Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM




As the five-day warning strike of Kaduna state workers unfolds, the Democratic Socialist Movement declare its full solidarity with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), its affiliates and workers in the struggle to resist the offensive launched by the Kaduna APC state government against workers’ wages and livelihood.

The sacking of workers who have gone on strike this week, the state sponsored attack on the NLC’s May 18th Kaduna demonstration and Governor El-Rufai’s declaration that NLC President Wabba and other NLC leaders are “wanted” all together represent a challenge to workers not just in Kaduna but nationally. A determined response by Labour is necessary to prevent this offensive becoming a model for other employers, public or private, to follow.

This response must demand immediate and unconditional meeting of the demands of the Kaduna state workers. We also demand recall of all sacked workers including the nurses, lecturers and other categories of workers who have been recently sacked in the midst of the ongoing strike or are being threatened with sack.

We condemn the use of thugs by the state to attack protesters. This is a method borrowed from the #EndSARS protests of last year which were brutally repressed and suppressed by the state using sponsored thugs before the army was eventually drafted in on 20th October 2020. Interestingly, while these brutal attacks unfolded last year, the leadership of the NLC and TUC failed to mobilize to defend the protesting youth. This is an important lesson to the labour movement never to overlook any injustice.

We hereby call on Kaduna state workers to respond to the attacks by setting up and building from below democratic strike and action committees to steward and defend protest marches as well as important workplaces and union buildings from attacks while also taking other initiatives to ensure the strike is not betrayed or prematurely suspended as happened with previous labour’s struggles. To further show that labour is not just fighting for those with employment alone but for all oppressed masses, we urge the demands of the strike to be expanded to include calls for reversal of recently hiked tuition fees at Kaduna State University (KASU), provision of decent jobs for all and payment of monthly unemployment benefit. These kind of demands can also help to undercut and undermine the terrible divisive campaign of the government aimed at pitching the mass of jobless and poor youth and artisans against the workers.

We applaud the immense example of solidarity that has been demonstrated in this strike with the National leadership of the NLC relocating to the state and important sectors of workers like railway workers, electricity workers, university lecturers and oil workers under the umbrella of NUPENG pulling their weight by withdrawing their services thereby enormously strengthening the strike. In a way this strike, even though unfolding within one state, shows labour’s immense capacity to fight when the leadership feels ready to do so unlike the poorly mobilized general strikes of previous years like September 28 2020 and May 2016 which when not suspended at last minutes are sometimes shambolic and poorly mobilized.

The immediate provocation for the 5-day warning strike was the decision of the Kaduna APC state governor, El-Rufai, to sack an additional 4,000 workers from the state Civil Service after years of systematic downsizing of the workforce which has seen, as the NLC claims, between 45, 000 and 60, 000 sacked in the past 4 years. As usual, the Governor has claimed that the poor revenue of the state demands that these reductions in the workforce are carried out. At the same time however, the state governor has not left any one in doubt that this is not just a question of the present state of revenue but an ideological offensive to rationalize the workforce. For instance, the same governor has argued that he would no more allow a situation where over 90% of the state revenue is used to pay the wages of workers who are less than 100, 000.

El-Rufai is using this demagogic argument to pit the working masses against the organized workers with a false claim that the salary of workers is an obstacle to development. In reality, it is the looting of public resources through different anti-poor capitalist policies by past and present governments, including the outlandish privileges and jumbo salaries preserved for the ruling elite’s tiny numbers, that have a large responsible for the poor state of the economy in Kaduna state and across the country.

The above background and other factors make the Kaduna state workers’ strike an important class battle. Its outcome could have far reaching implications. If Governor El-Rufai succeeds, an example would have been set for other state governors and the Federal Government to carry out ruthless downsizing of the workforce under the guise of declining revenue. Even if the state government retreats and agrees to some form of amicable resolution perhaps superintended by the Governors Forum or Minister of Labour, this would not make the threat and danger that the attack in Kaduna state means for workers across the country to disappear.

This is why it is not surprising that as the crisis in Kaduna state is unfolding, the Federal Government is also talking about merging Ministries and agencies of government in order to reduce the federal civil service. This is on top of worsening socio-economic situation, deepening inequality and poverty, high cost of living and inflation, mounting unemployment, job losses and condition of near starvation for many working families. This shows the massive offensive the capitalist state and elite has in store for the working class as a direct product of the objective situation posed by the capitalist economic crisis both in Nigeria and globally. Therefore, this is the fundamental reason why the Kaduna state strike need to be utilized by the labour movement as a launch pad to launch a nationwide counter-offensive of the working class to resist these attacks and any new one in the pipeline.

Already calls for national protests, including national wide strike, have been made. The May 18th NLC statement says “An immediate declaration of a national strike is not excluded from our immediate considerations. Another attack by Mr. El-Rufai will most likely automatically activate a nationwide solidarity action with Kaduna State workers.” That is half a step, but action needs to be taken now against what El-Rufai has already done in the last days namely sacking thousands of workers who have gone on strike, sending armed thugs to attack an NLC protest and threatening to arrest NLC leaders.

This is why we demand that as a first step, a 24 hour general strike and mass protest be declared to solidarize with the Kaduna state workers struggle but also begin to counter the offensive which has been launched nationwide against workers’ wages and conditions in many sectors. So the demands of the strike should also include full implementation of new minimum wage and payment of outstanding salaries and pensions, halt to planned retrenchment of workers and rejection of hikes in fuel prices and electricity tariff and other anti-poor, capitalist policies of Buhari government. At the moment, at least 11 state governments are not implementing the N30, 000 minim wage while there is hardly any state that is not owing workers and retirees several years of backlog of wages and pensions.

The current situation presents another opportunity for the labour leadership to redeem itself in the eyes of the working masses and poor, but only if it decisively acts to lead serious struggle. It was the class collaborationist policy of the labour leadership, years of betrayal, barking without biting, and in particular the failure to prosecute last year’s September general strike that has created the condition for today’s brazen offensive on workers in Kaduna state and in other states. If there is no clear call from the Labour leaders then there needs to be urgent discussion in workplaces how to organize solidarity and protest actions so that mass sacking and state sponsored physical attacks on working people are defeated. It should not be forgotten that the January 2012 general strike was initiated from below and then the Labour leaders followed their members and called a general strike.

Most importantly is the need, which is posed very sharply in the current situation, for labour to provide and build a mass workers political alternative on a socialist program to fight for political power. The fact that some of the most comprehensive offensive against the working class has taken place under governments formed by both the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) graphically illustrate that there is no progressive section of the capitalist class that can be relied upon to fix Nigeria. Only the working class organized and armed with a conscious programme of fighting to end capitalism, taking political power and establishing a workers and poor people’s government based on socialist policies can do this.

As a step towards building such a mass workers party we call on workers, trade union activists and socialists to join the Socialist Party of Nigeria. The SPN campaigns for creating such a force while at the same time presents itself now as a platform that can help take steps towards building a mass party.

Peluola Adewale

DSM Organising Secretary