The Nigerian state will once again roll out the drums to commemorate Nigeria’s flag independence, on 1 October. However, the poor masses have no cause to celebrate. Hunger, poverty, insecurity, and disillusionment stalk the land. The need for struggle to emancipate ourselves from the shackles of exploiters and oppressors in power has never been more pressing in the history of the country.
Thus, the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) will be organizing a #1stOctober nationwide protest. We realize that the British colonialists handed over sovereignty to a local ruling class of self-serving politicians and businesspeople. They have ruined the lives of poor masses.
Consecutive governments since 1960 have put the interests of a few over the interests of the vast majority of Nigerians – workers, poor farmers, artisans, traders, junior civil servants, and lower cadres of professionals.
The APC regime of Maj Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd) has taken the incompetence, corruption, and repressive tendencies of the country’s ruling class to the height of infamy. Tens of thousands of workers have been sacked. Many more have suffered salary cuts. Farmers cannot access seedlings and other agricultural inputs. Traders and other informal economy workers have no access to credit.
The trillions of naira, mostly borrowed in the name of an Economic Sustainability Plan, ostensibly to cushion the effects of the Covid-19 lockdowns have been largely stolen through an extremely opaque digital application process that has completely short-changed suffering people in the informal economy who bore the worst effects of the lockdowns
Meanwhile, the cost of living continues to rise at an astronomic rate. Many families cannot feed properly, as food inflation pushed a further 7 million people into poverty after the country had already become the poverty capital of the world.
The country’s public health and education facilities are in terrible states. Doctors are on strike; other health workers are warming up for a strike. And university teachers are also likely to go on strike soon.
All these are because the regime refuses to respect collective agreements reached with their unions. Indeed, the regime has failed to fund these social services which serve the poor masses. Our rulers do not care. They receive the best healthcare in the world, overseas, and in highly-priced private hospitals in Nigeria. Their children as well attend the best of schools overseas and in private universities.
For how long will we keep on living with this tale of two countries with first-class life for the elite few and hell for working-class people?
Even our very lives are now in jeopardy. Physical insecurity has also become the order of the day. More than 4,000 people have been killed and at least 3,100 kidnapped this year alone. Several families have become bankrupt as they sold all they had to pay kidnappers.
Yet, bandits continue to roam freely. The regime cannot apprehend them, but it is always quick to flex its repressive muscles against unarmed Nigerians. Peaceful demonstrations have regularly been brutally dispersed. Many people have also been illegally locked up for speaking out on social media.
We seize this opportunity to remind the regime that no amount of intimidation has ever extinguished the embers of resistance. Nigerian youths, including CORE activists, demonstrated this with the massive #EndSARS rebellion last October.
We still remember the bloody massacre of protesters which culminated on 20 October. CORE is working with other change-seeking organizations and people to equally commemorate this historic event. We shall unfold the plans for this in due course.
It must also be pointed out that dozens of poor Nigerian youths who were indiscriminately arrested during last year’s protests are still languishing in jail across the country. This is unjust and totally unacceptable. We demand their immediate and unconditional release.
CORE is very much aware of the fact that the local elites collaborated with the departing British colonialists to truncate the aim of workers, poor peasants, women, and youth who fought for independence-as-liberation. We are thus committed to fighting for Total Liberation as spelled out in the CORE Charter for Total Liberation.
In the light of the current situation in the country, our demands for the #1stOctoberProtest are as follows:
- Reinstatement of all sacked public sector workers, reversal of salary cuts in both the public and private sector, and provision of needed credit for small businesses in the informal economy to get back on their feet.
- Full respect for the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression and assembly. The immediate release of all detainees and prisoners being held for participating in peaceful protests or exercising their right to free speech.
- Recognition of the #EndSARS rebellion’s martyrs as national heroes, with; their names immortalized, the regime’s unreserved apology for killing them, and compensation paid to their families.
- Full implementation of the outstanding Memoranda of Understanding and all other collective agreements reached with the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) & Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU).
- Adequate public funding of health and education to ensure quality health and education for all. A ban on all public officials, including the president, traveling overseas for medical treatment. The children of all public officials must also attend public schools in Nigeria.
- Implementation of the N30,000 national minimum wage in all states and private companies as stipulated in the 2019 National Minimum Wage Act. And the immediate commencement of negotiations for an upward review of the minimum wage with the trade unions, with the institutionalization of annual increment linked to increases in the cost of living.
- A massive youth employment program, which will not be based on party patronage as both PDP and APC have done. This must be designed and governed by the youths organized independently in their communities, in collaboration with trade unions in the different sectors of the program.
- Paid 12-month maternity leave for all working women and childcare support allocation for all children under the age of five, pad to their mothers regardless of status
- Safeguarding the lives of the poor masses against bandits. All sponsors of banditry and insurgency in government and private businesses must be identified and brought to book.
Baba Aye Gbenga Komolafe