Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

2019 May Day: DSM and SPN Put Working People Issues on the Front Burners at Rallies

2019 May Day: DSM and SPN Put Working People Issues on the Front Burners at Rallies

By Peluola Adewale, DSM NEC
SPN members at Lagos May Day - photo DSM

SPN members at Lagos May Day – photo DSM   (Click to enlarge)

This year’s May Day came a few weeks after the new minimum wage of N30, 000 had been signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari. So it dominated the discussion from the podium and in interaction with workers at the rallies where members of Democratic Socialist Movement and Socialist Party of Nigeria were present. The rallies also provided opportunities to put on the front burner some burning issues affecting different groups of workers and community people. We participated in such protest in Lagos and solely organised the one in Abeokuta.

We participated at ten May Day activities across 6 states and in Abuja. We attended joint rallies of the NLC and TUC in Agege Lagos, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Osogbo, Benin, Kano and Abuja, where the national rally was held. The ULC held its national rally in Surulere Lagos and public symposium in Ibadan and Osogbo. At both symposia DSM comrades were among the lead speakers.

In Lagos, the outgoing governor Akinwumi Ambode whose campaign materials and activities for his second term had dominated last year’s May Day in Lagos did not show up. Neither did he send his deputy. Ambode, having lost to the internal power struggle in the ruling APC and scapegoated for the failure and missteps of the party in many areas, was not fielded for a second term by his party. He sent a senior civil servant to represent him, something that did not go down well with labour leaders.

However, the highlight of activities at NLC and TUC rally in Lagos was the protest action led by Joint Action Front, a coalition of socialist and pro-working people organisations including the DSM. The protest, involving LASPOTECH workers, LASU ASUU, UNILAG ASUU, LASU students and JAF members, was over attacks on pay, conditions and democratic rights of workers as well as victimization of staff union leaders at both LASPOTECH and LASU.

 LASPOTECH workers in protest at May Day rally in Lagos - photo DSM

LASPOTECH workers in protest at May Day rally in Lagos – photo DSM   (Click to enlarge)

Achike Chude, Deputy Chair JAF, who spoke on behalf of the protesters, called on labour leaders and all workers to support the struggles and demands of LASPOTECH and LASU workers. These demands include adequate funding of public education at all levels in Lagos State, recall of all victimised union leaders in LASU and LASPOTECH; respect of democratic rights in the schools and an end to repression of union leaders; LASPOTECH management must return to NBTE salary scheme which was stopped after having been implemented (the stoppage means reductions in salaries and demotion of workers); implementation of earned academic allowance in LASU 10 years after 2009 Government/ASUU agreements; an end to dictatorial administration in LASPOTECH and LASU; removal of LASPOTECH Rector Shogunro and change of the Governing Council; Lagos State government must stop aiding and abetting bad administration and resolve the crises in LASU and LASPOTECH.

In Ogun, members of the SPN Ifo LGA used the opportunity of this year’s May Day to organise a symbolic protest at MKO Abiola stadium (venue of the 2019 Mayday in Ogun State) to press home demands for immediate completion of all on-going projects in Ifo LGA, regular grading and construction of drainages and a public works programme under democratic workers’ control to address the infrastructural deficit in all parts of Ogun State. They were supported by comrades from Odogbolu LGA chapter of the party. The outgoing Governor Ibikunle Amosun upon seeing our placards during the march past before him appeared to have been both shocked and confused at the same time, something that suggested that he had hardly been confronted with such protest from the neglected communities of the state before especially on May Day. This May Day symbolic action is part of the campaign SPN members have gradually started within the community and they intend to further build on with leafletting, public meetings etc.

DSM members join protest at May Day in Abuja  - photo DSM

DSM members join protest at May Day in Abuja – photo DSM   (Click to enlarge)

In Abuja, workers did not only come with banners and placards with messages for full implementation of minimum wage. There were also messages on outsourcing, casualization of Labour and Anti-Unionization, and solidarity with Western Sahara, Cuba, Cameroon and Venezuela.

We intervened with the current edition of Socialist Democracy (SD) with lead articles on Minimum Wage, 2019 presidential election, SPN participation in 2019 election and the call for renationalisation of power sector. We also circulated tens of thousand copies of the SPN’s special May Day leaflet. At the rallies we also displayed and marched with banners and placards with messages on minimum wage, electricity exploitation and poor supply, poor state of infrastructure, working people political alternative, etc

The main SPN leaflet argued that it would require struggles by trade unions and workers to force government and private sector employers to implement the new minimum wage. It also urged workers to be prepared to resist possible imminent attacks such as increase in VAT and fuel price hike that will not only erode minimum wage if it is paid but also worsen the already poor living conditions. The leaflet also called on workers to join the SPN and build it as a mass working people party.

SPN Ifo members at May Day in Abeokuta - photo DSM

SPN Ifo members at May Day in Abeokuta – photo DSM   (Click to enlarge)

In Oyo, Lagos and Ogun, separate leaflets that addressed specific issues and struggles of working people in the states were also circulated. For instance, in Ogun the leaflet addressed the plight of workers of Tai Solarin College of Education (TASCE) who are owed as much as 30 months of salaries amongst other attacks on conditions of service and the non-remittance of pension, union dues and cooperative deductions as well as suspension of the immediate past state Chair of NLC. Also contained was an outcry and demand on the poor conditions of infrastructures and basic amenities in Ifo Local Government especially Agbado Okearo LCDA.

At the rallies about 320 copies of SD were sold. Sixty copies were also bought by the state leadership and 5 branches of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) Lagos who sponsored May Day solidarity messages in the paper. It is also significant that the day after May Day all the 60 copies taken by Odogbolu, Ogun, comrades were bought by TASCE workers in whose struggle DSM comrades have been playing crucial organizing roles. They have also requested more copies. So all together about 440 copies of the paper have been sold.

The TASCE workers were billed to organize protest action at May Day rally over their matter but called it off apparently after getting an assurance that the incoming new administration would address their issues. Comrades have urged them, that while it is not out place to give a benefit of doubt to the new administration, they should not to lower their guard but continue to hold a series of mass activities to sustain the pressure on the government.

It is remarkable that a good number of new members of the SPN who joined during the 2019 election actively participated in all our May Day activities including paper sales. This was a significant step towards orientating them to continuing to campaign on working class issues outside of election periods as well as part of the work to build a combative socialist working peoples’ alternative to the chaos and oppression of capitalism.