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June 11, 2005

Report of first Rotimi Ewebiyi Memorial Symposium, Lagos, June 11, 2005

Nigeria’s Unrelenting Socio-economic Crises – Is a Working Class Alternative Possible?

Despite the heavy downpour in Lagos state on June 11 which virtually paralyzed traffic movement due to lack of functional drainage system and which made it impossible for most of the invited guests and comrades to attend the programme, the first anniversary of Rotimi Ewebiyi (RE) Memorial Symposium was a huge success. Although, some of the invitees called to explain that the downpour held them hostage and sent their solidarities, 51 people, including DSM comrades, Ewebiyi children, invited speakers and guests, well-wishers and the press dared the downpour to grace the occasion held in the International Press Centre. This is in recognition of the evergreen enormous contributions of RE not only to the building of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), but also to the overall struggles of the poor working people in Nigeria.

Highlighting a central aspect of RE’s revolutionary activities, the International Secretariat of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), the international socialist organisation to which DSM affiliates, sent an inspirational memorial tribute dated June 10, 2005. In parts the statement reads: "Rotimi’s death deprived the DSM of a key comrade who had played an extremely important part in building the most significant Troskyist party in Africa today and who was also an important member of the leadership of the CWI. Rotimi, a complete internationalist, followed closely world events and the activities of the CWI across the continents, while fully participating in the work of the CWI’s IEC meetings and World Congresses. Rotimi’s death has been a loss for all of us.

"However, we are sure that Rotimi would have been proud of how, in the past year, the comrades of DSM have continued his work to build a socialist workers’ movement capable of changing society and the progress the CWI has also been able to make in the past period."

The programme was of two parts viz: a symposium and the re-launch of Rotimi Ewebiyi Endowment Fund for the upkeep and education of RE’s children. The theme of the symposium is "Nigeria’s Unrelenting Socio-economic Crises – Is a Working Class Alternative Possible?"

The speakers at the symposium were Chima Ubani, the Executive Director, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), who also chaired the programme; Segun Sango, General Secretary, DSM; Tony Iyare, Editor, Gleaner On-line and Gabriel Ojumah of United Action for Democracy (UAD).

All the speakers and contributors to the topic did not only agree on the need for the working class political alternative to the present rot, but also strongly underscored its imperative. They asserted that the poignant socio-economic woes will continue to betide the poor working people of Nigeria unless the political power is wrestled from the parasitic capitalist ruling elite who hold the country at its jugular. The contributors unanimously agreed that a political arrangement where over 80% of the nation’s resources are consumed by less than 1% of the population is unacceptable.

On the basis of neo-liberal capitalist philosophy, more so in a neo-colonial but a rich economy like Nigeria, the rich few have continued to amass the enormous wealth of the country at the expense of the working people and the poor of Nigeria. The government has left Nigerians to rot in lurch by abandoning provision of social services like electricity, portable water, health care, housing, education, etc. The central plank of the policies is the privatisation of essential public wealth which has seen the unwholesome wholesales of the common heritage of the country at give away prices. This has meant alienation of Nigerians from the abundant common wealth of the country. This is the tenet on which the anti-people, pro-rich, neo-liberal policies on which Obasanjo’s government and embraced by all the big business parties in the country is built on.

To set the ball rolling towards achieving economic and political control of the society and economy by the working people that would guarantee using the stupendous public wealth for the benefit of all, it is imperative for working people organisations and pro-people political parties to come together and form an alternative political platform to struggle for power.

The platform would have to wrestle power from the self-seeking politicians, who have only manipulated themselves into offices by massive riggings. The meeting resolved that capitalism is the root cause of unequal distribution of wealth and uneven development being exhibited by capitalists nationally and internationally.

The symposium thus resolved that solution to the socio-economic crises confronting Nigeria lies in the public ownership of the commanding heights of economy under the democratic control and management of the working people as against bureaucratic state control by the corrupt politicians of the ruling parties. This could only be achieved if the capitalist system is overthrown and be replaced by genuine socialist order under a workers and poor peasants’ government.

To achieve this end, the gathering resolved that only mass struggles which combine both electoral and extra electoral mass armed defences and actions in the daily lives and struggles of the working masses, in and outside elections times, in and out of offices can have the real prospect of fundamental and permanent victory over capitalist induced mass misery and political oppression.

 

THE RELAUNCH OF REEF

The tone for the re-launch of the Rotimi Ewebiyi Endowment Fund (REEF) was appropriately set by the highly moving political oration given by Dagga Tolar. In a near poetic style, Dagga Tolar gave a graphic illustrations of RE’s political personality as well as the historical struggles of the CWI/DSM to defend and spread that idea of a socialist alternative especially in the light of the distortions of socialist ideals by the Stalinists while they were in power and especially in the light of the collapse of the deformed workers states of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and others

At sum of N154, 500 was raised in form of pledges, and N5,000 raised as general contributions from the rank and file at the programme, making a total donation of N159, 500 (US$ 1,200). Besides, some also pledged their willingness to pick the bills of other sundry but urgent expenses like school fees, if their assistance is sought. Some of those who could not make the programme called to promise redeeming their pledges by the end of the month.