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Socialist Democracy March 2004  Index

Socialist Democracy


Paper of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)

MASS MOVEMENT IN 2004:

REVOLUTIONARY STRATEGY NEEDED

Last year, the Nigerian working people, led by the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) waged several battles and struggles including general strikes and mass protests, against the anti-poor, pro-rich capitalist policies of the Obasanjo government, and by extension, that of its counterparts at the state and local council levels.

While of course, these battles and struggles have achieved one form of concession or the other for the masses, they nonetheless had left the anti-poor governments across the country intact. It was therefore not a surprise when towards the end of last year, the Obasanjo government for the third time in less than six months, increased the prices of petroleum products, this time under the guise of petroleum tax!

Not unexpectedly too, the working people led by the NLC leadership and Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) promptly commenced propaganda and agitations against the latest neo-liberal, capitalist and anti-poor economic drive of the current so-called civilian rulers. A date, January 21, 2004 was earmarked for the commencement of a general strike/mass protests, etc, against the Obasanjo government, until, amongst other demands, the price of a litre of petrol was officially brought back to N34. It should be noted that this was the agreed price between the NLC leaders and the Obasanjo government in the aftermath of the June/July 2003 general strikes and mass protests against the then hike in fuel prices. But sometime in September, 2003, that price agreement was unilaterally changed by the government when it raised the official price of a litre of petrol from N34 to between N40.50k and N43 respectively.

There was massive anger and determination amongst the working people across the country to fight this particular treacherous and insensitive policy. Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) had with effect from October 9, 2003, planned to commence general strikes/mass protests across the country when on the night of October 8, 2003, the NLC leadership suspended the proposed struggles, on the basis of an undertaking made by all the state governors, oil marketers, members of the National Assembly and representatives of the federal government, etc, to reverse the price of a litre of petrol to N34.

As we all know, oil marketers and the government subsequently failed to implement their own undertaken. Unfortunately, the labour leaders' reaction to this new twist in the situation was to say the least, pathetic. While they kept moaning this betrayal, they totally failed to outline concrete proposals on how to fight back. Suffice to stress, these inconsistency and incoherence of policy and vision are what emboldened the government to once again hike the prices of fuel under the guise of fuel tax last December.

JUDICIAL TWIST

As was noted before, Labour and Civil Society had fixed January 21, 2004 for the commencement of general strikes and mass protests against the latest hike in fuel prices. Then, a different, though not totally a strange dimension, was added to the whole issue. The federal government went to court with a view to stopping the proposed struggle saying that the NLC has no right to go on strike or mass protest against unpopular government policies. However, the Chief Judge of the Abuja High Court ruled that the NLC and the working people by extension have the constitutional right to go on strike and organise mass protests in the defence of their interests. He concluded his ruling by saying that the government had made no valid case that could enable him abridge the constitutional rights of the defendants as stipulated in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Predictably, the federal government appealed this ruling. In its first ruling on the matter, the Appeal Court gave an Interim Order suspending the proposed strike as well as further collection of the N1.50k fuel tax. On the basis of this ruling, the proposed strike/protests were suspended. Eventually, the Appeal Court struck out the matter saying that the lower court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter in the first instance and that only a Federal High Court has jurisdiction to entertain same.

Now, the matter has been re-filed at the Federal High Court. The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court in person of Roseline Ukeje has once again imposed an interim order based on the consent of the parties, suspending the collection of the tax in issue as well as the right of the NLC to go on strike or mass protest, at least, on this particular issue. The leadership of the NLC had subsequently and publicly denounced its lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, saying that its consent was not sought and would not have been voluntarily given even if sought, when the issue is the suspension of its constitutional and human right to strike and protest over any unpopular policy, even if for a second.

Mr. Femi Falana on his part lashed back at the NLC leaders saying that everything he did was essentially what the leadership had always desired, and that the NLC leaders who are no better than labour aristocrats were merely out to sacrifice him for their own failures. At the end of the day, a meeting of the NLC leaders and Mr. Falana held and came out to tell the public that both parties had reconciled their differences which they claimed was as a result of communication gap between client and counsel. From the point of view of a liberal labour public relation "expert", this outcome was a good marketing resolution. After all, all is well that ends well.

But where do the working masses go from here? As things stand today, can the working people, led by the NLC, commence agitations for mass protests and strikes without seeming to disobey the court order? What effect(s), if any, can the court order have on the current capitalist rulers vis-à-vis their unbending disposition towards every anti-poor drive and policy dictated by imperialist, global capitalist vultures? How best should the NLC leadership, the labouring masses, all genuine change seekers and pro-masses political parties/organisations respond to the intolerably unjust capitalist order which dominates the socio-economic and political ethos of the day? Can courts forbid struggles?

These and other pertinent questions are what should be addressed by the socialists and all working class organisations and activists.

COURTS AND STRUGGLES

First and foremost, it should be pointedly stressed that the "no strike, no N1.50k tax collection order" whether based on mutual consent of counsels/parties to a case or not, whether temporary, long term or permanent, constitutes a set back for the working masses vis-à-vis their inalienable right to fight unjust and unpopular policies. Therefore, the only principled option before labour is to make it abundantly clear that it is not prepared to circumscribe the struggles of the working masses within a self-serving limit prescribed by the capitalist ruling class, the very direct opponent of the working masses over the issue at stake. Therefore, it should be stressed that this is the time when labour leaders and activists must not only make radical pronouncements, important as these may be but much more importantly, the labour movement must come out with precise proposal of programmes and actions deliberately aimed at bettering the socio-economic and political lots of the masses both now and in the long run.

This, for instance, is the time when labour must commence fight for the immediate implementation of the 12.5% increment in minimum wage across the country, in both public and private sectors without a single retrenchment, within the general framework of a policy of fighting for decent minimum wage that automatically increases to match rate of inflation. This is the time when the NLC should insist on government’s reversal of a litre of petrol price back to N34 which was the selling price agreed with Labour and Civil Society in the aftermath of the general strikes, mass protests of June/July, 2003. This for instance is the time when labour should come out smoking against government’s neo-liberal policy of pricing education beyond the reach of the vast majority of the working masses.

This is the only meaningful way to show that the NLC leadership did not for a second intend to abdicate its duties to defend at all times, the interests of its constituencies, the working masses, the vast majority of the people of Nigeria, merely on the basis of a court order, made by an apparently class prejudiced and an unelected individual, in guise of a judge. No, the NLC leadership must not submit to this sheer blackmail. If not, sections of the capitalist ruling class in every sector of the economy and society will always find means to manipulate/interpret the laws (which were made in the first instance by the same ruling class) in such a way and manner in which the labouring masses can never lawfully fight for their rights and interest because of one court order or the other.

In all human history, the exploited and the oppressed had always, without the permission of their exploiters and oppressors engaged in emancipatory and liberative struggles to better their own lot. Therefore, the issue at stake borders on the humanity of an exploited and oppressed to fight back, instead of meekly tolerating injustice. Even the bourgeois authors of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognised this right when in section 40 of the constitution they made the following provision: "Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests".

Thus, from all angles, no court of law has valid basis to make any order interim or not, forbidding the working masses or sections of them from fighting socio-economic exploitation and political oppression at any time they may desire. Any judge who gives such an order must be seen as someone on his or her own, outside the purview of law, well at home with arbitrariness. Refusal to obey orders made by such judges would be the best and most direct way of saying no to injustice and illegality either of the executive or judicial type.

THE GOVERNMENT

To the whole world, the Obasanjo government gives the impression that its court action against the NLC was instituted to prevent the NLC and others from embarking on any mass protest and or strike or any other manner of protest on the N1.50k, so-called fuel tax, introduced by the administration through the 2004 appropriation bill. This, again, is another lie by the regime. The first prayer/claim of the government's Motion on Notice, in the suit in issue demands: "An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants/respondents, (NLC &others ed) by themselves, their agents, servants and/or privies or otherwise howsoever, from embarking on any mass protest and/or strikes or any other manner of protest on the 21st January, 2004 or any other time thereafter pending the determination of the plaintiff/applicant's substantive matter".

This evidently exposes a calculated design by both sections of the capitalist ruling class within the executive and judiciary to use the dispute on the N1.50k fuel tax to put a blanket ban on workers and Nigerian masses' right to fight for their interests not only on 21st January, 2004 but also at "any other time", pending the determination of the suit in issue!

The order restraining the working people from going on mass protest/strikes or any other manner of protest was made alongside an order restraining the government from further collection of the so-called fuel tax of N1.50k. At the time these orders were made, the Obasanjo government gave a false impression that it respects the rule of law by promising to suspend further collection of the fuel tax in issue.

However, almost immediately and simultaneously, pronouncement by the regime's leading officials including the President himself, the Vice-President and Minister of Works amongst others, left no one in doubt, that this is one policy that this administration will not abandon come shine or rain. In the Vanguard of February 18, 2004, the Minister of Works, Adeseye Ogunlewe dismissed agitations against the fuel tax as futile. He said: "To us in this ministry, therefore, experience and the challenges they brought have taught us there is really no alternative to the introduction of this levy". In other words, the fuel tax will still be implemented under one label or the other. It may then be called "road tax" or "development" levy or any other name. It is a matter of time.

In the time being however, the regime has come up with a more comprehensive agenda which severally and collectively will only worsen the plights of the working people. Top on this agenda is the plan of action to carry out massive retrenchment in the civil service and government corporations and parastatals. In order to make this insidious attack on the living standard and society's purchasing power to sound good, the regime has decided to code name it "right sizing". This is because many people already associate words like "restructuring", "downsizing", etc, with jobs massacre.

Simultaneously, the regime has unfolded an agendum which declares a total warfare on all sections of the forces fighting for state funded education at the tertiary level. Henceforth, lecturers that go on strike for improvement of their conditions of employment and better funded educational system will not receive any pay for the period that they may be on strike. From now on, government shall no longer carry out any capital projects in the nation's tertiary institutions, whether in terms of provisions of infrastructure, academic and residential needs, and notwithstanding the increase in the growing number of youths needing education.

From the next academic year, a bed space in the nation's federal universities, polytechnics, college of education, is to cost a minimum of N10,000. Presently, an average of N2,000 is officially paid for a bed space. Fearing that the management of these institutions may not be able to implement this provocative policy, especially given the predictable resistance of students, most of whom come from working class, poor homes, the regime has threatened to deduct such expected revenues from the statutory allocations that may be due to any institution not able to collect or fully collect the N10,000 per bed space levy.

