Dagga Tolar

Nigerian Workers during a Protest

As we mark this year’s Mayday, the very first after the year of the pandemic, and the lockdown it effected on the economy, which was used as an excuse by the labour leaders to scale down the activities around May Day 2020 to the near ground level of zero. This is in the face of the failure of the Buhari-led regime to revamp the health sector and its inability to fully respond to the challenges of the coronavirus, which itself is sufficient for the labour leaders to mobilise all health workers and rally all other workers to take on the government. How do we explain that President Buhari has just returned from another trip abroad for medical treatment, fretting away scarce resources that can be used to improve the health facilities in the country?

This is added to the wave of the mass sack of workers as we have seen in Kaduna State where thousands of civil servants have been thrown out of their jobs. The minimum wage is also threatened with state governments such as Kano State Government paying workers the old 18,000 minimum wage, reversing the N30,000 minimum wage while labour rights are trampled upon in Imo State.

It is sad to state this ugly situation is accepted by the central labour leaders with little or no fightback. Here we are, marking another Mayday, should workers expect any different attitude from the labour leaders? What then is the import of a workers day, if workers cannot use it to review their state, and working conditions and draw the necessary conclusion to organise and struggle. In most of the trade unions, Mayday has gradually been transformed into an employers’ day, wherein workers instead of bearing placards and protesting against their worsening working conditions are displaying and advertising products of their various employers, while marching before government functionaries, even in the face of the open disagreement with policies and programme of the government.

There can no greater or indirect endorsement of the Buhari regime than to have him or his representative, preside over a Mayday ceremony and take the salute from workers. This approach of the labour leaders is not unconnected to the opportunism that comes with it, to claim financial largesse from the coffers of the government both federal and state, in the same way, unions in the private sector seek to do the same with their employer. Yet the unions are rich enough to guide their independence and organise the marking of the Mayday themselves, with pre Mayday- seminars, that has ceased to be the tradition and use such to draw attention to the main issues of the day.

You cannot but wonder what the Union bureaucrats use union dues for, if they have to go as far as seeking support from employers, to wear branded T-Shirts to the Mayday events with inscriptions from their employers on it. Yet it took a struggle to win workers a Mayday holiday in 1981 in Nigeria, just as was the case with workers in the US when it was originally instituted in 1890.

The role of workers is extremely crucial and important, they are the wheels on which the whole society function. Without workers working to provide food, transportation, health needs, housing, education, banking, electricity etc society will still in the den of the caves. But painfully despite this role labour plays in the production and distribution process of goods and services. The working class remains at the mercy of the ruling elites and the capitalist bosses, whose governance of society is dictated by the philosophy of ensuring that as much profit as possible is made from the production of goods and services.

Things are even worse off, in a neo-colonial contraption like Nigeria where the means of production are completely underdeveloped, meaning that the country and the working class are not capable of meeting their full potential, since it is dependent on importation to their needs from the advanced capitalist countries of the US, China, and Europe. This explains the huge level of unemployment in the country placed at a current figure of 33% totalling over 66 million, and the continuous dysfunctional state of the country, as banditry and kidnapping has become the order of the day in the whole country. As we are going to the press, the news came in that Boko Haram has displaced 3,000 people, following the invasion of Kauri in Shiroro Local Government in Niger, hoisting its flag there, this is the closest it has to Abuja, without any visible response by government.

So also the raging dispute of Fulani herders clash and farmers that have given resuscitation of secession’s agitation and the break up of the country, growing louder in the East, where before now a Movement for the Actualization of Biafra already long existed in MASSOB and IPOB, now as well as in the southwest, with youth around Sunday Igboho already canvassing support for an Oduduwa republic. All of this is happening, with the agitations ignoring the fact that members of the ruling elites both in Igboland and Yorubaland are as guilty as the Fulani/ Hausa section of the ruling elites for the current states of the country, and that the backhand support they are providing for these agitations could be nothing else but an attempt to stack a stronger bargain for the presidency come 2023. But this is not to say that the right to self-determination is not legitimate and democratic and that Marxists do not support it in full, but we would warn that capitalism is a greater monster, indeed the real monster setting up all of the crises plaguing the working masses. And that rather than divide the ranks of the working masses, that they should unite in struggle in entirety to take on the ruling elites.

This is the point is to be understood and clear not only to Marxists but even to the mass of the working people, which explains the support of the working masses for their traditional organizations, the trade unions, which since 1999, and even before then have provided leadership for the struggle against deregulation, but unfortunately for the labour leaders the necessary conclusion for a revolution has not been drawn. A revolutionary programme the put forwards socialism as an alternative to the capitalist policies and programme of deregulation and privatisation.

