Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Newspaper of the DSM
Socialist Democracy April - May 2003
Between 12th April, 2003 to 3rd May, 2003, Nigerians will go to the poll to elect the country's president, governors for the 36 states and members of the National Assembly and the 36 state houses of assembly in the first general election to be conducted since the military wing of the ruling class handed over power to their civilian counterparts on 29th May, 1999.
The general elections are expected to be followed later in the year by elections into local government councils across the country.
We in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) call on the working masses and youth to vote en mass in these elections for the National Conscience Party (NCP) led by the renown lawyer and fighter for human rights, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who is also the party's presidential candidate.
For over a decade, the Nigerian working people and youth had struggled against military dictatorship and for return to civil rule. Thousands of working class people and labour, youth and pro-democracy activists were subject to arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, torture and killing for fighting for an end to military rule.
Millions of Nigerians had supported the struggle against the military in the expectation that an end to military rule will bring about an end to mass poverty, declining living standards, huge unemployment, massive corruption and wanton violations of democratic rights which characterised military dictatorship. It was hoped that civil rule would result in improved living conditions, availability of jobs, a reduction in crimes and corruption and respect for democratic rights.
But four years into civil rule, these expectations and hope of the masses have remained largely unfulfilled. Economically, politically and socially, the country has either remained stagnant or the situation has become worse. Take the economy as an example. Even an IMF report, published on 2nd January 2003 revealed that most sectors of the Nigerian economy have been in decline in recent years. The manufacturing sector remains in a state of comatose. Problems of fuel shortage and electric power cuts, which Obasanjo regime often boast, falsely, to have successfully resolved are now back again in the open.
The living standards of the working masses have also been further wrecked by the policies of privatisation of public assets, commercialisation of social services, retrenchment of workers and other anti-poor neo-liberal capitalist economic policies. In Lagos and Osun states being ruled by the Alliance for Democracy (AD), not less than 15,000 and 10,000 civil servants respectively have been sacked since 1999. In many states, Anambra for example, civil servants and pensioners are being owed several months in salary arrears.
Obasanjo's much-publicised anti-corruption crusade exists in reality on paper. Corruption has not only remained, it has in fact become more sophisticated with elected public officials earning millions of naira annually under various disguises while the masses live in abject poverty.
Politically, the capitalist ruling class has proved once again that they are inherently incapable of uniting the different sections of the country together. In the past four years, not less than 10,000 people have reportedly been killed in ethnic and religious conflicts.
The main cause of these ethnic and religious conflict is the failure of the ruling class to solve the basic economic and social problems, including huge youth unemployment, as well as the use of ethnicity and religion by the various factions of the elite for their own selfish ends.
Last but not the least is the rising wave of political violence, including assassination of political opponents across the country, the most recent being the killing of Marshall Harry, a prominent leader of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) who decamped from the ruling PDP. Of greater significance, however, was the recent violent attack on the NCP presidential campaign entourage in Ekiti State by suspected agents of the ruling party in the state, the AD, as a result of which an NCP supporter was injured and hospitalised. It shows the readiness of the ruling elite to use violence to stop the NCP and any other political movement that they perceive as a threat to their wealth and power. All these, and the reported cases of printing of millions of fake ballot papers, show the desperation of the various individuals and factions within the ruling class to grab power at all cost so as to be in the most vantage position to loot the treasury and steal the country's wealth.
Altogether, the worsening economic situation, ethnic and religious crises, political violence and likely election rigging are creating increasing mass disaffection against the civilian ruling elite, a situation which may lead to another military coup at a stage. In a nutshell, the first four years of civil rule has proved once again that the civilian capitalist elite, like their military colleagues, are inherently incapable of guaranteeing economic prosperity and political stability. If the PDP, AD, ANPP, NDP, UNPP or any of the capitalist parties are elected or re-elected into office at either national, state or local government level, it would outrightly mean the continuation of mass poverty and misery for the working people.
A WORKING PEOPLE'S ALTERNATIVE NEEDED
To put an end to this unending cycle of poverty and misery, the labour movement and the working masses need to build, as a matter of urgency, an independent working people socio-political alternative which will be completely different in programme and method from those of the capitalist parties. To achieve this crucial and urgent goal requires the organisation of a mass movement of the oppressed masses to fight against all capitalist attacks on the working masses, and build a working people's political party which will organise the masses to struggle to take power from the present capitalist vampires and reorganise society in the interest of the vast majority.
THE FAILURE OF LABOUR LEADERSHIP
Sadly, the leaders of the trade union movement and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), both past and present, have failed to provide the necessary leadership to build such a movement. They have refused to consistently defend workers against commercialisation, privatisation, retrenchment, and other anti-poor capitalist policies of the ruling class. But most crucially, they have failed to present a political challenge to the capitalist elite in the form of an alternative working people's political platform. Yes, the Party for Social Democracy (PSD) was recently formed by some trade union leaders. But so far the party has existed mainly in the minds of its leaders. It has not organised any mass activity or campaign on the numerous national issues or matters affecting the working masses. It has not established any known structure among workers and the masses in general. In reality, the position of the Adams Oshiomhole leadership of the NLC is to tacitly support the re-election of the Obasanjo PDP government.
It is against this background that we in the DSM are calling on the working masses - workers, the youth, poor farmers, artisans, market traders, etc- to vote en mass for the NCP in these elections. More importantly, the working people need to go further and build the party as a grassroot, mass-based and democratic party fighting uncompromisingly, whether it is elected into office or not, for the interests of the workers, peasants, youth and the urban and rural poor in general, and which will lead a mass movement to end capitalist misrule and for the socialist transformation of society.
Though it does not have a socialist programme and orientation, in terms of mass support the NCP is the political party that presently has the greatest potential to mobilise and organise the masses to defend their rights and capture political power. The party's popularity among the downtrodden masses is as a result of its role during the struggle against military dictatorship and its defence of the interests of the masses. A great asset for the party also has been the record of its national chairman and presidential candidate, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who has a reputation as an uncompromising defender of the rights of the masses and fighter against dictatorship and corruption. Unlike the capitalist parties, the NCP opposes privatisation and commercialisation, retrenchment of workers, and stands for the provision of free education and medical care, full employment, welfare benefits for the unemployed, among other welfare programmes. The party's Ten-Care Programme if successfully implemented by an NCP government will eradicate poverty and misery from the lives of millions of people.
BUILD MASS-BASED, DEMOCRATIC AND SOCIALIST NCP
But in order for it to fully realise its potential, implement its Ten-Care programme when elected into office and live up to the expectation of the masses, there is a need for the NCP and its members, activists and leaders to embrace socialist programmes and policies.
As we in the DSM have always explained, the huge human and material resources with which Nigeria is endowed are more than enough to provide decent living for all. What makes this impossible and condemns the working masses to endless poverty and misery is the capitalist economic, social and political system, the so-called market economy, in which the economy and society are run for profits for a few capitalists and multinational corporations rather than satisfaction of the genuine needs of overwhelming majority of the society. As a result, it turns a few into millionaires and billionaires while condemning hundreds of millions of people into a life of poverty and destitution. Under this system, the wealth of Nigeria is concentrated in the hands of very few super-rich elite. According to the IMF report earlier mentioned, the richest 20% of Nigerians are getting 55.7% of the country's total income while the poorest 20% receive only a meagre 4.4%.
Thus to have the necessary resources with which to implement the Ten-Care programme and other pro-masses policies, the NCP will have to stand for the public ownership of the commanding sectors of the Nigerian economy like petroleum, mineral resources, big industries and banks to be managed and controlled democratically by the working people. It must stand for the society to collectively own and the working people in the cities and villages to democratically control the country's wealth that is presently owned, monopolised and controlled by a super-rich minority of local and multi-national capitalists. Democratic management and control by the working masses is essential in order to ensure that public enterprises are not mismanaged and used to serve private ends as it is the case under capitalism and as it happened in the former Stalinist states of the defunct Soviet Union, Eastern and Europe.
In other words, in order to abolish mass poverty, and eradicate hunger, diseases, unemployment, crimes, and ethnic and religious conflicts which it causes, an NCP government must be a workers' and poor peasants' government based on a democratic, socialist and anti-capitalist programme.
The NCP must also right from now begin to educate and organise the masses to be prepared at all times to struggle to defend their votes and to defeat opposition to the implementation of NCP pro-masses programme which is certain to come from the rich capitalist elite and imperialism. As a matter of urgency, it must begin to organise the defence of its meetings, rallies, offices and officials from likely physical attacks by agents of the pro-capitalist parties and groups. It is only by adopting and implementing the programme, policies and methods explained above that the NCP will live up to the expectations of the downtrodden working masses.
WHY WE ’LL VOTE FOR NCP
"OTHER PARTIES ARE MONEYBAG PARTIES"
-Mufutau Elemikan (final year student, Lagos State Polytechnic)
"First of all, NCP Motto is 'Abolition of Poverty'. The major problem facing Nigeria is poverty and I believe this party can abolish poverty. Although, the ruling party said they want to eradicate poverty via NAPEP, but they have failed woefully. They failed because only insignificant portion of their members are beneficiaries of the programme. Not only this, the programme itself cannot eradicate poverty.
Secondly, I believe in the leadership of Chief Gani Fawehinmi. This is the only man who can salvage Nigeria and break the shackles of oppression, hunger and deprivation from the downtrodden masses. Not only that, Gani Fawehinmi serves as a check on the activities of NCP candidates. For example, before you can aspire for any position in NCP, you must declare your asset and also you must swear affidavit to abide by the code of conduct of the party. NCP is the only party of the masses, all other parties are money bag parties. So, I want to vote for National Conscience Party because it is the only party that care for the masses."
"THE PARTY THAT CARES FOR THE MASSES"
-Ngozi Uhuru (a Sales Representatives)
"I want to vote for NCP because I know it is the party that will make a change possible throughout the federation. It is the party that has something good to offer to the youth, workers and entire nation. NCP is the only party that has manifesto, all other parties has none. NCP is the only party that can care for the masses of Nigeria. For example, NCP has Ten-care programme i.e. housing care, electricity care, education care, telecommunication care, security care, health care, transportation care, food care, employment care and water care. All other parties are just pasting posters with no concrete programme they intend to implement if elected into office. Finally, I know when NCP government take over power, there would be a great change in the Nigerian economy."
"NIGERIA ‘LL BE TRANSFORMED"
-Saila Taofiq (Student)
"As the name of the party implies, the word conscience is significant to human nature and beside, the national chairman and presidential candidate of the party is a well known to the masses as a defender of cases that affect the masses. NCP is also a disciplined party where a lot of dignitaries like legal luminaries come together to change the fate of Nigeria. I personally understand the NCP presidential candidate as a man of principle and commitment, the man of conscience and God fearing, who can turn Nigeria into el-dorado if given chance to serve. I am therefore, imploring Nigerians through this medium to vote wisely and vote for National Conscience Party so that Nigeria will be transformed from its present predicament to a better one. Look at how Chief Gani Fawehinmi was attacked in Ondo State. That shows the level of desperation on the part of conventional politician who want to remove him from the political arena in order to weaken his party."