Meanwhile, the regime remains committed to its central economic agenda of selling to private individuals and capitalist corporations, all the main levers of the economy, resources of nature and financial institutions, as demanded by global capitalist institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. But as we in the DSM always explain, this central economic strategy will always bring greater disaster on the living standard of the working people, whether in the short or long run. This is because private capitalist owners of companies and finance are always first and foremost, interested in profit maximisation and only incidentally in beneficial services. Even while buying publicly owned resources and companies, they do manipulate the processes so much that they always pay far less than the real worth of the assets being acquired. But once they acquire ownership of these enterprises or resources, they invariably carry out mass retrenchment of staff while simultaneously raising prices. Thus, for the working masses, capitalism, privatisation, liberalisation, commercialisation, etc, represent doom, a permanent dead end!

CORRUPTION

Nothing reveals better the insensitive, corrupt, pro-rich and anti-poor character of the Obasanjo's administration than the president's request for an additional jet to the presidential fleet. To say the least, this request is both insensitive and utterly corrupt. It is insensitive because the request itself was made while simultaneously introducing a so-called fuel tax or N1.50k on the already over burdened working masses. Immediately the implementation of this tax proposal was commenced, prices of fuel, transportation, food, houses, education, health care, etc, shot up. Millions instantly had their living standard reduced, while private companies not only hiked the prices of their goods and services but also, in many cases, embarked on mass lay offs giving as reason, the incidental rise in the cost of production arising from the new fuel tax. Meanwhile, the total expected revenue, by the regime from this tax is no more than N3billion annually. But without scruple, a few self-serving elements in the guise of presidency want N10 billion for another jet to be added to the presidential fleet!

But the whole project is not only insensitive, it is, as usual, soaked in utter corruption. In the 2004 budget in issue, the Obasanjo regime requested for a sum of $80 million for the proposed jet. Subsequently, The Guardian newspaper did an investigative story which revealed that the total cost of a new brand of the type of jet which the government proposed to buy goes for only $48.9 million, a sharp contrast to the sum of $80 million requested by the Presidency. Pronto, government's spokesperson, Mrs. Remi Oyo, the following day, came up with a scaled down figure of $52.4 million, which of course was still higher than what it would take to buy a new jet. Originally, government planned to buy a second hand Boeing Business jet (BBJ 1) for $32.8 million and thereafter spend $45 million to repair and upgrade it to a VIP standard! This is not all. Offered for sales are three planes in the presidential fleet, namely Hawker Sidney 1000 series, $4.7 million, Gulf Stream 11, $1 million and Boeing 727, $12 million. All these to be sold after huge sum had been spent on their upgrading and repairs. So, while acquiring an additional jet at a highly inflated price, three planes bought with public funds are simultaneously being sold at rock bottom prices obviously to members of the regime and their local and foreign collaborators.

NATIONAL QUESTION

Right from the beginning, the entity called Nigeria was contrived by British imperialism, primarily for its own self-serving goals and that of its capitalist class which dominate its own socio political ethos. As secondary beneficiaries of this skewed arrangement, the Nigerian elite, particularly from the three major nationalities of Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba have relied essentially on force and fraud to keep as one country, this entity called Nigeria. From the colonial times, up till today, the country has witnessed series of agitations and wars, of one form or another in pursuance of one form of self-determination or another, be it for religious, ethnic, social, economic and/or political ends.

In the recent past, Niger Delta has become a permanent abode of strifes and conflicts. When the youths in the communities are not kidnapping top oil company officials, they are most probably engaged in intra/inter ethnic wars, to claim political/territorial supremacy or self-determination, all with a strive to escape mass poverty which is their permanent portion. Ostensibly to arrest this worrisome trend, the Obasanjo government has set up a military task force called "Operation Restore Hope". Recently, the military operatives of this task force invaded the Ohoro Uwheru community in Ugheli North local council of Delta State with a mission to search for hidden arms. As usual, with these types of task forces, the "Angels" of hope sent to Ohoro Uwheru community only left stories of compounded sorrow, tears, blood, at the end of its "mission".

According to the General Secretary of Uwheru Clan, 20 persons were killed while at least 11 houses were completely burnt down. He speaks further: "Every house in the community with a population of 4,000 persons had their door broken and valuable property, including money, bags of garri, groundnut, stolen. Even antiquities and personal goods of the people were either stolen or destroyed" (The Guardian February 11, 2004). However, Brigadier General Elias Zamani, the army commander who led this inglorious unprovoked attack, did not deny the claims of the Uwheru Clan except to say that just only one person was killed and not 20!

HUMAN RIGHTS RECORDS

The political and human rights records of this administration are to say the least appalling. Apart from the fact that prominent opponents and critics of the regime are not being clamped in jails without trial as was the case under the military, the Obasanjo's so-called civilian administration has continued with a ruthless, daily and pervasive abuse of the rights of Nigerians particularly those with working class background. Under this administration, police continue to detain people indefinitely without trial. Extra-judicial killings either in the name of fighting crimes or quelling ethno/religious "riots" have assumed horrendous proportions in the past five years.

However, the most revealing of the dangerous and anti-democratic feature of the current set of capitalist politicians across the country was the sheer scale of brigandage and fraud perpetrated in the name of "civilian to civilian" elections, conducted in April/May, 2003. Despite wide spread desire for change across the country, the powers that be, at various levels, used money lavishly, in addition to the unprecedented manipulation of state apparatuses, especially the army and police, to perpetuate themselves in power, to be able to continue to loot and oppress the poor. Fearing to face a formidable political opposition in 2007, the Obasanjo government right now is plotting to deregister pro-masses opposition parties like the NCP on the basis of an alleged poor performance in a highly pre-determined, fraudulent exercise.

Suffice to stress, the Obasanjo government's quest in this regard is the only logical political strategy dictated by its pro-rich, anti-poor socio-economic policies. Come 2007, the Obasanjo government cannot legitimately expect the working people, the victims of mass unemployment and mass poverty, the victims of education, health and social services, commercialisation and privatisation, victims of ethno-religious repressions, etc to voluntarily come out to vote to retain their tormentors in power. So, what to do? De-register all parties that may become potential platforms through which the people may strive to vote a government with an alternative vision and programme different from the pro-imperialist/capitalist option embraced by the PDP, ANPP, AD, etc.

MASS MOVEMENT IN 2004

From the above outlined premises, one fact stands out. The working people are faced with a formidable enemy whose daily and long term pre-occupations are concentrated on how to create more avenues for both local and foreign capitalists to loot the country dry in the name of privatisation and liberalisation, while eternally coming up with policies either on oil, education, health care, housing, job creation or provisions of water, electricity, telephones, etc, which only seek to make living more miserable for the vast majority of the working people.

The issue at stake therefore is one which goes beyond whether an unelected person, even in the name of a judge, can properly or judiciously restrain, even for a second, the right of the working people and their organisations like the NLC, LASCO, etc to organise or mobilise to fight for a permanent decent living in all spheres of life.

The issue at stake goes beyond the N1.50k petroleum levy or the reversal of the official price of a litre of petrol to N34. The Obasanjo capitalist government at the central level and those of its counterparts in ANPP and AD at the state level cannot but always advocate and implement programmes that will only worsen the plight of the masses. This is the best way by which they can feather their own nests at the expense of the working masses. Therefore, labour leaders and activists of all persuasions have a duty to articulate a comprehensive pro-labour, pro-masses economic and political alternative to counteract the ruinous options offered by capitalism. It is of no use supporting the privatisation of NEPA and NITEL, while being purportedly opposed to the privatisation and deregulation of the oil sector of the economy. Labour therefore needs to come up with an integral, creative economic agenda wherein the wealth of society and resources of nature are publicly owned, centrally and democratically run by the working people themselves, in such a way and manner that goods and services are produced and organised primarily to satisfy the material and socio-political needs of at least, the overwhelming majority of mankind in sharp contrast to the prevailing unjust capitalist disorder where the overwhelming majority of mankind live in perpetual misery and oppression in the midst of inexhaustible natural and human resources.

As we often say in the DSM, this kind of desirable situation can only be brought about through a mass, socialist revolution that puts in power a workers and peasants government. Therefore, the issue at stake goes beyond whether an NLC strike is able to defeat one particular anti-poor policy or not. The central issue is how to effect a change of an anti-poor government. It is for this reason that the DSM for years has been in the forefront of the agitations for the formation of a trade union-sponsored mass workers' or labour party. This, it should be stressed, was borne out of the conviction that only a combination of the industrial and political struggles can pave way for a decisive victory over capitalist, anti-poor policies and their governments. In other words, the issue at stake is both industrial and political.

THE STRUGGLE IS BOTH INDUSTRIAL AND POLITICAL

This development however, we must stress, from the beginning, is not an alternative option to industrial actions/struggles, as being suggested by some labour leaders. In today's Nigeria, a Labour Party will only be able to have active support in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria only if it intervenes in the daily struggles of the working masses against incessant increment of fuel prices, retrenchment, poor pay, commercialisation of education, housing, health care, water, light, telephones, ethno-religious/self determination movements, etc. Thus, far from the emergence of the Labour Party being an antidote to strikes, an ideologically relevant labour party will not only help to accelerate rate of strikes but equally help to raise the vision and political consciousness of the strikers in such a direction that can rapidly accelerate the process of a mass socialist revolutionary removal of the capitalist elements from power through a combination of an industrial and electoral strategies.

In year 2003 and early this year, the current NLC leaders initiated many important struggles against the anti-poor policies of the Obasanjo government. Unfortunately however, the vision informing this leadership and its methodology fell far short of what the working masses conditions require in today's Nigeria. First and foremost, the NLC leaders don't see these policies as the necessary consequences of a neo-colonial capitalist system. From this flows, two major flaws. One, they failed to see the issue as one in which the active participation of the rank and file workers within and outside trade unions and non working class layers of the poor must be deliberately cultivated. Two, from this arose the repeated error of presenting every struggle as an end in itself instead of it being a link in the series of means to an end.

AN ALL CLASS ALLIANCE?

Sometimes, in frustration, labour leaders and general activists seeking a change of the current dispensation often call for a broad alliance with all ideological trends including Christian and Islamic clerics and traditional rulers. In reality, this is an impossible alliance. It is impossible for the capitalist politicians in PDP, ANPP, AD, etc to mount a principled opposition against President Obasanjo, whose policies and ethos they all severally and collectively subscribe to. It is impossible to expect a consistent opposition to Obasanjo government's anti-poor policies by Islamic and Christian clerics, many of whom are oil marketers and contractors of substance merely cloaked in spiritual garments, nor from Any-Government-In-Power (AGIP) traditional rulers on government pay roll.

