrants to the US is to say the least, very difficult. Most of the time, most of these immigrants have to keep a minimum of two highly exploitative but poorly paid jobs to make ends meet. A significant layer of them live in worse accommodation than they left behind in Nigeria. Of course, if any immigrant is able to save and bring back to Nigeria a sizeable amount, then, such immigrant can hope to live a semi-decent life in Nigeria. But, there are two problems always mitigating against this scenario. One, it is always difficult, if not totally impossible to acquire a sizeable fortune outside day to day expenditure and maintenance given the kind of jobs which most of these immigrants are forced to do. Secondly, the intractable nature of the economic crisis in Nigeria also means that little or no honest business can thrive. Thus, there exists very little chance that these immigrants can be able to voluntarily come back to Nigeria and hope to work and live in peace. Meanwhile, they remain a largely alienated and unintegrated lot in the US. Except there is a social change in both Nigeria and the US, they will remain trapped in their forced exile.
No To Bush�s War Against Iraq
For Working Class Actions To Remove Saddam Dictatorship
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), the Nigerian affiliate of the Committee for a Workers� International (CWI), calls on the Nigerian working people and youth to oppose the planned military action by the US and its allies aimed at overthrowing the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.
Political Violence, Election Rigging …
Only The Masses Can Save Civil Rule
Socialist Democracy Nov – Dec 2002 Continued … | Back
No To Bush�s War Against Iraq
For Working Class Actions To Remove Saddam Dictatorship
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), the Nigerian affiliate of the Committee for a Workers� International (CWI), calls on the Nigerian working people and youth to oppose the planned military action by the US and its allies aimed at overthrowing the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.
Of course as socialists, we are opposed to the dictatorial and repressive regime of Saddam Hussein and we call for its removal. But this is the duty of the working class in Iraq, with the support of the international workers� movement, and not that of Bush and US imperialism.
And contrary to Bush�s propaganda, this war will not bring any greater peace or security to the world. Instead, it will exacerbate tension and conflicts in the Middle East and globally and inflict unprecedented terrible suffering on the Iraqi people.
In 1991, US and allied forces had waged a war against Iraq over its invasion of oil-rich Kuwait on one hand and its refusal to allow in UN weapon inspectors to inspect and assess its alleged programme of production of weapons of mass destruction. Subsequent bombings of Iraq together with US inspired UN sanctions have had a devastating consequence on its economy and people. About 6,000 Iraq children die monthly of starvation and illness as a result of lack of drugs caused by UN sanctions. Its GDP per head has dropped from US $3,000 to $715 while at least half of the adult males are unemployed and the middle class is almost wiped off. In essence, the victims of the war and sanctions have been Iraqi people, many of who live from hand to mouth. Despite all these, Saddam, with his repressive state machine, has kept a tight grip on power.
President Bush addressed the United Nations� General Assembly 57th session on 12th September, 2002, to build a case for military action against Iraq. According to him, the UN must prevail on Saddam to allow in UN weapons inspectors into his country, otherwise military action by the US will become inevitable. Saddam, he said, is a threat to �civilisation.�
US� REAL REASON
Just like in the 1991 Gulf War, the main reason for US� planned military action is the protection of its oil and strategic interests in the Middle East. According to Bush administration, Saddam is “developing weapons of mass destruction which is a strategic threat to its interests in the region, to US allies in the Arab world and to Israel”. The Middle East has two-thirds of world oil reserves which is vital and indispensable to world capitalist economy.
It is worth explaining that it was US imperialism, in order to protect its strategic interest in the Gulf region, that actually created Saddam. It armed and backed him in his one-decade war against the Islamic regime that came to power in Iran in 1979 and which the US perceived to be antagonistic to its interest. During that period, the US turned blind eyes to the massacres of ethnic minority Kurds and other heinous atrocities which the Saddam regime committed. It felled out with him and he became a bad lad only when he threatened its oil interest in the Gulf by invading Kuwait in 1990. Thus, the goal of the military action by the present Bush (Junior) regime is to carry through the unfinished matter of the 1991 Gulf War – to overthrow Saddam and replace him with a pliable, pro-western leadership.
In the same manner, Osama bin Laden, who is alleged by US imperialism of masterminding the 11th September, 2001 terrorist attack in the US was actually armed and financed by US imperialism to organise Islamic based guerrilla groups � the Mujahideens � to wage war against the then Soviet Union � backed regime in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1988.
The hypocrisy of US imperialism and Bush could be seen in the fact that all its allies in the Arab Middle East like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and even Egypt are dictatorial regimes where the democratic rights of workers and women to organise or express themselves are suppressed. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are feudal monarchies run by super-rich royal families and sheiks, and overwhelming majority of their populations have no voting right and little or no say in the management of the affairs of society. Yet the US ruling class sees nothing wrong with these tyrannical regimes. In fact, US provides them economic or military support or both.
So, this is not a war for �civilisation�. Rather, the goal of Bush and his allies is to establish a pro-western, pro-imperialist regime in Baghdad which can safeguard the interests of US and imperialism in the region.
Also, US imperialism is trying to reassert its prestige which was dented by the 11th September attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagons. It is in this context that Bush�s tirades against the so-called �axis of evil� � Iraq, Iran and North Korea � must be understood.
CONSEQUENCES OF WAR
The determination of Bush, Blair and company to extend the �war on terror� to Iraq is facing mounting opposition worldwide, including in Europe and the US. This is because of the unpredictable, very risky and horrible consequences which military actions would have not only on Iraq but also the Middle East and the entire world.
Firstly, any military action would further worsen the plight of the Iraqi masses whose lives are already devastated by wars and a decade of UN sanctions. Hunger and diseases will swell, leading to the death of possibly tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis. As usual, the major victims will be innocent working people, unarmed and defenceless children, women and men.
Secondly, unlike Afghanistan where the Talibans had a weak social base and were relatively politically and militarily feeble, a US-led military invasion of Iraq could meet formidable resistance. While it is true that both militarily and in terms of social situation, Iraq is weaker than what it was before 1991-92, should Saddam�s Republican Guard and regular army divisions decide to defend the regime, then a protracted war would ensue. It is estimated that US and its allies will need to deploy between 250,000 and 300,000 personnel to win an armed conflict and occupy Iraq with a minimum of 10,000 Iraqi civilians being killed in such a conflict.
