Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM


  • For building of a mass movement against hunger and hardship

  • For a 48 hours general strike and mass protest Now!

Reacting to the mood of the nation, especially the outbreak of spontaneous protests in different parts of the country, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) started a 2-day nationwide mass action on February 27 to protest the hardship many Nigerians face due to the anti-poor policies of the Tinubu regime. The protests were relatively successful despite the poor preparation showing the readiness of the masses to struggle in spite of popular distrust in the labour leadership.

By H. T. Soweto

However on the second day, the NLC leadership suspended further protest saying that the action had already achieved its aims on the first day. Simultaneously, the NLC leadership issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to meet its demands. This ultimatum has since expired on March 13 but sadly, but not unexpectedly, nothing else has yet been heard from the NLC leadership. The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) hereby calls on the leadership of the NLC and TUC to declare a properly mobilized 48- hour general strike and mass protest as the next step after the February 27 nationwide protest. This is crucial now considering how the conditions of the working class and poor masses have continued to deteriorate since then.

However, it is sad that rather than act as a spring board that pushes forward the struggle to defend living standards, the NLC February actions instead acted as a brake to what was a movement from below that was beginning to spread across the country as the hunger and hardship grew. Hence the current lull in class struggle. But this will be temporary as new protests and movements will break out very soon. However, when they start, how can we as activists ensure they are successful and not again betrayed? Essentially, in what way can activists within and outside the labour movement begin to prepare to ensure that the next outbreak of struggle is not only able to win concrete concessions but leads to a permanent defeat of the anti-poor and neo-liberal onslaught of the Tinubu regime? To answer these questions and more, we start with an examination of the nature of the Tinubu regime and how to fight it?


Even though both are members of the same capitalist ruling party, the All-Progressives’ Congress (APC), the Tinubu regime is not simply a continuation of the Buhari regime even though the pro-capitalist policies are fundamentally the same. To hold such an opinion would be to have too much a simplistic view of things. After over two decades of civil rule during which all the contradictions of capitalism in Nigeria have worsened and multiplied a thousand fold, the emergence of the Tinubu regime represents a renewed and impassioned attempt by the neoliberal wing of the capitalist elite to try to force through at any cost the completion of the age-long project of full liberalization of Nigeria’s economy otherwise called economic reforms which started in the mid-1980s but had been limited by the consistent mass opposition of the working class and radical masses.

Recall that this project of market fundamentalism gained full steam with the 1986 Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the Ibrahim Babangida junta. This was part of an international trend of capitalist neo-liberal offensive prompted by the weakening and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and the East European states; states that were not capitalist but were not democratically run by working people. But the mass opposition that developed starting from the anti-SAP riots of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the anti-military struggle as well as the general strikes and mass protests at the dawn of civil rule against fuel price hike and privatization during the Obasanjo presidency meant that this project has not been completed decades after. Also to be accounted for this delay is the fear harbored by each of the capitalist regimes since 1999 that if the so-called reform went at too rapid a pace it could detonate enormous social and political explosion. The January 2012 mass uprising and the current upheaval starting with the spontaneous protests, rising incidents of suicide, abductions and mass looting of food trucks and warehouses are a sign that this fear is real.

Also nursing its own fear of the implication of the full manifestation of these reforms, the Buhari regime baulked and retreated at key junctions when it was expected to barrel its way through thereby becoming useless for the majority of the Nigerian capitalist elite and its imperialist backers as a reliable tool to execute this project. Furthermore, its attempts to stimulate Nigerian capitalism though state intervention failed.

In contradistinction to this, the Tinubu regime has come onto the stage with a clear message to imperialism: Send me, I am willing to be a tool to complete this process of neoliberal consolidation! This explains why unlike the Buhari regime which was an admixture of statists and neoliberal fundamentalists, the Tinubu regime is a star-studded ensemble of the most capable evangels of free market fundamentalism. In fact some of them were educated in some of the best pro-capitalist schools abroad. Tinubu himself had a career in Mobil Oil Nigeria before he joined politics. Widely known as a political ‘godfather’ Tinubu has shown a ruthless side in dealing with opposition. Thus, while Lagos State governor, Tinubu sacked 10,000 state workers along with their union leaders, including the late Ayodele Akele, in 2001/2 when they demanded that Lagos State paid a new minimum wage introduced by the Federal Government.

However, in sharp contrast to the Buhari regime before it, President Tinubu does not have the legitimacy and wide acceptance to execute this neoliberal project without risking being swept away by a deluge of mass anger or throwing society into a state of barbarism it may not easily recover from. Tinubu was elected with a narrow mandate. At less than 9 million votes, Tinubu has come to power with the lowest vote share of any Nigerian president since 1979 and in an election in which about 60 million registered voters abstained! This ordinarily should mean that Tinubu and his anti-poor regime can be easily defeated if confronted by a determined mass resistance.


