JOINING WORKERS IN PROTEST OF THE ASUU LONG STRIKE.
NLC Must Call for 48-hour Warning General Strike!
By Davy Fidel
Thousands of workers under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress and TUC included were mobilised from all trade unions to national rallies and demonstrations across the whole federation. The protest was a two-day event and it was purposely to solidarity action in support of the 5-month Academic Staff Union of University strike of lecturers nationwide.
Different state union council like in Lagos and Abuja including other respective states mobilise their members in the trade unions to join in the rallies. The ASUU strike is a protracted struggle and the workers are demanding the Buhari government meet with the agreement of 2019. Since then, the government through the Ministry of Labour led by Chris Ngige has continued to give goofy excuses.
In the two days of nationwide demonstrations and rallies, workers came out in their thousands to march with ASUU. Although the central leadership of the NLC that call out the action did it after pressure from the rank and file workers and the dogged agitation of the striking academic workers. This nationwide protest was the first of its kind because it is not a nationwide rally that is linked to the traditional pump price demonstrations.
But because of the magnitude of the pressure, it pushes the NLC to this action. And workers from their different unions decided to rally to raise other demands that are: (1) “Stop the Looting! Tax the Rich and Subscribe the Poor! (2) Stop Importation of petrol! Revive the Refineries! (3) Nigeria at 60 Years of Independence! More Hunger in the Land!” (4) Reduce the Cost of Governance Now! Save the Masses from Hunger and Poverty!!”
Other demands that the academic workers on strike placarded at the protest like in Lagos are: (1) “No Education! No Development! (2) Let’s Change the Narrative: Make our Universities one of the best in the World. (3) Proper Funding for University Education is Non-negotiable. (4) Nigeria can Afford to Fund University Education. If Elites Greed is Stopped. (5) COEASU Says No to IPPIS.”
The majority of the workers, according to the reports on the ground expressed bitterness against the policies of the government and the system of capitalism. The living condition of workers and the recurrent unpaid minimum wage and other related workers attacks were subjects of interaction among workers marching in the rallies. Although the question of political alternative as the way out as a slogan and even on the statement of the labour bureaucrat was not raised.
However, the people on the street gave their solidarity but needed the labour movement to politically lead the way out from this economic hardship, poverty, unemployment, hunger, homelessness, inequality etc. to cease to exist. The question of building a party of workers, working-class youth, and the oppressed is a subject among people, the MSA members engage people in the course of the demonstration.
The MSA applauded the labour leaders for mobilising its members for such action, which in our public statement before the 26/27 national rallies was stated. In it, we said, we”urge the NLC not to bow to the Pressure of Calling the Action off.” In the same light, we have also stated for a “48-hour Warning General Strike” in solidarity with ASUU and NLC must mobilise workers to embark on industrial action.
We are reaffirming the slogan of a 48-hour warning general strike because we understand it will force the government to yield to the demands of ASUU and other academic unions like ASUP and SSANU. Added to this opportunity waving before the Nigerian workers. It will also be used to mobilise workers to use this strike to mobilise in their hundreds and thousands for improved living conditions, payment of unpaid salaries and new increases.
Also, demand a total reversal of the government’s attempt to increase the pump price, which in many filling stations, independent marketers have started selling at unofficial prices of N185 and above. The MSA is strong on the slogan because it will give another colouration to the concluded rallies.
We urge the workers to mount pressure on their leadership to call for a 48-hour general strike to consolidate the 2-day national solidarity protest to ASUU.
In the different states, the rally was conducted. Members of MSA march with workers with our new July/Aug edition. The comrades were able to show presence in Lagos, Osogbo, Ibadan, and Abuja. Below are the various experiences reported.
AREAS WE PARTICIPATED
Lagos: Tuesday 26 July the NLC Lagos council declared a solidarity protest in support of the Academic Staff Union of Universities. Thousands of workers in different trade unions in the following sectors: Maritime, Electricity, Teachers, University workers, oil industry etc joined in the rally.
Before 7:30 a.m workers have assembled at Ikeja under the bridge for the kickoff demonstration. Different slogans were placarded. And the Lagos chairperson in the person of Sessy addressed the workers. Immediately after her, the ASUU University of Lagos leadership spoke also.
