Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Jonathan’s Acting Presidency

Jonathan’s Acting Presidency

Labour Must stop sowing illusions

General Strike and Mass Protest to Defeat Deregulation!!

For a Fighting Working Peoples’ Political Alternative Now!!!

With the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as the Acting President, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has quietly dropped the plan agreed at its National Administrative Council (NAC) meeting of February 5, 2010 to issue a 14-day ultimatum to government to address some salient national issues. While briefing journalists of the outcome of its Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting of February 12 the NLC President, Abdul Wahed Omar, reiterated some of the demands already made public by the NAC but was silent on the issue of the ultimatum. This has shown that the main thrust of the recent meetings or activities of the NLC was making Jonathan the Acting President, the other highlighted issues like the fuel scarcity, Jos crisis, etc., were mere add-ons. Otherwise, NLC should not have dropped the ultimatum since other these issues have not been addressed. It is a sad development that Labour attaches a much higher premium on Jonathan becoming Acting President than issues affecting the social wellbeing of tens of millions of workers and poor masses.

Worse still, like those suffering from deep memory lapse, attempts are now being made to separate Jonathan from the failure and corruption of Yar’Adua’s government. Just like its counterpart in the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the leadership of the NLC has meanwhile given an undeserving political endorsement of Jonathan’s presidency.

The TUC, for instance, as reported by the Vanguard newspaper of February 15, has called on the Acting President to “wake up to the realities on ground and initiate actions on such burning national issues such as poor power supply, irregularities in fuel distribution, poor infrastructure and the provision of world class health facility capable of handling various cases such as the ones that have brought us to this point.” To achieve what it called effective governance the TUC called on Jonathan to choose his own ministers. In its words, “The last minor shake-up is not all that we expect. The present ministers have failed the nation. We also demand a probe into activities of the various ministries and agencies during the period this whole episode was being played out to determine how money and other budgetary provisions were spent.”

From the news reports, the NLC at its CWC meeting on February 12, 2010 raised many important issues like Niger Delta, Minimum Wage, bank workers’ sackings, Jos crisis, power, petroleum product availability and electoral reform. What is conspicuously absent in the issues demanded by the NLC, just like the TUC, was the deregulation of oil sector, the central thrust of Yar’Adua government, which has forced Labour to embark on a series of mass protests across the country.

It is politically criminal for Labour to sow illusions among the working masses that the country has seen a messiah in Jonathan, someone who has been a part and parcel of the neo-liberal agenda of the Yar’Adua government that has continued to unleash excruciating suffering and poignant agonies on the ordinary masses.

Among other things, the NLC has asked Jonathan to intervene to ensure the implementation of key recommendations of the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Panel report and the passage of the electoral reform bill before the National Assembly that, they hope, will guarantee credible election.

Of course, it is desirable to have a credible election, but in the given situation that would be tantamount to prepare a level playing ground only for different sections of the thieving ruling elites if the Labour Party is not built as a fighting working class political alternative that could take political power in the interest of the poor working masses.

Rather than making futile calls on Jonathan and other capitalist politicians to implement pro-poor policies, the NLC and TUC must begin process of creating a truly working peoples’ political party or energetically work to build the Labour Party as a genuine one that could take power from the self-serving capitalist elements and harness Nigeria’s human and natural resources for the benefit of all.

Already, there is a huge groundswell of disaffection and opposition to the capitalist elite’s misrule and corruption. What is missing and, which only Labour is in a position to provide, is a comprehensive programme of economic and political demands, predicated on a clear strategy of bringing into being a genuine working peoples’ government. Once the programme of action and the leadership’s determination to pursue this to its most logical conclusion is assured, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) is confident that the overwhelming majority of working people across the country will massively and rapidly rally around the labour movement, to save the country and its long-suffering people from capitalist economic and political ruin.

While Labour has been silent on the deregulation, the Acting President has reaffirmed his commitment to unleash the excruciating, anti-poor policy of deregulation on the ordinary people.

In fact, after the meeting of the Economic Management Team and Presidential Committee on Deregulation presided over by Jonathan, the Minister of Finance, Mansur Muhtar revealed that all those that spoke at meeting, of course that should include Jonathan, fully underscored “the desirability and indeed the necessity of deregulation in this sector as a means of achieving efficiency and ensuring adequate supply as well as removing subsidy burden” (Guardian, February 16, 2010). He also disclosed that Labour has accepted in principle the need to commence the deregulation exercise, but that it must be done in stages while the issues would continue to be engaged by the parties until when a consensus is reached (This Day, February 16, 2010). Unfortunately, the half-hearted and contradictory approach of the Labour to the issue of deregulation appears to confirm the claim of the government. This is apparently why Labour in its agenda setting for Jonathan clearly avoided mentioning deregulation like a plague.

Labour needs to reassure ordinary Nigerians of its unflinching commitment to struggle to defeat deregulation. To start with, a fresh ultimatum needs to be given to government to stop all plans to deregulate the petroleum sector and at the same time guarantee the availability of petroleum products at current prices. At the same time Labour must press for the immediate implementation of a N52, 200 minimum wage and firmly resist retrenchment. If the ultimatum does not compel the government to meet the demands, there should be a 48 hour warning general strike and mass protest as a first step to fight for these demands.

Labour leaders need to use the period of the short ultimatum being advocated by the DSM to send out signals to all rank and file labour activists and people in the society to prepare for struggle. Specifically, Labour must prioritise and champion the formation of struggle committees, within the industrial unions, communities, schools and workplaces. These struggle committees must be saddled with the task of mobilising, organising and educating the masses, towards the attainment of set goals. Labour must, once again, be prepared to resume mass protests/rallies and industrial action where necessary, to ensure that its demands and objectives are achieved. The DSM will, alongside others, strive to implement these policies and help build within Labour a leadership that is not only prepared to struggle but also to change society.

Segun Sango
General Secretary, DSM