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May 19, 2005

MAY DAY 2005

Socialists get good reception while Labour leaders offer no lead

 

2005 May Day was celebrated by the three federated union centres, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and the Congress of Free Trade Unions (CFTU). The NLC, the main workers’ trade union centre, is the federation of low paid workers, TUC is the union of the senior staff from both public and private sectors while CFTU is a break away faction of the TUC.

 

Overall, this year May Day was celebrated in about 45 places across the country, with the NLC celebrating the event in 36 States of Nigeria and Abuja, the Federal Capital.

 

Democratic Socialist Movement comrades participated in 12 of these events – two rallies in Lagos State and in 10 other States. N51, 180 (US$ 385) worth of materials sold (including N42, 980 (US$ 323) of both old and new editions of Socialist Democracy, N5, 400 (US$ 41) in Marxist literature and N2, 800 (US$ 21) for the DSM’s Nigerian perspective: ‘Time for System Change’.

 

Below are excerpts from reports filed by DSM comrades who participated at some of these centres that give a picture of the mood amongst workers and the policies of the Labour leaders.

LAGOS

By comrades Pelad and LAK

 

This year May Day was celebrated at two centres in Lagos State. The Nigeria Labour Congress NLC, Lagos State Council, held its activities at Onikan Stadium while the national body of Trade Union Congress, (TUC, one of the two senior workers’ labour centres) used one of the pitches at the National Stadium to mark the occasion. Both events were well attended by workers from the respective affiliate unions of the two Labour centres.

 

We partook in the traditional march past at the two venues with placards and banners raising different slogans denouncing capitalist neo-liberal agenda and anti–people, pro-rich policies of Obasanjo’s government and calling for a working people’s political alternative and enthronement of a democratic socialist order. Significantly, our labour organisation, the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR), was officially recognised on the platform by the compère of the march past at Onikan. This was obviously in recognition of the excellent pro-labour credentials of the CDWR in just less than a year of its existence.

 

About 27 of workers from Flour Mills  (see http://www.socialistnigeria.org/campaigns/290305.html ) in whose struggle against casualisation and for improved conditions of service we have been active through the CDWR, equally participated in the May Day with placards, banners and leaflets raising the conditions at their workplace, demands for improvement and calls for solidarity.

 

The main issue on the front burner at Onikan was the Federal Government’s withholding of funds due to Local Governments in Lagos State. This was reflected not only in the speeches of the Lagos State Deputy Governor and the state chairman of NLC but also with the placards posted around the stadium. But the issue was raised and addressed in a lopsided manner even by the labour leadership, while there were demands for the release of funds; nothing was said on the illegality surrounding the creation of these so-called local councils.

 

Significantly, in spite of the fact that this May Day came closely after the promulgation of the repressive anti-labour trade union act, the labour leadership kept a criminal silence on this new anti-worker law. We were the only one through our paper, Socialist Democracy, and placards that raised issues and slogans on this vindictive and vexatious law and demanded its abrogation.

 

The most interesting event at Onikan was the posturing of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) State government as a pro-people and pro-worker government. In fact, the Deputy Governor started his speech with a quotation from Karl Marx. He used the occasion to dish out what he called the numerous achievements of the State government for the benefit of Lagosians, while he imputed the failures "that could be observed in few" areas to the machination of the federal government. Listening to beautiful achievements as relayed by Femi Pedro one wondered whether he was actually talking of Lagos State or a castle in the air, but surely not the former.

 

Besides, the paper sales conducted round the stadium, we did a ‘tabling’ at the main entrance of Onikan with old and current editions of Socialist Democracy, Nigeria Perspective pamphlets, Marxist literature, placards and DSM’s banner. Materials that were worth N17, 310 (US$ 130) were sold, made up of Marxist literature N5, 400, Nigerian Perspective pamphlets-N300 and N11, 600 for Socialist Democracy. This sale was impressive in the sense that NLC is the federation of low-pay workers who rank among the most hit by the baleful socio-economic situation and despite this harrowing hardship inflicted by neo-liberal policies of Obasanjo’s government they could still squeeze something out to buy our materials.

 

At TUC programme at the National Stadium all the 80 May Day special edition and 50 March/April edition of Socialist Democracy taken to the venue were sold with N3,200 as the proceeds despite comrades getting late to the place. We had the prospect of selling more Socialist Democracy than we did if we had had more copies for sale in Lagos State.

 

KADUNA STATE

By comrade Eko

 

The May Day’s event in Kaduna State was more or less a showcase of immense cordial relationship between state’s Governor Markafi and the leadership of NLC. The Governor was praised to the skies and called up to contest for President by the Labour leadership who re-affirmed their unflinching support. In fact, "Markafi for President" posters were massively posted around the venue.

 

The conduct of the Labour leadership and the prevailing atmosphere at the occasion created an impression that all was well with the workers and people of Kaduna state. But interaction with some rank and file workers present at the occasion and a visit to the town revealed that it was a false picture that was painted by the self-seeking Labour leadership who are on the payroll of the Governor. The condition of service of workers and the standard of living of people are as parlous as what obtains in other states in the country. The event that lasted less than an hour and recorded a low turn out was rounded off immediately after the chairman and Governor’s speeches. The dismal attendance might not be unconnected to the lack of confidence of workers in the leadership.

