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Socialist Democracy July - August 2003 Index


MAY DAY 2003:

A WORKERS' DAY OR TRADE FAIR?

By AJ. Dagga Tolar

This year's May Day celebration in Nigeria, confirms our long held view of the degeneration and continuous bankruptcy of the labour leaders bringing more than ever to the fore the need to build a new generation of labour leaders, who armed with the genuine ideas of Marxism would rouse the consciousness of the working masses to its all important historical task of freeing society from the greedy, tight grip of the rule of capitalism. Unfortunately, to today's labour leaders, the above task is a utopia.

May Day is a day set aside worldwide for workers to express and demonstrate not only their anger at the worsening working and living conditions, but as well as to solidarise with themselves, both nationally and internationally since they by and large share the same similar fate.

But in Lagos, the May Day rally was more akin to a mere march past of school children on Children's Day. Many workers were dressed in the same outfit, some which clearly had the name of their employers' company branded on them. This was the situation for a majority of the private sectors-based unions, who came to the ground without any placards. It was more of a trade fair, as they competed with one another to show who would best advertise the products or the brand name of their companies. The exception to this rule, was NUBIFIE, whose members came with printed posters, among which read: "

Stop union bursting tactics, otherwise mass picketing would engulf the financial industry".

The public sector-based unions were not too different. The NUT which presently heads the Lagos State NLC leadership and has the highest numbers of employee in the public service, came with two A-4 size papers for placards with the harmless caption: 'NO TEACHER, NO NATION', and 'WE TEACH you, DON'T CHEAT US'. It was clear this had hurriedly been done.

The National Union of Postal, Telecommunication Employee (NUPTE), which presently claims to be involved in the struggle against privatisation of NITEL never even saw this as a relevant issue of protest. Rather, its vast placards with the caption: 'STOP ELECTION VIOLENCE', weeks after the National Assembly, Governorship and Presidential elections! It made no sense whatsoever.

The National Union of Air Transport Employees also took up the matter of privatisation with various placards some of which read "National Council of Privatisation, Awake to Your Responsibility". What can that mean, an endorsement of the government privatisation?

"Liquidation Without Pension And Gratitude, Is This Our Reward For Re-Election", "Kema Is Now Minister Of Nigeria Global", "Obasanjo Be Bold To Name Looters And Recover The Loot Of Nigeria Airways Limited". These various captions only exposed the fact that even when the labour leaders so decide to agitate, it is largely on the very wrong premises.

When it was the turn of hotel and personal services workers to march, we were treated from the loudspeakers with statements like "Unionise Allen Avenue", "Are You Going To Give Us Accommodation This Night", "If You Want to Commit Sin, Contact Me At Hotel…" This was most unexpected. Though these comments were met by a row of laughter, it demonstrates that the labour leaders are mostly concerned with trivialities while serious matters affecting workers' living standard are ignored.

Key issues like casualisation, a new minimum wage which the labour leadership had paid lip service to in recent time, did not even come up for mention at the rally in Lagos.

The national rally at Abuja was not any different. The NLC president, Adams Oshiomole, even brought a cake to celebrate the victory of Obasanjo and the PDP in the general election. This is the same NLC leadership that is allegedly behind the Party of Social Democracy (PSD), a supposed "workers party".

However, for the May Day, the DSM produced a two-page special edition of our paper, Socialist Democracy (SD) and intervened in rallies in six towns: Lagos, Abuja, Oshogbo, Abeokuta, Ilorin and Ibadan. We sold a total of 957 copies of the special edition, 54 copies of the full edition of the paper and 12 perspectives documents. Three contacts were made in Lagos.

 

 

 

Socialist Democracy July - August 2003 Index