Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)

For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

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Committee for a Workers' International

DSM, PO Box 2225, Agege, Lagos

Come to DSM secretariat at 162, Ipaja Road, Agbotikuyo Bus-stop, Agege, Lagos

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September 14, 2005

Special issue Socialist Democracy

NLC/LASCO protests:

Fuel price hike, chase out Obasanjo regime


The current hike of fuel price is totally unjustifiable. According to the government, petroleum products are being subsidised by $4.5 million a day. However, when this so-called subsidy is compared with what income is daily generated from oil sales, then, the absolute anti-poor character of the Obasanjo capitalist government becomes totally indisputable.

The government, for instance, rakes in a minimum sum of $190 million per day from oil sales alone. Instead of using this sum to develop the economy and better the lot of the masses, it has, on the contrary, decided to worsen the living standard of the masses, courtesy of an increment in fuel prices. So, without additional income, the working masses now have to pay more for transport, food, healthcare, education and all goods and services for the simple reason that Nigeria is making more money from oil sales!

The point, however, should be stressed that it is not only the energy policy of the Obasanjo regime that is pro-rich and anti-poor. Every one of the key socio-economic policies of this regime is pro-rich and anti-poor. The central philosophy of this regime is based on an unjust neo-liberal capitalist strategy which argues that the only and best way to develop the economy and improve the living standard of the working masses is through an arrangement where the major resources of society and nature are converted to private property of a few individuals and capitalist corporations in the false hope that these elements in turn will use their wealth for the advancement of the society.

The policy of privatisation of public property is falsely presented as solution to corruption in public enterprises. In reality however, it is nothing short of legal robbery where a few elements in power use their privilege positions to convert public assets to themselves and their foreign capitalist masters. Instead of making adequate investments on education and health services, the regime has spear-headed the development of privately owned schools and hospitals under the guise of qualitative education and health care. This, in reality, has only led to a situation where the public education sector has become bastardised while the so-called privately owned ones are primarily money-making ventures.

All these and other related measures were presented as the needed tonic to revamp the age-long decay and stagnation of the economy. On the contrary however, severally and collectively, all of these policies have only had devastating, counter productive consequences on the economy and social conditions of the masses. The incessant fuel price hike has mostly created massive collapse of industries and agriculture owing primarily to un-bridled increase in the cost of production in a society where the vast majority lacks sufficient means to buy goods and services because of mass poverty.

Privatisation everywhere has always produced massive job massacre instead of job generation. Commercialisation of education and health services have only ensured virtual collapse of qualitative education with more and more children of working class people unable to have access at all. Among other things, commercialisation of health care has made life expectancy to decline from 51.6 few years ago to 43.4 years currently.

Under the dictates of imperialist/capitalist World Bank/IMF policies, the Obasanjo government has resolved not to use Nigeria's wealth for the development of Nigerians economic and political well-being. Despite the fabulous money accruing to government as revenue from crude oil sales and other sources in the past six (6) years, there has been no positive and sustainable investment to develop electricity and water supply, transport network, job creations, etc. Few years ago, Nigeria was ranked 151st most under-developed country in the world. Today, the country has declined to 158rd position! As we write, no real sector of the economy, from the large scale to the smallest venture thrives. There is virtual collapse and stagnation of all productive ventures and activities. The only layers that could claim to be benefiting from the Obasanjo's regime dispensation are plain looters and their accomplices in and outside government, nationally and internationally.

For us in DSM, this was bound to be the case because the current set of rulers, both at the central and state levels in 1999 and 2003 largely bought and/or stole their mandates and for that reason, can only run the government primarily for their own self-serving ends so that they and their surrogates will always be able to control political power perpetually no matter which government is in power.

Suffice to stress, the only way the working masses can have permanent respite from poverty in the midst of plenty, from political oppression and manipulation, in place of limitless freedom is for them to get politically organised with a view to fight and chase out the Obasanjo regime and all current capitalist rulers at state and local government levels.

