Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

NLC Elects New Leadership

NLC Elects New Leadership

By Segun Sango

The 9th Delegate Conference of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) held Saturday February 15 and 16, 2007 at Abuja, Nigeria’s political capital. For the two days while the conference lasted, the Abuja International Conference Center which usually hosts meetings/conferences of high dignitaries celebrities and head of states, was for once besieged by labour leaders and ordinary working class people from all industrial unions affiliated with the NLC together with NLC allies from the civil societies and the TUC. A major feature of the two-day conference was the unprecedented attendance and participation by the international trade unions organisations like the ILO, the US AFL/CIO, Cuban labour center, Canadian trade union federation, Zimbabwean TUC and the highly regarded COSATU from South Africa amongst others that graced the occasion. The two-day conference had a promising theme: “Deepening and defending democracy to guarantee jobs, people’s welfare and national unity”.

Most regrettably however, apart from occasional and isolated hints from the speeches delivered by the main NLC leaders and most especially the OAATU general secretary and founding president of the NLC Alhaji Hasssan Sunmonu, there was no sign of any coherent perspective of policies and programme of actions articulated towards actualisation of the above laudable theme. In fact only ASUU, Hasssan Sunmonu and Rufus Olusesan, a DSM member and vice president of NUSDE, pointedly advocated the necessity for labour to adopt an anti neo-liberal economic agenda. On his part, Rufus also called on trade unions to help to form a genuine mass working peoples’ party with a view to form a workers’ and poor peasants’ government in order to end for all time capitalist anti-poor policies. Very significantly, the main conference leaders never opposed these ideas but neither did they take any step to develop them nor make any concrete commitment towards their actualisation.

Another key feature of the conference was that most delegates were of middle age categories, a phenomenon which sharply reflects the fact that very few young workers were being employed by both the public and private sectors for a very long time now. Nonetheless, the enthusiastic applause that repeatedly erupted amongst the delegates anytime a pro-masses’ speech was made or anti-poor policies were criticised, clearly underlined the deep yearning for a radical transformation of the prevailing capitalist rots by the Nigerian working masses. This point was poignantly underlined when the delegates in unison shouted that they did not want the Minister of Education, Obi Ezekwensili, a very notorious advocate of education privatisation, to address the conference. In fact, Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past president of the NLC, had to use his general popularity amongst delegates to appeal that they listen to the minister even if they disagreed with her viewpoints.

At the end of the two-day conference, a new set of executives, led by AbdulWaheed Umar, NUT president and Adams’s deputy for the past 8 years, were elected to steer the affairs of the NLC for the next four years. The Umar executives is mostly dominated by elements endorsed and backed by the traditional progressive elements, including Adams himself, within the NLC. But beyond this admittedly promising pedigree, there was never, before or during the conference, any attempt to call a meeting of the many on the left, or erstwhile left elements, that supported the new executives with a view to clearly articulate the main policies and programmes which should pre-occupy the new executives on assumption of office. However, the new executives, on its part, led by Umar, have promised to strive to take the NLC to greater heights beyond where the Oshiomhole led leadership has taken it.

But this pledge notwithstanding, many rank-and-file workers and labour allies continue to harbour serious doubt about the capacity of the newly elected officers to give the NLC the true leadership it deserves at this crucial junction in Nigeria’s history and masses struggle. To us in the DSM, two main issues, namely the NLC programme and activities on the day-to-day economic needs of the masses as well as political programmes for total political emancipation of the working masses from perpetual poverty in the midst of an inexhaustible abundance, will one way or another determine whether this pessimism towards the newly elected NLC leaders was actually right or misplaced.

For the first time in its almost 20 years of existence, the DSM got an official invitation to attend and participate at the NLC’s delegates conference, a fact which underlines the growing political profile of the DSM within the main trade unions movements in Nigeria. Although only a few DSM comrades intervened, at the event, it was nonetheless inspiring to meet a number of trade union activists who have known or heard about DSM’s activities before. The DSM leaflet which was the only socialist material distributed at the conference was warmly received by delegates, while a few actually wanted to find out more about the DSM voluntarily gave the contact and addresses and phone numbers.