Fortunately, from the working class stand point, this is a needless alliance. On several occasions, in the recent past, the working people across the country have exhibited in several ways their capacity to struggle for a fundamental change. If the truth must be bluntly told, it is the leadership that still lags behind the masses' willingness and determination to struggle. When a general strike or mobilisation for anything is being done in the name of the working masses, conscious and considerable effort must be made to directly mobilise the working people. This, as we often stated, must include mass meetings, rallies, symposia, seminars, mass leafleting, formation of strike/struggle committees etc.

Sadly, many of the general strikes of the recent past were not conducted in this manner. Hence, their relative weaknesses. In other words, if it does seem as if the masses are indifferent to the NLC strike calls, it can only be because they are not being properly carried along.

Therefore, to take the mass struggle from its present level to a higher pedestal, a kind of scientific, through mobilisation and organisation must be brought to bear on future struggles. Henceforth, struggles for daily improvement in material conditions of living and political rights must be treated as part of the overall struggle of the working masses to take political power from the minority capitalist class. Labour leaders in the NLC and the Labour Party must champion a united action approach towards pro-labour parties like the NCP and DA. The leadership of the NCP and DA on their own equally have a duty to come up with a strategy wherein all organisations that claim to place the working masses at the centre of their affairs can be made to act in unison with a view to accelerating the defeat once and for all of the prevailing anti-poor order.

If built on the active membership and control of the rank and file members of these organisations, if built on a complete socialist alternative economic and political agenda, a united platform of struggles by the NLC, NCP, Labour Party, DSM, DA, etc, can rapidly change the political balance of forces in favour of the labouring masses against the rampaging global capitalist vampires even sooner than the year 2007, the year of another general elections, all things being equal.

 

THE LAUNCHING OF NEW LABOUR PARTY:

A WELCOME DEVELOPMENT BUT……

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) heartily welcomes the transformation of the Party for Social Democracy (PSD) into the Labour Party (LP). For close to almost two decades of its existence, the DSM has been in forefront of propaganda and agitations for the formation of a trade union based/sponsored mass political party of the working people. When in 1989, under military rule, a short lived efforts was made to form the now defunct Nigerian Labour Party (NLP), members of the DSM played active role in many parts of the country to build the party as a truly independent party of the working masses. Throughout the almost 5 years tenure of the Adams Oshiomhole's leadership of the NLC, the DSM has repeatedly called on the trade union leaders to take concrete steps to form a pan-Nigerian political party of the working masses. In this context, the adoption of the PSD and its transformation by the NLC leaders into Labour Party is welcome development. All these, however, have been lost on successive generations of labour leaders.

As socialists, we do know from the history and experience that only the working class have the requisite capacity and interests needed to engage and lead the other oppressed layers of the working masses in decisive and consistent struggles against imperialist/capitalist economic exploitation and political oppression. The history of Nigeria, most especially in post-colonial periods has been largely dominated by ethno-religious conflicts and strife, always threatening the very existence of the country most of the times.

Consequently, Nigeria's political history and electoral activities have equally been dogged and dominated by ethno-religious interests and calculations that were often at variance with the real interests of the working masses of the different nationalities and religious groups. Only the united activities and struggles of the labour movement has offered a glimpse of hope that it is possible to genuinely unite the diverse ethnic and religious groups that make up the country around a mutually beneficial goal. This particular prospect was amply demonstrated in the general strikes of June 2000 and June/July 2003. On those two occasions, the working masses across the country shunning ethno-religious divisions, rallied behind the banner of the NLC to make a decisive point against the Obasanjo government's anti-poor policy of incessant increases in fuel prices.

But lacking a viable pan-Nigerian political party of the working masses with sufficient spread and structures, these same masses have also revealed a tendency of being very easy to be deceived and divided amongst the capitalist parties for different selfish short sighted ends, particularly at election times. Thus for us, the birth of the Labour Party particularly its resolve to henceforth run candidates in elections provides a significant opportunity to rally the working masses of the different parts of the country in a beneficial political direction, away from the capitalist parties and their self-serving agenda.

Numerically, the organised layers of the working class people constitute a minority in the society. However, given its decisive positions within the capitalist economy and society, it has a tendency to draw behind itself the other layers of the oppressed masses whenever it is involved in a struggle against anti-poor policies and the capitalist class. Thus a properly oriented and organised Labour Party can rapidly become a decisive political factor in Nigeria much sooner than may be anticipated by some. But this is not the only possible perspective. It is equally possible that the Labour Party may remain a still born child, a mere media event.

How can this kind of apocalyptic perspective be averted? How can the Labour Party be rapidly built as a vehicle that will accelerate the struggle of the working masses against capitalist induced mass misery in the midst of inexhaustible abundance, eradicate political oppression, in an atmosphere of limitless freedom? How should the Labour Party relate with other pro-masses parties like the NCP? These are some of the relevant major questions begging for answers.

GOAL AND ORIENTATION

Right from the onset, Labour Party should make it expressly clear that its goal is the capturing of political power, with a view to form a workers and peasant government, which is committed to the re-organisation of the economy and society in such a way that needs of the people, and not profits for a few, as is the case under capitalism, shall constitute the primary and sole reason for governance. Flowing from this, the Labour Party must be built consciously as a working class party, whose primary constituents are the workers, peasants, petty traders, market women, rank and file members of the armed forces including police, intelligential, students, urban and rural poor. A Labour Party solidly built on the above outlined layers will be an unbeatable phenomenon which will not have to cringe before traditional rulers and religious clerics, before it can embark on successful struggles and campaigns. Right from the beginning, the Labour Party must make it clear that it will not enter into a coalition government with any capitalist party, either now, or in future.

LABOUR PARTY: NOT AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE NLC

At the launching of the Labour Party, the NLC president, Adams Oshiomhole stated that the NLC will retain its independent status as a trade union federation. This is a very valid and inescapable truth. To start with, the NLC as a trade union federation only directly embraces a fraction of the working class people. To be able to capture political power, needed to effect the necessary socio-economic transformation within the economy and polity, the Labour Party has to be built as a platform for all sections of the working masses and the oppressed in general. To be members of the NLC, you have to be employed within the public or private sectors and organised within any of the 28-affiliate industrial unions that make up the NLC, whereas, every working class person of voting age can register to become member of the Labour Party. For these and other unstated reasons, the NLC and the Labour Party will always be run as two separate organisations.

However, for maximum success to be achieved, the activities of the NLC and Labour Party henceforth have to be coordinated and synchronised as much as possible. Right now, the NLC is preparing to wage war against casualisation in the banking sector. The Labour Party and other pro-labour parties like the NCP, DSM, etc must not only be prepared to join this kind of battle but must in fact strive to link this battle with the struggle to eradicate casual labour in all ramifications and the central struggle to overthrow the unjust capitalist system, the breeder of mass poverty and casual labour.

At the launching of LP, Oshiomhole amongst other things stated: "you cannot find a lasting solution to the Nigerian masses through strikes, but political solution. It means, we will be active actors in the politics of this country (The Guardian February 29, 2004). This remark gives the unfortunate impression that the NLC leaders no longer contemplate organising strikes in defence of workers and peoples living conditions in general. It gives the impression that henceforth all labour strategy will be placed on becoming "active actors" in politics, through the Labour Party, which is seeing as the vehicle through which "lasting solution" can be found to the masses' needs and aspirations.

For us in the DSM, this will be a mistaken approach. Strikes for now and in future will remain a major mobilisation factor in the struggle of the working masses to capture political power. It therefore cannot be counter-posed to the activities of the Labour Party. As a matter of fact, before it can be placed in a position to capture political power, the Labour Party has to be in forefront of agitations for mass working peoples’ strikes and demonstrations, against every anti-poor policy of the government. This is the only way by which the powerful capitalist class and its state apparatuses can be overcome at election times and/or periods of mass revolutionary upheaval.

A MERE ELECTORAL MACHINE?

In today's Nigeria, virtually all political parties are operated as mere electoral machines. In other words, most of these organisations only attempt to function as a collective at elections times. Once the elections are over, most of them ceased to be active as a collective with common goal, strategy and tactics.

Due to this counter productive approach, ruling parties are often left without any coherent and concerted criticism and alternatives either from within or without the ruling parties. You thus have a completely irresponsible and unaccountable elements ruling while little or no coherent opposition is being provided by non-ruling parties. Predictably when elections are held in this circumstance, the opposition parties often find themselves too weak to mount a serious bid for power, thus forever making it possible for the incumbent corrupt elements in power to manipulate their ways to remain in power.

Therefore, right from the beginning, the Labour Party must be built deliberately as a struggle party that is always prepared to organise and fight on the day to day issues affecting the working masses during and outside elections times. This is the only way to ensure its effectiveness at election times.

RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER PARTIES

At the proclamation of the party, its leaders said they would be fielding candidates in the forthcoming local government elections. This is a good development. We in the DSM however would suggest that Labour Party leaders should evolve a strategy that will make it possible to secure the best possible collaborations, on the basis of commonly worked out programmes and perspectives, between itself and other pro-masses parties like the NCP, DSM, DA, etc, with a view to avoid needless rivalries which could detract from the needed political onslaught on right wing, capitalist parties and their surrogates within and outside the trade union movement.

Right now, the NCP is in the forefront of struggles to ensure a more democratic electoral process at the local government level. What is the position of the Labour Party on monetisation of politics vide compulsory "deposit" payment as a pre-condition for running in elections? How will Labour Party be able to get genuine working class candidates if the law as it is, expressly makes it impossible for working class persons to stand in elections without first giving up their jobs? This to us provides a good example of issues upon which the NCP and Labour Party can jointly prosecute for the overall benefits of the working masses.

PROGRAMMES AND PERSPECTIVE

"The ruling parties are deficient of appropriate ideological tools and political will to address the roots of the country's present quagmire. This explains their choice of policy options, in particular their obsession for economic and social policies that advocate the doctrines of the supremacy of the market for addressing deep-rooted backwardness…….. It will be highly illusory to expect the market, rather than the state to pull the country out of its present state and reposition it towards national development". (Sylvester Ejiofor, Labour Party National Chairman, The Guardian Sunday February 29, 2004, page 2).

From a revolutionary, marxist point of view, there are many ambiguous definitions and or formulations in the above quoted passage. However, notwithstanding these ambiguities, the above quoted passage represents a radical departure from the outlook of most political parties in Nigeria today. Unfortunately however, the Labour Party chairman, immediately, at the occasion, made a contradictory statement which greatly reduces the weight that can be attached to the above quoted statement, when he, inter alia, said: "for the avoidance of doubt, as social democrats, our party is not doctrinally hostile to the market, nor is our party opposed to private entrepreneurship".