Thirdly, while there is no exact estimation of chemical and biological weapons in the possession of Saddam, if he realises the seriousness of his regime being removed and his being killed, he could decide to use these weapons as a fight back with all the horrific consequences on Iraq, Middle East and the rest of humanity.
The situation in Iraq is further compounded by the absence of any viable or credible opposition with some level of support in society that could be a stable replacement for an overthrown Saddam regime. The pro-western opposition Iraqi National Congress is renown for corruption and comprises of generals who had themselves in the past participated in Saddam�s dastardly suppression of opposition to his regime. The likely implication of this is that the country would be plunged into a bloody civil war, with possible break-up, given the national questions of the minority Kurds and Shiites in northern and southern Iraq respectively.
Therefore, like in Afghanistan, military actions by Bush and imperialism would not resolve the problems facing Iraqi society and masses.
It is true that in Afghanistan, President Bush succeeded in dislodging the Talibans. But the aim of capturing bin Laden “dead or alive” and smashing of al-Qa�ida network are yet to be accomplished. Ethnic and tribal divisions, rule by local warlords and military conflicts still persist. On 5th September, 2002, US-backed President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan narrowly escaped an attempt on his life when gunmen fired into his car in Kandahar. The Karzai regime, like the Taliban, practises sharia law claimed by the US ruling class to be a bit �liberal� than the latter�s. As against the Talibans that used to display hanged people publicly for four days, Karzai regime hangs them for 15 minutes. Death sentence for adultery for both men and women is still in force while poverty and misery continue to be the lot of the Afghan masses.
Furthermore, a military action would further destabilise the Middle East already tension-soaked as a result of the endemic Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A US attack will be met with mass protests in the Middle East and in the muslim world where there are already mass disenchantment against the US support for the suppression of the aspirations and struggles of Palestinians for an independent state by the Israeli ruling class. Over a million Palestinian masses are compelled to live in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip under virtual Israeli military occupation and economic blockade. The Palestinian and Arab masses are aware that the US is the strongest political and military ally of the Israeli ruling class, subsidising the Israeli state machine to the tune of billions of dollars annually. In the event of military action against Iraq, support for right-wing Islamic fundamentalist groups, suicide bombings and other terrorist acts will grow among Arab and muslim youth worldwide. Like he did in 1990/91, Saddam could also attack Israel in order to get the support of Arab masses, and any retaliation by Israel could plunge the entire region into an open war.
It is against the above background that we in the DSM call on the working people and youth to oppose the declaration of war by the US government and its allies against Iraq. Even if Bush and company succeed in overthrowing the Saddam regime, this will not create stability or prosperity for the masses of the region or eradicate dictatorship and terrorism which are rooted in the unresolved national and social conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Rather than backing Bush�s warmongering, the working people the world over should give political and material support and solidarity to the Iraqi masses in their struggle to throw off the yoke of Saddam Hussein. While this approach may not yield immediate result, it is the only one that can pave way for the genuine and lasting liberation of the Iraqi masses from Saddam and other potential local and foreign oppressors.
Also, more than any thing, the looming war in Iraq and the Middle East with the possible use of murderous biological, chemical and even nuclear weapons once again reveals the inherent inability of global capitalist system to guarantee stability and peace in the world. The hundreds of billions of dollars annual defence budgets of the US and other world powers are not to ensure global security but to defend the greedy, profit interests of capitalism and imperialism internationally.
The 11th September terrorist attacks has even been used by the US ruling class to develop a new “nuclear doctrine” of “pre-emptive tactical nuclear strike” against potential �terrorist states�. This means that, unlike before, the US is now prepared to develop and use biological and nuclear weapons against so-called “rogue states” like Iraq, Iran and North Korea, to deter them from using same against US or its allies. It should also be noted that despite arms agreement between US and Russia to reduce nuclear warheads from between 6,000 � 7,000 to between 1,700 – 2,200, both sides still possess an obscene nuclear arsenal capable of destroying humanity many times over.
Over a decade ago, following the collapse of the planned but bureaucratically mismanaged economies of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the world capitalist leaders proclaimed the victory of their system. The then US president, George Bush (senior) proclaimed the dawn of a “New World Order” in which the capitalist market, and the US as the sole superpower, will guarantee prosperity and peace for the world population.
But instead of the capitalist paradise promised by Bush and other capitalist leaders, the past one decade has witnessed increased poverty, homelessness, diseases, destitution and environmental pollution among the working people across the world. This is as a result of attacks by multinational corporations on workers jobs and wages, deregulation, liberalisation and the privatisation of public assets and commercialisation of social services by capitalist governments in the mad drive to increase the profit and wealth of the super rich minority at the expense of the overwhelming majority, the impoverished masses. The end result is the creation of an unprecedented and widening gap between the rich and the poor in nearly all countries.
It is this gross inequality and injustice being perpetrated by capitalism and imperialism worldwide that has created fertile soil for the resurgence of nationalism, racism, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, dictatorship and political instability in many parts of the world.
Thus, rather than supporting the futile war being waged by the US and its capitalist allies against terrorism, what the working people should struggle for is the overthrow of the unjust and exploitative capitalist system which breeds dictatorship like Saddam�s, terrorism, insecurity, and instability. In its place, the working masses would need to establish a democratic socialist system in which the real needs and aspirations of the larger society and not wealth for a few will form the basis of production, the economy and government.
This means that in US, Nigeria and other countries, the working people should struggle to put in power socialist workers� governments based on the public ownership of industry, banking, mining and other key sectors of the economy with the democratic control and management of the economy and society by the working people in order to avert the bureaucratisation which led to the failure of the planned economies of the defunct Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. In the particular case of Middle East, the Israeli and Arab masses have to struggle for an end to Israeli and Arab capitalism and the creation of a socialist Israel alongside an independent socialist Palestine and for a socialist confederation of the Middle East as part of a world socialist federation.
Therefore, the most important task for labour and youth activists in the US, Nigeria and other countries at the present period is the building of independent political parties of the working people to defend the working masses from capitalist attacks and to lead the struggle for socialist transformation of society.