"OUR PRIORITY IS WELFARE OF THE WORKING MASSES AND YOUTH"
Lanre Arogundade, the NCP candidate for Lagos West senatorial district is a socialist activist, journalist and a former NANS president. In this interview with Ojo Olajire (Socialist Democracy), he explains the party’s programme for his constituency:
Socialist Democracy (SD): What are your plans for Lagos West?
Lanre: Well, my plans for Lagos West are in line with 10-care programme of the National Conscience Party, NCP. As you are well aware the party has a 10-care programme covering employment care, security care, housing care, food care, water care and so on, and that would be the priority of anybody that is elected on the platform of the NCP. This means that at the National Assembly we shall be initiating bills and motions and also supporting bills and motions that will ensure the realisation of this 10-care programme which if provided would make life bearable and meaningful for the vast majority of Nigerians. Along that line for Lagos West I am concern about the state of the youths in this area. Lagos West is made up of ten local government areas, very big area, and everywhere you go either in Mushin or Ikeja or Ajeromi/Ifelodun or Amuwo/Odofin you could see from the number of youths who are roaming about the streets that there is a problem of massive unemployment.
It has reached a very terrible state in the area and now what we are saying is along with the party's programme of employment care the first thing we are going to do is to establish through a data base the correct statistic about the unemployed in this area. What I am saying is that we need to know how many people, youths that are unemployed, what phase they come from, whether majority of those unemployed are graduate of science and so on. So, we are going to have this comprehensive database with which we can now work and advise industries, government, etc on how they can absorb all these unemployed youths. You know that once the problem of joblessness is tackled, you are invariably also trying to solve the problems of crime, drug addiction and other problems that prevail. So the question of what happen to our youth is a priority. Then such a data will also be useful in making recommendation for those who will benefit from the social security scheme that our government intends to put in place in Lagos State and other states that we might control. Again for Lagos West like I said is the largest district in Lagos State and people have talked about the neglect in the state. So at the National Assembly we are going to be making a case for special allocation for Lagos State.
The state really needs to be declared a disaster zone. The infrastructures have actually collapsed. The only difference is that we will be making a point that if we have this money it will be democratically managed and used for the purpose it is meant for under an NCP government. Next priority for Lagos West also relates to a question of the youth. Now we are looking at those who are in school and those who are out of school. Because I run a cyber café here I happen to know how much important people attached to computer education, internet knowledge and so on. I feel in all the local governments in this Lagos West, we need community resources centre complete with library, internet and computer facilities where even school children in primary schools could go at the end of their schools and try to update their knowledge. If we put this in place, it will also help in solving one of the problems have.
Another major priority is the question of what the multinational corporations in the Lagos West are doing for the people. If you look at the Ejigbo area, where the NNPC depot is you discovered that the roads are in a very terrible state. We would mobilise and pressurise organisation like NNPC to take up some of the basic responsibilities of that area in terms of constructing roads, providing link bridges so that the problem of traffic congestion could be solved. Of course, you also look at other industrial areas like Oshodi/Isolo and Ikeja, we are going to be looking what input these industries can actually make to the development of environment in which they find themselves. I must quickly say that though one is permanently representing Lagos West but at the same time as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, you are supposed to also contribute to the promotion of welfare of the people in other areas. Given my background, I come from a working class background, from a socialist background, and to that extent we are going to accord high priority to issues that affect the working class in the National Assembly. And whatever we are able to do successfully would of course benefit workers in Lagos West. We are looking to the issue of living wage to merge the rate of inflation, this will largely beneficial to workers in this area. We are looking at opposition to privatisation and commercialisation; we are going to fight it, we are going to examining the possibility of using the instrumentalities of the National Assembly to stop the ongoing privatisation and commercialisation so that workers would no longer lose their jobs which is the case under this so-called privatisation and commercialisation.
We are going to campaign for democratic management of our resources and public ownership of the commanding sectors of the economy. It is only when the wealth and resources of society are commonly owned and democratically managed by the working people to provide for the real needs of the people and not luxury for a few rich that we can abolish poverty in the midst of potential abundance. That is what we mean by a democratic, socialist system to be put in place by a workers’ and poor peasants’ government. This is what can provide lasting solutions to the numerous problems facing the country, particularly the working masses.
We are also looking at the problem of education that has remained the question of inadequate funding of our universities system; we will be making a case for adequate funding and beyond that we will also be making a case for government intervention in the educational system. Such intervention does not necessarily have to be inform of given direct money to institutions. But I have cited the example of the ongoing ID scheme, Nigeria has spent billions of naira on this scheme yet we have universities that could have been asked to develop the necessary materials that would have allowed the scheme to have commenced since like designing the computer, getting universities involved, getting the students involved if this huge money that has been wasted on ID card gets to universities, I think they would have benefitted from it. This is just the overall perspective of the programme that one has for Lagos West.
SD: In your manifesto you said that you are going to earn the salary of an average civil servant; I want to ask, if you are being paid the jumbo allowance that they are getting at the National Assembly, where are you going to keep the rest? Are you going to keep it in the federation account or how are you going to do it?
Lanre: Well, we are not going to give it to the federation account because we know that if that is done unless you have an NCP government in place we do not have confidence in all these other parties. The money is likely to be mismanaged. What we will do really is to openly and publicly donate the money to the struggles of the working class and youths and others progressive constituencies which we come from. I have said I am a unionist, that is very clear, you also have student movement, then you even have the media which is my own background. One look at the situation whereby the media could have a trust fund to which you can make donations so that people would recognise that it is possible to serve the people without necessary becoming super rich. So this will be done openly and publicly.
SD: What are your likely chances and that of the NCP in the forthcoming general elections?
Lanre: We have gone round and the response from the electorate is highly encouraging. As you know, we are confronted with problem of cynicism by the electorate and that shows much about how well the previous governments have faired. The truth of the matter is that the past governments including the present one have disappointed the people and people feel that the only thing they can get is when you come around to ask for their vote and they ask for money. Because of the fact that NCP has integrity, the leadership is respected, the person of Chief Gani Fawehinmi, and we also have programme coupled with the antecedents of some of us, we are able to get some good response from people, that they will give us a chance with the hope that you are going to make the difference. I, personally, have received encouraging response, I am the candidate to beat in Lagos West but what we are telling people is march your words with action. If somebody believes in our cause, be ready to defend it, be ready to cast your vote, be ready to say and ensure the vote are counted in your presence and be ready to defend that mandate in case of attempt to rig and other unwholesome malpractices. So ultimately the power lies with the people.
SD: Your words to the electorate?
Lanre: Well, my words are that they should go out en masse and vote for NCP on 12th April, 19th April, 3rd May and during the local government council election.
"WE WANT TO RESTORE HOPE TO THE PEOPLE"
- Blessing Peters, the NCP candidate for Ajeromi-Ifelodun constituency 1 of the Lagos State House of Assembly speaks to Emmanuel Adikwu (Socialist Democracy):
What prompted you to partake in the forthcoming election?
A: I have always wanted to contribute to the development of my community. So my involvement in politics is not by accident but something I have nurtured since when I was a kid. I strongly feel that with the type of corrupt and inept leadership that presently obtains the mass of the people have lost hope. In essence, we are here to restore hope to the people. I am also a socialist and member of DSM, an organisation which fights for the rights of the workers and the masses in general, and which also stands for a socialist alternative to the present rotten, anti-poor capitalist system. Getting elected as an NCP assemblywoman would give me and other party representatives a very good opportunity to advance the interest of the working masses who are presently marginalised.
What do you hope to achieve if elected into the state house of assembly?
A: I am going there to serve and not to dictate or turn my back on the people. I wish to sponsor bills and mobilise the masses to ensure that the lives of people are changed. I hope to promote education by sponsoring bills to that effect. I will concentrate on the youth to a very large extent, on their welfare, education, jobs, etc. I will also advocate for vocational training for the youth. I will put pressure on the government to ensure that electricity supply, good roads, water, etc, become available to the mass of the people, and that drainages are also constructed to ensure proper flow of water to eliminate flooding which is a perennial problem in my constituency.
What are your chances and of the NCP in this election? What is the party doing to ensure victory?
A: We have received appreciable and tremendous support and recognition from the people during our campaign so far. With the woeful performance generally of the PDP and AD, most of the change seeking people in my constituency are solidly behind all NCP candidates. May be because I am a lady, I have received tremendous support, encouragement. We intend to take our campaign further to the market places, churches, mosques, to various associations, schools, hospitals and even to the workers in the local government secretariat. Although, it is rather tasking, but to ensure total victory, no stone will be left unturned. I want to use this opportunity to tell the people of Ajeromi-Ifelodun Constituency One that they should tell the professional politicians that the time for money politics is over. I know times are hard, but if they decide not to sell their votes, I strongly believe that ultimately, we will together put up a formidable struggle and liberate ourselves and our entire society from the shackles of the corrupt elite politicians and looters who have perpetually condemned the mass of the people to abject poverty and penury.
ATTACK ON GANI:
A WARNING TO NCP
On Wednesday 12th March, the presidential campaign team of the National Conscience Party (NCP) was attacked in Ekiti State by agents suspected to belong to the ruling political party in the state, the Alliance for Democracy (AD).
The team, which was travelling back to Ondo State, after a successful campaign tour of Ekiti State was ambushed along the Akure-Ondo road by a gang of four assailants.
The first car in the convoy was stopped and its occupants forced to disembark. Three of the occupants were ordered to lie flat on the road while the driver, Raji was matchetted and asked to take them to where the NCP presidential candidate, Chief Gani Fawehinmi was. The rogues kept on shouting "where is Gani, ……where is Gani?"
Fortunately, the other vehicles in the convoy including the car in which Gani was, were able to escape on time and went to report the incident at a police post in a nearby village. The injured driver was admitted into an hospital in Akure and his injuries were so serious that he could not move down to Lagos with the rest of the team the day after the attack.
The attempted attack on Gani has introduced a new dimension to the rising wave of political violence including assassination of political opponents, in the country in recent months. Before, political violence has been between different factions of the pro-rich elite parties. This has resulted in the death of hundreds of people since 1999. The latest major victim of this type of violence was Marshall Harry, the South-south coordinator of the ANPP who was assassinated in Abuja on 6th March.
But the attack on Gani is a clear indication that the ruling class will stop at nothing to prevent a party like the NCP which they perceive as a potential threat to the rule of looting from coming to power. The capitalist elite are becoming alarmed at the warm reception and support which the gospel of change of the NCP has been getting from the downtrodden masses in the streets and in the community.
The 12th March attack should therefore, be seen as a danger signal by the NCP, the party members, activists and leadership. It shows that the party at all levels need to put in place concrete measures for the protection of its members, meetings, other gatherings and offices. Self-defence teams should be formed for this purpose.
Chief Gani has rightfully condemned the police for failing to provide him with police coverage as it is supposed to be for presidential candidates. But the police and other state security organs cannot be relied upon to provide security and protection for a change-seeking organisation like the NCP. The best protection will come from party members and the working people. That is why the most reliable strategy for building the NCP should be as a party fighting uncompromising for the interests of the working masses and organising a mass movement for real change in society.