These contradictory positions sadly mean that the future growth and relevance to masses quest for justice of the Labour Party is not automatic. In all history, every effort of seeking to reconcile the self-serving interests of the capitalist class with that of their victims, the working masses had always ended on a disastrous note for the working people. From Nkrumah's Ghana, to Allende's Chile, Chiluba's Zambia, each time a working class movement had attempted to compromise with capitalism, the end result had been disastrous both for the masses and the leaders of such workers formations.

There is therefore the need by the Labour Party to clearly come out in favour of the public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy including banking, finance, insurance, etc on the basis of working masses direct democratic control and management, within the framework of an internationalist socialist perspective. Without this approach, it will be impossible to meet the material and political yearnings of the masses both now and in the long run.

NATIONALITY ISSUE

The Labour Party needs to come out with a clear policy on the nationality question. There is a pseudo-scientific opinion which holds that the conflicts arising over ethno-religious matters will totally or largely disappear once a genuine pro-masses party comes to power. Outwardly, this of course sounds nice, but it does totally fails to articulate how a truly pro-masses party can come to power.

In contemporary Nigeria, it will be impossible for any party, bourgeois or proletarian, to have mass following in the embattled areas of Niger Delta, Anambra, Plateau, Osun, Kaduna, Kano, etc just to mention a few of the country's ethno-religious hot spots, without such party having a programme which must be seen to address their immediate daily demands and agitations.

Similarly, only the active intervention of Labour Party's activists in the day to day struggles of the masses against incessant increment of fuel prices, education and health care commercialisation, privatisation of social services such as housing, water, light, transportation, telecommunications, etc can endear the party to mass of the working people. Thus, from whichever angle it is examined, the Labour Party will only grow and in turn be able to satisfy the needs and aspiration of the working masses, only if it is built as a fighting organ of struggle for the total, comprehensive emancipation of the working masses from capitalist exploitation and oppression.

If the Labour Party leaders take a critical look at some of the issues raised above and accordingly take appropriate measures and actions, then there exists the potentials, that the party can contribute to the rapid building of a powerful pan-Nigerian working peoples political platform/organisation capable of bringing to a permanent end the needless nightmare which capitalism has reduced human life to. Without this approach, the Labour Party proclamation may sadly turn out as another lost opportunity.

 

TRADE UNIONS:

FIGHT OBASANJO’S ANTI-LABOUR BILL

President Obasanjo recently sent anti-labour bill to the National Assembly for passage into law. While the leadership of the National Assembly has continued to deny its existence, due to the widespread condemnation of the bill by the working people, trade unions, pro-democracy and labour activists, ironically, President Obasanjo has continued to defend it on national radio and TV programmes.

According to Obasanjo, the bill is not an attack on labour but meant to "democratise" the labour movement in line with so-called prevailing national democratic mood as well as to meet International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards. But this is nothing but sheer subterfuge and hypocrisy by Obasanjo. In reality, the bill is meant to weaken the trade unions and the NLC, which in recent years, have emerged as the key opposition to numerous neo-liberal, anti-poor policies of his regime such as incessant hike in fuel prices. Since year 2000, the NLC has organised three general strikes and protests against the hike in fuel prices while two other ones were only averted at the last minute.

CONTENT OF THE BILL

The proposed bill contains the following measures:

· Outlaw strikes unless two-thirds of all the members of the union had voted in support of the strike.

· Allow an employer of labour to seek the consent of an employee to be a member of a trade union and therefore making union dues voluntary.

· Remove the NLC as the only central labour organisation and register others and any trade union that may pay 10 percent of its contributions to any of the registered federation of trade unions.

· Payment of union dues shall cease to operate among other things where there is (a) the dissolution of the unions or (b) the revocation of the certificate of registration of the union by the minister or (c) the cancellation of the registration of the union by the Registrar or (d) a strike action embarked upon by a union in breach of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the workers union and the employer.

EFFECTS OF THE BILL

The idea of seeking the consent of an employee by an employer in order to join a union is a complete fraud because most employers do not like their workers joining unions. They want to run their enterprises freely by trampling on the rights of workers. This is why the unions itself came into existence, to oppose the dictatorial tendencies of employers of labour.

Finally, the bill concentrates power into the hands of our unelected registrar of trade unions and also keeps the right to revoke the certificate of the union in the hands of a minister both who are government appointees.

The NLC should wage an unrelenting struggle against this anti-labour bill. The NLC and other trade unions should begin mass mobilisation of workers and other oppressed strata of the society against the bill in order to ensure that this vicious, obnoxious, undemocratic bill does not see the light of the day.

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ENIGEERING WORKERS’ LEADER:

"TIME FOR SYSTEM CHANGE"

Rufus Olusesan, a DSM member, has just been elected as secretary, Ikeja Area Council I of the Steel and Engineering Workers' Union of Nigeria (SEWUN) and is a member of SEWUN’S National Executive Committee (NEC). He is also the chairman of Nexan Kabelmetal branch of the union. In this interview, conducted by Demola Yaya, he spoke to Socialist Democracy (SD) on the plan of his union and the situation in the labour movement.

Socialist Democracy (SD): Congrats on your electoral victory as the Secretary, Ikeja Area Council I of Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria (SEWUN). What programmes do you have for the workers within your council area? Simply put, what do you stand for?

Rufus: Any serious unionist must have programmes for the workers. If you go through my manifesto when I was campaigning, there was special attention to workers welfare. Secondly, I said I would pay special attention to complaints by members, which was lacking in the past. I have been going round to all the 37 companies within our jurisdiction to make sure we understand their working condition. By doing this, we will be able to know how to fundamentally tackle the problems in these branches.

SD: How do you think your leadership can make a difference in the lives and working condition of the workers within your jurisdiction, considering the effect of government anti-poor policies?

Rufus: As a member of SEWUN NEC and CWC, we can influence policies and their implementation. From that plane, we can influence policies of NLC. Although, we are very few, within our sector, SEWUN, we can effect some changes and increase our influence to effect change at NLC level. In my working place, Kablemetal, we have made sizable changes. We have achieved within a month what we could not get for the past one year on casualisation.

SD: How do your access the NLC leadership position vis-à-vis neo-liberal policies of Obasanjo's government?

Rufus: First and foremost, let me state that the Adams Oshiomhole's NLC leadership has proved more responsive to workers interests when compared with the open right wing regime of the Pascal Bafyau era. In its almost 5 years in office the Oshiomhole led NLC has waged many decisive battles including 3 general strikes against the anti-poor, new-liberal policies of the Obasanjo regime, particularly its incessant hike of fuel prices. Unfortunately however, the leadership of NLC has not been consistent. If you look at the neo-liberal policies of this Obasanjo's government with its attendant anti-poor programmes of deregulation, privatisation, commercialisation against the working class, the leadership has not fundamentally kicked against them. Take for instance, the National Privatisation Council, Oshiomhole is a member. How could he be part of them and at the same time be against them?

The NLC leadership has to sit down to realign NLC to its original aim to defend and protect the interests of the working class. Some people may not understand the implication of deregulation and privatisation. But some of us understand their implications. For instance, out of the 37 companies within our jurisdiction, about 6 companies have shown intention to retrench. If you question the management about this, you'll be told that the hike in price of fuel, especially diesel, has hiked the cost of production, which makes the prices of their product prohibitive and consequently unviable, as the purchasing power of the consumer is weak. Simply put, they produce goods that cannot be bought because the prices of the products are very high.

Most companies generate their electricity independently as NEPA remains unreliable and with the incessant increase in the prices of fuel, to be in business, so many workers will have to go. But this retrenchment will only further worsen purchasing power and the economic situation. The retrenched workers who hitherto were breadwinners of their families are put in worst position with their families and the situation becomes a vicious cycle. So, unless NLC and the working people take concrete action, we are in trouble. Galvanising Industry Nig. Ltd, (GIL) Ikeja; Eruca; etc, have been retrenching to mention just a few, while many companies are indicating intention to retrench.

SD: What does 2004 portend for the working class? Any hope?

Rufus: I foresee crisis ahead as a result of government anti-peoples' policies. Take, for instance, government has come out that it will downsize its workforce by 40%. If government, the largest employer of labour retrenches, then you know how many hundred of thousands that will be rendered unemployed. In private sector, things are getting worse. Many textile companies have virtually collapsed because of importation of used textile materials. In cable manufacturing where I work, we have imported and adulterated cables. With this trend, it is getting more difficult for companies to survive. Most companies get their raw materials abroad and with the further depreciation of the Naira, it becomes very expensive to produce. Manufacturers' Association of Nigeria (MAN) has just come out to say that companies are producing at 25% utilisation capacity. It implies serious problems.

Many workers and pensioners have not been paid for months while those who have been paid get peanuts when you compare it with high cost of living. While the pay remains constant, transport fare, house rents, food prices, etc have increased.

The NLC leadership must sit down to appraise the system and how to resolve this crisis on a lasting basis. The present ruling class has shown that it has nothing positive to offer the poor working masses other than misery, pains and poverty. NLC therefore, needs to initiate an alternative government that will implement pro-working people's policies. It needs an independent working people political platform.

The NLC leadership and labour leaders in general need to come out now with a concrete programme of action to fight for the immediate implementation of the 12.5% minimum wage increment agreed to by the government since 2003 across board, in both public and private sector, on the basis of no retrenchment, within the framework of general living wage for all working class people including the unemployed. This struggle should be continued with the struggle to guarantee qualitative and functional education, health care, transportation, telecommunications, etc, for all. This, it can do in collaboration with civil society groups and pro-labour organisations. What is needed now is a system change, socialist transformation of society.

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FIGHT PRIVATISATION AND RETRENCHMENT

From every indication, particularly the 2004 budget, it is very clear that the next three years is going to witness the acceleration of the anti-poor policies of privatisation and retrenchment of workers by the Obasanjo administration.

On plan for sale in this next phase of the privatisation programme are the biggest federal government assets and enterprises namely refineries, airways, railways, NITEL, NEPA, etc.

At the time, the Obasanjo administration has indicated that it is to retrench 40% of the workers in the federal public service. This obnoxious exercise has even commenced already with the sacking, in early February 2004 of several hundreds of workers in aviation sector, such as Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority and Nigeria Airspace Management Agency. Over 2000 workers have just been retrenched in NEPA this March.

With its policy of privatisation and deregulation, the Obasanjo led PDP government at the national level, has continued to sell public enterprises to super-rich individuals and corporations especially, both local and foreign. Same exercise is going on in states controlled by ANPP and AD. What are the reasons given by government for the sales? "Public enterprises are corrupt and inefficient. If they are sold to private individuals, they will become efficient, profitable and provide the services they are originally meant for".