This is the trend that is forcing the current crop of labour leaders typified by the central labour leaderships of the labour centres to opportunistically conclude that there is no alternative to deregulation, which is the real reason behind the call of September 28, 2020, General Strike and protest against another umpteenth increase in prices of fuel and electricity. This is not only disappointing but a betrayal of the expectation of the working masses that the labour leaders would provide leadership for their anger and frustration against the Buhari regime.

Yet in the face of this disappointment the working masses and youth have not folded their hands, they responded in millions in the #ENDSARS protest to take on the question of police brutality, with the labour leaders again failing, to support it by providing the necessary leadership that would provide a quality leap in the struggle. Like the MSA has already pointed out the thousands and thousands of working-class youth who trooped out on the street, and were shot and killed at the toll gate and in other parts of the county, they are announcing the arrival of a new generation of fighters, who would ultimately as events develop gravitate to embrace Marxism and its methodology of struggle.

Yet we must not fail to mention that working masses had on their own, in their hundreds of thousands invaded warehouses where food items were hoarded by government officials for diversion, and engaged in self expropriations to assuage their hunger during and after the lockdown. There can be no better understanding than this that if the labour leaders fail in their responsibility the working masses, will seek an alternative route to get organize and struggle.

As workers mark this year mayday we must point it out, there is already an existing rich history to indicate that only the working class, can rescue itself, it cannot rely on any section of the ruling elites, nor must it be bribed by the fact of a rotational presidency, the 8 years of Obasanjo, did nothing whatsoever to improve the fortunes of the working masses, in Yorubaland, nor did the reign of Goodluck Jonathan improve that of the Niger Delta, indeed the North is currently worse off under Buhari, with banditry, kidnapping and killings the order of the day.

Yet all is not lost as this past one year has seen the working class, through their various unions, engage in strike actions, there was the prolonged ASUU strike and now ASUP relation to the state of the universities and polytechnics. The Judiciary and parliamentary workers’ strike led by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) and then all of the strike actions in the health sector including that of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).All of these are themselves an indication of the willingness of the working masses to take their struggle into their hands

The MSA welcomes the 22nd April 2021 NEC Resolution of the Nigeria Labour Congress to embark on indefinite strike action and protests in Kaduna State to resist mass sack in the state, failing which it would embark on a “five-day warning nationwide strike action”. The demands of such a strike must be limited to the fate of workers in Kaduna State but encompass the demands of workers on strike as well as special situations in Kano and the Imo States.

Strikes on their own, even with all of the success, will not mean that the gains will not be reversed, this is why there is the need to conclude that the working masses must seek to come to power in their name, and on their political platform. The labour leaders have rather shied away from this, preferring to continue their cohort with members of the ruling elites and even seek to gain political offices either by appointment or by electoral means, and indeed to achieve this individual selfish goal of their they put forward the betrayal of the struggles of the working masses as a ticket to earn the endorsement of the ruling elites.

It is in this light that we view the 22nd April 2021 NEC Resolution of the Nigeria Labour Congress to reclaim the Labour Party from the stranglehold of the new Party leadership, which emerged without the democratic participation of the two platforms of the party, the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress. Despite the questionable capacity of the central labour leaderships to consistently wage a struggle to reclaim the Labour Party, in the event of the actual mass action to INEC and other steps to be taken by the labour centres to reclaim the Labour Party as contained in the letter to INEC by the NLC, the MSA will advocate for the transformation of the party into a party of the struggle of the working masses. History comes into being employing a dialectic swing, and when these events occur, Marxists will reorder their tactics to orientate towards such a political formation even though led by labour bureaucrats as a step forward for the struggle of the working masses to confronting the ruling elites. 

The MSA in marking this year Mayday, says all is not lost, while it upholds that only Socialism can genuinely bring about change, it boldly states that revolution is possible and can be accomplished by the working masses, not with all of the experiences that working masses have acquired through of the struggles and mass movement against Military dictatorship, the Anti-SAP protest, the revalidation of the annulled June 12 election of 1993, the General strikes against deregulation of the oil industry, the #ENDSARS protests, spanning over three decades. We need no one to tell us of the readiness and heroism that can come forth from the working masses and youth.

What is missing is the leadership, the revolutionary leadership, armed with a revolutionary programme, which cannot be any other thing than socialism. This is the message of the MSA to all workers to mark this year’s Mayday and as such calls on workers and youth who agree with us to join the MSA, and alongside us join the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), a political party formed by rank-and-file workers and socialist activists to fight together as well as build the genuine forces of Marxism to full take up the task of making a revolution.