 

20 copies of May Day edition of Socialist Democracy and 44 of the old March/April edition were sold, mostly on solidarity price. N2, 450 was realised. A recent contact from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria invited to Kaduna was given 15 old editions and 15 new editions. He sold all the copies on the campus and has already remitted the proceeds to the DSM secretariat.

 

AKWA-IBOM STATE

By comrade Abbey

 

The yearly workers’ day generally known as May Day kicked off in Akwa-Ibom State this year with a reception programme organised to celebrate the "good-will" of the State government towards the workers. The reception, which witnessed the presence of some of the government functionaries, kicked off by 4p.m on Sunday at the State Labour House with the introduction of the dignitaries followed by a brief remark from the state chairman of the NLC Mr. Akpan.

 

In his remarks, the NLC chairman noted that the reception was properly organised not only to take the place of the postponed rally which according to him "Sunday is not a good day for struggle" but to also celebrate the cordial working relationship that existed between the workers and the State government especially in the area of ‘implemented’ monetisation policy in the state. All the government officials in attendance generally thanked the workers for their partnership initiative and urged for more co-operation with the government. Not less than 50 copies of Socialist Democracy were sold at the end of the programme while more copies were still demanded for.

 

On Monday, the rally activities that took place in the state stadium kicked-off about 10am with the massive participation of various trade unions, affiliates of NLC and including TUC unions. Having satisfied some routinely activities, some individuals were called for their solidarity messages. Aside from the ASUU and civil society representatives who in their remarks enjoined organised labour to step-up a fight to ensure that more concessions are forced out of government as regard the improvement in the living and working condition of the working class, all other contributors notably, the Deputy Governor emphasized on the need for more cordial partnership relationship between workers and the government.

 

The state chairman of NLC, in his speech identified the public holiday as a sign to confirm the strong partnership between the Federal government and the organised labour. And that the theme of this year May Day showed that the workers were ready for stronger working relationship provided the government was ready to allow the peoples’ will to prevail against various anti-people policies which, however, he did not mention.

 

On the last note, he condemned the recent hike in fuel price and advised the government to revert to the old price to avert the possibility of a face-off between the government and the workers. Disappointingly, none of the speakers spoke on the anti-labour trade union act recently signed by the president except the TUC chairman who only said such law would not be allowed to destroy the existing relationship between the NLC and the TUC in the state.

 

Despite the inability of the bureaucratic leadership of the organised labour to realise that there cannot be any partnership between the labour and the government beneficial to the workers, and that even the improvement in the living and working conditions of the workers they hypocritically advocate for is not achievable under this existing capitalist economy, there do exist some workers who are still relatively class conscious. This fact was confirmed by the response of nothing less than 5 of the people who brought Socialist Democracy on Sunday and, as a result of its rich contents, came up to us to ask for more information on the paper at Monday’s rally. After the whole activities, all the remaining copies of Socialist Democracy were sold (50 copies of special edition and 50 copies of March/April edition).

 

Conclusively, this year’s May Day’s experience graphically shows that most of the present crops of labour leaders are nothing but fetter for the development of the revolutionary potential of the working class. It is on this basis revolutionary organisation like DSM needs to intensify more effort in formulating more revolutionary programme strong enough to attract the chunk of change-seeking elements.

 

OSUN STATE

By comrade Mary Pelacious

 

Workers in Osun State like their counterparts elsewhere in the country marked this year workers’ day at the State Stadium, Osogbo. We observed that some industrial unions were absent while generally few workers were in attendance when compared to the last year rally. This might be due to a growing opposition of some sections of workers to the pro-PDP/Oyinlola character of Sule Oseni’s leadership of the state’s NLC at the expense of interests and rights of workers.

 

The whole programme was centred on praise singing of PDP and Oyinlola’s State government. In his speech, Sule Oseni declared war on the Alliance for Democracy (AD) opposition party and pledged continued support for the PDP. Without demanding improvement in living and working conditions of workers, he instead turned the gathering into a solidarity rally for the governor of the state who was in attendance. In response, the governor also turned the occasion into campaign rally for 2007 election. After the speech of both, the rally was declared closed with the pronouncement of Monday as holiday to celebrate this year’s workers’ day.

 

DSM comrades participated in the rally and sold 157 copies of the May edition of Socialist Democracy, 20 copies of the previous edition and 25 copies of the DSM’s Nigerian perspectives pamphlet.

 

EKITI STATE

By comrade Tony Lupta

 

The last May Day in Ekiti state recorded a low turn out compared to previous ones. This was obvious in the way the Kayode Oluyemi Stadium, the venue of the rally, was scanty. The low turn out was due partly to the fact that it was a Sunday and it clashed with the normal Sunday activities. But mainly the turn out was as a result of the cynicism that has been built into an average worker as a result of the class collaborationist character of the labour leaders in the state who have neglected the normal traditional leftist role of labour for more far right stance.