It is true that the public enterprises are corrupt and inefficient. But private enterprises are no exception. Because of inefficiency and corruption, for instance, big private companies internationally have collapsed in the recent time, Enron in USA, Parmalat in Ital, just to mention a few. In fact, the chairman of Parmalat, Calisto Tanzi, is presently in prison for corruption. In Nigeria, many private banks and industries have become distressed, bankrupt and collapsed over the years. The chairman of Bank of the North, Alhaji Bulama is currently standing trial for allegedly stealing N40 million from the bank. This shows that corruption and inefficiency is not peculiar to public enterprises.

CAPITALISM: CAUSE OF CORRUPTION AND INEFFICIENCY

Corruption and inefficiency is a function of the mode of management and control of enterprises, whether publicly or privately owned. In the present circumstance, the root cause of corruption and mismanagement is the capitalist mode of production and management. While public enterprises are supposedly publicly owned, few private capitalist individuals are appointed by capitalist governments to run them. These individuals are friends and family members of the ruling class. They engage in awarding fat salaries and allowances to themselves, while keeping the wages of workers low. They also engage in awarding contracts to themselves with inflated cost. In fact, they don't carry out the contracts at the end of the day and they cannot be questioned or prosecuted.

What is needed is a democratic control and management of all public enterprises by the representatives of the working people in these enterprises. Only this arrangement can checkmate looting and improve planning for efficiency.

GOVERNMENT DOUBLE STANDARD

While government's claim is that all publicly enterprises will be sold, in actual fact, only the ones that are viable and can yield fast profit are being sold. Those with huge liabilities like Nigeria Railway Corporation and Airways are having only their most profitable operations such as public relations and landed property being contemplated for sale. In this sense, privatisation is nothing but the looting of public assets in the interest of rich corporations and individuals.

RETRENCHMENT

To maximise profit and recoup money invested in buying the enterprises, owners of the now private companies will drastically reduce the workforce and in fact, hire casual workers that can be fired without compensation all to maximise profit. Workers in corporations like NEPA, NITEL, NPA, FAAN, Nigerian Airways, LSWC etc, should buckle-up to fight against sales of these corporations to private individuals, as it will mean sooner or later, losing their jobs when the deal is sealed.

But the fight is not only for workers and unions in these threatened public enterprises. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) needs to mobilise the entire labour movement against the privatisation and retrenchment policies of the government through mass rallies, industrial actions and mass protests. But first of all, the NLC leadership will have to stop its support for the anti-working class privatisation programme and the NLC president, Adams Oshiomhole, should withdraw immediately from the government National Council on Privatisation.

DEMOCRATIC WORKING CLASS ALTERNATIVE

It is clear that the capitalist ruling class cannot bring laughter on the faces of the poor working masses but only pains, misery and poverty. The only option left to the working people is to get organised under a political platform to wrestle political power from the present political vampires and transform society along socialist lines.

The trade union and NLC should demand and fight for:

  • No to the sale of public utilities like NEPA, NITEL, NPA, FAAN, Nigerian Airways, LSWC, etc.

  • No to the retrenchment of workers of any company.

  • For a management board of public enterprises to comprise of government, elected representatives of union and workers of the enterprises with equal number of representation.

  • For a workers, peasant and poor peoples’ government

  • No to the World Bank and IMF policies

  • For total repudiation of all foreign debt.

  • Public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under workers' democratic control and management

  • For a socialist world devoid of exploitation and imperialism.

 

WORKPLACE NEWS:

SEWUN, AMPISEN SIGN COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT

After picketing, protests by workers that led to the disruption of activities in many companies of Steel, Metal, Iron Products and Electricity industry, the Association of Metal Products, Iron and Steel Employers of Nigeria (AMPISEN), the umbrella body of the employers in the industry, on the 8th January 2004, signed a collective agreement with the workers' union, the Steel and Engineering Workers' Union of Nigeria, SEWUN.

It would be recalled that the "minimum" wage before the signing of the agreement was N4,000 as basic salary per month and N2,000 per month each for housing and transport. As a result of struggle waged by workers and the leadership of SEWUN, the employers/management were forced to concede increase of N1,000 to the "old" wage excluding N2,500 housing and N2,500 transport for all workers in the industry.

The refusal of employers/management to meet with the demands of SEWUN had led to the breakdown and delay, for months, in the negotiation. The delay of the negotiation has shown to workers the length to which the employers/management can go in order to defend their selfish interest and profit.

Looking at the agreement itself, despite the increment in wage, the entire "slave" wage is still low compared to the amount of labour/service rendered by workers and the output in production. Considering the high inflationary rate, coupled with the other anti-working peoples' policies of the government such as incessant hike in fuel prices, arbitrary increment in school fees, high cost of living etc, the increment will soon be eroded and there would still be continuous poverty among the workers.

Also, the employers/management will stop at nothing to take back with the right hand what they have been forced to give with the left hand unless there is vigilance and determination by workers and the union leadership. Many workers may be unjustly retrenched while tens of thousand workers will be faced with issues of cheap labour, casualisation, non-conducive working environment, non-payment and backlog of workers salary etc.

The national leadership of SEWUN should start the mobilisation of workers, as a matter of urgency, to ensure the implementation of the agreement in all companies as well as on other issues affecting the living and working conditions of the working people. Based on the present system, where the means of production is to make profit for the minority and not to satisfy the needs of the majority, within the two-year effective period of the agreement, more attacks await the workers of the industry if the union refuses to provide a fighting leadership.

The major lesson of this agreement is that victory comes through struggle. If we mobilise, organise and fight for our right, there is possibility of winning, rather than remaining a living corpse with continuous attacks while our problems/sufferings continue. It pays to struggle.

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RECALL GIL SACKED WORKERS NOW!

On Friday, 12th December, 2003, twenty workers of Galvanizing Industries Limited (GIL) were sacked by the management of the company. The workers were arbitrarily sacked due to the decision of management to rationalize the company's operation lines from three production lines to two.

Among the affected workers are Yusuf Asalu (vice chairman) and other union officials of local branch of SEWUN except the chairman, who is presently being threatened by the management against making any attempt to fight for the workers.

The threat by the management is to create fear in the minds of workers and prevent a fight for decent and living conditions of workers and against the anti-workers policies of the management whose major aim is to make more profits, satisfy their selfish interest at the expense of the workers who create the wealth.

We call on national leadership of Steel and Electricity Workers Union of Nigeria to resist this attack by mobilizing workers in the industry, organise picketing, rallies, protests and strike in support of the GIL workers in order to mount pressure on the management of the company. This will send signal not only to the management of GIL but all the managements in the industry that the union is out to ensure not only the recall of Yusuf Asalu and others but also to fight against the victimization and sacking of workers.

We also call on trade unionists, workers, students, youth, human right and other progressive organisations to continue to put pressure on GIL management to demand for immediate and unconditional restatement of Yusuf Asalu and others.

Please send letters of protest and demand for:

  • The immediate and unconditional recall of Yusuf Asalu and 19 others

  • Improvement in working and living conditions of workers

  • An end to sacking and victimization of workers

Send your letters to:

The Managing Director,

Galvanizing Industries Limited,

Plot 78, Oba Akran Avenue,

Ikeja Industrial Estate,

PO Box 96, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria

Fax: 234-01-4964746

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CIU DEMANDS OLOWOOKERE’S RECALL

Campaign for Independent Unionism (CIU), in a protest letter to the Educational Secretary of the Ajeromi-Ifelodun Education Authority, has called for the immediate, without any loss of pay, the recall of comrade Samuel Tunji Olowookere, who was sacked over his election as the chairman of the Non Academic Staff Union, Ajeromi-Ifelodun Unit.

CIU maintains in its letter that the sack is unjust, unwarranted and totally against the spirit and letter of the civil service procedure.

The CIU also calls on the rank and file members of NASU to take up the struggle of the recall of its duly elected chairman and sister union like NASU Secondary School, NUT to be part of the campaign to recall comrade Olowookere.

Join the campaign, sign the petition sheet, join the picket, line up when called upon and write and send your petition to:

Educational Secretary,

Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government,

Education Authority, Awodi-Ora School Complex,

Ajegunle, Lagos State.

And

Special Primary Education Board,

Maryland, Lagos State.

 

NO TO DE-REGISTRATION OF POLITICAL PARTIES

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently announced (and also echoed by President Obasanjo) that some political parties will be de-registered as a result of what it (INEC) termed as 30 parties being "unwieldy".

Performances of the newly registered parties in the last April 2003 general elections must have also being used as a yardstick to justify this resolution of the ruling class to prune political parties down to 2 or 3 for its selfish political calculations.

Apart from the fact that it was only in December 2002 when these new parties were registered, INEC put some stumbling blocks like prohibitive fees for candidates to contest elections on their parties' platforms. These political parties, led by NCP, wasted two months to contest this and other undemocratic bottlenecks initiated by INEC. Coming from this background and with very limited resources, they had to contest with six existing parties who have mustered financial muscles and structures.

Secondly, the last 2003 general election was a charade. It was massively rigged and marred by various irregularities by the ruling parties. This was even confirmed by both local and international elections monitors.

More so, the constitution has rightly stipulated what conditions to be met by groups of people to become political parties. This has been fought up to and won at the Supreme Court. It is not compulsory for a political party to have a national spread. Its influence could be limited to a region or even a state. Its electoral campaign may be limited to a singular issue. For instance, Green Party in most European countries is concerned with mono programme - the environment.

Again, the agreement of INEC, Obasanjo & co. that 30 political parties are too many cannot hold water. Israel with population of 5 million has 30 political parties, Indonesia with same population as Nigeria has 48 political parties. Political party is an association of like minds who share same philosophy and principle with the aim to sell their ideas to people and capture political power to practicalise these ideas. Attempt to de-register parties is a negation of democratic rights and against the provisions of 1999 constitution.

It is very clear that INEC and SIEC are not independent umpires with their role and activities before, during and after the general elections. They cannot be trusted to organise free and fair elections in the future. In Lagos State, for instance, while only 4.5 million people are on the voters' register, in the referendum conducted to determine desirability of new local government in the state, Lagos state SIEC declared 6.5 million people voting "yes", in a referendum conducted within 3 hours! At the general elections that were conducted for 7 hours, less than 2 million Lagosians voted at the governorship elections with total votes of all political parties. So, where did LASIEC get the 6.5 million votes?

Therefore, INEC and SIECs should be dissolved immediately and be reconstituted with all political parties’ representatives, professional bodies, labour, NANS, etc, duly represented to truly make it independent and effective to deliver its constitutional role and win the confidence of political parties and rank and file Nigerians.