It is through this arrangement that world�s resources which are being presently monopolised and pocketed by a rich minority can be made available to provide food, housing, education, health and other basic needs for all. This would provide a lasting basis for the eradication of the root causes of frustration, crimes, ethnic and religious conflicts, terrorism and wars.
No To War And Terrorism,
Fight For International Socialism
On 12th October, a terrorist attack in a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia, led to the death of over 200, mostly young people. The incident took place about a month after the first anniversary of the 11th September, 2001 attack in the US. As the Committee for Workers International (CWI, the international socialist organisation to which DSM is affiliated) explains in this statement, the Bali bombing again shows the reactionary character of those behind these terrorist attacks as well as the hypocrisy and futility of the so-called ��war on terror” being waged by Bush and the other world capitalist powers.
The terrifying carnage which ripped through the Sari nightclub at Kuta beach in Bali, Indonesia, has shocked working people and youth internationally. Hundreds have been left maimed and injured as the death toll rose to nearly 200 (at the time of writing) during Saturday night and Sunday. Amongst the dead were young people from Britain, Canada, Germany, Indonesia and especially from Australia.
Bali is to Australian youth what the Spanish Costa del Sol is to some British workers and is accessible to them as a cheap holiday resort. The bombings took place during the beginning of the Australian summer period. Inevitably, therefore, the victims of these bombings were completely innocent young people largely from working class families who were simply trying to have a good time and enjoy the summer holiday.
The CWI and socialists condemn these bombings and the use of such terrorist methods. In the most brutal manner they illustrate how the barbarism, turmoil and conflict of modern capitalism encroach into the lives of people, even when they try to get some respite from the ravages of the capitalist world on a summer holiday. The consequences of the attacks on 11th of September had previously been seen as somewhat remote in Australia. These horrific bombing illustrate how the consequences of those events are now being felt in area of the world.
OPPOSE ‘TERRORIST’ ATTACKS
Socialists support the mass mobilisation of working people to fight against exploitation, capitalism and imperialism. Marxists have never supported the use of terrorism by small groups or individuals to fight against the ruling class or the capitalist system. Such methods have always been counter productive and acted against the interests of the working class.
In the past, for example in the struggle against the Czarist regime in Russia in the 19th and early years of the 20th century, some groups used the methods of individual terrorism shooting a general or other representative of the Czarist regime. Such methods did not advance the struggle of the workers and peasants against Czarism and landlordism or capitalism. They were used by the ruling class as an excuse,to introduce further state repression against the working class. They also hindered the development of a collective understanding that mass action was necessary to overthrow landlordism and capitalism.
However, at least such actions were directed against specific targets associated with the repressive regime which existed at the time.
The bombings in Bali, and other incidents, are indiscriminate attacks whose main victims are working people.
Two questions arise following the harrowing scenes which flashed onto the television screens around the world over the weekend: Who carried out the bombings and why?
The bombings were probably carried out by a right-wing Muslim fundamentalist group, possibly with links to the al-Qa’ida network. In the Muslim countries of the neo-colonial world such groups have been able to feed on the rising sentiment of anti-western and, in particular, anti-US sentiment.
This has grown along with the massive increase in poverty in these countries, increased exploitation by the western imperialist powers, the conflict between Israel and Palestine and the threat of an attack on Iraq.
This has resulted in a growing perception that the ‘Christian west’ is attempting to take control of the Muslim world for its strategic and economic interests. In reality the ‘Christian’ capitalist class of the west have been prepared to collaborate with Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish allies, and others, who defend landlordism and capitalism and the strategic and economic interests of the ruling class.
Almost simultaneously as two bombs were detonated at Kuta, a third exploded at the US consulate in nearby Denpasar.
Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world. Right-wing fundamentalist groups such as Jamaah Islamiya (JI), which is reported to have links with al-Qa’ida, have built a certain influence because of the mass poverty, desperation and anti-western and anti-US imperialist sentiment which exists.
This is because of the failure of the Communist Party, PKI, historically. This was the most powerful ‘Communist Party’ outside of the former Soviet Union and China. Despite this mass influence of this party it failed to take power. As a consequence the working class and oppressed suffered brutal repression under the Suharto dictatorship which seized power in 1966. The failure to take power and subsequently to lead a sustained struggle in the underground opened the way for fundamentalist forces to intervene in the vacuum which has opened up.
A night-club, on an island with a Hindu majority, associated with western ‘immorality, sex and alcohol’, would be an ‘acceptable target’ for such groups as JI. Palestinian fundamentalist suicide bombers have also wrongly hit similar targets in Israel.
These attacks follow a series of recent incidents, including the shooting of a US soldier in Kuwait, the killing of 11 French submarine technicians in Karachi and the suicide bombing of the French oil tanker Limburg off the coast of Yemen.
The attacks on French targets are in retaliation for the initial backing the French ruling class gave to Bush and his ‘war on terrorism’.
The attacks in Bali are likely to have been directed at Australia because of the tough ‘pro-Bush’ line adopted by Australian Prime Minister John Howard. After signing up to the ‘war on terrorism’ within 24 hours of the September 11th attacks, Australian special forces have been operating with American troops in Afghanistan.
These horrific bombings are an anticipation of further attacks in the future, particularly against ‘targets’ from countries whose ruling class is openly backing Bush. These are certain to increase if the Bush administration invades Iraq. British targets, because of Blair’s role internationally, must be high on the list of likely targets.
These bombings indicate the turmoil that capitalism is unleashing internationally. As the commentator Robert Fisk pointed out: “Bali only emphasises what the past year should have taught us: that individual innocence no longer protects us, that we are living whether we know it or not in a terrifying new age.” (The Independent, 14 October 2002).
The carnage of the bombings in Bali poses the question of why such horrors are now taking place. They are a condemnation of capitalism and imperialism. The massive increase in poverty, the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor that has accelerated with globalisation have created the social conditions that give rise to such attacks. As the British daily ‘The Independent’ puts it: ‘Unless there is more justice in the world, Bali will be repeated’.
However, what The Independent does not explain is that capitalism cannot eliminate injustice which is weaved into its fabric as a system. The developing international economic recession will result in greater poverty and attacks on the living standards of the mass of the population, in particular in neo-colonia countries such as Indonesia.
