Life has been very hard for the common women, men and youth in Nigeria, under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. The cost of living has continued to rise, making life difficult for poor working-people. On top of that, extra judicial killings by police and increasing deaths in the hands of bandits and kidnappers have become common occurrences. As if all these were not enough, the government appears all set to increase Value Added Tax (VAT) and the pump price of fuel.
This sort of situation is not acceptable. We stiffly resist the policies which are used to make life unbearable for us. It is this perspective which informed hundreds of residents of Mushin Constituency 2 who stormed the Eko Electricity Distribution company (EEKDC) headquarters at Marina on the Island in Lagos, mid-April.
They got tired of paying monthly light bills that cost more than the month’s house rent. And they were no longer just going to fold their hands and take such nonsense. Filled with anger and pain they kept singing and rendering powerful chants in an emotional way.
From these and discussions I had with some of them, I could hear directly from these working people of the kind of struggles their communities had faced since putting up resistance against over-bloated electricity charges. For daring to stand up against fraudulent estimated bills and lack of supply of prepaid meter as directed by the government via “minister of darkness” Babatunde Fashola, they had been targeted by the state earlier. But they remained undaunted.
The 16 April 16th protest was the second mass action by Mushin residents at the EEKDC Marina office in a year. After the demonstration, the privileged capitalist owners of EEKDC sent the police officers to the streets of Mushin constituency II, where they arrested seven people.
This was a replica the reaction they unleashed the first time the people of Mushin put up peaceful resistance to obnoxiously high estimated bills without prepaid meters. Several young Nigerians were locked up including a pregnant woman that got into labour in Kirikiri and gave birth through CS section on the order of prison authorities without the consent of family members.
For over a year, residents in the working-class quarters of Ilasa, Alafia, Papa Ajao and Itire in Lagos, have been clamouring for what is their right – electricity supply. This is a consequence of the privatization of public services like provision of electricity. The cabals of members of the ruling class that buy the people’s property through godfather-back-door-plugs get these at peanut prices way below the actual value of the state-owned enterprises.
But they will do anything to maximise profit from ownership of the property, to the detriment of the poor masses. The people’s welfare and rights are not their concern. Their concern is ever increasing profit margin – meanwhile they cannot even guarantee regular electricity any better than when it was wholly in the hands of the government. Meanwhile they are always supported by a propaganda machine which includes misleading professors that always support exploitative policies like privatization claiming they lead to higher efficiency
It could be a bit complicated explaining to the masses how our different problems under Buhari and the ruling class parties in general are all being part and parcel of the same thing – the capitalist system. For example, discussing with residents of the Mushin constituency 2 during the protest, it took a lot of patient explaining to show that the fight is not just against the EEKDC officials but the capitalists they voted for, who promote commercialization of all strands of our social life.
It was difficult convincing some of them that the capitalist politicians care less for working-class people’s welfare and that police brutality is not accidental because the police are an instrument of oppression meant only to defend the capitalists, including politicians and business wo/men. This is because a lot of them were grassroots members of the parties of the bosses’ parties.
The capitalists cannot rule us simply with force – we are much more than them and those in uniform who bear arms for them as police or military. They have to mentally enslave us as well. This is why Bob Marley asked us to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, pointing out that none but ourselves can free our minds.
Religion, ethnicity and incorporating us within the structures of their establishment parties as mere pawns are some of the instruments the bosses’ use to promote false consciousness in broad sections of working-class people, giving the impression that we are all in the same boat.
The ruling class propaganda machine and general ideological dominance is definitely strong and with far reach across virtually every part of society. But while they can fool some people sometime, they cannot fool all the people all the time. The difficult life we are made to live, materially is also food for thought that inspires confrontation with the capitalist system.
As activists, we have to help raise the awareness of working-class people and fan the embers of resistance into flames of revolution. To be able to do this, we must earn the trust of the people, building bonds with them by being part and parcel of their daily struggles. The people, whom by the way, we are part of, need us as advocates, comrades-at-barricade and left-wing social media influencers.
It is not for us to be merely dissecting, analyzing and relating to the working class in a condescending manner. We have to help working-class people better identify their true class enemies. We have the compass of theory, this should not be merely for interpretation, particularly as is usually the case, when this is done in a patronizing manner. We must always take the pains and patience to march side by side with the people, explaining to them as they learn in the ultimate university, which is the “school of hard knocks” in real life.
The revolution might be envisioned in a Marxist conference in Nassarawa or incubated at a Coalition for Revolution (CORE) symposium in Lagos. It will have to be nurtured by how close we are to the people and how they really perceive us at non-electoral Buhari times like this, to represent their interest as a class. The revolution will be hatched by resistance of the masses and led by the forces who have been with the people and who provide education and direction when their “massquake” erupts.
The workers united cannot be defeated. We need to overcome sectarian organizational, political and ethnic divides, and come together as one oppressed people to fight the ruling class before this Buhari hard times consumes us all. If we keep picking struggles that are personal to us or comfortable for us. We must remember that the consequence of impending VAT increments and fuel pump price increment will hammer all of us.
Together, we must stand up against: insecurity across the country, police brutality, commercialization of education and the lack of cheap and alternative sources of power because these affect all of us.
The Mushin constituency II struggles and many others across the country is for the radical left to take up till prepaid meters are supplied. We also need to stand by those charged to court on framed-up charges so that they be discharged and acquitted. Such solidarity will embolden other working-class communities across the nation to fight back because they will then know they won’t be left alone to the tortuous fangs of these wicked rulers.
By fighting together with the masses, we will boost the revolutionary guts of our people to stand up, speak against and kick out the old establishments and their subordinate forces, which include; corrupt politicians, government agencies, stolen public companies, as well as confused and diabolical professors that worked as INEC officials to rig elections for their pay masters, while they continue in favour of the ruling class to proscribe unions and punish activists on campuses.
Theory is proved in action, and not as mere words. Trust is earned through continuous action and service to working-class people. A verb is an action word. Let us unite and fight with fellow working-class people at risk in the trenches!
#PrepaidMeterOrNothing #CheapElectricityOrNoPayment #EndPrivatisation #EndbadGovernment #takeitback #RevolutionNow
by Eniafe Selassie