The idea of de-registration of parties is a calculated attempt by Obasanjo and sections of the capitalist ruling class to prevent the emergence of a mass-based, working people political party that can successfully challenge their unpopular anti-poor, capitalist policies.

 

NCP LISTS CONDITIONS FOR PARTICIPATING IN THE COUNCIL POLL

The Lagos State chapter of the National Conscience Party (NCP) together with nine other political parties have gone to court to challenge the guidelines for the conduct of the local government elections released by the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC). The other nine parties are Democratic Alternative (DA), Progressive Action Congress (PAC), National Democratic Party (NDP), United Democratic Party (UDP), All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Movement For Democracy and Justice (MDJ), Justice Party (JP), New Democrat (NP), and United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP).

Among the guidelines released by LASIEC include the provision of curriculum vitae, birth certificate, voters registration card, tax clearance certificate, party card, letter of disengagement from previous employment and the payment of N50,000 and N10,000 for chairmanship and councillorship candidates respectively.

The decision to challenge the LASIEC guidelines in court was a fall out of the abortive meeting between the political parties in Lagos state and LASIEC at which the state electoral commission refused to listen to the complaints of the parties on its guidelines which they considered obnoxious and unacceptable. Specifically, the parties are seeking a court declaration that LASIEC's guidelines should be declared unconstitutional.

On Wednesday morning (17/03/04), when Justice Adeyinka Alabi of Ikeja High Court division was to deliver his ruling on both illegality of LASIEC guidelines and newly created local governments, he was said to have been transferred to Igbosere High Court in Lagos Island without informing the parties.

NCP and other political parties with their supporters moved to Lagos Island only for the Judge not to sit. On enquiry, they were informed that the case is yet to be re-assigned and that no date had been fixed for it. This means the matter is being technically adjourned indefinitely.

Another arm twisting development by the AD government in the state is illegal creation of an additional 2,000 polling booths to 8,000 originally used by INEC in the last general elections. While the old INEC voter register is to be used for the LG elections, polling booths are being fraudulently altered. This is one of the AD designs to rig the elections.

However, NCP and other political parties have commenced on mass protests against this injustice. When the Judge refused to sit, they went on protest to media houses with placards and banners with the promise of more political actions to force AD government in Lagos State follow due process for free and fair elections.

In its emergency business meeting on Monday 22/03/04 with 72 party members, 80 and 11 councillorship and chairmanship contestants/aspirants respectively, NCP Lagos state chapter has listed conditions for participating in the council poll. It resolves that even though the Attorney General of Lagos state has conceded that some of the LASIEC guidelines for the council poll being contested by NCP and other nine political parties are unconstitutional, preparation of new guidelines must entail LASIEC meeting with political parties to work out modalities and date for the elections. It also resolves that except the newly created 37 local councils are recognised by the constitution via the National Assembly Act, elections to the councils must be based on the 20 recognised councils in Lagos state.

It would also be recalled that the NCP had earlier filed a suit in court challenging the appointment of 57 Executive Secretaries for the local governments in Lagos as well as the disbursement of funds to the newly created local governments before their recognition by the constitution.

In a related development, the Osun State Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC) has disqualified Osun NCP from contesting the forthcoming council poll despite the ruling of the Osogbo High Court nullifying the nomination fee and other obnoxious guidelines which NCP and other six parties contested.

According to Bayo Olagunju, Secretary to OSIEC, "The court did not specify that consideration should be given to NCP to enable it file nomination papers for the election" (The Punch, March 18, 2004). He claims that NCP did not file its nomination papers before the close of registration.

It should be recalled that NCP did not file in nomination form because of the illegal fee which is a condition for it and upon which it sought redress in court.

When asked of the question of refund of fee in line with the court ruling, Olagunju said the commission had spent the money for preparation for the election and that the ruling would be appealed.

Except a higher court set aside the Osun State High Court judgement, OSIEC has no option but to allow NCP and others obtain nomination papers and refund to other parties that had paid the illegal nomination fee. Anything short of this will be an illegal exercise.

 

KEKE NAPEP OPERATORS’ RALLY AT OBASANJO FARM

I watched "the rally of the year 2003" on TV and was glued to my sit with what I saw.

I saw President Olusegun Obasanjo in the midst of a crowd of about fifty people who called themselves "KEKE NAPEP OPERATOR'S ASSOCIATION"

They converged at the President's home to show their appreciation to him for introducing KEKE NAPEP (tricycle) as a means of eradicating poverty in the country. Mr. President was happy to say that he had fulfilled his promise of eradicating poverty in Nigeria through KEKE NAPEP. I was wondering what type of poverty could the two thousand units of the tricycle eradicate.

But Mr. President must be told that that he turned them to tricycle riders either directly through mass retrenchment by federal government or indirectly through lay-offs in private sector due to his putrid economic policies.

I was privileged to interview ten Keke NAPEP riders at Alagbado bus-stop, Lagos on why they took to the business. The summary of their responses was clear -Some were retrenched by Lagos State government in 2000; some are unemployed National Diploma graduates; some were sacked from various companies due to their inability to remain in business.; others say they operate the tricycle on part time basis, as their income cannot take care of the responsibility, that is, children's school fees, house rent, feeding, etc.

From the above analysis, I was wondering where Mr. President's crowd came from. Were they really the operators of tricycles or rented crowd impersonating the "KEKE NAPEP OPERATOR'S ASSOCIATION? I also begin to wonder how is it possible for any association of such to get an audience with Mr. President when the same Mr. President is not always available to meet labour unions and NLC when any serious national issue is up for discussion.

The whole scenario reminds me of Abacha's dark days when rented crowd sang praises of unpopular programmes and at the end of such rallies, participants would be fighting over their allowances.

Since the inception of Obasanjo's government in 1999, nothing visible and positive can be said about employment creation.

Let us collectively tell President Obasanjo that the kind of employment Nigerians want and deserve is not tricycle riding. One should be gainfully employed in his or her chosen trade or profession. With functional train services and good road network, tricycles will be obsolete for mass transit. It could at best be used for sporting activities. The Obasanjo's Poverty Eradication Programme is nothing but an avenue to enrich his cabinet and family members through award of fake, bogus and inflated contract for supplies of materials that will never be supplied.

Poverty eradication, which I believe can work in Nigeria, is a programme aimed at improving the standard of living of the masses, through:

  • Democratic control and management of national resources

  • Provision of basic infrastructures such as efficient electricity power supply, good road network, free and qualitative education and healthcare, etc.

  • Prosecution of corrupt public officers to serve as deterrent to others

  • Enthronement of good democratic system that allows full participation from all ethnic and political groups, a system that will allow constructive criticism and full participation from all interest groups.

With all these structures in place, definitely there will be influx of investment in various sectors of the economy, creation of employment opportunities, improved standard of living and poverty can be said to be in the process of being eradicated.

 

IRAQ:

BUSH PLANS FOR STOOGE REGIME

On Saturday, December 13, 2003, United States forces captured former Iraq dictator, Saddam Hussein, thus ending almost nine months of manhunt for him. The former leader of Iraq, who was ousted by American soldiers in April 2003, was found hiding in a "spider hole" in a town, about 30 kilometres south of his ancestral hometown, Tikrit.

He was arrested with two unidentified people while weapon and more than $750,000 cash was said to have been found on him. Expectedly, while some people of Iraq celebrated his capture, Saddam Hussein's supporters took to the streets of Iraq's major cities in protest against his arrest.

Now that Saddam Hussein's has been captured, does it mean that the violence and suicide attack on American soldiers and their Iraqi loyalists will stop? Rather than subsided, it has been escalating. His arrest coincided with the death of 17 people and 30 others wounded in a car bomb near Baghdad, while barely 48 hours after his arrest, twin car bombs ripped through police stations, killing 8 people and wounding 17. Simultaneously, a suicide car bomb exploded at a post north of Baghdad, killing 8 people and wounding many while at the same time, another car bomb wounded four policemen at a special operation centre on the western edge of the capital.

While the Iraqi people did not want the continuation of government of Saddam Hussein, they strongly opposed the occupation of their country by imperialists led by the United States and Britain. Officially, about 622 coalition forces, mostly Americans, have died as of February 3, 2004 and about 2, 916 Americans wounded. More than half of the deaths as a result of various violent attacks and suicide bombings occurred after President George Bush of American declared major war victory on May 1, 2003.

The development of British and US spin analysts since Saddam's capture is a textbook illustration of the barefaced hypocrisy of the war leaders. Both Blair and Bush have attempted to use Saddam's seizure to sidestep the issue of the yet to be found "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMD) which they presented as the major justification for the war. They try to taunt opponents of the war by asking whether they would rather have Saddam's dictatorship still in power. Clearly, Blair hopes that his opponents have short memories. Just before the assault on Iraq began on 20 March, Blair told the House of Commons: "If he would cooperate with Hans Blix on the whereabouts of his WMDs, Saddam can stay in power".

Notwithstanding all the talk of a ‘turning point’ or a ‘new start’ in Iraq, Saddam's arrest has not resolved the crisis facing Iraqi society. The circumstances, in which Saddam was found, living in primitive conditions, showed that he was not directing the continuous daily attacks on both the occupying forces and the Iraqi police. To a certain extent, Saddam already represented the past even before his capture

The severe problems gripping the country will not disappear overnight, and Saddam's incarceration has further boosted Iraqi demands that the occupying powers should quit Iraq. Now, it is not so easy to accuse those opposing Iraq's occupation of wishing to bring Saddam back to power. Violence still continues. While recently there seems to have been fewer attacks on the occupying forces due to the scaled down US operations, there are reports of increasing assaults on the newly reconstituted Iraqi police, on those working with the occupiers' Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), and between different ethnic, religious and political forces.

The US is on the horns of a dilemma. It was much easier to invade Iraq than to withdraw. Bush is facing pressures at home and within Iraq. With the next US presidential elections in less than ten months, Bush would want to be formally out of Iraq as soon as possible, while in practice, the US troops will remain in Iraq under a different guise. However, he cannot risk chaos developing and potentially destabilising the entire region, which is a major source of the world's oil resources. But at the very least, Bush has to be able to present some semblance of progress and withdrawal before the November elections. At the same time, in Iraq there are the growing demands for self-determination and elections.

Just recently, tens of thousands of Shias, under the political leadership of cleric Ayatollah Sistani, demonstrated in Iraqi second city, Basra, against the US authorities' transition plans for Iraqi self-governance. They were demanding a general election to directly elect a parliament and accused the US plans of being tied to George Bush's presidential election this year.