ENTHUSIASTIC RECEPTION FOR NCP IN OYO, EKITI
Between Tuesday 4th of March and Thursday 6th March, 2003, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the NCP presidential candidate was in Oyo State to launch the presidential and gubernatorial campaigns of the party in the state. On the first day, 4th March, the campaign was launched in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
On the arrival of Chief Gani Fawehinmi and the presidential campaign team at Ibadan toll gate at about 11:30 am, hundreds of party members and supporters in Ibadan, Oyo State, including the gubernatorial candidate, Femi Aborisade, were already on hand to receive them. The campaign train immediately proceeded from that point, in a convoy of buses and cars, with solidarity songs and music from the 'band boys' through major populated routes in Ibadan.
As the campaign train moved along these routes hundreds of people mostly the youths, middle-aged workers and traders thronged after the convoy of vehicles conveying Chief Gani Fawehinmi and the campaign team. Most of them wanting to either see Gani better or shake him while some scrambling to get copies of the Ten-care programme, which Gani was giving out randomly. Those who could not go through such 'trouble' cheered and waved from afar. Thousands of leaflets particularly the one produced by the presidential campaign committee titled "15 reasons why you must vote for Gani Fawehinmi as president of Nigeria" was circulated as the train moved along.
Speaking at the Teachers House, venue of the launching, Gani restated the commitment of the NCP to the task of abolishing poverty by running a government that will put the people first on its agenda. He stated that the high level of poverty, suffering amidst plenty, collapsed educational system, a system of high interest rate, inflation and pervasive corruption in official quarters which has so far characterised the government of all the bourgeois parties of AD, PDP, ANPP (and others of their likes) at all levels, was unacceptable to the National Conscience Party (NCP). He said, if elected to power, the NCP, by its pro-masses programmes, shall take bold and courageous steps to decisively tackle the scourge of poverty and corruption in Nigeria. He declared the support of the party for the ongoing struggle of Academic Staff of Universities under the aegis of ASUU far-reaching reforms in the tertiary education sector. On the planned scrapping of the third tier of government, the local government system by the speakers of state Houses of Assembly, Gani said the NCP was outrightly opposed to such criminal plan and would employ all legitimate means available to it to fight against it. According to him if implemented, about 600,000 workers would add to the already overstuffed unemployment market.
The Oyo state gubernatorial candidate, 'Femi Aborishade, promised that the party would not disappoint the masses. He also buttressed the preparedness of the party, if voted into power, to tackle poverty and corruption head-on. Unlike the incumbent AD government in the state, the NCP government would massively invest public resources in public health, housing, education, job creation, road construction and rehabilitation, agriculture and other social services.
He further stressed that the NCP government will not operate an unduly expensive bureaucratic government wherein public officials live ostentatious lifestyles with fabulous wages and allowances at the expense of the state while workers and the people who they are supposed to represent are left to suffer. If elected as governor of Oyo state, he would live on the wages of an average civil servant. This, according to him is also in accordance with the code of conduct of the NCP.
Other persons present at the rally were Dr. Oyebade Olowogboyega, the ex-president of Osun State NULGE and NCP guber candidate in Osun state and his deputy governorship candidate, Chief Amitolu Shittu, Mr. Lanre Banjo, Ogun State governorship candidate, comrade Biodun Olamosu, Oyo State Deputy Governorship candidate, Barrister Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, the Deputy National Legal Director of the party and Chairman of Lagos State Central Campaign Committee of the NCP, among numerous other persons.
On the second day 5th March, the campaign train moved to Oyo and just like the Ibadan experience, was received by enthusiastic supporters of the NCP ideals and that of its presidential candidate, Chief Gani Fawehinmi. At the Atiba Town Hall, venue of the NCP campaign rally in Oyo, Gani spoke to hundreds of party members and supporters in Yoruba Language and urged them to reject any appeal to ethnic and/or religious sentiments and vote for the NCP as the only party that has the programmes, credibility and courage to bring succor to the Nigerian people.
In all, 50 copies of Socialist Democracy were sold, 35 during the Ibadan rally and 15 at Oyo.
The presidential campaign team was also warmly received in all parts of Ekiti State which it visited. Altogether, the team went to 16 towns. In all these towns, people, particularly the youth, waited for many hours to receive the team.
It was very clear that there is mass disenchantment with the present AD government in the state. The PDP and other elite parties do not offer a better alternative either. In contrast, recent months has seen hundreds of members of other parties resigning from the parties to join NCP. The party has a bright chance in the coming elections. The party’s governorship candidate in Ekiti State is Mr. Femi Falana, the human rights activist-lawyer and former national chairman of Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR).
SHARIA CRISIS IN OYO SCHOOLS:
RELIGION SHOULD BE A PRIVATE AFFAIR
On 13th March, 2003, a drama, which graphically revealed the level of degeneration of religious bigotry and the impending catastrophe not only in the state but the Country, was played out at a secondary school in Ibadan. The school, Queen of Apostles, Oluyoro, a former Catholic School has earlier forbidden students from putting on any other cloth apart the school uniform, especially the "hijab" which is a veil wore by Muslim women as a token of modesty.
According to an eye witness account, when the school's principal sent back some students for wearing the veil, some Islamic fanatics obviously awaiting such action swooped down on the school principal, rough handled her and later got her arrested by the police.
However, the event assumed a new dimension when the students of the school, who are all females, mobilised and marched down to the Agugu Police Station where the principal had been detained for over about an hour and forced the police to release her.
This event, coming just weeks after a similar, but bloodier event has confirmed, beyond doubt that the state could soon be engulfed in a religious crisis hitherto experienced. On February 24th this year, irate islamic activists numbering several scores invaded some secondary schools in the state capital beating and injuring students, teachers and some unfortunate bystanders. They also vandalized furniture and other school properties. These religious zealots claimed to be protesting against alleged discrimination against female moslems in the practice of their faith. These events also led to the closure of the entire primary and post -primary institutions in the state for several days.
PRELUDE TO CRISIS
On January 17th, 2002, an Islamic leader, Dr. Ibrahim Datti Ahmed announced in a press conference in Minna, Niger State that moslems in Oyo and Kwara states had invited him to bring Sharia, the Islam legal code, to them.
On April 30, the National Council of Moslem Youths (NACOMYO) announced the introduction of Sharia in the state. A month after (May 1st), the same organisation (NACOMYO) announced the setting up of Oyo State Independent Sharia Panel. Although Mr. Sanni Ishaq Kunle, who read the press statement assured that the panel will be for moslems who willingly submitted to panel, he warned that moslems who disobey the panel "may be ostracized by the moslem Ummah, their children may not be given names of mallams, their marriages may not be contracted by mallams and they may not be prayed for in their graves by mallams". More seriously, Sanni threatened that "there could be other extra-legal punishments as may be determined by the Imam in Council in Oyo state".
Sometime later, a young man was reported to have gone to the Council to confess a crime after which he was given forty strokes of the cane
Since then, the group and a sister organisation, the Muslim students society (MSS) have organised several protests to the office of the state governor at Agodi.
Not surprisingly both the state and the federal government have remained pathetically helpless on this matter. Apart from a terse warning of dealing with the perpetrators of the act, the state government has done nothing to arrest the situation.
Why religious crises, why now? To answer the above question there is the need to understand the crisis engendered by the capitalist system both internationally and especially the third world, the peculiarity of this particular period and the manifestation in Nigeria. Marx is popularly quoted as saying that religion is the opium of the people, but this is not all. According to him "religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also a protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature..........." This summarily explains the recent increase in not only muslim fanaticism, but the geometric rise in the number of churches and church goers.
The government of the state, which like other AD governments was popularly voted into power with the belief that it will be able to right the accumulated wrongs of protracted military misrule has failed woefully in this regard. It has not only failed to address the most elementary problems, it has also created a number of new ones. The government has sacked thousands of workers in the state tertiary institutions, offices and parastatals. What more it has also failed to pay the salaries of the not too lucky remaining workers. These have caused life to be unbearable for millions in the state .It is the hydra-headed, multifarious problems that is fantastically reflected in the mind of a large mass of the people of the state, as acts of God. Hence, this religious fundamentalism is essentially an attempt to re - direct the society to God who this people erroneously blames their socio- economic woes.
Internationally, the United State led war on "terrorism" has also led to many moslems, who hitherto are unconcerned about religion to consciously identify with this groups. In fact the impending strike on Iraq which is viewed by many as un-called for and by moslems as religious persecution is daily forcing more and more moslems into the fold of fanaticism. This is evidenced by the countless pro-bin Laden and Saddam demonstrations which have been held in the state.
A SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE
This problem will worsen with time. If the US attacks Iraq a serious backlash will plunge not only the state but also all the countries with large muslim population throughout the world into crisis. Hence as immediate measure to halt this fast approaching disaster we call on all workers, students, traders to join in stopping the proposed war on Iraq. We also call for a total separation of religion and government. Religion must strictly be a private affair. An end must come to the use of public resources to fund religious activities such as pilgrimages etc. Abolition of all illegal and parallel judicial system apart from the civil court and the formation of community security watch, democratically elected and accountable to the community. Also for the introduction of free and compulsory, state controlled education. The working people should demand democratic control of all public institutions. Ultimately, a final end to all these crisis and similar ones will only come with the overthrow of the capitalist system.
POLICE KILLING OF AJEGUNLE YOUTH:
FINIKUNMO FAMILY DEMANDS JUSTICE
Sunday 2nd of March will forever remain a "Black Sunday" for the family of a 22 years old boy and a resident of 13b, Agugu Street, Ajegunle, Master Idris Finikunmo who was shot dead by a policeman at the National Oil filling station, Tin Can Island.
An eye witness, Mr. Mohammed Garuba who works very close to the scene of the incident and who is very much familiar with the leaders of the patrol team, one Mr. Emma and Mustapha both of whom were from Area 'B' police command, Apapa said a group of four armed policemen, all in mufti with one of them, Mr. Mustapha putting on a bullet proof apron with the inscription "POLICE" stormed the National Oil filling station with a commercial bus in search of fuel hawkers.
The late master Idris Finikunmo whose uncle owns a generating plant at Tin Can was sent to buy a 10 litre of fuel when luck ran against him. With the filling station being stampeded by the four-armed policemen, all fuel hawkers and innocent citizens started running helter skelter to seek refuge for their dear lives. The deceased who ran back towards the filling station, on getting to the extreme end of the fence of the station, was shot by the policeman in bulletproof apron. He fell down and died instantly. The killer advanced towards him and took away 10 litre of fuel he has bought.
Later, the father of the boy, Mr. Felix Finikunmo, an unemployed ex-naval officer, arrived at the scene sitting close to the corpse of his late son in his pool of blood shouting "I am the father of the boy".
All efforts of the family of the deceased to demand justice from Area 'B' has proved abortive as the Area Commander (AC) of Area 'B' continues to deny the involvement of his men in the incident. This made the family to petitioned the office of Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Zone II, Onikan. On Friday 7th of March, the AIG office referred the case to the homicide section.