 

This was apparent in the jamboree like manner the whole programme was arranged. There was nothing like the match past while the labour leaders through their MC was praising the government of the day to high heaven and were even enjoining their followers (workers) to please see PDP, the ruling party as theirs. Topical issues like the incessant fuel price hike, draconic trade union bill, retrenchment in the call service and all other sundry issues affecting workers were not even mentioned as if they never existed. While the whole programme was put on hold for several hours because of the non-arrival of the state governor (Ayo Fayose) who later in an ‘owanbe’ (circus show) manner came in a helicopter and left in the next minute.

 

About 73 copies of the special edition of Socialist Democracy were sold.

 

IBADAN, OYO STATE

By comrade Adeola Soetan

 

Except for the intervention of our comrades and students of U.I (university of Ibadan) and the Polytechnic, Ibadan, the year’s May Day celebration would have passed for a workers’ solidarity day with the governor and government of Oyo state.

 

As usual, workers came in their hundreds, clad in colourful wares depicting the different trade unions existing in the state with the Nigerian Union of Teachers having the largest contingent. The serenity of the event was a sharp contrast to the pains and pangs situation of the working class in Nigeria. In reality, the event lacked the necessary political firmament expected of the NLC leadership in this period of massive attack on the rights and welfare of workers.

 

The march past (parade) was like a college inter-house sport competition with each trade union trying to impress the governor and the NLC chairman, (both on the dais) with complimentary songs and carrying banners that only identify the unions with their logos and mottos. The opportunity to have sold our papers earlier at the event made our presence felt and further encouraged our comrades to participate in the march past

 

Our participation with pro-workers placards and anti-government slogans publicly displaced was the high point of the event as the rank and file workers easily identified with us with ovation suggesting that they were not really in "ideological marriage" their leaders have consummated with the government.

 

In all, 160 copies of Socialist Democracy were sold. One trade unionist, who has been seeing our materials at every May Day, told us that he felt now that something more concrete needed to be done to liberate the workers from their opportunistic leadership that would never represent genuine workers’ interests.

 

PORT HARCOURT

By comrade Demo

 

Liberation Stadium in Port Harcourt was the national centre for this year’s May Day. DSM comrades intervened with our materials – the March/April edition of Socialist Democracy and Special May Day edition; CDWR and DSM banners and placards with various inscriptions of pro-labour slogans calling on Labour leaders to immediately quit Obasanjo’s confab for a working class political alternative.

 

The day was very colourful with about 5,000 workers in attendance. It was jointly organised by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Conference of Free Trade Unions (CFTU) leadership with Adams Oshiomhole and Princewill Onjeh respectively in attendance. Although, President Obasanjo was not physically present, the Federal government was represented by Senate President, Mr. Ken Nnamani, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari and Federal Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Hassan Lawal. The Rivers State governor, his deputy and Speaker of Rivers House of Assembly were also in attendance.

 

Despite the fact that May Day came after about one month when anti-labour Trade Union (Amendment) Act was signed into law by anti-workers Obasanjo’s led PDP government, no categorical statement was raised by either the NLC or CFTU Presidents against this law. Again, only a passive statement was made denouncing the latest increment in the price of petrol by the labour leaders. The only categorical statement by the labour leaders was a call for the release of the withheld Lagos State local government funding allocations without any attempt to clarify the illegalities surrounding the recent creation of these so-called local councils. Most of the workers present saw the May Day as a yearly festival where their working place banners are displayed with a march past and salutation from the labour leaders and the state representatives.

 

We partook in the march past with the DSM banner and placards calling on the labour leaders to pull out of Obasanjo’s confab, for a regime and system change and a formation of a workers’ party amongst others. We were shown live on the African Independent Television (AIT) during the march past with our banner and placards. We sold N10, 310 worth of Socialist Democracy. We were the only organisation that intervened with materials and papers all of which were well received by the workers.

 

OGUN STATE

By comrade Ojay

 

May 1 is the workers’ day throughout the world but in Ogun State May Day celebration was overwhelmingly targeted towards praising the State government for the "wonderful" work carrying out to "better" the lot of working masses in the State. The rally earlier slated for 9am could not commence until 12 noon when the State Governor and his entourage came to the venue of the rally, Moshood Abiola Stadium.

 

In the State Governor’s speech nothing was said on tackling the problems facing the working masses except the usual failed promises. Workers hurriedly marched past before the governor. After that was vote of thanks from the chairman of NLC Ogun State and the rally came to conclusion with the national anthem.

 

Unlike last 2004 May Day where a few unions, especially the NUT, distributed leaflets on the state of education in the state, none of the unions at this year’s May Day came with any material or slogans. There was the relatively low attendance; this may not be unconnected with the demoralisation of workers partly to the leadership of NLC and mainly, the harsh economic condition of the present ruling class.

 

DSM comrades who participated were able to sell 37 and 70 copies of old and special May Day editions of Socialist Democracy sold respectively, this amounts to N2, 190.