“Workers Day in Nigeria has lost its ideological relevance”
Temiloluwa Ajetunmobi, immediate past coordinator Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Lagos State University (LASU), writes on her first experience of May Day
The 2023 May Day was my first experience of Workers’ Day celebration. I took part in the celebration at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena in Lagos. 1st of May every year is known around the world as International Workers’ Day. This day is set aside to appreciate the value and contributions of workers in the world and also for workers to review and put forward their demands and agitate for a better working conditions and living wages,. May Day is like a workers’ solidarity day where workers are expected to jointly raise their voices higher for their rights and, originally, also a day to show commitment to achieving socialism.
Unfortunately, this workers’ day has lost its ideological relevance and the opportunity to agitate for a decent livelihood for workers who create wealth that is being enjoyed by the greedy and rich 1 percent in society. Often May Day has now become a day for jamboree where workers just come together to feast and dance neglecting and forgetting the avoidable struggles and hardship they are forced to face daily. The May Day celebration has now become a campaign ground for politicians, those who feed fat on the wealth of the workers.
Many workers are starving and can’t afford to send their children to decent schools. The N30,000 minimum wage is embarrassing. The recent cash crunch further impoverished many working people. Our hospitals are not functional. Workers can’t afford a decent hospital but leaders are jetting out of the country at every slightest headache, with their children schooled abroad. Our parents who are workers can’t afford to meet all their families’ needs. These are few of the issues that should have been put forward on May Day but were not. Even if previous May Days had been reduced to a government-workers party, this year was expected to be far different for the fact that for the past few months workers have been pushed into unnecessary hardship.
I am disappointed by the labor unions leaders’ indifference to these issues of grave concern that are detrimental to the development and growth of individual workers. The last few months were a trying period for workers. I was expecting that the May Day would be an avenue, an opportunity for workers to express their anger and to equally express their disappointment on the outgoing administration of Buhari and his cabals. Trade unions are supposed to use the May Day to send a strong warning to the incoming administration with major demands. But to my surprise and disappointment this year’s celebration witnessed some trade union leaders and workers praising and hailing this present administration and even chanting praises for the incoming government.
This is the high time we must stand up, come together and fight for our class interest. Let us remember that famous word of Karl Marx “workers of the world unite you have nothing to lose but your chains”. I will rephrase it to “Nigerian workers unite you have nothing to lose but your chains”, the chains that has tied us to poverty, hopelessness, pain, exploitation and oppression. We can build a new Nigeria –one based on the common ownership of the means of production and their democratic management to meet the needs of all. Forward to a Socialist Nigeria!