To be able to do this successfully however, labour and the working masses need a coherent economic and political agenda which can effectively provide a pro-masses alternative to the self-serving neo-liberal capitalist policies. As we in the DSM often state, only a socialist arrangement where in the commanding heights of the economy and the major resources of the society are commonly owned and democratically managed by the working people themselves, can bring a permanent end to the capitalist nightmare wherein the vast majority live in a state of chronic poverty and stone-age existence side by side with the most sophisticated technology and inexhaustible resources. This is the only scientific approach to render LASCO leaders commitment to take a "far reaching and comprehensive strategies" towards masses struggle meaningful.


We in the DSM enthusiastically welcome the decision of the Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) last week to embark on protests rallies nationwide because the current regime has "failed to discharge the basic functions of governance, namely: ensuring the maximum welfare and security of the people".

In their statement issued on Monday September 5, 2005, the Coalition further submitted that: "It has thus become necessary to adopt more far reaching and comprehensive strategies, mobilise a wider spectrum of the Nigerian society and broaden the issues. The essence of this is not only to achieve a lasting solution to the fuel supply and pricing crisis but also to address fundamentally, the wider problem of insensitive governance, which lies at the root of the endless crisis".

In another paragraph, the cited statement stated: "In the light of these, LASCO resolved to initiate the emergence of a broad, popular movement aimed at a far-reaching and fundamental restructuring of governance system in the country. This movement will include labour, civil society, women, students, pensioners, professional and religious bodies and the informal sector."

These are very laudable objectives. There is, however, the necessity to explain that this, in simple terms, means that every strata of the working/suffering masses and others who feel the brunt of the prevailing order must be mobilised to join the ongoing struggle and that the issue at stake is not just the regime's bad energy policy but that the entire system and policies are deliberately skewed to favour the rich against the poor. Hence, the necessity to chase out this regime and completely reverse its anti-poor system. Suffice to stress, this has to reflect in the manner of LASCO mass mobilisation. As usual, media reach out will be vital. However, LASCO mobilisation should be primarily geared towards the rank and file working masses in work places, communities, schools, among professionals, etc in sharp contrast to that which primarily relies on the media and high profile celebrities and leaders. Simultaneously, there is the need to expressly urge the masses to develop their own political platform without which the capitalists will always be able to perpetuate themselves in power. Formation of struggle/action committees for the coordination of mass protests and political activities by activists at work places, in the communities, schools, etc constitutes one of the best ways to give needed firmness and sense of direction to the struggle to end mass poverty.

If by 2007 the Obasanjo regime has not been booted out of power by masses' protests and at the same time there is no mass-based fighting working masses political party and/or coalition to contest power, the variants of the PDP, ANPP, AD, etc will surely return themselves to power and thus, prolong the prevailing mass misery and political oppression.

To avoid this obvious nightmare, we in the DSM had always advocated and still presently demands that LASCO leaders initiate and convoke a conference of all pro-working masses and peoples' organisations with a view to strategise on how to build a viable mass political alternative to the current self-serving capitalist order. We are firmly convinced that if such an effort is combined with a strategy that is committed to fight for the daily economic and political needs of the masses, a formidable mass political organisation of the masses can be built within a very short period of time. Virtually, all layers of the working masses including vast majority of the middle class people and even sections of the capitalist class are alienated and dissatisfied with the current state of things. What therefore is required is a labour leadership with the correct revolutionary programme and determination in order to convert the masses frustration and anger into a disciplined fighting revolutionary movement. This is the only way to ensure that the current protests are able to achieve the coalition stated objectives in the long run.


We in the DSM and many others felt that the current protests ought to have been done within the context of a specific ultimatum to go on strike if the regime does not minimally and totally withdraw the current fuel price hike by the time the current slated rallies are concluded. Unfortunately, it is the proposal which argued for protest rallies first before talking of a general strike or other similar actions that carried the day with LASCO leadership. According to LASCO spokespersons, especially the NLC President, Adams Oshiomhole, this approach is basically informed by the under-listed considerations:

(1) It did not want to give the government the usual excuse of not wanting to negotiate under duress.

