This year’s commemoration of the May Day celebration took place on Monday 1st May 2017 at the Eagle Square, will for long be remembered as a day the Nigerian workers demonstrated that workers determined and united can never be defeated.
Trouble started when the minister of Labour, Chris Ngige was called to present his May Day speech and instead of the minister to address the workers, he delegated one of the officials of the ministry to present the speech on his behalf as he was representing President Muhammadu Buhari. The workers resisted this “substitutionism” and prevented the official from speaking.
In a quick spontaneous moment, the workers occupied the podium. This led to the disruption of the May Day celebration for a while, even the intervention of Adams Oshiomhole former NLC President could not pacify the workers who took control of the podium thereby preventing any further presentation of speeches by both the Government officials and labour leaders. All efforts made to calm the workers proved abortive as they insisted on a new minimum wage’s pronouncement.
The policemen in their usual characteristic as agents of coercion subsequently dislodged the workers from the podium. This led to a mass work out by many workers from the Eagle Square.
This action by the Nigerian workers, has surely sent signals to the government that the workers cannot be taken for granted any longer again.
However, after a while law and order was restored. The workers commenced the annual May Day parade. The NLC and TUC presidents took the salute this time around without government functionaries which included the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, who had taken flight, frightened by the mass action. The Socialist Workers League(SWL) Abuja Area Council took part in the parade.
The 2017 May Day activities were kicked off on Thursday 27th April with a press conference, addressed by Peters Adeyemi a Deputy President of NLC and Chair of the 2017 Joint NLC/TUC May Day Committee. In his addressed, he announced the activities lined up for the 2017 joint NLC/TUC workers’ solidarity day commemoration.
The theme of this year’s May Day was “Labour Relations in Economic Recession an appraisal”. Adeyemi pointed out that the symbolism of May Day cannot be quantified as it stands as a day to reflect on the working class internationalism. He called on the government to come up with economic policies that are pro-poor.
He also called for the continuous search and eventual release of the remaining Chibok girls abducted over three years ago. He appealed to the abductors of the girls to lay down their arms and give way to a reconciliatory dialogue.
The 2017 May Day. He further informed is equally a moment for workers to mark the third year of the Nyanya bomb blast that killed over 19 working people on May 1, 2014 and the earlier bomb blasts in the same area that same year on April 14 in which some 90 lives were lost. The working-class movement, he said will always remember these women and men and the thousands more lost in the war between Boko Haram and the Federal Government.
In the course of the press conference, the workers paid tribute to the Haymarket martyrs as heroes of the labour movement. These eight revolutionaries, namely Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel, Fielden, Oscar Neebe Michael Schwab George Engel, Adolph Fischer and Louis Lingg were unjustly arrested and convicted of murder on November 1 1887, in the wake of the general strike demanding the eight hour work day, across the USA.
Subsequent to the press conference, a May Day Lecture was held on Saturday 29th April 2017 at the Olaitan Oyerinde hall, Labour house. The Lecture was delivered by Prof. Olorode with Femi Aborisade, a leading member of the Socialist Workers League as one of the discussants.
by Peter Adejobi