Would the brutal killing of Master Idris Finikunmo be one of those ruthless and unresolved killings of innocent citizens by the police? It would be recalled that sometimes ago on January 27, 2001, a resident of Ajegunle, Mr. Abayomi Oyebola, a 300 Level Business Administration student of University of Benin was shot dead by mobile police officer at the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) Wharf. It was widely reported in the dailies, following the successful protest of angry youth of Ajegunle to NPA and media houses on February 1, 2001. Till date, the killer has not been found and the family has not compensated.
What these killing by police shows is that the police, a state apparatus supposedly saddled with the responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of the citizen is really an agent for brutality, indiscriminate shooting and harassment.
The Ajegunle youth has threatened to go on demonstration if the culprits are not fished out in time.
We demand that:
* the culprit must be brought to book by being arrested, tried and punished in accordance with the law
* the family of the deceased should be compensated
* the rights of the police to form, join and belong to any union of their choice to demand for good working condition, good salaries, etc.
* there police should be placed under the democratic control of the community.
LAGOS NCP MARKS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
For the first time in the history of National Conscience Party (NCP), the women section of the party in Lagos State held a public lecture to mark the International Women's Day. The programme was held on 8th of March, 2003 at the state secretariat at No 36A, Acme Road, Ikeja. The programme was organised to raise the level of consciousness and awareness of women as a means of changing their attitude towards political issues. The topic discussed was "Women Political Participation: Prospects And Challenges".
A good number of forty-eight people attended including thirty women. The guest speaker was represented by Mrs. Fagbamigbe from Institute of Legal Studies who spoke extensively on the topic highlighting the role society, media and government play in politics. She gave statistical analysis of women in politics, labour force, etc., their attitude and problems. At the end, resolutions were made on how women should view politics. Other speakers were Mrs. Olumide Fusika, Mrs. Adesanya, Miss Yetunde Awosika and the governorship candidate of the party in Lagos state, Mr. Lateef Abassi.
A total amount of N1,000 was raised as solidarity fund. The NCP looks forward to more women joining the fold and participate fully in this kind of forum and in political activities meant to change society in the interests of the overwhelming majority, the downtrodden masses.
WHAT IS SOCIALISM?
The following article is an extract from the chapter "How would socialism work?" in the book Socialism in the 21st Century written by Hannah Sell. Hannah is the campaigns organiser and member of the national executive committee of Socialist Party, DSM’s sister organisation in England and Wales. For the full text of the book visit the website www.socialistparty.org.uk
In the 300 years or so of its existence capitalism has transformed the planet over and over again. Rail, electricity, the internal combustion engine, flight, space travel, telephones and electronic computers, the list is endless. The world economy is 17 times the size it was a century ago.
Despite this, all the technology developed by capitalism has not provided clean water for 1.2 billion people or food for the 841 million who are seriously malnourished. Capitalism is capable of spending billions on developing weaponry used to bomb the poor of Afghanistan and Iraq, but it cannot solve poverty, hunger or disease.
And capitalism is threatening the very future existence of the planet. Scientists predict that, as a result of global warming, sea levels are likely to rise by up to one metre this century. This would devastate the inhabitants of the flood plains of Bangladesh and Egypt, and worldwide hundreds of millions of the very poor would be displaced.
Capitalism has enormously developed the productive forces but it is the blind forces of profiteering that are in the driving seat.
Capitalism is incapable of fully harnessing the science and technology it has brought into being. It is incapable of providing for the needs of humanity or of protecting our fragile planet. By contrast, a socialist society would be able to harness the enormous potential of human talent and technique in order to build a society and economy which could meet the needs of all.
It is not possible to create socialism in one country surrounded by a world capitalist market. Nonetheless, there is an enormous amount that could be achieved by a socialist government in the immediate period after it came to power, as part of a transition from capitalism to socialism.
A socialist economy would have to be a planned economy. This would involve bringing all of the big corporations, which control around 80% of the British economy, into democratic public ownership, under working-class control.
Of course, it would not mean bringing small businesses, such as the local shops, many of which are forced out of business by the multinationals, into public ownership. Nor would it mean, as opponents of socialism claim, taking away personal 'private property'. On the contrary, socialists are in favour of everyone having the right to a decent home and the other conveniences of modern life.
Socialism would be a truly democratic society. Under capitalism most of the important decisions are not taken in Westminster (the British parliament) or local council chambers, they are taken in the boardrooms of the big corporations. A socialist government would bring major industry into democratic public ownership
It would be necessary to draw up a plan, involving the whole of society, on what industry needed to produce. At every level, in communities and workplaces, committees would be set up and would elect representatives to regional and national government. Measures such as a shorter working week and decent, affordable childcare would enable everybody to participate in real decision-making about how best to run society.
A socialist government would ensure that no elected representatives received financial privileges as a result of their position but, instead, lived the same lifestyle as those they represented.
At every level, elected representatives would be accountable and subject to instant recall. If the people who had elected them did not like what their representatives did, they could make them stand for immediate re-election and, if they wished, replace them with someone else.
Capitalism today has provided the tools which could enormously aid the genuine, democratic planning of an economy. We have the internet, market research, supermarket loyalty cards that record the shopping habits of every customer, and so on.
Big business uses this technology to find out what it can sell. We could use it rationally instead to find out what people need and want.
The general trend of capitalism, with its increasing monopolisation, is towards internal planning. Ford, for example, uses a huge internet programme to procure the cheapest possible components world-wide. However, under capitalism the process will never be finished.
A blind system based on profit and competition will never be able to be planned beyond a certain limit. But a socialist government would strengthen and develop the methods of planning currently used to maximise profit and avoid taxes in order to plan society for the benefit of all.
Even on the basis of current production, measures could be taken to meet the needs of the majority. Every year capitalism spends $1 trillion on arms spending. This alone could provide $1,000 a year for every family on the planet. Just 25% of the cost of president George W Bush's Star Wars programme would provide clean drinking water for the billion people who are currently without it. A democratic, planned economy could develop production to much greater level than is possible under capitalism.
There is no contradiction between developing technology and production and safeguarding the planet. What is needed if we are to save the world is long-term planning that would be able to develop alternative technologies that did not harm the environment.
This could only be achieved on the basis of democratic socialism. A democratically run planned economy would be able to take rational decisions on the basis of aiming to meet the needs of humanity.
It would decide what technology to develop and use, what food to produce, and when and where to build, while taking into consideration the need to protect and repair our planet for future generations.
Changing economic relations, the abolition of class divisions and the construction of the society based on democratic involvement and co-operation would also lay the basis for a change in social relations.
Society would move away from hierarchies and the oppression and abuse of one group by another. Human relations would be freed from all the muck of capitalism.
NORTH KOREA/U.S. STAND-OFF:
THE ISSUES INVOLVED
In his state of union speech in January 2002 aftermath the 11th September terrorist attacks in US, President Bush specifically mentioned as part of an 'axis of evil' three countries-Iran, Iraq and North Korea and vowed to take military action against any state acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Consequently, US directed Saddam Hussein through UN resolution 1441 Kim Jong-il of North Korea to drop his nuclear programme or face the music on the other hand. Iraq allowed in UN weapon inspectors and so far, no hard evidence has been given by the Hans Blix led weapon inspectors for possessing weapons for man destruction. North Korea however admitted the allegation and threaten to speed up its nuclear programme except the US fulfils its framework agreement and enters into serious negotiations. It also sent packing UN weapon inspectors and deactivated cameras and electronic gadgets they have fixed since 1994 and threatened to withdraw from the Non-proliferation treaty which commits it not to develop nuclear weapon.
The questions on the lips of every keen follower of international relations, especially as it relates to the US and British - led imperialist war against Iraqi for "possession of weapons of mass destruction" despite the fact that there are no concrete proofs to justify it combined with the unprecedented magnitude of international protests and demonstrations against war with Iraq are: why has same imperialism, especially US, resulted to diplomacy with North Korea that does not only admit possessing these weapons but has threatened to speed up its production? Why the double standard? What does this double standard portend for world politics especially in the East Asia region?
NORTH KOREA DOSSIER
North Korea is a political economy modelled after the bureaucratically planned economies of the former Soviet Union and countries of Eastern Europe. It has also been far more isolated and rigid than its other Stalinist variants. It is also being ruled by a hereditary dictator, Kim Jong-il who took over from his father in 1994. The regime is ideologically monolithic and ruled by totalitarian method with over 200,000 political prisoners in labour camps. It has about a million troops mostly stationed within 30 miles north of Seoul with conventional weapons, tanks, artillery, missiles, military aircraft and warship all this has continued to constitute a massive burden on the economy. The point however is that North Korea could within a short notice wreck a heavy havoc on South Korea in form of retaliation in event of an attack from US imperialism.
In the aftermath of the 1950-53 Korean war, the conventional military bombardment of the north which was the most industrialised in the Korean peninsular left it with massive infrastructural destruction. Just like other bureaucratic ex-Stalinist countries, its industrial output has been steadily falling resulting from its obsolete and bureaucratic planning apparatus. This unpalatable situation is compounded by the lack of foreign investment majorly due to default on many of its debts to European and Japanese banks which scares away potential foreign investors on one hand and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 which used to supply N/Korea subsided oil, fertilisers and machinery on the other hand. Again, 1995-96 floods of the 'bread basket' areas also worsen the situation with its attendant famine and starvation leading to death of hundreds of thousands and fleeing of refugees to North East China. This famine has forced Kim Jong-il administration to allow private farmers' market to spring up with the expected higher prices for their products.
Faced with these gargantuan economic crises and an imminent collapse, North Korea in 1993-94 resulted to nuclear weapons programme development with the purpose of blackmailing US for a non-aggression pact, recognition of its sovereignty and most importantly, economic assistance due to the collapse of the Soviet Union especially when it (US) refused to enter into a peace treaty to formerly end the 1950-53 Korean war.
In return for North Korea suspending its nuclear programme, the US in October 1994, negotiated an "agreed framework" to provide economic assistance in form of oil, food and construction of two "light water"
reactors for electricity generation and a promise of "full normalisation of political and economic relations" with it.
Before reaching this agreement, US imperialism had calculated the socio-economic and political cost of a nuclear conflict with N/Korea and felt that it would be too high and that a peace pact with it would be more sensible. For instance, it was estimated that the US would need about $100 billion for a full-scale war in the peninsular with about one million dead including 100,000 Americans. Over $1 trillion will be the cost of destruction and economic dislocation apart from the unpleasant repercussion of a nuclear conflict for humanity.
But Clinton administration, under a severe pressure from the Republican dominated Congress, reneged on the 1994 "agreed framework". Apart from providing oil, other promises were thrown into dustbin with a calculation that the North Korea, faced with imminent economic collapse, would be forced to a unilateral military concession even without US deliverance. However, this was a great miscalculation! To pressurise US into negotiation, North Korea resumed its missile testing in 1998, firing some over Japan with the intention to market the products to countries like Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, etc. on one hand and pressurising US imperialism to negotiation on the other hand.
But the US has currently adopted "diplomatic" approach for certain strategic reasons. For one, two regional wars (in the Middle East and Korean peninsular) will bring an unwholesome pressure on the US economy that is already receding and consequently, a negative effect on the world economy.