(2) Because it does appear that the issue at stake, going by previous experience, is one that can be effectively tackled by a 2 or 3 days general strike.

(3) That consequently, LASCO has decided on this approach apparently for more "far reaching and comprehensive strategies".

In our own point of view, all of these reasons completely negate the essence and importance of a general strike in the kind of situation the working masses have found themselves. First and foremost, it must be stressed that a general strike against a selfish and insensitive ruling class to achieve maximum results must be organised with a view to wield together in a one united, fighting platform of the working masses with the central goal of removing the current rulers as well as effect the revolutionary over-turn of their anti-poor policies and system.

A general strike that is primarily being organised to persuade an un-repentant pro-imperialist and anti-poor President like Obasanjo to implement policies that will favour the masses is not only bound to fail to achieve such end, it will only deepen frustration of the masses who may wrongly begin to see general strikes as an in-effective weapon of struggle against oppressors and exploiters. A general strike that is primarily aimed to tackle only the bad anti-poor energy policy of the regime while leaving all other anti-poor policies on health care, education, housing, job creation, privatisation, etc is bound to fail ultimately.

LASCO leaders should be bold to proclaim to the working masses that our ultimate goal is to change this self-serving regime and its anti-people policies. Within this context, general strikes and participation in electoral contest on the part of the working people are means to achieve the above stated ends and not an end in themselves. For these reasons, it will be wrong or reactionary to refuse to organise general strikes against the current hike or other issues hiding under the false position that the previous general strikes have not been able to check-mate the regime from incessant hike of fuel prices.

Yes, the previous general strikes have so far proved totally incapable of either removing the Obasanjo's government from power or checkmating his anti-poor policies. This unfortunate position however, is not caused by any inherent weakness of a general strike as a method of struggle but rather the weakness of the strike leaders who failed and/or refused to draw the appropriate conclusion that a general strike is an expression on the part of the masses that they want a change of the current dispensation politically and economically. Therefore, the current protest will only help the masses to achieve emancipation from capitalist exploitation and oppression only if it is used as a mechanism to harness the working people's fighting power to carry out a revolution by removing the current self-serving leaders from the control of the polity and economy of the society. Concretely, this requires mass protests and general strikes over issues like adequate and regular payments to pensioners, living wages for those still working, against education commercialisation and privatisation, etc. This, of course, has to be done from the point of view of developing a general mass resistance of the poor against the system as opposed to that of a futile strategy which hopes to make the selfish capitalist class implement pro-masses policies.

We in the DSM therefore propose that LASCO leadership should mobilise for specific days of general mass actions including general strikes after the current phase of protest rallies. Such mass actions and general strikes, of course, must not be seen merely as an opportunity to get a paltry short-lived reduction on fuel price but rather, as a process through which the masses can be organised to fight for decent living conditions, functional education for all, decent and affordable housing and health care, jobs, etc.

Equally, these mass protests, strikes, etc must be used to forge a formidable working masses political platform which would be strong enough to push out the current minority capitalist elements from power through revolutionary mass actions including electoral activities. If the issue is posed in this way, the masses can easily understand why they need to participate in any general strike called even when sometimes the immediate set objectives are not fully realised or realised at all. Unless the issue is posed this way, LASCO leaders may unwittingly play into the hands of government and all anti-poor elements by discouraging the usage of a very potent working class form of resistance - general strike.

This, of course, we hasten to say, will be a negation of LASCO's commitment "to adopt more far reaching and comprehensive strategies" to combat anti-poor policies and of course, the deepening of suffering of the working masses. Economically and politically, the capitalists internationally have shown beyond any reasonable doubt that they can only guarantee perpetual misery for the vast majority in the midst of super abundance. This is therefore the time for a protracted and an uncompromising mass revolutionary warfare against capitalism and its selfish and shameless defenders until final victory is achieved.