The leaders of the capitalist world weep crocodile tears at the fate of the youth who were killed and maimed in Bali. However, they remain silent about the slaughter and human misery they and their system are responsible for. More than 10,000 tonnes of bombs have been dropped on Afghanistan since September 11th. This is more than half of what fell on London during the Blitz of the Second World War. US air raids in Afghanistan have killed between 3,100 and 3,600 people according to ‘Global Exchange’ and Professor Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire!
The promised aid to pay for reconstruction has not materialised. The World Bank estimated that US$16 billion was needed to rebuild the Afghan economy over the next decade. So far of the US$5billion pledged in aid only US$45 million has arrived. Of the $US 1.8 billion due to be spent on reconstruction in the first twelve months following the fall of the Taliban, most has gone on financing the UN and other aid agency’s bureaucracies. The average cost of maintaining a foreign UN worker in Afghanistan for a year is $US250,000!
The Christian fundamentalist dominated Bush administration, in alliance with Jewish fundamentalists in the US and Israel and the British Christian fundamentalist, Tony Blair, may try and use the Bali bombings as further justification to invade Iraq. They have provided no evidence, despite Rumsfeld’s claim to the contrary, that the Iraqi regime is linked to al-Qa’ida. A key element in the drive to launch an occupation of Iraq is oil and the need for US imperialism to secure new oil supplies and reserves, especially because of the unstable situation which exists in Saudia Arabia.
Should they go ahead with this invasion, it will unleash massive social and political turmoil in the Middle East. Anti-western, especially anti-US, sentiment would be enormously strengthened internationally. The recent attacks on US soldiers in Kuwait, one of the most pro-western of the Gulf States, is a warning of the explosive situation which will develop. The bombings in Bali may widen the division amongst the ruling class about launching an attack on Iraq.
The hardliners in the Bush administration are using the bombing to try and strengthen their campaign in favour of an attack on Iraq. The more far-sighted representatives of capitalism are increasingly doubtful that this strategy is in their best interests. As the British Financial Times commented in its editorial following the Bali bombings: “The threat of an attack on Iraq by the US and its allies is likely to fuel the growing support for extremists in Pakistan and elsewhere in southern Asia…This raises difficult questions for President George W. Bush as he considers the next steps in the war against terrorism.”
Moreover, in the US itself, and internationally, if the US ruling class goes to war against Iraq, it will do so with growing mass opposition to the war before it has even begun! Despite the bombing in Bali 35,000 marched in an anti-war rally in Melbourne Australia and observed one-minute silence to remember those killed in the bombings. This, according to some reports, is the largest anti-war rally in Melbourne since the Vietnam war. There is growing opposition to the war amongst the US population.
Bush, Blair and Howard and, ultimately, their system will be blamed for the carnage that a war on Iraq and any further terrorist attacks that will inevitably arise from it.
These events illustrate the need to build a mass socialist alternative to capitalism and imperialism amongst working people internationally. It is only the building of socialism internationally that will eliminate the social conditions that spore ‘terrorist’ groups and allow them to operate. It is only by building a mass socialist alternative that it will be possible to unite the working peoples of the world in a struggle to confront capitalism and imperialism.
*No to Terrorism and War!
*Fight Imperialist attempts to attack Iraq and unleash terror on the Iraqi and Palestinian People.
* Fight for a Mass Socialist Alternative to Capitalism and Imperialism.
CWI analysis, 14 October,2002
OAU STUDENTS TO FIGHT FEE INCREMENT
The authorities of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife have perfected plans to increase school fees come next session. The proposed charges are N4,500 for returning under-graduates and N 9,500 for fresh students. This is about 900% increment. The returning undergraduates paid N590, while fresh students N1,140 last session. The charges include accommodation and various charges for registration, including what the authorities call “admission acceptance fee”.
The students and the students’ union have vowed to vehemently resist such unjustified, obnoxious, anti-poor, pro-rich increment. This is because several students will be forced to drop out of school as a result of their inability to pay these hiked fees, thereby making education the exclusive right of the privilege rich few. And this will invariably add to the problems of shortage of skilled labour, underdevelopment, crimes and destitution plaguing the country.
The university authorities say the increment has become inevitable due to under-funding of the university by the government. It is a true that the education sector, like most social sectors like health, housing, etc, is grossly under-funded.
This problem has become aggravated as a result of the neo-liberal capitalist policies of the ruling class e.g. privatisation, commercialisation, deregulation, cuts in social spendings and all other neo-liberal polices which had been implemented by successive administrations and has been continued by the present Obasanjo government. For instance, a meager 5.4% of this year’s annual budget is allocated to the educational sector. This is even below the UNESCO recommendation that each government should allocate at least 26% of her annual budget to education. The solution to this problem, however, is for students and the labour movement, to fight for increased and adequate funding.
Also, the problem is compounded by misplaced priorities and mismanagement of funds by school managements. For instance, the OAU authorities recently bought 4 Peugeot 406 saloon cars, which amounts to N17m from the meager resources of the university. Equally, sources available to us revealed that 14 Peugeot 505 cars have been ordered for the 14 deans of our 14 faculties at the rate of N4m each which totals to N56m. Whereas the university authorities claimed to have spent N19m last session to renovate the halls of residence with very little to show for it. Out of the N15m anti-cultism grant given to all university in Nigeria just after the July 10 1999 incident on our campus, the only thing visible from such grant on our campus is the billboard placed in 3 locations on our campus. During the Ife-Modakeke fratricidal war, the government gave the university N100m for the building of a hostel; up till date, none has been built neither are we aware of what has become of the money.
We demand total reversal of the proposed hike in fees. To adequately fund education and other social services, the labour and youth movement must demand common ownership of the key sectors of the economy and the country’s resources which are presently owned and monopolised by multi-national corporations and their local capitalist agents. We must also fight for democratic management of all educational institutions with elected representatives of all interest groups within the sector, including student and staff unions in all decision-making organs. This is the only solution to the crisis facing the education sector.
REINSTATE THE AKUNGBA 19
The spate of state attack on the educational sector and students has unfortunately continued unabated like during the military despotic era.
Among the latest cases is Adekunle Ajasin University (AAU), Akungba Akoko, an Ondo State Government owned university, where axe has been dangled on ten (10) students union executives and nine (9) other student activists for leading a peaceful protest against the appalling state of infrastructure on campus. Eighteen of the students were rusticated for two semesters and one diploma student expelled.