Secondly, there is a rising opposition to the role of US imperialism in Korea. In actual fact, Roh Moo-hyun, a candidate of the Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) won the South Korea presidential election last December on a wave of anti-American feeling. Apart from this general mass resentment especially against the 37,000 US troops (who are not binded by South Korean legal code) stationed in South Korea since the end of 1950-53 Korean war that costs South Korea government between $3 billion to $4 billion annually, there is a general feeling that S/Korea will be the first target of the N/Korea if the latter is attacked by the US.
In addition, the South Korean bourgeois ruling class is afraid of mass movement of refugee from the North, which would have a devastating effect on the already strained south economy. South Korean capitalists are therefore generally agreed to a gradual process towards the reunification and integration of Korea on the capitalist basis and exploiting the cheap labour of the north. If North Korea succeeds on this, other countries in the region will take a note and this may be horrific for the region and world peace.
Combinations of all these factors have forced the US imperialism to take a diplomatic approach towards North Korean issue with a likely view to slug it out with it but not after it has finished up the Iraq war. To US, Iraq takes priority.
Thus, as against capitalist gradual process of reunifying both North and South Korea, the anti-American feelings should be turned against imperialism to reconstruct the Korea on a socialist plane. South Korean working class should not rely on a seemingly "labour friendly" Mr. Roy, it should take the bull by the horn. Only the working class unity of both countries with a centrally planed economy under its democratic control and management of the two countries resources for decent living and economic condition can peace and tranquility be permanently be in the peninsula.
IVORY COAST: A DEAL FOR PEACE?
On September 19th, 2003, army mutiny aimed at over-throwing the government of President Laurent Gbagbo crystallized into armed rebellion in different parts of the country and since then the country has not known peace.
At present, the northern and central parts of the country are under the formidable umbrella of the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast (MPCI) and they have vowed to topple what they see as the genocidal regime of President Gbagbo. Also, two armed dissident groups, known as Ivorien Popular Movement of Far West and Movement for Justice and Peace, have joined the degenerating conflict, stressing that they emerged to avenge the killing of General Guei.
The on-going armed rebellion in Cote d'Ivoire is traceable to the policy named Ivorite. The policy is a concept of pure Ivorien parentage or true citizenship, which former President Henri Konan Bedie and successive regimes of General Robert Guei and incumbent President Gbagbo employed to their own political advantage to thwart the presidential ambition of Alassance Dramane Quattara, a vigorous opposition figure from northern part of the country, whose parents are alleged to have migrated from the neighboring Burkina Faso.
On December 23, 1999, the military struck and overthrew Konan Bedie. The coup d'etat led by Robert Guei was popular. On assuming the office, General Guei set up a transition government made up of members of all major political parties. The election that produced the President Gbagbo was a contest between Gbagbo and Robert Guei. Both of them claimed victory at the polls which led to violent confrontation between supporters and sympathizers of Gbagbo and Guei. Laurent Gbagbo went ahead and announced that he won the election and proclaimed himself the president of the country.
Apart from the loss of lives and properties, the civil war in Cote d'Ivoire has also had adverse effects on its economy. This is seen in the areas of disruption of export of cocoa (the mainstay of its economy) and exodus of businessmen from the war torn country. All efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and French government to bring the war to an end by sending troops with a view of maintaining 'peace' have been proved abortive.
The warring factions in the crisis including President Laurent Gbagbo recently signed a peace deal to end the four-month civil war in the country. Under the plan, Mr. Gbagbo is expected to cede some of his powers to a Prime Minister who will head a government of national unity. The government of national unity is to be headed by Seydou Diarra- who was also prime minister from 1999 to 2000 during the period of military rule in Ivory Coast. The agreement was reached recently after nine days of talks in the French capital between the main Ivorian political parties and the country's three rebel groups.
Though, all the warring parties have signed a peace deal, only time will tell if the agreement in the deal will be adhered to. It is not unusual for any of the warring parties to renege on its promise to abide by the peace deal. Even, if the agreement in the deal is adhered to, this could not transform the lives of students, youths, artisans and working people of Ivory Coast into better. The youth, students, artisans and working people of Ivory Coast should not put their destiny in the hands of any government of national unity. Instead, they should come together to form a working people's party and strive to transform the country along socialist line whereby the commanding heights of economy will be managed and controlled democratically by the working people.
GLOBAL PROTESTS AGAINST WAR ON IRAQ
Following the invasion of Iraq by US led forces, a wave of anti-war protests have swept across the world. A few hours after the war was launched, protesters took to the streets to condemn the action. In Barcelona, Spain, 50,000 took part in a protest, the same number that demonstrated in Melbourne, Australia. 20,000 rallied in Sydney, also in Australia. Tens of thousands demonstrated in Sweden while there were 85 demos in 36 cities in Italy.
But of even greater significance is the walkout and strikes of students against the war. In Germany, 150,000 students went on strike while there were strikes in 30 colleges in Seattle in the US itself. About 1,500 anti-war protesters were arrested across the US within 24 hours that Bush ordered the offensive. In many countries, members of the Committee for Workers’ International (CWI), the international socialist organisation to which DSM is affiliated, were at the forefront in organising the anti-war mass actions.
The global opposition to this imperialist war for oil and prestige will likely grow in the coming days and weeks especially if the war drags for long. The war will also expose to a new generation of youth and workers the greed and irrationality which drive global capitalism and convince more people of the need to fight against and change the system.
HOW THREE DOCKWORKERS WERE KILLED AT APAPA
On the 21st February, 2003, it was about 4.50am, about 10 minutes to closing period for those on night duty. A dock worker (labourer) gathered industrial sugar from the ground (waste sugar) which is normal since they are poorly paid and being neglected by Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), the contractor and also the union. Then suddenly comes a policeman asking for settlement from the dock worker or he is going to seize the sugar from the him. This young man refused to bribe the policeman and also refuse to release the sugar to him. Suddenly, the policeman shot the dockworker and instantly he dropped dead.
The sound of the gun catching the attention of other fellow dock workers angrily, this policeman was bundled into the lagoon, hoping he does not know how to swim but unfortunately he can swim and he escaped from the working masses.
It was about 7.20 am, the dockworkers that were to resume morning duty came along in their numbers and heard about the incident that had happened few hours before. All dock workers of (berth 19) started with solidarity songs and by 8.30am, all dock workers in Apapa Port Complex joined in the protest of their comrade and all of them refused to go back to work until the policeman is brought to book.
At about 9.00am, the union leaders of Maritime Workers Union arrived at the Wharf gate and called on all the dock workers to go to work instead of promising the angry comrades that the policeman will be dealt with. They were instructing all the dock workers to go back to work immediately.
Angrily, one comrade threw pure water on the union leaders and suddenly, all the dock workers started throwing stones and the situation got out of control. The police came in again, they started shooting with the sound of bullets flying. Everybody started to run and in the process, another comrade was hit by a bullet from behind. Another mobile policeman that was supposed to be guarding First Bank of Nigeria shot 2 other people that are running for safety, one was a vulcanizer and the other was also a dock worker, bringing the total number of death to four.
Angrily, the dock workers re-enforced and came back for revenge but the area is already surrounded by police and mobile policemen shooting in the air and at the same time arresting.
With this, the comrades were made to retreat and the port was closed down since the dock workers are the source of production at the port and they were about 84% of the working population of the port.
DAY 2: 22ND FEBRUARY, 2003
At about 7.30am, as usual, dock workers begin to arrive at the port gate and normally they were stopped. About 10.00am, the union leaders arrived and threatened to victimised anybody that participate in any protest, that the case should be dropped, that they will handle it. And if they don't drop the protest, they will be replaced at their working place. Given the fact that if you lose your job, it might take years to find another job, so, all the comrades dropped the protest and went back to their various areas. About 20,000 or more participated in the protests.
The dock workers union leaders are working against the workers instead of working in favour of the workers.
The union is always against strike of any kind, if the world must know, the dock workers cannot enter the port freely because no form of identification was given to them that is accepted by the police or NPA security. If in case of accident, the union does not allow workers to fight for compensation even in the cases of death.
Since the union assumes office in 2000, the dock workers have been outside the port during the period of rainfall and dry season. Even prostitutes are allowed in, pure water sellers are allowed, food sellers are allowed but the working masses are not allowed in unless they wait for the contractor bus which comes once or twice daily thereby leaving thousands of workers stranded outside. At the long-run, they will return home without working for a living.
The union went into an agreement with the government and NPA that on no condition will they go on strike. But we workers are determined to fight for:
i. Wages increment
ii. Good working conditions
iii. Compensation for the family of the murdered workers.
iv. Freedom of speech
v. The right to have a port-pass like every other person.
NITOL TEXTILE WORKERS ELECT NEW EXCO
The workers of Nitol Textile held their union election on 15th February, 2003.
The only post to be contested was that of the union chairman, which was contested between Mr. Johnson Osedeye, a former union chairman and Mr. Monday Agahuwa. Mr. Monday Agahuwa had 12 votes while Mr. Johnson Osedeye had 30 votes. The post of secretary and treasurer were unopposed as Mr. Ocheme Godwin and Cordella Okpena respectively were returned. Six other members of the executives are Samuel Ayete, Isaac Nwogu, Thomson Sunday, Ganiya Dauda, Taiwo Ikuesan and Omolaja Akingboye.
The newly elected chairman promised to make working conditions better in Nitol.
Though the company is large, the conditions of the workforce is very appalling. There is no canteen, no good drinking water and the annual increment per year is N100. Casual workers are widely used.
Medical facility for junior staff does not extend to the members of their immediate families.
There is no regular promotion; when one is in level 1, he/she can be there for ten years. There is no training system for the junior staff. The feeding allowance has just been increased from N30 to N40 per day, transport from N60 to N75.
The newly elected executives will have to address these problems. This can be achieved by building a democratic rank-and-file based union, with regular mass meetings of workers to discuss and take decisions on issues affecting the working conditions. Through this, not only will the union enjoy the support and confidence of the members, it will make it difficult for the management to victimise any activist fighting for workers' interests.
15 copies of DSM's newspaper, Socialist Democracy were sold at the election while N200 was donated to our struggle fund.
RUFUS OLUSESAN ELECTED AS SEWUN CHAIRMAN
Comrade Rufus Olusesan, the trade union activist and socialist who was recently reinstated back to his job by the management of Kabelmetal PLC has been elected the substantive chairman of the local branch of the Steel and Engineering Workers' Union (SEWUN).
About 250 workers took part in the election which took place on Thursday, March 13, 2003 to chose a new leadership for the branch. The workers had in January, 2003 dissolved the former union executive for their pro-management stance and particularly for deducting a levy of N1,000 from their salaries without any prior consultation or approval by the workers. A struggle waged by the workers against this imposition led the management to unjustly sacked Rufus who was accused of leading the workers' opposition to the levy. Despite that his appointment had allegedly been terminated by the company, the workers elected him to head the steering committee which they set up after the dissolution of the pro-management executive.
A strike action by the workers and a local and international campaign which was organised by SEWUN, Campaign for Independent Unionism (CIU), DSM, NCP and NANS, compelled the management to rescind their decision, by calling Rufus back to work.
