It is now a year since General Muhammadu Buhari was elected as president on the platform of the All Progressives Congress. It is also a year since the uninspiring leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congres, with Comrade Abdulwahed Omar as President, finished its term, and the trade union centre got a renewed lease of vibrancy.
In this period, there have been waves of strikes in workplaces and protests in communities as working class-people rise up to resist attacks on their wellbeing, by the rich few and their governments, across the country. Unions have led trike actions have continued in virtually every sector of the economy.
In community after community, youths and other residents protested against epileptic power supply and crazy bills. Students have protested against fee hike in different campuses. Mass rallies called by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress have also witnessed tremendous support on issues ranging from demands to end corruption in October, to the rejection of a hike in electricity tariff in February.
All these battles are important. It is through struggle that we can win concessions from the bosses. It is also through struggle, more than anything else, that we learn to fight, pursuing the ultimate aim of the working class: an end to the exploitation and oppression of the many, by the few.
But, for us to achieve this central goal, we have to harness our might, unite the resistance and go beyond challenging the bosses’ power to fighting for power, as the working masses. The different factions of the ruling elite class all stand for the interests of the rich few.
Muhammadu Buhari as the APC flagbearer defeated the PDP last year simply because the teeming mass of Nigerians desired change. The PDP was correctly seen as being a nest of thieves. The “Dasukigate” revelations of how PDP stalwarts and supporters made away with over $2.1bn from the public coffers -and which is just a tip of the iceberg- confirms this.
This however, is just a part of the story. A significant number of those calling the shots in APC today were members of the PDP for years. And even those that have been in opposition at the centre, while they held the purses of states for themselves and their parties, like Mr. Babatunde Fashola are no less guilty of being corrupt.
As Lagos state governor, he upgraded his personal website with
N78m from the government’s coffers and claimed to have dug just two boreholes in the government house with N139m. And he is today the most powerful minister in a supposedly anti-corruption regime. All this point to the fact that, essentially, there is little or no difference between the APC and the PDP.
This is further demonstrated by the continuance of anti-poor people policies such as the increment in electricity tariff, in outright contravention of a subsisting court order and the removal of fuel subsidy. Despite the rising cost of living which such measures have already started to make even worse, workers’ salaries are not being paid and the governors’ have given notice that they will not respect the clause for an upward review of the minimum wage this year, as stipulated in the 2011 National Minimum Wage Act.
The trade unions have to take on the fight for a new minimum wage in earnest. The capitalist system is in crisis. The collapse in oil prices which the state holds out as an excuse is not tenable. Workers must resist the bosses plan to make us pay for the greed of the rich.
Uniting our resistance to win the different battles before us, and ultimately the class war against the bosses, closer ties must be forged: between the leaderships and rank and file of trade unions as well as between trade unions and civil society organisations as well as communities, particularly the youths in these. And most importantly, there is the pressing need, now more than ever, to build a workers’ party on the basis of a socialist programme for change.
The current moment in Nigeria is part of the worldwide quest for alternatives by the working masses. Capitalism has proved itself to be a failure, which can only make life worse for the poor. But, societies are not overcome because they are anti-progress. It is through intense struggle, of ideas and organisation between the classes that represent change and those that benefit from the established order, that we can win system change.
This is the time to rethink, to reflect and to act. We must unite our resistance now: for better wages; improved living conditions; against electricity tariff increase; against fuel price hikes and ultimately to replace the capitalist system with workers’ power, otherwise, whatever concessions we win, will be rolled back as soon as the bosses can do so.