Under the US' plan for 'Iraqisation' (self-governance), a provisional Iraqi regime will be established on July 1, 2004, to be superseded by an elected parliament in December 2005. The provisional and elected parliaments will both be subservient to the real power on the ground, the US with its 150,000 troops. The mechanism for the provisional parliament is highly convoluted. It involves a committee of 15 Iraqis appointed by the US occupation authorities that selects a local caucus, which in turn elects representatives to a new parliament in May. This is designed to ensure the emergence of a pro-coalition regime. Most Iraqis, however, will simply view it as a stooge parliament. Moreover, it will block the Shia clerics who, resting on the overwhelming Shi'ite population in Iraq, would otherwise expect to win a majority in a directly elected parliament.

Meanwhile, the US coalition authorities in Iraq are unable to deal with the growing anger of the unemployed who account for over 70% of the total Iraqi workforce. Recently, in the southern cities of Amara and Kut police and troops have opened fire on demonstrators demanding jobs. Many of the unemployed were members of Iraqi army dissolved by coalition forces.

CONCLUSION

The only way forward for the working people and other oppressed layers in Iraq is to unite and call for an immediate end to the US rule in Iraq. They should demand for immediate, direct elections to all tiers of government in Iraq. However, the mere taking over of the governance by the Iraqis will not improve the standard of living of vast majority of Iraqis as long as capitalism is the order of the day. For Iraqis to have a better standard of living, the Iraq working people, peasants, students and other poor Iraqis should begin the process of transforming Iraq along socialism where the commanding heights of economy will be democratically controlled and managed by the working people.

 

BRITAIN:

SOCIALIST PARTY WINS LEWISHAM COUNCIL BYE ELECTION

The belief that principled and fighting socialist parties and activists cannot win election or have support of the majority in the community has once again being proved false.

Recently, the Socialist Party (SP), the DSM's sister organisation in England and Wales, won another councillorship position.

Precisely on December 4, 2003, Chris Flood, a Socialist Party member from Lewisham, London, won a council bye-election in his area by pulling 32.7% of the total vote. Chris' election victory was got from the solid support the SP has built in the local community over the period, particularly through the work of Ian Page, the other socialist Party councillor in the local council area.

Ian Page with SP has been involved in campaigning for and winning grants for the upgrading of local estates worth £14 million; successfully mobilising support in the local community and defeating cuts imposed by the New Labour Council and playing a leading role in a campaign to reopen a local secondary school closed by the New Labour Council.

Socialist Party would have lost this by-election to the New Labour's candidate if not for the hard campaign work it conducted during the election and the pedigree of the SP over the years in the local council area. LEAP - Local Education Action by Parents, which was also campaigning to reopen the local secondary school closed by the New Labour refused to come to term with SP to stand a joint candidate in the bye-election.

LEAP refused SP proposal to stand Chris as a joint SP- LEAP candidate notwithstanding a commitment that he would attend all meeting of the LEAP's campaign and represent their interest in the community. They went ahead to stand their own candidate who pulled 19.6% of the total vote. Assuming they had stood Chris Flood jointly, he would have overwhelmingly won.

The Socialist Party now has five councillors in Britain, the highest by any socialist group.

 

STUDENT STRUGGLES:

UNILORIN ACTIVISTS DEMAND JUSTICE

A member of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Lanre Akinola, and another activist; Rasheedat Adesina, recently petitioned Professor Shamsudeen Amali, the Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin, Ilorin over the continual withholding of their final statements of result and certificates by the authorities of the University.

The duo had fulfilled all requirements for the award of degrees of the University since 1997/1998 and 2000/2001 academic sessions respectively but up till today, their final statements of result and certificates are being withheld on the basis of their alleged roles in the Kudirat Abiola Anti-Abacha Memorial Rally of June 4, 1998 and students' protests of June 5/19, 1998 and May 1999.

Prior to the students' protests mentioned above, they had been campaigning against the dictatorial tendencies of the then University Administration led by Professor Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem. They also involved in the campaign for better welfare condition on campus and against commercialisation of education by the government.

Therefore, it was not surprising that despite the fact that the duo were not on campus on June 5, 1998, when the students staged a protest over the deteriorating welfare condition on campus, they were accused of leading the protest. On the said day, there was a power failure on the permanent site of the University when students were watching international friendly football match between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and Holland national team, which led to a spontaneous protest on the part of the students. This led to a prolonged closure of the University.

Following the closure, the University Senate raised a committee on the matter. But without any proper trial, it pronounced them guilty and recommended that they should be expelled from the University.

However, before the University's Student Disciplinary Committee (S.D.C) could uphold the recommendation of the Committee, they headed for the Federal High Court, Ilorin, to enforce their fundamental human rights. On 2/9/1999, the court entered judgement in their favour and ordered that their studentship should not be negatively tampered with in any way.

Similarly, in May 1999, Miss Rasheedat Adesina was suspended from the University for her alleged role in the students' protest against the increment in fees. She proceeded to the Federal High Court, Ilorin to seek reprieve on the suspension order. On 9/9/I999, the court gave an interim order putting her suspension from the institution on hold pending the final determination of the case. On 25/7/2000, the court finally ruled in her favour by declaring her suspension from the University null and void.

In March 2001, the Federal Government set up a Committee to look into the cases of all politically rusticated and victimised students in tertiary institutions across the country. The Committee was headed by the then Special Adviser on Education to President Obasanjo, Chief S.K. Babalola. The committee intervened and urged the victimised students Lanre and Rasheedat to write an apology letter to the authorities through the committee. This they did in a letter dated 22nd June, 2001, to the University. In response to their letters of apology, the University through the then Registrar, Mr. M.T. Balogun, wrote them letters of pardon dated 13th September, 2001, informing them that their apologies had been accepted.

After waiting endlessly for almost six years to get their results and certificates, they decided to petition the new Vice-chancellor of the University. In their petition, they stated that they could no longer understand the basis why their final statements of result and certificates have not been released despite the court rulings (in their favour), intervention of Federal Government's committee on the matter, their letters of apology, and subsequent pardon by the University.

The duo stated further, "more so, the message from foregoing to discerning observers and the public at large is that as far as UNILORIN situation is concerned, matters such as above cannot be resolved internally as we had originally thought".

In conclusion, they appealed to the current Vice-chancellor of the institution to reconsider their cases on the basis of justice and morality and grant them real pardon by releasing their credentials.

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UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN CELEBRATES DSM WEEK

The University of Ibadan (UI) branch of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) celebrated its week on Wednesday and Thursday, 21st and 22nd January 2004 with a series of activities including a symposium, a lectures and a public awareness rally.

For the UI chapter, the week marked a significant step forward especially against the backdrop of about three years of harassment, intimidation and victimisation of the leading members of the organisation on that campus as part of the larger clampdown of the university authorities on independent unionism, the struggle for which DSM members have been at the forefront.

The event, which took place at the students' union building for the three days it lasted, was preceded by a public awareness rally and "gyration" rounds the halls of residence on campus to publicise the event.

This was followed by a public symposium on "Historical Materialism: How Marxists Analyse Society". The third day featured a political discussion/debate on "Poverty In a Globalised World: Possible Alternatives To Combat This Global Menace".

The week attracted speakers from both the campus and outside, including Barrister Doyin Odebowale, Dr. Oka Obono, Babatunde Oluajo (Sankara) and others whose contributions helped in making the event a memorable one. About 20 people indicated interest in becoming members of the organisation in the course of the activities marking the week.

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AAU AKUNGBA:

STUDENTS SAY NO ALTERNATIVE TO INDEPENDENT STUDENT UNION

Students' union is an organ to protect and promote the interest of the students. But the authorities of the Adekunle Ajasin University led by the Vice chancellor, Prof. Funso Akere, still do not see why the students should have a platform representing their interests.

Since the authorities of the University dissolved the Students' Union, during the era of the former inglorious governor of Ondo State Chief Adebayo Adefarati, following the students' agitations for improved library facilities, adequate and spacious classrooms, adequate staff offices and proper funding of the University, Prof. Funso Akere led administration, despite all consultation, still does not see reason why the Students' Union must be revitalised. The reason is not far fetched. The authorities of the University believe in authoritarianism because of their anti-poor policies of commercialisation of education.

On the 4th November, 2003, at the Students' Congress, the Vice-chancellor voluntarily said "Go, agree among yourselves and fix your election date, even if you want it tomorrow, I will give you the go ahead". Equally, at a well attended management organised congress of 13th November, 2003 chaired by the Dean, Students Affairs, Dr. Daramola, the Dean re-echoed the words of the Vice-Chancellor with an addition that students should agree among themselves and forward the date and modalities for the elections, which the students did. But instead of being men of their words, the authorities made a swift U-turn, a reminiscence of the military evil days, bringing in more than 100 mobile policemen into the campus on the 16th November 2003.

Instead of a popular and democratic Students' Union election, what was imposed on the students as their representatives was undemocratic and unpopular committee comprising class governors and faculty presidents.

The students of Adekunle Ajasin University have totally rejected this committee and are calling for democratically elected Students' Union leaders.

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UNAD/IWOROKO CLASH:

THE ISSUES INVOLVED

Between 12th and 14th December, 2003, violent clashes took place between the students of University of Ado-Ekiti (UNAD) and indigenes of Iworoko, a community outside the campus where most of the students reside. For 22 years of the existence of the university, Iworoko has been the host community to many students.

The crisis started on the night of 11th of December, 2003, when some students residing in Iworoko community wanted to get fuel from "black marketers" in the community for generator in order to watch the football match between the Enyimba of Nigeria and Ismail of Egypt. This demand for the fuel degenerated to misunderstanding and subsequent clash between the students and the "black marketers". In the course of the clash, two male students were wounded while two female students were striped naked.

In response, on 12th December, students launched a counter attack on the perpetrators of the attack on the students in the previous day. The counter attack of the students led to a further attack on the students by the indigenes where guns, machetes and charms were freely used. At the end of the second attack on the students by the indigenes, about 10 students were critically wounded. On Monday, under the guise of maintaining law and order, another set of four students were shot including a DSM member, Olumide Adelugba and seventy (70) students were arrested by the police and security men attached to the office of the governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose.

The fundamental cause of this crisis is the failure of the government and university authorities to provide enough hostels with basic facilities like water, electricity, etc on campus. However, it becomes pertinent to point out that the crisis was unnecessary and could have been averted. Both the students and indigenes suffer from the problem of endemic poverty caused by the same neo-liberal policies of privatisation, deregulation and commercialisation of education, inflicting enormous pains on the working class and students alike. If there had been constant supply of electricity and enough bed spaces in the hostels, the idea of students residing outside the campus would not have arisen in the first instance and such clash between the students and host community could not have occurred.