But when labour’s strategy and tactics are scientifically examined, then it becomes clear why despite its relative weakness, the Tinubu regime after initial token concessions may eventually succeed at overcoming the developing mass movement and force through the neoliberal policies.

For instance, labour has abandoned its traditional opposition to fuel price hike. Since June 5 2023, the leadership of the NLC has refrained from publicly calling for a reversal of the fuel price hike and instead joining the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to simply demand palliatives. None of the demands of the NLC for the February 27 nationwide protest included a call for reversal of petrol price hike. This means that ideologically, the labour leadership has already conceded to the ruling elite that the May 29 withdrawal of fuel subsidy which, together with devaluation of the naira, set in motion the entirety of the cost-of-living crisis being faced now can no more be reversed.

By abandoning this age-long and traditional approach which proved useful in previous struggles, the labour leadership had already set themselves up to be played like “ping-pong” by the ruling elite. This is because the first concrete measure that can immediately begin to reverse the severe economic hardship being faced by the working class and oppressed masses is a reversal of the pump price of fuel. This would immediately have a reverberating effect on the cost of goods, food and services, on transportation costs, on the cost of production and ultimately on the galloping inflation. Reversal of the fuel price hike is also the only visible sign of victory that people can see and recognize.

None of the talk about CNG buses and palliatives makes any sense especially as people instinctively know that cash distribution is usually a slush fund for corrupt politicians as it only gets to a few selected poor people and never to the bulk of those who need support. Moreso, on the basis of deregulation and devaluation, the cost of natural gas is now as high as petrol. Besides, the cost of conversion from petrol to CNG powered vehicles or purchasing CNG vehicle is beyond the capacity of the majority especially following the devaluation of the naira. All these mean that provision of gas-powered vehicles will not necessarily bring down the cost of transportation.

Tragically, by abandoning the demand for reversal of fuel price hike, the Labour leadership has conceded to the neoliberal policy of deregulation and all it is fighting for is simply some minimal relief while these brutal policies are being forced through. This therefore means that this is not last time fuel price will be increased beyond what ordinary Nigerians can afford. Neither will the unfolding economic hardship end even if a million-naira minimum wage is won for workers. Of course, there is a reason why some of the leaders of labour have capitulated to neoliberalism. Many in the top layers of the trade unions see no alternative to capitalism and increasingly they no more see themselves as opponents of the capitalist state but rather as foremen of the state within the workers movement.

Indeed, TUC President Festus Osifo praised the Tinubu government when it landed a serious blow on the cost of living with the introduction of the free floating of foreign exchange. On their part, the NLC leaders chose to see no evil and last November even complained that the FG had forgotten that they (Labour) had a few months earlier “acted as a bulwark against the rage of Nigerians thereby saving this government from itself”. This was truly an incredible admission that they were defending Tinubu rather than workers’ living standards. It is the same way the two labour centres have never condemned the wave of criminal fee hikes in public universities beyond the capacity of many working-class people.

This explains why ordinarily they do not want to fight at all only content to issue radical sounding statements without corresponding actions. However, when they are compelled by their members’ pressure to fight at all, all they proffer is a token action which they quickly call off once they feel that momentum is building towards an organic uprising against the capitalist state. This also explains the tragic decision of the NLC NEC to suspend the February 27 and 28 mass protest on the second day, another example of action being suddenly called off for no good reason.


Given this situation, it has become imperative for independent initiatives of struggle to take the lead. For instance, were it not for the spontaneous protests that began from late January in Niger, Kano, Kaduna, Ibadan, Osun and several other places, perhaps the NLC would not have mobilized for a nationwide protest in February. This shows that independent initiatives can have an impact and where they are consciously organized, they can take the lead and become the fulcrum of the mass resistance.

This is why the ongoing discussion within the left in Nigeria for a minimum programme of joint work and united actions has become very important. The DSM supports these discussions and urges that they should go on at this period when the movement has receded a bit. We propose at the minimum regular discussions among groups like the Joint Action Front (JAF), Coalition for Revolution (CORE)/TakeitBack Movement (TIB), Alliance for Covid-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) with a view to working out the details of what needs to be done now that the NLC has refused to act on its threat of escalated action after the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum it issued following the suspension of the nationwide protest in February. We in the DSM are urging the NLC and TUC to unite and immediately call for a 48-hour general strike as the logical next step.

