An historic mass movement against police brutality and to end bad governance has been sweeping across the country for three weeks. This was barely a week after the would-have-been NLC/TUC general strike against rising costs of living, expressed sharply in the increases of fuel pump price and electricity tariffs, was called off.
This protest movement is powered by young people; professionals, students, self-employed, artisans and workers who are members of your unions. It has received widespread support from across the world. Unfortunately, the trade union movement’s intervention at this defining hour has been rather limited. The only explicit statements of support over the last few days have been from the two oil workers’ unions; NUPENG & PENGASSAN). We salute them for upholding the traditions of standing with the popular masses which they demonstrated during the June 12 moment in our history.
Thus far, according to Amnesty International and other sources, including from our activists on the field of struggle, not less than 15 protesters have been killed by the police and thugs acting on behalf of the 1%ers, oppressors who benefit from the suffocative status quo. Many have also been wounded in attacks and their properties such as cars they used to come over to the protest grounds burnt.
This should not be the case. And this is definitely not in the traditions of the founding principles of the trade union movement in Nigeria. The battles for independence and against military dictatorship were won largely with working-class organisations and youths unity.
We recall the alliances in practice of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and All Nigeria Trade Union Federation (ANTUF) with the Zikist National Vanguard (ZNV) of youths as the pivot around which the anti-colonial movement hinged in the 1940s and early 1950s. The Nigeria Trade Union Congress (NTUC) stood firmly with the National Youth Congress (NYC) at the dawn of Independence to fight against and get the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact repealed.
The labour movement and youths also stood together to form the Alliance for Democratic Rights to challenge the ruling class in the Second Republic. We equally remember the clear stand NLC took in support of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) when students were killed at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria on 25 May 1986.
And since the reinstatement of the Republic at the turn of the century, the youth have always heeded the call of the trade unions whenever it did call for and actually prosecuted a general strike. The youths were always the most militant fighters for our collective cause at the barricades in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2012 to mention some of the most significant of the general strikes in the 21st century.
NLC, TUC and each of the individual trade unions cannot afford to be silent at this juncture. The youths are at the barricades fighting the good fight for all society. The youths fighting and those that have been killed include members of your unions or/and children of members of your unions.
Professional organisations like the Nigeria Bar Association have risen to their support. Women, our mothers, and grandmothers have taken to the streets to demand an end to police brutality and the killings of protesters. History is being made today. In years to come, generations of workers will ask where the unions were at this turning point. They will ask what stand the unions took. Not to take a stand is itself a stand and one which history will forever condemn.
Coalition for Revolution (CORE) thus calls on the NLC, TUC & the trade unions to come out decisively on the side of the mass movement. We urge you to not only speak out loud, but to fully support this struggle in every way possible – materially and politically.
To support the movement is indeed to support trade union members who like the protesters (many of whom as we earlier noted are themselves members of unions, but as individuals) face police brutality, suffer the consequences of bad governance and systemic exploitation and oppression which is at the root of bad governance.
We thus urge NLC, TUC & the trade unions to, without any further hesitation, join the protests with a 48-hour general strike to demand full compliance of the federal government with the #EndSARS #EndBadGovernance movement.
We also seize this opportunity to call for a more concerted efforts of the trade union movement to support the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike.
Working-class people and youth united cannot be defeated.
Baba AYE Gbenga KOMOLAFE