A major factor, which has allowed things to degenerate in UNAD, is the absence of viable and independent students' union in the past four years. The struggle for independent student unionism, therefore, needs to be intensified, where true student leaders will be elected by the students and union controlled by the students without any undue interference from the University authorities.

But in the last union election, the authorities controlled electoral panel illegally and unjustly screened out radical student activists, whom the authorities felt could stand for the interests of the students and organise struggle against the deteriorating welfare condition on campus and commercialisation of education among other things. Students should, therefore, be prepared in the future to resist undue interference in the students' unionism by the University authorities. This is the only way to have a virile and independent Students' Union.

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INVOLVING FEMALE STUDENTS -

CAMPUS ACTIVISM IS FOR ALL

Sometimes, I feel alone and alienated among the male student activists; they believe female students should not participate in campus activism.

It is sad that many of the male students still do not see reasons why female students should be involved in student unionism despite the fact that we receive lectures under the same roof.

The other side of the issue is that most female students shy away from campus politics, because they see themselves as being inferior to men. This might be due to lack of encouragement, timidity, culture, religion and intimidation especially from the male students. For instance, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), which is supposed to comprise of both male and female students throughout the federation, is dominated mainly by the male activists that do not have the interest of the generality of students in mind but just to get their pockets enriched.

Moreover, some female students do not appear to be interested in what happens in the larger society or within the campus. Some believe that women are supposed to be followers and not leaders.

Frankly speaking, there is nothing wrong if one tries a race and fails. Failure is an opportunity for one to try again and put in his/her best.

Student unionism is for both male and female students; the females should not see themselves as being inferior or not suitable for leadership.

Say no to intimidation, say no to marginalisation!

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RISE NOW TO FIGHT GROWING EDUCATION COMMERCIALISATION

Right from its inception, Obasanjo's regime has never hidden its grand design to make education an exclusive preserve for the sons and daughters of the very rich. While UNESCO prescribes at least 26% of the annual national budget to education, Obasanjo government only allocated 7.0% in year 2000; 5.9% in 2002 and 1.83% in 2003.

The progressive decline in the budgetary allocation means that parents will have to augment the shortfall while those that cannot afford it will have no right to qualitative education. This is in line with the deregulation, privatisation and commercialisation policy of the regime.

In a circular No DE/HE/34/11/257 signed by the Education Minister, Professor Fabian Osuji, students of tertiary institutions are to pay a minimum of N10,000 per bed space against N90 it used to be. This is apart from numerous fees under different guises.

While parents who are lucky to still keep their jobs are finding it very difficult to survive as a result of various anti-poor policies of the regime, which make their salaries worthless, several parents have been retrenched without their benefits paid. Already, the federal government, which is the highest employer of labour, has threatened to down size by 40%. It is the same condition in the private sector. Consequently, students that are lucky to graduate have no future of getting employed.

NANS is therefore commended on the protest organised against this obnoxious increase in University of Nigeria, Nsukka where the policy is to be implemented. This protest, with the threat of more in other campuses, has forced the government to suspend the implementation temporarily.

However, to stop this government from enforcing this crude policy on students, NANS needs a well-coordinated, organised, protracted mass struggle. It needs to seek the support of trade unions in higher institutions such as ASUU, ASUP, COEASU, SSANU, NASU, SSATHURAI, NUT, etc. Most of these workers are parents who are having one or two demands yet to be implemented by this government. This can make all unions in the higher institutions have a joint demand to wrestle education from total collapse.

However, if this organised struggle forces the government to retreat, it will only be a temporary one. This present government has no capacity to implement a pro-people policy. What is needed is an alternative platform where workers, students, unemployed, market women, artisan, etc, will organise to wrestle power from the present ruling class where pro-peoples policies will be implemented.

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ONDO/EKITI NANS JCC HOLDS CONVENTION

The NANS Joint Campus Committee (JCC) of Ondo and Ekiti states that has been in a state of moribund for the past five years was re-awakened at a massively attended convention held in Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) on the 15th of January, 2004.

Among other things, the convention:

(1) Condemned the imposition of management stooges in form of caretaker committee on the students by the Adeboyeje administration in Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo.

(2) Directed that Students' Union elections should be conducted in Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko in the first semester, 2003/2004. It also condemned the astronomical increase in late registration fee from N500 to N2,500 at the same university.

(3) Called for the establishment of Independent Student Unionism in Ondo State School of Health Technology, Akure.

(4) Rejected the proposed increase in the cost of bed space from N90 to minimum of N10,000 in the Federal Government institutions.

(5) Kicked against the neo-liberal policies of President Olusegun Obasanjo e.g. deregulation, privatisation, commercialisation of education sector, etc.

Election was also conducted and the following activists were elected: Chairman, John Akinmurele (St. John), A.A.U Akungba Akoko, Ondo State; Vice Chairman, Dare Akinsola, a member of DSM, University of Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State; General Secretary, Thomas Olamide, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State; Public Relations Officer, Ayo Akingbulu, Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, Ondo-State.

 

DSM LAUNCHES PERSPECTIVES DOCUMENT

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) on February 7, 2004 launched its perspectives document for 2004. Members of the DSM, NCP, student leaders and labour activists graced the launch, which took place at the National Conscience Party (NCP), Lagos State Secretariat. A total of 51 people from all walks of life including students, workers and artisans were in attendance. Among those who attended were Olumide Adeyinka (Deputy National Director of Legal services of NCP), Sina Odugbemi, (General Secretary, Lagos State NCP), and Denja Yakub, (Assistant General Secretary, NLC). Comrade Rufus Olusesan, the Secretary of the Steel Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria (SEWUN), Ikeja Area Council I presided over the event.

Segun Sango, the General Secretary of the DSM, who gave the main political speech x-rayed various socio political problems confronting Nigeria and concluded that the ruling class and their imperialist collaborators can not move the country forward with their neo-liberal policy of deregulation, privatisation, commercialisation, etc. He concluded that only the working class alternative can salvage the situation and enjoined NLC leadership and pro-labour activists to initiate a political platform through which the poor working class including students, youth, market men and women, artisan, farmers, etc can wrestle power from the present political vultures - the ruling class - to implement a socialist, pro-masses policy under the democratic control and management of the nationalised nation's resources.

Denja Yakub, the Assistant General Secretary of the NLC, in his speech, traced the background of the leading members of the DSM from their student days as student activists to the present time they are active in the labour movement. He expressed his happiness that there are still genuine activists who still hold tenaciously to the genuine ideas of Marxism.

The 2004 DSM perspectives document titled "Nigeria's Crisis: Time For System Change" examines the political, social and economic outlook of the country, especially, against the background of over four years of civil rule. Chapters one and two of the perspectives examine the background as well as the 2003 general elections, the conduct of which was marred by large scale irregularities, manipulations and outright electoral fraud and rigging. Chapter two does an in depth analysis of the elections including the battle for registration by the NCP and other political parties, the struggle against INEC's processing fees, the role of the security forces, the media in the election as well as the reactions that trailed the elections.

Chapter three of the perspective deals with the four years of civil rule and the performance of the various political parties and governments of the AD, ANPP and PDP against the background of the expectations of the masses who fought against military dictatorship, especially aftermath the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections. The political perspectives for Nigeria, including the prospects of a military coup or a radical coup by young officers were the focus of chapter four.

Chapter five examines the nationality question including the Sharia question, the Niger Delta and the question of armed struggle. Chapter seven examines the ever recurring issue of deregulation of the oil sector and perennial fuel price hike while chapter six poses the question of a working class political alternative to the pro-imperialist and establishment political parties as a means out of the perennial underdevelopment of Nigeria. An appendix on the lessons of the recent general strikes forms the final part of the perspective.

The 2004 perspective document is "a must read" for all change seeking elements. It is packaged in a commentary style and offers a Marxist analysis of the state of the Nigerian nation and the prospects for the masses in the foreseeable future under the present decadent capitalist and anti-people system. Above all, it explains the reasons why the socialist transformation of society by the working people has become an even more urgent task.

N1,350 cash and N19,000 pledge was raised as fighting fund and support for DSM activities while 3 contacts were made at the launching.

 

AJEGUNLE:

MASS DEMO AGAINST UNJUST REFUSE POLICY

Residents of Ajegunle in Ajeromi-Ifelodun local government area of Lagos State on the 18th February, 2004, staged a mass demonstration against the hike in refuse charges by the Lagos State imposed Private Sector Participation (PSP) operators who collect refuse in the area. The protest was sparked off by the recent obnoxious and astronomical rise in the refuse fee from N350 to N600 per compound per month, which amounts to N70 per room, and N100 per shop. In some cases, shops are to pay N500 and above.

The astronomical rise in the refuse fee was one of the attacks on the poor residents of the area by the Lagos State government. The idea of PSP operators started in 2002 in Lagos State by the Tinubu AD administration under the guise of cleaning up Lagos State. But every reasonable citizen of this state now knows that most of those licensed, as PSP operators are political jobbers and members of the AD that did not know anything about waste management.

Historically, the residents of Ajeromi-Ifelodun community disposed refuse through the cart pushers, even though, it is the primary responsibility of the local government under the 1999 constitution. With the introduction of the PSP operators, the Lagos state government outlawed the use of cart pushers in order to pave way for the PSP operators to exploit the working people.

Having started operation, the PSP operators, who had no knowledge of how to manage waste, usurped the cart pushers' means of livelihood. But the work of the so-called PSP operators has been so epileptic, ineffective and inefficient. They only collect the refuse in the households once or twice in a month. In the face of these frustrations, most members of the community have gone back to earlier method of disposing refuse through the more effective cart pushers.

Despite the non-patronage of the PSP operators by many of the residents, they still go ahead to forcefully extort the undeserved refuse fees with the help and backing of the local government officials. The PSP operators submit the addresses of compounds that have refused to pay the undeserved fees to the prosecutor of the customary court, whom in turn will issue court summons on such compounds. The police and the local government officials will then arrest residents of these compounds, who will only be released after thousands of naira had been extorted from them.

The unjust activities of the PSP operators and other state agents have compelled the working people of the area to massively resist and put an end to the provocative actions of the PSP operators and other state agents under the banner of Ajeromi-Ifelodun Community Movement (AICOM).

The community, through AICOM is demanding:

  • No to hike in refuse charges

  • No to advance payment

  • Recall of cart pushers and an end to further arrest and harassment.

  • The state organs local government officials, the Nigerian police and the prosecuting officers of the customary court should, henceforth, desist from extorting, harassing and oppressing residents of the community.

  • The local government should begin the process of taking over from the PSP operators its primary function of disposing refuse as stated in section 1(h) under the fourth schedule of the 1999 constitution.

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