However simultaneously as we are urging the labour leadership to act, the revolutionary left and activists acting together can take the initiative to launch a new day of action which can help to breathe new life into the struggle. For this to happen, independent organs of mass struggle like democratic action committees need to be built at workplaces, campuses and communities across the country and linked together on a state-wide and national basis to become the real power behind the mass movement. It was the absence of these in February that put the movement in disarray as soon as the NLC NEC suspended action.

If these democratic actions committees are to be built up and they are active among the masses, then it would mean that the mass of the working people acting through their own democratic organs can call for action where the labour leadership refuses to act. And where the labour leadership observes it customary obligation to capitalism by calling off actions before they achieve any real gain or lest they threaten the system, such democratic organs of struggle resting on the power of the masses nationwide can struggle to take the initiative out of the hands of this dilly-dallying labour aristocrats to continue the struggle until victory. This is what we should aim for – the taking of the initiative for suspending action without consultation or without achieving gains out of the hands of the pro-capitalist labour leadership. The creation of these democratic organs of struggle is the historical task placed before the revolutionary left and activists today.


Whatever is the outcome of this struggle, the future of Nigeria is bleak unless the workers and poor masses take political power. The rising cases of suicide, abduction of school children and women and the mass looting of food trucks and warehouses is a sign of how things can degenerate. Barbarism is imminent. Riots and even a descent into violence and civil war are all posed alongside the possibility of a military coup which would only worsen the situation due to Nigeria’s unresolved National Question. As Socialists, we strongly oppose military coup and defend democratic rights. Even if a military coup declares that it opposes neocolonialism and neoliberalism, Socialists would argue that it is only the working class and poor masses that can save the situation through a revolutionary Socialist transformation of society.

Unfortunately, not only are the labour leaders unable to take a bold lead in the industrial and economic struggle, on the political plane as well, they continue to play the role of the hangman for the prospect of a revolutionary transformation of society. The Labour Party (LP) which was formed by the NLC has turned to a special purpose vehicle for the personal ambition of individual capitalist politicians instead of serving as a vehicle for the working class to take political power. None of the members of the LP who won seats in the National Assembly have openly opposed the neoliberal policies of the Tinubu regime. Rather some of them have openly applauded the regime while partaking in receiving outrageous parks and allowances including over 160 million worth SUVs.

This is not surprising as the LP Presidential candidate, Peter Obi, actually promised to remove fuel subsidy while campaigning last year. The same goes for Atiku of the PDP. This explains why neither of the two have openly opposed Tinubu on the neoliberal policies of fuel subsidy removal and devaluation preferring only to restrict criticism to condemning the regime for lack of adequate preparation before carrying the policies out. What this means invariably is that even if either Atiku or Peter Obi had won, the same hardship would have befallen the working class.

Against this background, while we support and defend the right of the trade unions to form a political party to participate in elections, we nevertheless believe the time has come for the labour movement to reassess the Labour Party vis-à-vis its conformity to the interests of Nigerian workers. This is especially the case now that the Labour Party is in disarray following the unilateral decision of Julius Abure and his ilk to organize a convention. The actions of the Abure leadership flows directly from the unprincipled way the labour leadership had handed over the party to bureaucrats to organize on behalf of the labour movement while turning a blind eye to the anti-worker actions of the party leadership including turning the party to an electoral vehicle for bourgeois politicians, monetization of candidacy and lack of internal democracy.

Now there is an urgent need for the NLC and TUC political commissions to immediately convene an all-inclusive summit of labour activists, veterans, and Socialists to discuss how, if it is still at all possible, to rescue the Labour Party and if not, how to begin the crucial work of forming and building a new political party now which can serve as a genuine party of the working class and oppressed masses and which is armed with Socialist programme. Only the coming to power of such a party can ensure that capitalism is defeated and that the key sectors of Nigeria’s economy is nationalized under democratic workers control and management in order to make Nigeria’s wealth available to meet the needs of all instead of the greed of a few. A step that would have an electrifying effect in Africa and around the world.



  1. Reversal in the fuel price hike to pre-May 29 levels.
  2. Reversal of all anti-poor and neo-liberal policies.
  3. Reversal of recent hikes in school fees at tertiary institutions and for adequate funding and democratic management of public education at all levels.
  4. Immediate fixing of public refineries and their democratic ownership and management by the working people.
  5. A price-cap on all petroleum products from the Dangote refinery in order to ensure affordability.
  6. For trade union-led actions to ensure price control and prevent price gouging and hoarding of food and other essentials.
  7. For an increase in the national minimum wage to meet the rate of inflation.
  8. Immediate cut in the salaries and allowances of political office holders.
  9. Public ownership of the banks, financial institutions, industries, oil refineries under democratic workers control and management in order to ensure Nigeria’s economy works for the needs of all and not the greed of a few.
  10. For the building of a genuine mass workers’ party with Socialist programme