The students had embarked on a peaceful protest in April, 2002 to demand for improvement of infrastructures on campus through the provision of standard lecture rooms (as against the classrooms meant for over 7,000 students), a modern library (as against an eye sour room that cannot contain more than fifty students called library), adequate offices for lecturers (as against an embarrassing situation where 8-9 lecturers stay in one common room), toilet and recreational facilities (as against the present practise of students even lecturers going to the bush to ease themselves) and accommodation and telecommunication, amidst many other demands.
This protest led to the closure of the institution by Governor Adefarati for almost six months. Some of the demands are now being minimally and gradually met, but those who fought for these improved facilities have been made sacrificial lambs.
Also, the authorities have continued to attack students through impositions of N1,000 and N5,000 reparation fee on all the students and the rusticated one respectively, increment in school fees (arrears) which now leaves average students to be paying almost N16,000, dissolution of the students union, harassment and assault on students by policemen and security men, and banning of religious and other students activities on campus.
The intervention of the NANS Zone D via meeting with the management has not fundamentally been fruitful due to the vindictive and recalcitrant posture of the management under the vice-chancellorship of Prof. Akere and that of the state government who have reduced the institution to their personal property.
We are calling on Nigerian students, workers, labour and students’ unions to send protest letters to the vice-chancellor, AAU, Akungba Akoko and the Ondo State governor, calling for the immediate reinstatement of Ojuri Iranlowo (students’ union president) and eighteen others and an end to all attacks on the students.
The NANS Zone D calls on you to join us at a rally at AAU, Akungba Akoko on November 11th, 2002 as we mark the 7th year remembrance of Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa and the other eight Ogonis who were brutally murdered by the late despot, Gen. Sani Abacha, on November 10th, 1995.
July 10 Cult Attack At OAU:
A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE
The three members of the “killers squad”, Black Axe cult group, Efosa Idahosa, Kazeem Bello, Emeka Ogwuaju standing trial since 1999 over the gruesome murder of five students of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife on July 10 1999 were discharged and acquitted on Tuesday 29th October, 2002 by Justice Rabiu Yusuff of the State High Court, Iwo, Osun State. The victims were George ‘Yemi Iwilade (Afrika), the general secretary of the students’ union, Tunde Oke (Sabo), a member of DSM, Efe Ekede, Eviano Ekelemu and Yemi Ajiteru. The presiding judge claimed to have based the ruling on the alleged inability of the prosecution to establish any case against the accused persons.
The students’ union of OAU Ile-Ife in its reaction to the judgement through a release signed by Akinwunmi Olawoyin and Fadugba ‘Dayo, the president and PRO respectively, saw it as a flagrant perversion of justice. They dismissed the ground of the judgement as baseless and unacceptable. According to them: “
Our union was able to make available useful evidences supported with strength of logic and indisputable facts”. Thus, they strongly suspected foul play in the process. “
It would not be out of place to for us to conclude that there was an unholy alliance among the judiciary, the prosecution and the accused more so in Nigeria where the judiciary, like every other arms of the government, is riddled with corrupt practices as evident in the recently released white paper on the reports of Kayode Eso and Bolarinwa Babalakin’s Panels. Therefore, the judgement is unacceptable to us as well as the people of good conscience”., the students� union stated.
The ground of the judgement diametrically contradicts the report of Okoi Itam Judicial Panel of Enquiry set up to investigate the July 10 killings. The report whose government white paper is yet to be released almost after three years, strongly suspects the involvement of the three released gangsters in the massacre. The panel further recommends immediate arrest of those that are at large among the culprits. The police has made no effort to track down these cultists.
However, one should not be surprised by the obnoxious ruling given the fact that the ruling class, as a rule, cannot easily sacrifice any of its own to satisfy the oppressed. In this case on recalls the Okoi Itam Panel which cleared the former vice-chacellor, Wale Omole of any culpability in the carnage in spite of massive evidence and incontrovertible facts to the contrary.
As equally stated by the union, this judgement is not unprecedented. In March 1999 an Ile-Ife Magistrate Court discharged and acquitted some members of the Black Axe cult group: Larry Obichei, IK Imordi, Kanmi Ogundipe, etc. Who were apprehended with arms and ammunition that included AK 47 riffle with 58 rounds of ammunition by Great Ife students led by late George Iwilade (Afrika), similarly for want of evidence! This was done with active connivance of the then disgraced despotic vice chancellor of the institution, Professor Wale Omole who had resorted to the use of the cult gangsters, as confessed by the latter, as the means of repression against the student activists who constantly oppose his anti-student regime and financial recklessness after other repressive measures failed to achieve their objectives. These cultists, emboldened by the ruling of March and the patronage of Wale Omole, took part in the carnage of July 10,1 999.
The implication of this Tuesday 29th October, 2002 judgement could be as grievous as that of the previous one mentioned above. The judgement would be a source of encouragement to the cult gangsters who would now swagger with stout confidence that they can commit any offence, no matter how heinous, with impunity.
The failure of the government to bring to book the culprits of the July 10 massacre has exposed the insincerity of its much-touted crusade against the menace. The OAU students’ union is demanding that the government should appeal against the judgement. It must not be forgotten however that the top brass in the government and wealthy people are the parents, sponsors and patrons of the cultists on our campuses. Thus nobody should have illusion that this demand would be met readily by government.
Thus, Nigerian students particularly the OAU students� union and NANS, labour movement and human rights organisations etc, should mount serious pressure on the government appeal the judgement. It is a fact that July 10 was a watershed in the annals of the menace of campus gangsterism and resistance against it. It was the spirited fight-back by the students of OAU, Great Ife, and the solidarity from other students� unions and workers, which prevented the ugly incident from being thrown into the trash bin of history as it used to be the case. To curb cultism on the campuses will continue to depend primarily on mass mobilisation of students and other members of the university community and the labour movement against these violent pro-authority gangsters.