Out of the positions on the executive, only the chairmanship position was contested for while candidates for other positions were turned unopposed. They are Moses Ipokpo (vice-chairman), Gbenga Balogun (secretary), Richard Akinwunmi (treasurer), and Stephen Komolafe (financial secretary). Four workers, Abiola Elugbaju, Sakiru Adebambo, Babatunde Osota and Joseph Badejo, were elected ex-officio members of the executive.
The new executive would need to live up to the expectations of their members by fighting for drastic improvement in the working conditions. To achieve this, the union must be run democratically and meetings of the rank and file members should be held regularly to allow members discuss and take decisions on issues affecting them. Only in this way will the union remain strong and be able to withstanding any attempt by the management to undermine it or victimise workers or activists in the company.
BUILD LECTURE ROOMS, NOT POLICE POSTS!
The Committee of Vice Chancellors recently came out with a proposal calling for the bringing back police posts to campuses. They claim this is the only measure that can guarantee crisis-free campuses. The Nigerian Police and the government have warmly welcomed the proposal. After the students and academic and non academic staffs protested against the moves in strong terms, it appears the government has mellowed down on the implementation. But this does not imply the issue is over; most likely it will be reopened at an appropriate time. This may be soonest, as the students have become radicalised by the policy of commercialisation of education which is now the order of the day.
The crises on our campuses are mainly cultist violence and the agitation of the students and members of staff for academic and welfare improvements on campuses and against corruption among the school authorities. The students also fight against commercialisation of education as it is manifested in increase in payable fees and introduction of new charges which is now the order. Although, the ostensible reason for the police post on campuses, in reality it is meant to be used as repressive apparatus to browbeat and suppress the students and members of staff in the course of fighting for their interests and rights and which may become more vicious if those agitation expose the corruption of the authorities and the governments.
One cannot say the menace of campus cultism should not be addressed, but the point is that stationing police presence on campuses is not the panacea. It is a fact the police on campuses will be as dangerous as campus cultism with possible police killing of members of the academic community by accidental discharge along with characteristic harassment, bribery, etc. as it obtains in the larger society. Besides this, if one considers the fact that the Nigerian police are not disciplined and they are poverty-stricken, on campuses they will be aiding and abetting the cultists after collecting bribes from the latter. This is also a well-known phenomenon in the larger society between the police and armed robbers and other category of criminals.
Moreover, the vice chancellors, rectors and provosts are not sincere at tackling the problem of campus cultism, as they also usually make use of the cultists to deal with any radical student leader even to the point of death. Examples of this abounds. We have seen such instance at Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, University of Benin, Lagos State University, University of Ibadan where cultists were once reportedly sponsored to attack union leaders. In some of these cases lives were lost. Besides, the cultists have godfathers in the larger society who are either their parents or patrons who are always highly placed.
The menace of campus cultism can be curtailed if there is a formidable students' unions and sincerity on the parts of the authorities and the governments. This is the paradox of the matter as the authorities and government see the radical student unions as a worse enemy.
By and large, the crises on campuses are a reflection of what is happening in the larger society where violence have become the order of the day with the murder of political leaders for instance and the policies of the government are anti-people .
The crisis on our campuses is the crisis of capitalism. As long as there are under funding of education, which is in line with IMF\World Bank dictated neo-liberal policies of commercialisation and privatisation, corruption in the education sector which is a characteristic phenomenon of capitalism, and lack of democratic culture on campuses; the crises on our campuses will persist. Police posts cannot prevent them but only compound them.
All those stated phenomena are products of capitalism; therefore there is no lasting solution to campus crises within the framework of capitalism. We have to fight for alternative socio-economic policies which can ensure that education is properly funded, corruption is eradicated and democratic culture encouraged. This can only be ultimately obtained under genuine democratic, socialism. Therefore as we are fighting against the ills in the education sector, the struggle must always been linked to the overall struggle of the working people against capitalism and for the socialist reconstruction of the society.
FIGHT FEES AND CULTISM
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Polytechnic Ibadan branch and the entire Polytechnic Ibadan student condemn the obnoxious hike in school fees by the state government through the authority of the Polytechnic Ibadan. In the last four years, the students of Polytechnic Ibadan and their parent having made to pay exorbitant fees which as a result of which most students have been forced to withdraw from the school. Due to the commercialisation of education, the hostel has been privatised to private individual who now criminally collect as high as N60,000 per room as against N10,000. x
The AD government of Lam Adesina has increased school fees by 400%, privatised hostels, closed down the institution for 4 months in 1999 and 6 months in 2000, and arrested and jailed 14 students of the Polytechnic, Ibadan who have presently been charged to court. It also sacked of over 7000 workers of the institution among who are National Secretary General and gubernatorial candidate of the National Conscience Party in Oyo State, Femi Aborishade and Eng. Fawole Taiwo, the chairman of SATTHURAI, the Polytechnic Ibadan branch. As at the time of putting this write-up together, the pension of those sacked workers are yet to be paid. Out of those sacked, over 60 people have died. With all this catalogue of analysis, it is obvious that the party controlled by Alh. Lam Adesina has no good plan for education in the state.
There is in addition to the catalogue of problems confronting the students and staff: shortage of classroom, insecurity, cultism, poor laboratory, poor road network, shortage of lecturers, poor electricity, lack of water, etc. The management and the state government does not have any good plan for the students and staff and therefore we call on the students, parents, NANS, ASUP, NASU, SSATHURAI, SUG, etc, to join hands together to demand and struggle for proper funding of education in the Polytechnic, Ibadan.
The problem of cultism in the Polytechnic Ibadan is fast becoming alarming. Last session, over 10 students who are members of the cult groups were killed. Lacking any solution to stop the problem, the authorities have been given huge amount of money to these groups purported to keep peace by the Rector as part of the allowance from the school fees paid by the oppressed students of the school. This has not brought end to cultism.
We the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) condemn the activities of cultism. But we know that cultism on our campus is a reflection of the economic and social crises in our society and also the problem of poor funding, over-crowded classroom, poor laboratories, libraries and strikes caused by both the federal and state governments. We call on the authority to stop abetting this groups and we call on the state government to adequately fund education.
EXTORTION OF N1,000
N1,000 is being collected by the authorities from those they suspect to have used fake results to gain admission to the institution. This is exploitative and illegal. We condemn the act of using fake result to gain admission into the institution but we equally condemn the management for collecting money from the suspects. The essence of posting the names of the students is just to collect N1,000. About 60% of the names that were pasted have their original certificates. We want to say that the authority should give back the money criminally collected from the students for verification because every student admitted have already paid for the verification of result.
The student should stand on the old fees and campaign against the obnoxious hike in school fees. This can only be done if the students' union and the entire students of the institution collectively say no to the fees.
As a lasting panacea, we in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) want to state that we can have better living conditions when the economy of the country is owned and controlled by the people and not by some few people who are the servants of World Bank, IMF and imperialism.
GOVT MUST HONOUR AGREEMENTS WITH UNIONS
After series of breakdown in talks between government and striking lecturers, both parties have now agreed to set up an implementation committee. The 10-man implementation committee has representatives of government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and is headed by Prof. Ayo Banjo, former vice-chancellor of university of Ibadan and pro-chancellor of university of Port Harcourt. The terms of reference of the committee as reported by The Punch of Wednesday, March 19, 2003 is the preparation of a mutually acceptable schedule for implementation of the agreement with respect to financial implications and the recommendation of modalities for the resolution of all other outstanding issues. The committee has two weeks from Tuesday, March 18, 2003 to submit its report. This would determine further steps to be taken by the striking lecturers who had rejected the proposal by government that the strike be called off while the committee perform its assignment.
Academic activities in Nigerian universities have remained halted as the industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) persists. ASUU had embarked on the strike on 29th December 2002 to demand the implementation of the June 2001 agreement signed between it and the Federal Government. The agreement basically centres on funding, the allocation of a minimum of 26% of the annual budget to education in line with UNESCO recommendation, funding of rehabilitation of students' hostels, classrooms, laboratories, workshops, municipal facilities like roads, water, electricity and other teaching and research facilities plus assistance to state universities through project funding and other forms of intervention. The agreement also provides that there would be a separate salary structure for academics i.e. (UASS)(4.1.1); genuine autonomy based on the laws of universities and democratic governance, and that no single academic staff will be victimized for participating in the strike that led to the signing of the agreement.
The ongoing strike is as a result of government's flagrant violation of the agreements. For instance, the budgetary allocation to education thereafter has even been less than the previous one before the agreement with ASUU and it has progressively declined. 7.0% was allocated in 2001, 5.9% in 2002 and 1.83% is proposed by the government for 2003 in its appropriation bill currently before the National Assembly. Moreover, in relation to the unjustly sacked 44 lecturers of University of Ilorin, the government has not only repudiated the agreement, it has also openly aided and abetted the sustenance of their criminal and unjust persecution. ASUU has also accused the government and its officials (those of the ministry of education and NUC) of corruption and mismanagement of funds meant for the universities. For instance, N1.3 billion of the stabilisation funds, originally meant to create for shortfalls in budgetary allocation, has been mismanaged by government officials and spent on frivolous activities. It is not certain that anything will come out of the so-called implementation committee, at least judging by the conduct and utterances of government and its agents since the commencement of the ASUU strike. It would be recalled that shortly after signing the agreement in June 2001 a similar implementation committee was set up with similar term of reference, this did not stop the government from backsliding on the agreement. The government has told those who care to listen that it is not prepared, despite the struggle of ASUU and the students, to accede to demand of the striking lecturers. As far as the government is concerned the ASUU demands as contained in the said agreement is "too bogus and extravagant" to be met by this government and that is why the government has been engaging in the tactics of blackmail and intimidation and lies against the ASUU with the aim of breaking the strike.
The claim that government cannot fund the June 2001 agreement is false; neither is it true that the ASUU demands are" bogus and extravagant". The government's brazen and shameless violation of the agreement is not unconnected with its characteristic contemptible attitude to the education in line with the IMF/World Bank dictated neo-liberal policies of privatisation and commercialisation of education and other social services. The government being a government based on the selfish capitalist monetarist ethos, it does not prioritise the education of the Nigerian youth. The government does not see education as capable of yielding immediate financial returns that can be looted and converted for private purposes like the oil industries and other key sectors of the economy. Therefore, the government invests less in education and calls on parents to shoulder the huge burden of educating their wards. But education is the responsibility of government to be paid for from our collective wealth and not that of the parents who have been more economically dis-empowered the present Obasanjo capitalist government.
Under the current regime numerous workers have been sacked due to government's claim of inability to pay wages. Those still at work are paid pitiable wages. The pensioners too are owed backlog of salaries and inflation has eaten deep into the incomes of the working people. These are compounded by government's policy of privatisation of public utilities and commercialisation of social services including education, as dictated by IMF/World Bank and other imperialist forces, where in the productive sectors of the economy are placed in the hands of a tiny few officials of government and the ruling class to the detriment of the poor working majority. At the end, social services like education, health, housing, etc are reserved only for the highest bidder. All these are because our government is a capitalist government that places profit of a few before the welfare of the majority.
