Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)

For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

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Socialist Democracy

Newspaper of the DSM

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Socialist Democracy Aug - Sept 2005


Working Class Activists Ask Labour To Fight Consistently

  • Against incessant hike in fuel prices

  • Against retrenchment and privatisation of public resources and assets

  • For living wage, functional, affordable education and health services for all

  • For a fighting independent mass working peoples� party on socialist programme

  • On 24 July 2005, the official reports of the "National Confab" deliberations and resolutions were presented to President Olusegun Obasanjo. Expectedly, the President and some of the leaders of the confab described the exercise as a resounding success for Nigeria and its long suffering people. This is nothing but a bold face lie!

    While inaugurating the now failed confab, President Obasanjo had among other things stated: " History has presented us with the opportunity to reassess, refocus, redefine and redesign our political landscape in a direction that would strengthen the bounds of unity, enhance the process of democratic consolidation, strengthen the structures so as to solidify those values that promote democracy, good governance and good neighborliness and open boundless opportunities for all Nigerians to be, and to feel that they are part of evolving political process and socio-economic advancement".

    In response to the baseless optimism of the President, we had amongst other things stated: "without any fear of contradiction�nothing positive will come to the masses as a result of this so-called national confab. By its conducts so far and the inherent historical country which hitherto had always opposed the idea of a national conference are for now prepared to go along with the charade, fully secured in the knowledge that any serious reform that can threaten the status quo which they perceived as not being in their own sectional interest can always be blocked at the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly respectively, using their numerical strength under the prevailing legislative dispensation!

    "Against this background, we in the DSM consider the participation of the NLC and TUC leaderships in Obasanjo's so-called confab as a monumental tragedy in that their participation only helped to lend credence to an incredible process while at the same time diverting the attention of the labour movement and the working masses in general from what they ought to be doing in order to bring to a permanent end mass poverty in the face of a limitless abundance" Socialist Democracy March/April 2005 Edition, page 4.

    Sadly to note, all our worst fears concerning the confab have been frightfully confirmed. Far from "strengthen the bounds of unity", the outcome of the confab has, in fact, aggravated tension/relations between the diverse nationalities that make up the country especially with the walk-out staged by the participants from the South-South Zone at the concluding stage of the confab.

    Yes, the confab was able to reach consensus on certain elitist issues such as rotational presidency among six geo-political zones. Through this, it should now be possible for minority nationalities in the middle, belt and South-South geo-political zones to produce Presidents of Nigeria!

    However, going by experience, this kind of resolution offers little hope for the masses of the cited areas just as much as the domination of presidency by the Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba elite hitherto had brought no meaningful material benefits for the Hausa and Yoruba working masses. In fact, as things stand today, there is very little prospect that this and other cosmetic solutions proffered by the confab will ever be passed into laws. It is relevant to note that the kangaroo Constitutional Conference organised by the General Sanni Abacha military junta passed similar resolution which was thrown aside by the Hausa-Fulani elite who insisted that they would only concede to a North/South rotational principle as opposed to a rotational presidency on the basis of six geo-political zones!


    Against the background of the collapsed national confab, there is bound to be a renewed interest in PRONACO activities among diverse layers in the society.

    Unlike Obasanjo's national confab mostly made up of elements that have ruled and ruined Nigeria before, PRONACO on the contrary can boast of many leaders and members that have, over the years, been associated with the masses� struggles for better life and democratic rights in general. If only for this factor, certain layers of the masses (particularly from the Niger Delta zone, whose leaders quest for higher oil revenue was brusquely rejected by the national confab) are likely to place high hopes and expectations on the PRONACO's own confab. Therefore, in order not to disappoint or frustrate genuine aspirations of the masses, it will be incumbent on PRONACO leaders to approach its own conference in a distinctive revolutionary fashion.

    Pointedly speaking, PRONACO must have a coherent and scientific understanding of the problems with Nigeria particularly the issue of perennial mass poverty, in the midst of inexhaustible abundance, amongst the working masses of all nationalities that make up Nigeria. Flowing from this, PRONACO must work out a strategy and appropriate tactics of mass struggle through which the working masses can bring into being a government and system which will be prepared to guarantee their basic economic and political needs and aspirations.

    Sadly to note however, going by the articulated objectives of PRONACO and modus operandi of its leadership, up till now, there is very little the masses can expect to gain at the end of the proposed conference.

    Yes, PRONACO has stated that unlike the Obasanjo's confab, there will be "no-go-area" at its own conference and that the conference will have powers to discuss all issues concerning Nigeria. In addition, the PRONACO leadership has equally promised not to tamper with any resolution passed at the conference except if such resolution were to be rejected at a referendum of the Nigerian people. Probably, to underline the fact the conference will treat all Nigerians fairly, the PRONACO leadership has taken steps to invite pro-establishment and bourgeois organisations like Afenifere, Arewa, Ohaneze, PDP, ANPP, AD etc.

    Outwardly, all of these promises sound well. But when decoded, they all come to the same sad, old story of wishing to effect a change without preparing to confront and offend the forces against which a change is dearly needed.