U.I STUDENTS� RIGHTS STILL ENDANGERED
Student Activists victimised/persecuted
Students� unionism strangulated
At the University of Ibadan (UI), there is a renewed wave of attacks on students rights to education, independent students’ unionism, freedom of thought and opinion, and aggressive programme of victimisation and persecution of student activists leading students defence of these rights, by the university management under the leadership of the ultra-right, dictatorial vice-chancellor, Prof. Ayodele Falase. The most recent of these attacks on the student body being the commercialisation of the student hostels, with the introduction of a so-called ‘hall maintenance fee’, ranging from N3,500 to N20,000 (for undergraduates and post graduates); the continuous strangulation of the students’ union and its activities by the university management, and most significantly, the rustication of Lawal Ibrahim, 400L Law student and ex-speaker of the students’ union on 14th May, 2002 and another student activist, Ali M. Ayodeji on 15th May, for a host of spurious and frivolous allegations ranging from what the authorities call acts of “gross misconduct” to “participation in illegal student demonstration” and/or
��holding, together with some other students, an illegal meeting at the students’ union building”.
Apart from the two student activists who have been rusticated and expelled, a host of others including Alayande Stephen (incumbent co-ordinator of NANS Zone D) and Adeosun Ola, speaker of the embattled students’ union have also been pencilled down for victimisation, having been invited to the quisling Student Disciplinary Committee (SDC). The president of the students’ union, Lawal Akeem, was not allowed to register for the session just concluded (2001/2002) despite not having been found guilty of any offence, except perhaps the bruising of the ego of the vice-chancellor.
The present spate of victimisation of student activists and perpetuation of other anti-student, anti-poor and dictatorial policies by the UI administration is traceable to a bold and courageous attempt made by the present generation of student activist at the UI to wrestle the students’ union from the domination of the university authorities to entrench independent democratic students’ unionism devoid of undue authority intervention and manipulation, and to utilise same platform to defend the student body against education commercialisation trend, victimisation of student activists, authority high-handedness, cultism and other anti-social acts, and other basic rights of students. On 29th November, 2000, the students’ union election for 2000/2001 session was conducted in accordance with the provisions of the new students’ union constitution reviewed by the student representatives council and adopted by the student congress.
The decision by the students to go ahead with the elections on the basis of the new students’ union constitution, which confers autonomy and independence on the students’ union, ran contrary to the wishes and desire and in fact, bruised the ego of the new university administration of Prof. Ayodele Falase, who had desired a return to the ignoble days when the authorities dominated running of the affairs of the students’ union including the conduct of students’ union elections, a position the authorities usually employ to prevent radical students from partaking in students’ union elections and to ensure that the students’ union remains the alter ego of the university management.
Having failed in all its attempt to prevent the students from independently organising the students’ union elections of November 2000, the Prof. Falase led UI authorities launched a deliberate and aggressive programme of legal, political and administrative sanction against the students’ union, then under the new leadership of Lawal Akeem (president) and Wale Eleto (General secretary,), including a fabulous campaign of lies, deceits and calumny. Not able to subdue the new union leadership politically due to the mass support of the students, the university management filed an application first at the Oyo State High Court seeking the court to declare the said union elections illegal and to perpetually restrain the officers from acting as duly elected officers of the students.
In desperation however, it could not even wait for the outcome of the court judgement before it issued a fiat suspension order on the entire leadership of the union and all other students who had contested or served in the union electoral commission. In all, a total of 43 students, including those presently being persecuted, were suspended from their academic programmes. This decision was later reversed by the Oyo State High Court. After its failed attempt at the state high court, the university management finally secured a judgement of the federal High court, Ibadan, retraining the elected officers of the union from acting as such pending the outcome of a substantive suit seeking to perpetually declare the elections illegal. A judgement the students proceeded to appeal against at the Court of Appeal in Ibadan. Ruling on the students’ appeal has been fixed for December 4, 2002.
RENEWED WAVE OF ATTACKS
Despite the continuous attacks and persecution however, and regardless of the general state of reaction in terms of political consciousness among the student body, occasioned by the prolonged battle, the leading student activists on the campus including Lawal Ibrahim, Alim Ayodeji, Alayande Stephen, Adeosun F.A., Lawal Akeem, etc have continued to organise and mobilise the student population around the primary issues of independent unionism, freedom to hold and express different opinions on issues, opposition to education commercialisation, academic sadism, authority high-handedness, opposition to cultism and associated social menace, among others.
When at the beginning of the 2001/2002 academic session just concluded, the authorities unfolded their anti-poor plan to commercialise the student hostels and increase some other fees payable on campus, a major reason for their long-drawn persecution of the students’ union, the student activists rallied the students around the “Joint Action Committee” of the students’ union to campaign against these policies of the UI authorities. Although no major gains were recorded in terms of outright cancellation or reduction in the fees being campaigned against, the efforts of the said student leaders, coming after such a prolonged battle with many victims already recorded no doubt helped to rebuild consciousness and confidence in the ability of the students to fight back against future attacks on their basic rights. This latest effrontery by the student activists is the cause of the renewed spate of victimisation/and persecution.
The students have however expressed their preparedness to wage legal and political campaign against these dictatorial recalcitrance of the Prof. Falase .
The DSM once again condemns all the aforementioned undemocratic, anti-student and uncivilised activities of the UI authorities. We express our unrelenting solidarity with the cause of the student activists and the entire student body. Consequently, we call on the students to remain steadfast in the struggle to secure and protect the independence of their union; the reinstatement of the politically victimised activists and the struggle against the education commercialisation trend which the UI authorities is implementing in accordance with the dictates of the education commercialisation policy of the Obasanjo capitalist government. We join the students to demand the reinstatement of all activists being victimised and a halt to the victimisation of others. The demand of the independence of the students’ union devoid of undue authority interference. We also call for a halt to the planned hike in fees payable in the institution next session (2002/2003) in continuation of the anti-poor education commercialisation trend.
Conclusively, we also call on other students’ unions, NANS, trade unions, NLC, human rights and community groups, the staff unions in the UI campus to rally round the students in their ongoing struggle. Send letters of protest calling for independent unionism, reinstatement of politically victimised student activists and a halt to the victimisation of others, and an end to education commercialisation in UI to:
(1) The Vice-Chancellor,
University of Ibadan,
UI Post Office,
Ibadan, Oyo State,
(2) The Minister of Education,
Federal Ministry of Education,
Relief As Oba Leaves, But�
The workers, lecturers and students of the University of Ilorin were full of relief when on 20th August, 2002, the inglorious tenure of Prof. Shuaib Oba-Ibraheem as the university’s vice-chancellor came to an end.
