Once again, workers all over Nigeria will commemorate the May Day along with workers all over the world. We will throng to the Eagle Square in Abuja for the national celebration by Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, while in all the states of the federation, state councils of the trade union centres will equally host parades, pre-May Day symposiums and other activities to mark the day.
Upmost on the minds of millions of workers as we commemorate this International Day of Workers’ Solidarity will be the spiralling cost of living we face and the need for a long overdue upward review of the national minimum wage to help ameliorate the appalling conditions of our lives.
Rank and file workers disrupted the May Day ceremonies at Eagle Square last year. Our anger was clearly demonstrated as we chased out government officials from the parade ground. Adams Oshiomhole, a former NLC President who later became Edo state governor was equally disgraced as he tried to quell the mass anger.
This gingered the government’s efforts at instituting a tripartite committee to consider the trade unions’ legitimate demand for an upward review of the minimum wage. At that time, NLC and TUC were calling for a new minimum wage of N56,000. Recently, they have raised the amount demanded to N66,500, pointing out that cost of living had risen since the earlier demand was made.
But, even before the demand for N56,000 as the new minimum wage was made, a research commissioned by the TUC in 2015 showed that a worker with an average family of four persons required nothing less than N66,000 for the barest of a decent life. This is what informed the Socialist Workers and Youth League’s call for a new minimum wage of N66,000 three years ago.
Meanwhile, it is important to note that, even though that amount can hardly be considered a living wage, it will take mass struggle to make sure it is paid. The current situation we have on our hands with a significant number of states’ governments refusing to pay the abysmal N18,000 minimum wage seven years after it was passed, and/or where workers are owed backlogs of salaries, provides insight for us.
As Steve Biko noted: “the greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”. The bosses have been able to get away with the inhumane suffering they have brought on the us largely because the trade unions have refused to think of the power we, as the working class which they represent, wield.
“Labour creates wealth” as the NLC’s motto goes. It is our toil and sweat that generates the wealth which the bosses in and out of government appropriate to fund their ostentatious lifestyles. In a country where senators go home with not less than N14m every month, where governors and other elected as well as appointed public office-holders draw billions of naira from the purse of the state, there should be absolutely no reason for workers to be denied a living wage as national minimum wage.
The only conceivable reason for this sorry situation is that we have not stood up to fight the bosses to a standstill. Enough of making excuses for the bosses! This is the time for the trade unions to organise a mass general strike for the N66,500 national minimum wage with IMMEDIATE EFFECT!
We as rank and file workers must draw inspiration from the protests at last year’s May Day to realise that there must be pressures from below by ordinary workers on the leadership of the trade union movement, to make them act.
And we must not stop at demanding a living wage. The bosses are few, they are just 1% of the population or less. We are many, we are the 99.9%. We can no longer allow the few to exploit and oppress us. We must fight to emancipate ourselves. We must win political power.
Politics is condensed economics. The class which wields political power shapes the economy in its interest. The capitalist class has been able to continue to milk our labour power precisely because they control the state moulded in their own image, and with which they hold us in chains.
To win political power, we must organise politically – build a mass workers’ power with a revolutionary socialist agenda, to overthrow the state of the bosses, with mass action.
As Socialist Workers and Youth League (SWL) salutes Nigerian workers on this May Day, we call on you to go beyond the bounds of minimal incremental gains. Nigeria is on the edge of a catastrophe, as the global capitalist economy wobbles on its contradictions. The worrisome rise of insecurity across the country, mind-boggling corruption of the elite, hopelessness of the youth and unbearable sufferings of working-class people are symptoms of the inability of social progress being made on the basis of the bosses’ capitalist order.
Workers and youth, unite and fight! Together, with our self-emancipatory struggle; we will build a new society based on solidarity, cooperation and mutual respect, where social justice and the wellbeing of everybody is guaranteed, collectively. Towards this, we demand:
- The immediate enactment of a new national minimum wage of N66,500;
- All elected and appointed public officials must earn no more than the average worker;
- The constitution of workers and youth committees in our communities as popular organs of working-class people’s power and democracy from below;
- Free and qualitative healthcare and education for all;
- All politicians that have corruptly enriched themselves at our expense be brought to book by popular tribunals of the working masses;
- Abolition of all laws and customs that undermine women’s rights;
- Unity and struggle of the Nigerian working-class with working people all over the world, against the capitalist order and for a better world.
This is the spirit of the May Day. This is what inspired the Haymarket martyrs whose blood watered the seed of May 1 as the International Day of Workers’ Solidarity, in 1886. This is what we must fight for now, and win.
The workers united and determined cannot be defeated!
Forward to the defeat of the bosses! Forward to building socialism!! Long live workers’ power!!!
leaflet issued by the Socialist Workers and Youth League (SWL), May 1, 2018