Nigeria

History was made today, 9th January 2012, as Lagosians in their thousands harkened to the call of the Labour and Civil Society Organisation (LASCO) to embark on a nationwide strike/mass protest toexpress their dissatisfaction with the recent increment in the pump price of petrol as announced by the Goodluck Jonathan-led government on 1st of January. LASCO encompasses the two labour centers in Nigeria i.e. the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) as well as the Joint Action Front (JAF) which is the umbrella body of the pro-labour civil society organisations.

In the final analysis, terrorism becomes an instrument of the oppressors against the oppressed majority. Over the years the Nigerian ruling elite has maintained its grip over the country on the basis of the old and tested method of divide and rule, a method inherited from the past colonial masters and perfected by the Nigerian ruling elite.

Police has fired tear gas at protestors in Nigeria angry at the latest increase in the price of fuel. In the northern town of Kano around 300 people were wounded in the attack and 19 were arrested. Tension has been mounting as protesters have clashed with riot police in different parts of Nigeria for the past three days and the trade unions have called for a nationwide indefinite strike to start Monday. More protests are expected across the country in the coming days. Here we provide the Editorial statement of the Workers’ Alternative on this key issue affecting the Nigerian masses.

Human consciousness is naturally conservative. People naturally stick to the old ways of doing things, but when a great event occurs, consciousness becomes transformed in a matter of seconds and people begin to question what they have not been questioning before. This perfectly confirms the present Nigerian situation. (3 January 2012)

Although the Nigerian economy has been officially growing at over 6% for the past 5 years, the poverty rate keeps increasing; youth unemployment has risen to an unprecedented 47% and over 80 per cent of Nigerian youth don’t have more than a secondary school certificate.

In November 2005, during the tenure of Obasanjo with Okonjo Iweala as finance minister, Nigeria paid the huge sum of 12 billion dollars to buy back 18 billion dollars of debt owed to the Paris Club. This prepared the ground for Nigeria to completely pay off its debt by April 2006. And it also made her the first African country to fully pay off its debt (estimated at $30 billion) owed to the Paris Club. This “exit” from the debt trap was celebrated both nationally and internationally; the celebrations alone were estimated to have consumed 2.4billion Naira.

Further to the yesterday’s appealfor solidarity, we are publishing an account of the anti-union activities at Dangote Pasta which led to the victimisation of the union organisers at the plant, including the firing of 200 workers who refused to leave the union.

Nigerian workers joined their brothers and sisters throughout the world to celebrate Workers’ Day on May 1st. In Lagos State, the celebration was held at Onikan Stadium. Workers trooped into the stadium en masse to mark the day. However, they had a surprise coming, with the newly elected State Governor giving them a lecture about how increases in workers’ wages cause inflation!

The political drama that unfolded with the April 2011 general elections turned out to be all revealing about the real nature and the deceit of the various sections of the Nigerian ruling class; and more obvious was the lack of genuine political alternative to the present rot in society, which a number of critical voters unconsciously sought during the elections.

The revolutions unfolding in North Africa and the Middle East are having an impact well beyond the Arab world. In Nigeria too, the effects are being felt. Here we publish a comment by a Nigerian Marxist on what lessons can be drawn from these events for workers in Nigeria.

The Nigerian ruling class continues to lose its social base. And rather than this process being reversed, it is accelerating. The main social base upon which this present bourgeois democratic experiment bases itself has been almost completely eroded. The ruling class finds itself more and more isolated from the ever increasing mass of Nigerian masses.

Of Nigeria’s 150 million population 40 million are unemployed. As 45% of the population is between the ages of 15 to 40 years, this means unemployment mainly affects the youth. The Nigerian ruling class is incapable of solving this problem. Only the working class can take on the task of eradicating unemployment.

On October 1st Nigeria celebrates 50 years of independence. A lot of money is going to be spent on the celebrations by the present ruling elite. But what is there to celebrate for the teeming masses of poor? The already terrible living conditions are getting worse as each day passes.

Nigerian Marxists have always called for the setting up of a trade union based mass workers’ party. The Nigerian trade unions have the authority, the power and the mass following to do this. A few years ago a half-hearted attempt was made to launch the Nigerian Labour Party without much success. The union leaders didn’t give their full backing. Now, however, the party is becoming more attractive and in some states large numbers of workers are joining. Here we publish an editorial from the December 2009 edition of the Workers’ Alternative on this question.

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) recently set up a Commission to investigate the extent of workers’ participation in and desire for the Labour Party. In spite of the Labour leadership’s claims that Nigerian workers do not desire a party of their own, the report of the investigation revealed the contrary.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the assassination of Leon Trotsky, the Nigerian section of the International Marxist Tendency organised a Marxist weekend school on August 27-28, where they discussed the history of the workers’ internationals and other questions. Comrades were very happy with the school and look forward to more such events.

Over 70% of the Nigerian population lives below the poverty line; life expectancy stands at 43 years; and 50,000 Nigerian women die from childbirth every year. Instead of finding a solution to these burning problems, the corrupt Nigerian elite is now playing with the idea of “electoral reform” and the labour leaders are falling for this. What is required is an independent party of the working class capable of leading the workers in a struggle to change society.

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