One of the vice-chancellors who came into office during the dark days of Abacha military dictatorship, Prof. Oba ran a repressive, dictatorial and vindictive administration during the time he spent in office. Student and labour activists in particular were routinely victimised for daring to fight for decent conditions for students and workers on the campus.
As at the time Oba was leaving office, leading student activists such as Tosin Akinrogunde was serving an expulsion sentence while Lanre Akinola and Rasheedat Adesina, who had completed their students, still have their examination results withheld. The peak of the repression however, was the sacking of 44 lecturers (including union leaders) last year for daring to take part in the nation-wide strike action organised by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) between April and June, 2001.
However, it will be na�ve to assume that Oba’s exit will automatically lead to the easing of repression on the campus and respect for the rights of workers and students by the authorities. In the final analysis, the atmosphere that will prevail in the aftermath of Oba’s exit will be determined by the readiness of workers, lecturers and students and the various unions to stand up and defend their rights and living and academic conditions. The ASUU, NASU and the students’ union should rise to redress the injustices perpetrated by the Oba regime. Among the issues we should work towards include:
* Immediate recall of the 44 sacked lecturers
* Immediate reinstatement of Tosin Akinrogunde and other expelled or rusticated student activists
* Immediate release of the examination results of Lanre Akinola and Rasheedat Adesina
* For freedom of association, assembly and expression on the campus. An end to repressive measures against students’ societies.
* Democratic management of the education system with elected representatives of lecturers, non-academic staff and students on all committees and decision-making bodies.
DSM: What We Stand For
� Immediate and unconditional reinstatement of the sacked Lagos State civil servants and other victimised workers and trade unionists… Click here for more …
NCP Ijaye Holds Party School
The Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government chapter of the National Conscience Party (NCP) on Saturday 14th September, 2002 held an educational programme tagged “NCP School” with the theme “Upholding Ncp’s Tenet And Ideology As A Political Culture”. The programme chaired by Sina Odugbemi, the General Secretary of the Lagos NCP had Dr. Osagie Obayuwana and Mr. Adeola Soetan, the National Deputy Chairman (South-South) and Chairman Ogun State NCP respectively as the guest speakers while Mr. Lateef Abassi, a Washington DC based member and governorship aspirant of the party in Lagos State gave a keynote address.
With over sixty people comprising NCP activists, youth, women and community leadeers in attendance, the programme examined how the 10-Care welfare programme of the party for the abolition of poverty could be translated into concrete mass ideas for the transformation of the Nigerian society.
Dr. Obayuwana in his submission stressed the importance of building a formidable party that is bigger than any individual personality and can effectively enforce party discipline among all members. He made reference to the party’s code of conduct for public office holders as a veritable instrument of ensuring the responsibility of elected public officials to the electorate. Mr. Adeola in his own contributions talked on the importance of ensuring the supremacy of the party over and above individual party members as the surest way of avoiding the degeneration that is characteristic of the establishment political parties in the country.
The programme was a clear manifestation of how various structures of the party can help in popularizing the party by seizing the initiative not only in organizing educational programmes but in organising fora around issues in their localities and communities. The efforts of the NCP Ifako-Ijaiye leadership should be commended and others should emulate such a laudable initiative.
DSM NATIONAL COMMITTEE
A meeting of the National Committee (NC) of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) will hold on Saturday and Sunday, 9th and 10th November, 2002 in Lagos.
As usual, the meeting will feature political discussions on the situation in Nigeria and internationally. On Nigeria, the impeachment saga, upsurge in political violence and the implications of the Supreme Court judgement on the building of NCP will feature prominently. The Bush administration’s war on terrorism and planned war against Iraq are some of the issues that will come up in the discussion on world situation.
The meeting will also take reports from national secretariat, branches, labour, women and student sections and discuss how to build a socialist alternative in the labour and youth movement.
DSM members should ensure that a report of the meeting is taken and discussed at their branches and practical steps agreed upon on how to implement its decisions and build the organisation.
NO TO WAR OVER OIL
For A Democratic Referendum Among Bakassi People
The 10th October, 2002 judgement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) conferring ownership of the oil-rich Bakassi peninsular on Cameroun has been received with shock and disbelief by many Nigerians, including ordinary working people.
According to the Nigerian media, even the people of Bakassi, about 90% of whom are said to be Nigerians of the Efik ethnic nationality, have reportedly vowed to resist any attempt to implement the court judgement and change their citizenship to Cameroun.
We in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) call on the Nigerian and Camerounian working people to oppose any attempt to force the people of Bakassi to stay in Nigeria or Cameroun against their wishes. On the contrary, the labour movement of the two countries should defend the democratic right to self-determination of the people of the peninsular. This means their right to belong to either Cameroun or Nigeria or to stay as an independent nation. This factor should supersede the ICJ judgement or the territorial claims being made by Nigeria and Cameroun.
A NEO-COLONIAL LEGACY
The dispute over Bakassi is a legacy of imperialist colonial rule and neo-colonial regimes in Africa. For their selfish economic, political and strategic calculations, the imperialist capitalist powers, Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, etc, in the 19th century partitioned and divided African territories and peoples among themselves without the least consideration to the language, social and cultural affinities of the African peoples. In many instances, the same ethnic nationality found itself divided into two or more colonial territories and ruled by different colonial masters. These have often resulted in boundary disputes and wars between African states after getting their “independence”
from colonial rule. A recent example was the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in which thousands of people were killed. In the case of Bakassi for instance, Cameroun has anchored its ownership of the peninsular on the Anglo-German Treaty of 11th March, 1913 when both Cameroun and Nigeria were under colonial rule, a treaty which the ICJ has upheld by its recent judgement.
Due to the selfish interests and visionlessness of the capitalist ruling classes of the various African nations, they have proved incapable of redressing these colonial arbitrariness and injustices several decades after the end of colonial rule. In fact, one of the principles which guided the recently-defunct continental body, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which existed between 1963 and 2002, was respect for the colonial boundaries!
