NO TO HUNGER & POVERTY! Workers & Youths, Unite & FIGHT!! The People United Cannot Be Defeated!!!

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Life has never been as difficult for poor working people in Nigeria’s history as in recent times. The people; workers, poor farmers, artisans, traders, women and youth, have been pushed to the wall. We are fed up and we have started fighting back. The stakes have never been higher in the struggle to define how society must be run; one where the rich keep getting richer and the poor are condemned to worsening poverty as we currently have, or one where working people banish hunger and poverty by overthrowing our oppressors and destroying the exploitative system they represent.

We know what the problems are because we daily feel their pangs. The prices of basic commodities such as food have increased at astronomical rates. Meanwhile, it is exceedingly difficult to find a means of livelihood. Young people looking for jobs cannot find any reasonable employment. Tens of thousands of people who had worked for years have been rendered unemployed as many factories shut down. Working people in the informal economy cannot access credits from banks and other working-class people do not have the money to buy what they sell. Meanwhile, they are made to pay a thousand and one levies and fees to local and state governments as well as to thugs serving by these sub-national governments.

Hunger and poverty have become the daily companion of scores of millions of Nigerians. Insecurity also stalks the land. Kidnapping has become a daily occurrence in cities and rural areas alike. The newspapers report high-profile kidnap cases of several people or a few prominent persons, where the ransom demands run into millions of naira. But thousands of poor people are also kidnapped every month for ransoms as low as twenty thousand naira, but with no less agony for them and their families.

We know that this catastrophic situation besetting us is not equally borne by the rich and powerful people who rule us. They benefit from the dynamics driving the hardships facing us. Despite the mass poverty generated by the policies of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s APC government, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 3.46% in the last quarter of 2023, exceeding analysts’ expected 2.4% growth. But of course, this growth benefited just a handful of super-rich capitalists in government and big business.

It is not that the Nigerian state does not have a coherent economic policy, as some people think. Nor is it that it is not working well, as even some activists argue. The capitalist system is designed to work this way: make the rich capitalists richer by exploiting the labour of workers and the natural wealth in our lands. The secret of our poverty lies in their wealth.

That is why, capitalists in some sectors of the economy such made record profits last year, while working people were dying of hunger. The combined profit of 10 of the big banks was N1.7 trillion, in just the first half of 2023 alone. During the same period, the seven most profitable companies in the country, comprising five of these banks, Dangote Cement and MTN Nigeria, made a total profit of N1.89 trillion! 

So, the problem is not lack of wealth. It is that the few capitalists exploiting us and their companies appropriate the wealth which our labour creates. And it does not end with super profits for companies. Those in government are there to serve the interests of the ruling class, starting with themselves. As the Trade Union Congress noted in its New Year message, the 2024 budget is structured “to serve the interests of the ruling class, neglecting the pressing needs of the wider population”.

Nigerians have stopped agonising and have started organising with renewed passion born out of hunger and anger. A massive wave of resistance kicked off at the beginning of February. The first of these spontaneous protests were organised by poor working women in Niger, Kaduna and Kano states. By the second and third week of February, the fire of rebellion had spread to other states such as Osun, Ogun and Lagos. In the last week of February, the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) and Joint Action Front (JAF) alliance commenced protests on 26 February; a day before NLC’s declared 2-day nationwide protests against hardship. 

Continued mass pauperisation and insecurity amid abundance being enjoyed by a few people point to the likelihood of deepening resistance. We need to understand and draw lessons from this first wave of the current movement to adequately prepare for, and fight to win in this class struggle against the rich few.

First, we are likely to still see more spontaneous outbursts of rage, as people move from shouting at convoys of big politicians that ebí n’pa wá (we are hungry) to taking over the streets. Second, it takes organisation to generalise these localised spontaneous waves into a nationwide tsunami of working-class people’s power.

Third, organised labour, with its structural power and mass workers’ base, has a singular leverage for organising the most widespread resistance, as we could see with trade unions taking action, in every single state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, albeit with different degrees of turnout. Fourth, radical and revolutionary civil society organisations and coalitions like the Take-It-Back movement (TIB), CORE, JAF and TIB have a critical mass that can independently organise protests, and which has to be consolidated.

The lessons to draw from do not end there. Cracks emerged once again in the trade union movement as the TUC distanced itself from the protests, saying the NLC did not carry it along. NLC also called off the planned two-day protest after a successful first day of action, under pressures from the Nigerian state. And it did this without engaging in discussions with its civil society allies who only learnt of this on national television after the NLC’s National Executive Council meeting.

We need to guard against these sorts of developments as we march forward. We must work towards the broadest possible unity of working-class people, trade unions, youths, and radical civil society around the demands for a living wage as the national minimum wage, full payment of the N35,000 wage award to all workers with effect from September 2023, cessation of local and state governments collection of tolls, levies and other fees which are impoverishing petty traders and vendors, full reversal of fee hikes in public tertiary institutions, and the return of fuel pump price to the pre-Tinubu administration’s amount of N210.

The trade unions need to back these demands up with a series of clearly defined general strikes until victory is won, and not with mere threats and never-ending ultimatums of strike. Rank-and-file workers must demand concrete action from their unions’ leadership if they are sluggish to act. Revolutionary left groups, as part of radical civil society, must strengthen their collaboration as a fighting alliance and mobilise working-class communities to take over the streets.

We must fight to end the terrible hunger whipping the poor and establish a government of the working people to banish poverty. We can win the current demands of the movement only with radical struggle. The government will not concede to mere threats. This struggle is a battle in the class war between us and our exploiters. We can permanently end hunger and poverty only with the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system, the ruling class which benefits from it, and the governments which represent them. And we must wage this war until we win. The people united and determined cannot be defeated.

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