The DSM commends the doggedness of the ASUU leadership and the forbearance of the leadership of the students' movement, which has so far refused to be cajoled, by government's shameless tactics of blackmail, lies and deceit, into constituting an opposition to the struggle of the striking lecturers. It should however be stressed that while the struggle of ASUU is necessary and commendable, the task of revamping of education must be shouldered by every staff union in the sector (i.e. ASUU, ASUP, COEASU, SSANU, NASU, SSATHURAI, NUT etc.) along with the students. There should be joint action among the staff unions and the students. This will lead to the formation of a formidable force that can give the required strength to the struggle for far reaching reforms in the nations education sector, which is what the struggle of ASUU represents Ultimately, the struggle must be linked with the overall struggle of the working people against the entire IMF/ World Bank induced neo-liberal policies of deregulation of essential services, privatisation of commanding heights of economy, commercialisation of social services, devaluation of Naira, etc. The struggle must be equally elevated to political realm for a socialist reconstruction of the society as against the exploitative, oppressive anti-people and pro-rich system called capitalism.
REINSTATE VICTIMISED ACTIVISTS NOW!
1st of February, 2003, marked two years that student unionism in University of Ado-Ekiti (UNAD) had been moribund. This was the aftermath of the expulsion of two leading student activists namely: Idowu Israel (Aristotle) and Femi Akinroye (Computer) by the school management itself.
HOW IT HAPPENED
During the second semester of that dark session, a students' union executive led by Omokewo John Muyiwa was dissolved by the draconic school management for alleged corruption and abuse of office. Immediately, an electoral committee was set up by the management and it was led by one Dr. Wale Adesina. The students then realising the implication of an authority-appointed non-student leading the electoral committee reacted sharply but the management told them that there was no cause for alarm and that the integrity of the lecturer (electoral chairman) should not be doubted.
But the reverse was to be case as justice was prevented in a crude manner. Aristotle, Computer and some other popular student activists were screened out by the committee. Immediately, a students' congress was called and it was resolved within the rank and file of the students that the decision should be protested and even the attention of the leadership of NANS Zone D was called. The protest which was intended to be a peaceful one along the line turned violent, when a delegation of the students led by Femi Struggle (NANS Zone D mobilisation off) on their way to meet the school authority were assaulted, molested and tear gassed.
This crude acts by the management culminated into crisis and angry students destroyed some of the school properties while they were trying to secure the release of some of their representatives that have been arrested up at the Senate Building. This led to the serious clamp down of those student leaders by the management. Some were arrested and detained while others were banned from writing examination. At the end, they were all suspended and a stage managed panel was set up where many of those suspended were compelled to tender an apology letter. However, their main targets among the student activists (Aristotle, computer, Lucky, Aluge) were to expelled and banned from the campus.
These activists have suffered too much for a cause that was just. Hence, they should be immediately reinstated. The school authority should also provide all the basic amenities needed for a hitch free and a conducive learning atmosphere instead of pre-occupying themselves with attacking, oppressing, molesting and even arresting students who have always stood against their policies and lukewarm attitude to issues bordering on the students' welfare.
OUR FIGHT FOR FREE AND GOOD QUALITY EDUCATION
Today, governments at federal and state level which cannot pay our parents N5,500 poverty wage promptly and who is owing pensioners backlog of arrears want us to pay school fees of N30,000 plus. In UNILAG, from N549 before, a student is expected to pay N24,000; in OAU, Ile-Ife, from N590, students are expected to pay N9,450, in UNAAB, from N3,000 now to N23,000, in Oceanography, from N4,500 to N14,000; amongst others like Ibadan Poly, MAPOLY, UI, DELSU, UNIBEN, TASCE, SPED, etc. All these monies are aside other departmental, faculty and other unreceipted charges on campuses, not to talk of feeding, accommodation, books and handouts and transport. Taking feeding as an example, a student can be said to at least manage N50 food per meal, then per day is N150, per month is N4,500, per year is N54,000, just for a feeding of a child not to talk of parents with three or four children in higher institutions.
We are outraged that thousands will drop out of schools due to inability to pay the unnecessary outrageous fees being charged on campuses. The NANS Zone D secretariat has so far been coordinating the campaign against fees through intervention on campuses affected with leaflets, posters, stickers, rallies, symposia, picketing, etc and ultimately to link up with other students unions who are not presently affected in solidarity.
The ongoing Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) strike has a link with our struggle because one of ASUU's main demands is government better funding of the education sector to the tune of UNESCO's recommended 26% of annual budgetary allocation; hence our unalloyed support for the ongoing ASUU's struggle.
The Obasanjo regime has been treating the education sector. Government policies on education in Nigeria are reflecting conspicuously an unholy alliance and conspiracy with IMF/World Bank blue print of education commercialisation and privatisation designed to further ruin our educational sector.
This is better situated in the context of gross under-funding of the sector by the present political gladiators in Nigeria (AD, ANPP and PDP). Even during the dark era of Abacha military junta, the sector was still allocated 11% while Abubakar cabal even allocated 12%. Ironically, in our so-called democratic setting, education allocation has declined: year 2000 (8.36%), year 2001 (7.0%), year 2002 (5.9%) and to worsen it, 2003 (1.83%), the worst in the history of Nigeria.
It is important to say that another bane of the sector is corruption, misplacement of priority, embezzlement and misappropriation. Most authorities even collect the meagre resources and squander it on frivolities and embezzle it with impunity.
The battle ahead needs more vigour commitment, co-ordination and sincerity of purpose from the students' unions and the zonal leadership. More peaceful picketing of banks like that of March 13th, 2003 to further popularise our struggle, to tell the banking sector whom authorities are using now to collect these extortionate fees from all the part of the country to desist from such collaboration to send over 80% of Nigerian students out of schools. More posters, leaflets, stickers, press awareness, rallies, symposia, barricades timely interventions must be organised.
Equally, joint action of NANS, students unions, NUT, NLC, ASUU, ASUP, COEASU, SSANU, NASU, etc becomes important and timely, to go out to the streets and other strategic locations and organise more co-ordinated joint effort to save education. We must equally demand democratic management of educational institutions with elected representatives of staff and students on all decision-making bodies and the right to independent unions for both staff and students.
To us, free and qualitative education is practicable in Nigeria today, because Nigeria is fabulously rich with about $60 million dollar per day from the sale of crude oil alone, aside other potential resources. It must be reiterated here once again that the only alternative to the endemic and rotten capitalist system, the alternative to mass poverty, war, oppression, wretchedness, unemployment, injustice, exploitation, corruption and embezzlement, etc is working masses democratic socialist order, that we lead to a free and decent society for all.
DSM HOLDS NATIONAL MEETING
A national meeting of the DSM took place on 23rd February, 2003. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the political situation nationally particularly the election campaign. It was also specially meant to discuss the progress that has been made towards attaining the organisation targets (paper sales, recruitment, public activities, etc) that were agreed upon at the National Committee.
The political discussion on Nigeria started off by examining the state of the nation's economy and the living conditions of the masses. It is clear that four years into civil rule, there has been no appreciable improvement in the economy and living standards. In fact, in certain sectors, the situation has worsened. According to even a recent IMF report on Nigeria, most sectors of the Nigerian economy have been in decline.
Oil prices in the world market have been comparatively high during the Obasanjo administration. Yet this has not translated into improved living standards for the overwhelming majority of the working people. This is the principal reason behind the massive disaffection against politicians and the elite parties. It also explains the enthusiasm with which a party like the NCP, which seems to offer some kind of alternative, has received by the mass of the people.
The discussions on Nigeria also underline the growing instability facing the country as the 2003 elections approach. In recent months, there has been an escalation of political violence including assassinations, the latest being the killing of a leader of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, Marshall Harry, who had decamped from the ruling PDP.
In all branches, there is an urgent need to put all aspects of our work on a more systematic footing. First of all, we must ensure that the branches meet on a regular basis, to have political discussions and get all members involved in the work. Members need to be made to understand that only in this way can we work most effectively and make maximum gains from the election campaign.
An important area where drastic improvement is needed is paper sales. The meeting implored branches and members to remit the paper money in the next few days so that work on the publication of the next edition can commence in earnest.
The meeting also resolved that the fund-raising campaign for our activities, including the election campaign, should be intensified. As at the time of the meeting, a total of N6, 500 has been contributed as election levy by members. Fund-raising envelopes to be used to raise donations from our sympathizers, friends, neighbours, relatives and others were distributed to branches at the meeting.
The meeting resolved that the next national meeting should take place on Sunday, 23rd March, 2003. It also decided that the next edition of paper should be published by 16th March, 2003.
STUDENTS ORGANISE SYMPOSIUM
The students' wing of the DSM plans to hold a public symposium at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of education on Wednesday 2nd April, 2003 beginning from 11am. The central theme of planned symposium is: The Nigerian Child and Access to Good Quality Education As a Right: Overview of The Education Sector Under The Current Civil Rule. Lanre Arogundade, former NANS President, erstwhile chairman of Lagos NUJ and Senatorial candidate of NCP for Lagos West in the 2003 general elections is expected to be the Guest Speaker. Others expected are: 'Tony Olusanya, Secretary ASUU, LASU, Victor Akinola, Chairman COEASU, AOCOED branch; Mr. Aderinle Adekunle Ahmed, Chairman NASU, AOCOED branch and Stephen Alayande, Coordinator, NANS Zone D.
The following will also form cardinal issues for discussion at all symposium: Can Schools be Run Without Fees? Is the Return of Police Posts to Campuses the Panacea to Campus Cultism and Insecurity? How Best Can a Lasting Solution be sought to Incessant Education Workers' Strikes and Student Unrest? What Are the Issues Involved in Legislating for the Protection of the Democratic Rights of Students and Staff? Students and the general public are invited.
STOP BUSH’S OIL WAR
In defiance of the massive strength of the global anti-war movements that have had more than 50 million protesters on the streets across the world, the monstrous American led war machine struck on Thursday, March 20th. This was after expiration of the 2-day ultimatum president Bush gave Saddam and his sons to flee Iraq which the latter defied. Thus a war with its associated socio-economic disaster and human and ecological catastrophe has commenced. The US, according to the secretary of state, Collins Powell, leads about 30 countries in a "coalition of willing"
, a total 300,000 troops, in this murderous military expedition in Iraq but which the warmongers would prefer to call war of liberation of the Iraqi people. The US hawks claimed they are spearheading the war in order to rid Iraq of Saddam and dispossess him of alleged stocked pile of weapon of mass destruction. By the end of the war they intend to install "democracy" and "freedom" in Iraq.
