NLC and TUC Holds Pre-May Day Activities in Lagos and Ogun states
Shows critical and radical rank and file mood
The Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress held Pre-May Day activities in some states on Thursday April 29, 2021. Unlike May Day activities which are usually jamborees featuring merry making, march past in front of governors and exhibition of company merchandises, Pre-May Day events offer some moment of relative sobriety with lectures and discussion on an issue that affects the polity and workers.
The theme for this year workers’ day is “COVID-19 pandemic, social and economic crisis: Challenges for decent jobs, social and people’s welfare”. In Lagos and Ogun, both, public symposium and training were held where members of the Democratic Socialist Movement were present and actively intervened.
Between the two states, 36 copies of the DSM newspaper, Socialist Democracy, were sold. Below are brief reports of the day’s activities which show the critical and radical mood currently developing amongst workers.
On Thursday 29 April 2021, members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) joined Nigerian workers to kick-start the celebration of this year’s workers day by attending a public symposium organised by the NLC and TUC Lagos state councils at the Adeyemi-Bero Hall, Alausa Secretariat. The theme of this symposium was this national May Day theme: COVID-19 pandemic, social and economic crisis: Challenges for decent jobs, social and people’s welfare.
A striking highlight of the debate was how workers’ anger at the lacklustre attitude of the labour leadership while Nigeria is sliding into chaos boiled over. The question and answer section became an opportunity for workers to vent. Many called for revolution and challenged the labour leadership for action over insecurity. This corresponds to the call of the DSM for a one-day general strike and mass protest to protest the insecurity in the country and place the blame on the Buhari government and the neo colonial capitalist system.
Another interesting development was the call made by one of the panellists, Wale Okunniyi, for the establishment in all the 774 local governments a ‘Workers Vigilante’ to protect the workplaces and communities from insecurity. This is a correct slogan given how Buhari government and security agencies are clearly incapable of protecting lives and property. All we would just add is that such a workers vigilante must be independent of the state, multi ethnic and non-sectarian and subject to democratic control of the trade unions and communities. However this must be linked with a mass movement to fight against all anti poor policies and simultaneously the building of a mass workers political alternative to fight to take political power and establish a workers and poor people’s government armed with socialist policies. Only such a revolutionary government, having no need for either class or national oppression, can recognise the right to self-determination and also protect the rights of ethnic minority groups.
We sold 18 copies of Socialist Democracy (SD) – the bi monthly paper of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM).
The leadership training/ symposium by NLC Ogun state was held on Thursday April 29 with two themes: the national May Day one “Covid-19 Pandemic, Social and Economic Crisis: Challenges for Decent Jobs, Social and People’s Welfare” and also “Casualization in Work Places, an Assault on Human Dignity Filling the Gap in Our Labour Law.”
This event was part of the programmes marking this year’s May Day celebration, and it was chaired by the Speaker, Ogun state House of Assembly, Kunle Oluomo.
The lead speaker/ resource person on the first topic, engaged in a purely academic exercise without drawing the necessary political and economic conclusions.
At the end of the “lecture” the speaker/chair, gave opportunity to just five persons to ask QUESTIONS only!
After these Oluomo made his own contribution, which was purely a voyage in populism: stating that he came from the human rights background, and charging workers’ leaders to up their games, and not to betray struggles for pecuniary gains.
Oluomo concluded his remarks by charging the labour leaders to change tactics, by also calling strike actions not just for minimum wage, but to demand Free Education, Affordable Housing, Improved health care, etc.
While, on the surface, Oluomo seemed to make good points he was also was being hypocritical and cynical. He is a principal member of a party that has ruled the state in the last ten years but never considered it necessary to implement the programme he asked labour leaders to fight for. However it also an indictment on labour leaders that it requires a key functionary of government to remind them what they should fight for.
The guest speaker on the second topic (a lawyer) did his best to show how the laws would protect the workers, if the authorities put the enabling laws in place, which he said they moving in the direction, and also citing relevant international laws as its relate to the protection of the workers from casualization.
In our contribution, after insisting that the crisis of capitalism heightened by the covid-19 pandemic would continue to deepen, and side by side attacks on workers living wages, indecent work practices like casualization and the need for fight back by the workers … and that ultimately to begin to permanently resolve all the ills bedeviling workers and the poor masses there is a need for working people political alternative party on a socialist programme to wrest power from the capitalist ruling class which bent on protecting profits and their privileges by all means.
In response, the speaker reinforced the need for workers to get involved in electoral politics, while faulting our demand for a working class alternative political party, basing himself on the betrayals of Adams Oshiomhole, who he rightly accused of riding on the crest of workers’ struggles to gain power, while at the same time abandoning the Labour Party he had formed. To buttress his point, the speaker asked the workers how many of them belong to the Labour Party?
In his remarks, Emmanuel Bankole, the state NLC chair, said that it’s high time workers joined a political party and take part in the coming 2023 general elections, because, according to him, workers couldn’t lay back while charlatans continue to lord it over them. However, he didn’t state the political and economic programme of such a party which the workers should belong!
It is instructive to say that before our intervention, only one copy of our paper (SD) was sold, and it was bought by someone we already knew in the chemical union, while DSM and SPN leaflets were circulated and were well received by the workers, though limited copies were brought and shared.
But after our contribution, the workers began to show interest in the SD and in all 18 copies worth N6,150 were sold
We engaged the chair NLC after the programme, and tasked him on the need to deepen the discussion on the workers political alternative party, and informed him, that the SPN would be available for the workers. He promised to open discussions with SPN in the coming period and organize more programme to deepen the discussion on political alternative.