DSM DEMANDS IMMEDIATE AND UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE OF OMOYELE SOWORE
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) hereby demands the immediate and unconditional release of the Presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the last General Elections and Sahara Reporters Publisher, Omoyele Sowore. Sowore was arrested midnight on Saturday August 3 by the Department of State Service (DSS). The arrest is obviously connected to stopping Sowore’s call and coordination for nationwide protests and demonstrations tagged #RevolutionNow which is supposed to commence on Monday August 5, 2019.
We consider Sowore’s arrest as despotic and an assault on his fundamental rights. Also it represent ominous signal of the gradual growth of the Buhari/APC government into a despotic regime which does not baulk at deploying the military, police and DSS to repress dissent.
DESPOTISM ON THE RISE
When in 1999, civil rule was restored after years of public protest, strikes and demonstrations, the Nigerian working people and youth looked towards a future of hope and expectation. Also they heaved a sigh of relief that now the country was free from the regular repression, political assassination and indiscriminate arrest of political opponents, radical journalists, students and labour activists which was the hallmark of jackboot military despotism. 20 years after, the economic equality and better life which were hoped for have not been met. But now, even the limited freedom and democratic rights won are now imperilled by none other than President Buhari who, as a military head of State in 1984 – 1985, heavily repressed democratic rights.
Most tragically, this arrest shows that the Buhari government is growing more confident after his successful attack on the fundamental rights of several layers in society, including journalists and the recent proscription of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), went unchallenged by the labour movement and civil society to now extend these attacks towards effectively outlawing the right to criticise the government as well as freedom of expression and association. Very soon and unless stopped in its tracks, the Buhari government will extend similar attacks to the labour movement, media and other civil society elements which will including outlawing strike actions, police attack on public protests and indiscriminate arrest of trade union leaders and activists.
We therefore challenge the labour movement to condemn this arrest and demand Sowore’s unconditional release. This must be linked with a call for the release of all those whose arrest and detention are politically-motivated including Sheik El-Zakzaky and his wife, the de-proscription of IMN and respect of democratic rights. The Buhari regime pretends that in banning the IMN it is acting to defend the ‘rule of law’ but it has ignored the repeated court rulings that Sheik El-Zakzaky should be released on bail.
At the same time, Sowore’s call for #RevolutionNow is a wakeup call to the labour movement that if it does not lead a mass struggle to begin to effectively resist the raging neo-liberal capitalist attacks on the working and poor people, other forces including petty bourgeoisie radical populists or even rightwing nationalist or religious forces will try to step into the vacuum.
To be clear, we agree with Sowore and the AAC that the terrible socio-economic crises, the deepening mass poverty and unemployment and the worsening condition of insecurity in Nigeria today have grown to such a monstrous level that a bold call for mass action to put an end to both the Buhari/APC regime and the capitalist system is now urgently needed. In fact there is no doubt that given the anger in Nigeria today, a bold call for struggle can be answered by thousands and tens of thousands. Our argument however is that; despite the good intentions of the radical populist call for #RevolutionNow, there is no force outside of the organised working class that can carry out a successful revolution that leads to a fundamental transformation of Nigeria.
Revolution is not a tea party. To lay the groundwork for a successful revolution and avoid the cul-de-sac of the 2011 Arab Spring and the ongoing events in Sudan, a revolutionary party and programme has to be built, a party that works to win influence within the labour, students and youth movements. In this way support for the programme of socialist revolution can be built and a leadership based on the working class, tested through events and trusted by all layers of the oppressed masses, constructed. This is not yet the case in Nigeria today but this can be achieved through patient and painstaking work and not through adventurism no matter how heroic. Sudan has shown again how revolutions can rapidly develop strength, smash through obstacles and win gains, but also why a genuinely revolutionary leadership is necessary. The recent agreement of leaders of the revolution to share power with the military for 39 months, allow a General to be in charge of the state for the next 21 months and let the military to choose both the ministers of defence and interior, shows how these leaders are giving the enemies of the Sudanese revolution the chance to regroup and strike back.
Unfortunately, it is the past compromises and the lukewarm attitude of the leadership of the Nigerian labour movement to such issues as the on-going agitation for implementation of a new national minimum wage, the raging unemployment situation and the decline in the living standards and quality of life of workers, middle classes and the poor masses that is causing despondency, despair and desperation among vast majority of the working people who have historically looked towards labour to always give a lead in struggle. With despair and desperation, adventurism grows which can create setbacks for the whole movement.
It is on this basis that the DSM again restates its call for a one-day warning general strike and nationwide mass protest called by the labour movement to begin to mobilise the workers, youth and oppressed layers around demands that can unite all layers of the working class and oppressed masses. The first objective of this general strike should be to put the Buhari/APC government on notice that its capitalist anti-poor policies and attacks on democratic rights will no more be tolerated. To ensure effective mobilisation for the general strike and mass protest, democratically elected action committees have to be formed at workplaces, campuses and communities to ensure the maximum participation and harness the energy of the workers and energetic youth who have been greatly inspired by the events in Sudan and other places and are desirous of effecting revolutionary change in Nigeria. Such democratically-elected action committees set up at grassroot levels can also help to ensure that the initiative of the strike resides in the hands of the rank and file workers and revolutionary youth in order to prevent hasty suspension of the strike by the labour bureaucracy before it has achieved its objectives which unfortunately have been the case in past struggles.
Such a one-day warning strike and mass protest if organised in the manner outlined above can help lay the groundwork for the building of a sustained mass movement involving the mass majority of the working and toiling people which can lead towards the conquest of political power by the working class and the revolutionary transformation of society along socialist lines.
However, NLC President Wabba’s recent statement that the NLC is not currently planning any action shows that many of the current Labour leaders are simply not prepared to mobilise the working masses for a serious struggle to improve their lives. Wabba may be enjoying travelling the world as the current President of the International Trade Union Confederation but he, along with many other labour leaders, is not providing serious leadership at a time of growing crisis in Nigeria.
It is against this background that the DSM will work with other genuinely pro-working masses organisations and activists to build support for the type of serious struggle outlined above, take initiatives where possible and in this way help revive the fighting traditions of Nigerian Labour that are sorely needed if the country’s crisis is going to be resolved in the interests of the mass of Nigerians.