OIL-THE WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION
In reality this war is an imperialist war of prestige and oil super profit. The section of the US' ruling class with the executive power led by Bush wants to reaffirm the overwhelming military supremacy of the super power after the September 11 demystification. They are also interested in controlling the massive oil reserve of the Middle East, right from Iraq, the second largest reserve after Saudi Arabia. The oilfields in Basra, the Iraq's second largest city produced the prized "sweet crudes" that are cheap and easy to refine. The Middle East accounts for about 65% of the world' oil. The US is the biggest industrial nation in the world and the largest consumer and importer of the oil, the main source of energy, needing alone 30% of the world total. Therefore, oil is very strategic to its economic interest. Besides this "
national interest", George Bush and some members of his kitchen cabinet have strong link with some major oil companies and contractors, whose profit interests along with that of other big businesses they ably represent in the government. These companies have started warming up to storm Iraq after the victory for super profit. This is why the warmongers are very concerned about the safety of the Iraqi oilfields as they are waging the war, not for the interests of the Iraqis as they have tried to make the world to believe.
To actualise this objective without fetter, the first mission of the warmongers in Iraq is the removal of Saddam. This is expected to be followed by installation a new regime to be led by an Iraqi protégé or an American military governor that will facilitate the easy flow of oil revenues to US and British energy corporations at the expense of the already impoverished working people of Iraq.
It must be noted categorically that Saddam is a vicious dictator whose almost 15 years of administration have been a disaster to the Iraqi people. He deserves to be removed. But this is the task of the Iraqi people not of the US government and multinational oil companies which can only usher in exploitative and autocratic regime like that of Saddam. The Afghanistan experience comes handy in this respect to buttress this assertion. The Hamid Karzai led regime imposed after the collapse of the Talibans is not fundamentally different from the later in all ramifications. It is equally anti-democratic and dictatorial.
The foregoing further exposes the emptiness of the so-called gospel of democracy of the US in relation to the war besides the fact that many of the US allies are anti-democratic and despotic regimes. The people of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar are governed by reactionary, tyrannical, autocratic and feudal royal families and sheiks and they do not have any saying in the affairs of their countries. Musharaf and Mubarak are ruthless dictators who rule Pakistan and Egypt respectively with iron hands and hate democracy with passion.
George Bush and associates have failed woefully to prove the allegation that Saddam still possess weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, has criticised the intelligence reports the US and her allies. After the verification of the claims there in, they turned out to be a ruse. In their own independent work after more than three months of intensive inspection with co-operation from Iraqi government, as confirmed by Hans Blix, there was no trace of the alleged WMD found.
Even as regards weapon of mass destruction, the US has the largest possible quantities. Equally, Israel, Pakistan, India and some other allies of the US possess WMD. North Korea, packed into "axis of evil" along with Iran and Iraq by Bush, does not only have WMD, its government also sent away out of the country weapon inspectors and removed their installation. Perhaps the country would have been attacked but it is lucky it does not have oil. Collin Powell has assured that the conflict with Korea with be resolved diplomatically.
Saddam has equally been alleged to have link with terrorist groups particularly Osama and his Al-Qaida network. This has not also been also established. The only indisputable link between Saddam and Osama is that both are monsters created by the US. It is the only northern part of Iraq that has been under the control of the US since the end of the Gulf war that a trace of terrorist group has been found.
SADDAM-THE MONSTER CREATED BY WASHINGTON
It must be stated that whatever Saddam might have once amassed as WMD along with biological and chemical weapons were procured through the assistance of the western powers particularly the US. He was supported morally (with intelligence services), financially and materially during his war against Iran between 1980-88. In December, 1983 a month after Saddam used chemical weapons against Iranians, Ronald Reagan and vice president George Bush senior commissioned Ronald Rumsfeld, the current Defence Secretary, as a special envoy to court Saddam and to ease the way for the US companies to sell to Iraq biological and chemical weapons components, including poisonous chemicals, anthrax, botulinum and bubonic plague cultures. Incidentally, the Pentagon (the US Defence Headquarters) recently identified anthrax as a key component of Saddam's biological weapons programme. This support was to ensure that Saddam was not defeated by Iran. With the approval of Commerce Department, Dow Chemical company in 1998 sold $1.5 million worth of pesticides to Baghdad despite the suspicions that they would be used for chemical warfare. This was after Saddam massacred about 5,000 Iraqi Kurds with a poisonous gas sprayed with the helicopters the US sold to him in 1983. The US equally contributed to the technology and nuclear weapon programmes that was the basis of the then Iraq's WMD.
EFFECTS OF THE WAR
This war will definitely aggravate excruciating suffering of the Iraq people. Before the war about 60% of Iraq's people depend on food rations supplied under UN oil-for-food programme meant to cushion the effect of the US's inspired UN sanctions. Out of the programme an average Iraqi lives on just N65 per day in a depressed economy. Therefore, besides thousands that may be killed by the direct effect of the bombing, many particularly the children and aged would die of starvation since invasion has already disrupted the rationing programme. Even when the programme was on "smoothly" at least 500, 000 children died.
Although the US led troops are making using of what the Pentagon called precision-guided bombs and missiles, as Rumsfeld has alluded to, this cannot guarantee protection of lives and properties of the Iraqi people. Despite the so-called 'smart' weapons of the US and allied forces during the last Gulf war, at least 150, 000 Iraqis were killed. Similarly, as it was during and after the last war there would be devastating biological and ecological effects of the war in Iraq and the Middle East, although with Iraqis as the worst hit.
If Saddam attacks Israel as he did during the last war and Israeli government retaliated unlike then by launching nuclear attack as it has promised, the Middle East will be further thrown into terrible turmoil with the ordinary and working people of Israel and among Arabs at the receiving end. This calamity will be compounded if Saddam unleashes biological and chemical weapons that he still likely has in stocks out of desperation of a drowning man.
This war has already skyrocketed the price of crude oil after the announcement of Bush that the war might be prolonged. Some economic analysts have said that the world should expect the price of oil to be as high as $50 per barrel. This in no uncertain term is a ticket for economic catastrophe. Though the working people of US will be affected, for example the country's crude inventories have fallen to lowest level in the last two years and the people have to pay for $200 billion meant to be spent on the war, the country still has capacity to absolve the shock to a large extent. This is the same for other industrialised nations on a bit lesser level, as they have stock-piled the oil before the outbreak of the war. It is the working people of non-oil producing nations particularly of the third world that will suffer most.
NIGERIA IN CRISIS
Nigeria is not immune to the adverse effect of the energy crisis arising from the war. Before the war actually broke out, the Nigerians had been eking a living out scarce oil in the country with enormous agony. Queues had returned to filling stations, transport fares increased by almost hundred percent and commuters stranded at the bus-stops. Now with the war now raging, we have to expect a worse situation. Although Nigeria is the 6th producer of oil in the world, we still import refined oil due to neglect and under utilisation and insufficiency of the country's refineries. The on going poignant agony of fuel crisis may remain with us until the war last. Otherwise, there may have to be astronomical increase in the pump price of the petroleum products as it has already been canvassed for by the government licensed importers. The attendant implication shall worsen the level of poverty, inflation and other socio-economic crises in the country.
Although this war has nothing to do with religion, as stated earlier it is an imperialist war for prestige and super oil profit, it is not impossible that there may be misconception among some Muslim communities who would see it as a war against Islam. Thus there may be possibility of outbreak of religious crisis in the country particularly in the northern part. This may endanger the on-going transition and make the much expected 2003 elections a mirage.
STRUGGLE MUST CONTINUE
Yes the war has commenced, yet the anti-war campaigners must not allow themselves to be condemned to despair. The struggle must continue. At the same time the campaigners and those who are opposed to the war must have to realise that Bush went ahead in contempt of the massive global outcry against the war due to the drive of Bush and other capitalist vampires for oil super profit. Ultimately, the on-going war has only further established the fact that capitalism as a socio-economic system based on profit motive can only guarantee humanitarian catastrophe and ecological calamity along with poverty, homelessness, unemployment, etc., and not the general well-being of the people. The working people must therefore build a mass movement against this self-centred, crisis-ridden system called capitalism, and fight for socialist reconstruction of the society with democratic management and control of the society and world resources by the working people.
In Nigeria, the workers, trade unions, Nigeria Labour Congress, students, the youth, the old, the Christians, Muslims, radical political parties like National Conscience Party and human rights organisations should protest against the imperialist war, organising mass demonstrations and strikes. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone D has blazed the trail with the initiation of an anti-war platform named Coalition Against War in Iraq, CAWI. The coalition must begin immediately to organise mass action against the war.
END FUEL SCARCITY, NO TO PRICE INCREASE
The current fuel scarcity across the country has subjected the poor masses to yet another hardship to the already horrible living conditions of millions of Nigerians. Long queues of vehicles and motorists are at stations looking for fuel. The scarcity like every other ones has led to increase in the cost of transportation. Before now, transport fares have jumped up by between 50%-100% on most routes in cities, towns and rural areas. There is also rise in the prices of goods and services.
At the onset spokespersons of government attributed the return of fuel scarcity to the handiwork of saboteurs who are allegedly hell bent on scuttling the re-election bid of President Obasanjo. Later, the NNPC group managing director, Gaius Obaseki blamed the situation in the international oil market as a result of the face-off between the US and Iraq.
Now the fact is that in this market driven economy system, that is capitalist system, the major aim is to make profit at the expense of the poor working people. The basic problem is that the country’s four refineries are not functioning, the oil companies have been exporting crude oil and importing refined petroleum products. Even if they are functioning at full capacity, it is doubtful whether they can meet the nation’s refined fuel needs.
It is the general underdevelopment of neo-colonial capitalism in Nigeria and the profit to be made from fuel importation, which lie behind the frequent collapse of the refineries. In the course of importing refined fuel, millions of dollars profits are made by those in the business, the capitalist elite and the multinational oil companies. It pays them more to import fuel rather than building refineries in Nigeria and process crude oil not only for domestic use but even for export.
As a result of the Bush’s imperialist war against Iraq, many countries have obviously started stockpiling oil for their domestic consumption and stopped the sales of the refined oil to other nations as a precaution in case the war grads for long and oil supplies are disrupted. This has confirmed the position of anti-war campaigners and socialists that the ultimate impact of the war will be to further compound economic depression, mass poverty, mass retrenchment of workers, increased unemployment, hunger etc among the already suffering majority of people.
It is also been speculated that the oil are clamouring for pump price to be raised again, threatening to stop importation if the government should refuse. Prices as high as N37 per litre compared to the present N26 per litre are being speculated. It would be recalled that since the inception of this government in 1999, Obasanjo administration has increased twice the prices of petroleum products but this has not bring any lasting succor to the country’s oil industry.
Therefore we in the DSM call on the labour movement, youths, students, professionals and other change-seeking individuals to organise ourselves in order to demand an end to this incessant fuel scarcity and any proposed hike in pump price. The strike action organised by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) in February February, 2003, in support of the oil workers' far-reaching demands for autonomy and for a stop of irregular payment of salaries and other benefits, demonstrated again the potential power of the working class to fight for the masses and to transform the society.
The NLC must wake-up and lead the campaign and organise general strike, mass rallies and protests to mobilize workers and other oppressed strata to put an end to fuel scarcity and any attempt to increase price of petroleum products. To put an end to these anti-poor policies, the working people must demand for workers' democratic control and management of not only the oil companies and the entire petroleum industry but also other commanding heights of the nation's economy such as banks and big companies. Only through the public ownership of the country’s natural resources under democratic control and management of working people can these vast natural and human resources be optimally used to provide for the needs of the poor masses.