He highlighted the issues and why the Buhari government has failed to yield to the demands of their protracted strike.
Other key leaders from other unions also added their voices to the public addressing of workers, who are ready to start the demonstration. Traders, commuters, young people etc were all gathered to identify with the rally.
The rally lasted for five hours and it includes the Lagos NLC leadership presenting the protest letter to the government representative. However, the mood of the workers was different from their slogans in the demonstration. Working class people who thumb the rally expressed anger about the regime.
Emphatically, there was displeasure about their wards and children’s long stay at home. The blames were largely placed on the Buhari regime for refusing to honour the lecturers’ demand and also to fund public education adequately as recommended by UNESCO.
The rally also registered the solidarity presence of different left organisations marching with workers. This also includes different press houses covering the demonstration. Six comrades and a sympathizer who shared the socialist idea of the MSA joined in the protest march.
There were aggressive paper sales from the comrades. Though, it was underestimated that the NLC might call off the rally. However, the 75 papers i.e July/Aug taken to the rally were all sold. This was before the protest was rounded off at the government secretariat, Alausa.
Leaflets on the ASUU strike and the government’s intended plan to increase pump prices were massively circulated. This is not only for workers in the rally but commuters, traders, young people and working-class men and women interested in knowing what are the issues.
Interestingly, people who saw the caption on the paper: Solidarity; picked interest and they bought it. Immediately they started reading it. The issues of the 2023 general elections and the question of Peter Obi contesting under the Labour Party as a presidential candidate were engaged by comrades at the course of the rally to give clarity on the matter.
ABUJA: by 8:40 am on Wednesday 27 July, workers from different trade unions have started gathering for the protest. The President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, addresses the workers. He stated that the need why the protest became necessary was because the Federal Government has refused to bend to the ASUU demands.
He added that this is after several dialogues, and meetings to discuss a way out. Yet, the FG has continued to show a lack of readiness to bail out the crises. From the Unity Fountain, where workers were gathered. Civil society groups and workers organise a protest march to the National Assembly. This was to register the presence of the protest and the protracted strike of ASUU
The protest was full of energy and it recorded a huge success despite the security personnel: police and the paramilitaries attempted to disrupt the rally and stop workers from organising. However, workers held their ground and they demanded through solidarity songs and agitation that the parliamentarians need to come out and address the workers.
It was this pressure and consistent bite on the ears of the bourgeois politicians that forced the Senate President and other high-profile members of the green and red chambers to come out and address the workers including protesters from civil society groups, who joined in the rally to give their solidarity to the ASUU strike.
The NLC President made it clear that if the academic workers’ demands are not met at the earliest time required. There shall be a 3-Day general strike with mass action to force the government to yield. The protest registered thousand of workers present. Four members of the MSA participated and 51 papers were sold at the rally. Though, there was no contact made.
IBADAN: At Oyo State where the national rally was also conducted on 26 July. Two members of the MSA participated in the protest and 10 papers were sold. The protest recorded a huge success despite the shortcomings of the labour bureaucracy, which also hang workers’ struggle on the scale.
OSOGBO: four comrades participated in the rally. They joined workers in the protest rally and they sold 21 papers of the July/August edition. The rally was an inspiration to the comrades, especially the younger brother of the MSA member, who also is a leading member in the Ife branch situated in the Obafemi Awolowo University, Osun State.
The comrades in the branch that attended the rally are already thinking of consolidating the new comrade who joined the protest. The prospect of starting a new cell branch at Ilesa was an outcome of the protest as reported by the comrades, who were at the NLC rally organised on 26 July at Osogbo.
In summary: In the two days, the national protest was called by the NLC in solidarity with the Academic Staff Union of Universities. 17 members of the MSA in the four States: Lagos, Oyo, Osun, and Abuja participated and 157 papers of the July/August edition were sold to workers and young people including the Nigerian masses who empathise with the striking workers and seeking an alternative to rot of capitalism and the failed bourgeois politician preparing to start a campaign in the upcoming 2023 general elections.