    Agreed that the conference will have all the chances to discuss every issues under the sun, the question then is how does it intend to implement same, if it does not have sovereign powers over all the economic and political resources and institutions of the country? Referendum will certainly be a new feature of Nigeria's politic since 1914 when the country was undemocratically created. But the relevant question remains how can a conference not in political power organise a truly democratic referendum whose decisions will be upheld in law and in reality? Right now, only INEC, a Federal government agency under the absolute control of the president Obasanjo's PDP, has the nearest thing to a credible electoral register. How will PRONACO organise a credible and acceptable referendum if it does not have powers over INEC?

    From the point of view of being fair to all, the idea of inviting pro-establishment elements to PRONACO's conference sounds nice. However, when the fact that just about 1% of Nigeria's population only regularly consumes 80% of its annual revenues and that it is this 1% that constitutes the pro-establishment forces and organisations, then the invitation of these layers to partake in PRONACO's conference at best suggests lack of understanding of what should be done and at worst a mockery of the struggle for change.


    Many PRONACO leaders have on several occasions expressed support for "Resource Control". At the failed National Confab, the issue of "Resource Control" was reduced to a question of how much percentage of oil revenues, being paid by the multinational corporations that dominate the petroleum sector, will be retained by the elites in control of the central government and those in control in the Niger Delta Zone. But for us in the DSM, "Resource Control" with respect to oil for instance, will be meaningless to the working people unless the entire sector is commonly owned by the people themselves and the process of exploration, processing, sales and use of oil products are under the democratic control and management of a working peoples' government whose sole goal is the satisfaction of needs and aspirations of all as opposed to the prevailing order where the entire sector is absolutely under the strangulating hold of profit merchants called oil companies.

    What is the stake of PRONACO leadership on this major issue? Will PRONACO treat the issue of "Resource Control" in the same superficial elitist manner with which the issue was treated by the National Confab?

    Whether the PRONACO leaders recognize it or not, no meaningful change economically and politically can come the way of the masses under the prevailing socio-economic capitalist governments and system. To achieve real changes for the masses PRONACO must be ready to fight for political power to remove from power the current capitalist governments at the central and state levels and simultaneously change the current self-serving, privatisation ethos which dominate the economy into a system where the commanding heights of the economy and resources of the nation are commonly owned and democratically managed and controlled by the working people themselves under a planned socialist arrangement where the satisfaction of the basic necessities of life for all will be only reason why a government exists. But as we in the DSM often state, only a workers and poor peasants' government built on a socialist foundations can bring about these needed changes.


    Labour leaders and NLC leadership in particular had insisted that their participation at the confab could be used to further the interest of working masses. Today however, this approach has proved to be a false strategy. There is therefore the urgent need by the labour leaders to begin to fashion an independent alternatives capable of addressing the basic political aspirations of the masses within the context of a polity devoid of nationality arrogance and oppression. Equally, labour leaders have to wake up to the realities that severally and collectively, all the capitalist, neo-liberal policies being implemented by the Obasanjo's government are exclusively designed to make the rich richer while rendering the working people poorer. For instance, fuel prices locally will be hiked once again. This is in spite and despite the fact that the country makes more money from crude oil sales than expected. Instead of this development being a blessing, the pro-rich, anti-poor character of capitalism makes this untraceable, where the more money the country makes, the greater the suffering of the masses.

    Flowing from this premises, labour leaders must be ready to make a revolutionary u-turn by, designing and fighting for a political and economic arrangement whereby the economic and political resources and institutions of the country are owned, controlled and democratically run by the working masses themselves in such a way that every person will have access to the basic necessities of life such as food, housing, healthcare, education and other relevant social infrastructures needed to safeguard the dignity of human beings.

    Unfortunately however, majority of the current crop of labour leaders lack the necessary political understanding of what it will take to effect the needed socio-economic changes that will bring about and guarantee a decent living condition for poor masses. Very often, the NLC leaders make radical critique of some of the anti-people policies of the government without drawing the necessary conclusions flowing from these.

    In November 2004, the labour leaders called off an impending general strike and instead joined a government committee to work out a formula to solve the problem of incessant hike of fuel prices. Between then and now, on two occasions, such increases had been effected while the third increment may be effected any time from now. Recently, labour leaders were congratulating the Obasanjo government over a "debt relief" package which for all practical purposes and intents will only worsen the plight of the masses and the strengthen the process of second re-colonisation of the country in the baseless hope that the government can thereafter have enough resources to improve the living conditions of the masses.

    The fact that the hundreds of billions of dollars which have been realised from crude oil sales alone have mostly ended up in private coffers of capitalist corporations and individuals while about 80% of the country's population live in perpetual misery, below UN poverty line is ignored or taken for granted.

    It is the combination of these factors that has created a sense of helplessness amongst the people and the false feeling that the current unjust dispensation is unchangeable. But as we in the DSM often state a revolutionary socialist change is a necessity if the current deplorable conditions of the masses are to change for the better.

    Therefore, to set on course this process of dearly needed change, it is imperative for the labour leaders to face the bitter truth that only ceaseless mass struggles, as opposed to collaboration with the capitalist ruling class, can bring about worthwhile changes in the living conditions of the masses in the immediate and long term basis. Under the current situation, this will require the labour movement, in conjunction with LASCO, NCP, PRONACO, DSM, UAD, PRP, DA etc to come together and work out a programme of action for intervention in the day-to-day struggles of the masses for food, housing, heath care, education, jobs, decent minimum wage etc as part of a process of capturing political power from the current set of ruinous, self-serving capitalist ruling class.

    Socialist Democracy Aug - Sept 2005