For several decades, neither Nigerian nor Camerounian ruling elite showed any interest in the Bakassi peninsular. Neither has shown any concern nor initiate any programme that is capable of ameliorating the deplorable conditions of mass poverty, squalor and destitution in which most Bakassians live. As at 1975, when Nigerian military ruler, General Gowon signed what is now termed ‘Marona declaration’ ceding Bakassi peninsula to Cameroun to compensate President Ahidjo’s neutrality during Nigerian civil war, it was not yet discovered it was oil rich.
But interest over the ownership of Bakassi by Nigeria and Cameroun began immediately it was discovered that the peninsular is floating on reserves of crude oil. It was only then that the elites of the two countries started making serious claims and counter-claims over the territory. In essence, the struggle by the Nigerian and Camerounian ruling classes for ownership of the peninsular is not dictated by any so-called national interest or concern for the well-being of the residents of Bakassi. The primary motive is the rich oil reserves and fishing grounds found in the area and its strategic location in the Atlantic Ocean. If the peninsular were to be of very little economic or strategic value, neither Nigerian nor Camerounian capitalist elite would have shown any serious interest in the territory.
We also want to observe that despite the multimillion dollars which Nigerian government gets everyday from oil in the Niger-Delta, the people of the Niger-Delta and Nigerian working class in general have continued to live in mass penury. If Nigeria were to get Bakassi, proceeds from oil in the area will only be for the benefit of the multinational oil companies and the Nigerian ruling class (both military and civilian), while the Nigerian poor masses and Bakassi people will continue to wallow in abject poverty in the midst of riches.
Similarly, Cameroun is a neo-colonial capitalist state in which the working masses live in abject poverty and oppression and political opposition and ethnic minorities are persecuted. In the final analysis, the cession of Bakassi to Cameroun will bring no benefit to the Camerounian masses and the Bakassi people.
It is for the reasons explained above that we in the DSM call on workers, peasants and poor masses of Nigeria, Cameroun and Bakassi to oppose any senseless war that may be contemplated by the ruling classes of both Nigeria and Cameroun over the Bakassi peninsular. Such a war is not in the interest of the masses but in the interest of the economic and political vampires of both capitalist countries, oil multinationals, arms manufacturers and dealers and imperialism in general. Thousands of ordinary working people and youth would be killed, maimed or turned into refugees as a result of a war for the oil interest of a very rich few.
Instead of supporting such a selfish capitalist war, we in DSM call on Nigerian and Camerounian working people to fight for the right of Bakassians to democratically decide their future through a referendum in which they would be free to choose to belong to Cameroun or Nigeria or stay as an independent nation. Whatever is their choice, the right of minorities within Bakassi must be guaranteed and protected.
Above all, the working class in Nigeria, Cameroun and Bakassi needs to struggle to put in power workers’ and poor peasants’ governments under which the oil wealth and other human and material resources of the region will be commonly owned with a democratic plan, and used to provide for basic needs of the working masses rather than for the enriching of a minority capitalist elite and multinational corporations as it is presently the case. Only such a democratic socialist working class governments will be capable of building genuine unity among African people, dismantle the artificial boundaries created and nurtured by imperialism, build a socialist confederation of Africa and put a permanent end to the root causes of the endemic mass poverty, border wars, and ethnic and religious conflicts ravaging the African continent.
THE 12.5% WAGES INCREASE:
NLC Must Fight For All Workers
In August 2002, the Federal Government announced the increase in workers wages by 12.5% with effect from January 2003.
The May 2000 minimum wage agreement signed between labour and the government fixed the national minimum wage for all section of workers both in the private and public sectors at N5,500 while the FG fixed a minimum of N7,500 for all its workers. It was agreed that the state public sector workers were to maintain the same wage differentials as the previous minimum wage signed during the last military regime.
The agreement also recognised that the minimum wage was not adequate enough and therefore further increases of 25% and 15% for the years 2001 and 2002 respectively were agreed upon. But the government reneged in the agreement reached between it and the labour unions for a 25% increase in 2001 and another 15% increase in 2002 claiming decline in government revenue. The present increase of 12.5% not only falls short of the signed agreement but also is coming 19 months behind schedule.
Since the year 1998, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) has been at the forefront of the call for a N20,000 monthly minimum wage. In order to bring workers today to at least the level of 1980, the minimum wage will need to be nothing less than N25,000. This is because of the constant rise in the rate of inflation and the eventual effect of devaluation of the naira.
Unfortunately, the NLC leadership has not been prepared and determined to fight for a decent minimum wage. Not only in 2000 but thereafter, the NLC would have been able to win a higher minimum wage. But the NLC leaders were not prepared to mobilise workers towards achieving this goal. They did not want to antagonise the Obasanjo administration. This they could have done successfully by exposing the opulent lifestyles and ostentatious living of political office holders and top managers which do not reflect that the economy is undergoing any serious crisis. It should have campaigned that the poor and impoverished workers cannot accept austerity measures and low wages while the political office holders continue to live in luxury.
But it may even take a lot of struggles by workers and the unions to get the 12.5% increase implemented. Since the announcement of the 12.5% increase by the Federal Government, most states have condemned the increase, claiming that they do not have funds for its implementation. In the words of the governor of Edo State, “
Let Edo workers not expect any increase at all from the state government”. Even the private sector employers association (NECA) has condemned the recent increase.
It is therefore necessary that the NLC should map out a plan that will see that no section of workers is left out in the implementation of new wage increase. It is important to state that up till now many employers in the public and private sectors are yet to implement the 2000 increment fully. A lot of workers were retrenched as a result of the minimum wage implementation. In Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Kwara, Yobe states, etc, thousands of workers were thrown out of work allegedly as a result of the implementation. In some other states like Anambra, Imo, Abia, Enugu, etc, workers are still being owed salary arrears running into more than six (6) months up till today. Even at the federal level, the government which has implemented the new minimum wage with one hand is also carrying out retrenchment of workers with the other. In the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) for instance, over half of the workforce have been laid off since the announcement of the so-called minimum wage.
Not only must the NLC ensure that such a situation does not reoccur this time, it should also take up the matter of those workers who have been victimised, retrenched and unduly deprived of their salaries as a result of the last minimum wage increase. Unless this is done, more and more workers will be alienated from the unions and NLC. What is more, it will become extremely difficult for the NLC to get the support of workers for any struggle as there would be a justifiable fear that they would be abandoned by the NLC in case there is any victimisation by the employer.