…and HA celebrates his “birthday mate” wife

by Todun Jagun

 HA_75

All roads in the labour movement led to Osogbo, Osun state, on January 7. It was Comrade Hassan Adebayo Summonu’s 75th birthday. As the pioneer president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, who had also done Congress proud, serving as Secretary General of the Organisation of African Trade Unions Unity (OATUU) for a quarter of a century, the current NLC leadership with Comrade Ayuba Wabba considered it apt to honour Comrade “HA” as he is fondly called by friends.

This was done with a National Symposium of the NLC held at the Aurora Events Centre, Osogbo. The theme was “The change Nigeria needs and the role of workers in the process of change”. Opening the event, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, the NLC President eulogised Summonu as a pillar for the working class. He commended the humility and consistency of Comrade Summonu.

Professor Toye Olorode, botanist and activist, and Dr Nasir Fagge, the ASUU President were at hand as guest speakers. Olorode said change means different things to different people. The change that would have any meaning for working people, he argued, is that which makes our lives better. He spoke of contentious forces acting on governments, advising workers to push these governments to act on behalf of the poor, arguing that if workers don’t push them, others (the rich and mighty) will.

He asked the federal government and Nigerians to beware of the IMF whose Managing Director Ms Christine Lagarde was visiting at the time. The IMF, he said, has never meant well for poor countries. It tries to control the fate of such countries, making them to adopt anti-people policies. Privatisation, Professor Olorode said, is a one of such policies. It has extended beyond privatisation of commodities to the dangerous phenomenon of privatisation of education, he angrily noted.

He summed up with the position that “the Nigerian working, class must have a political programme” and on the basis of this build “a popular front” of progressive forces. There might not be the need for labour to form a party though, he averred

Dr Fagge to a great extent held a common view. He called on Nigerians to form “a popular front for socialism”. However, he expressed the view that President Muhammad Buhari is a man of integrity that would want to do a lot, but some of the people around him are of questionable character, thus, the change expected by Nigerians will not be forthcoming, except a “popular front” is built.

While SWL shares the commitment of the guest speakers to struggle for working class emancipation, we have to warn against the dangers of “popular frontism”. Rather than lead to socialism, it leads to the watering down of anti-establishment politics. A socialist party rooted in the working class has to be built, by the trade unions and activists as (a central) part of building a united front for working class-people’s self-emancipatory struggle.

There were more praises for Hassan Summonu with testimonies after the political discussions. When the celebrant, spoke, it was, amongst other things, to warmly celebrate his wife who equally turned 71years on the same day. Without her sacrifices, he said, he could not have successfully served as OATUU Secretary General.