Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)

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2 November 2016

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SACK OF 16 NLC AND NUT LEADERS IN OGUN STATE IS A DISPLAY OF EXECUTIVE RECKLESSNESS BY GOV. AMOSUN'S GOVERNMENT

DSM DEMANDS IMMEDIATE AND UNCONDITIONAL RECALL OF THE SACKED LEADERS AND MEETING OF WORKERS' DEMANDS

The decision of the Governor Ibikunle Amosun-led government of Ogun state to dismiss the chairman of the Ogun state Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Mr. Akeem Ambali, his Vice who also doubles as the chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) Mr. Dare Ilekoya and 14 others is anti-worker, despotic and a crass display of executive recklessness.

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Ogun State Chapter, stands solidly behind Ogun state workers and demands the immediate reversal of this dismissal, reinstatement of all affected 16 workers' leaders, meeting of workers' demands and a halt to all forms of victimization of workers and their leaders in Ogun state.

This draconian decision is allegedly based on the recommendation of an undemocratic panel of inquiry set up to investigate an alleged misconduct by union leaders during the last 2016 World Teachers' Day celebration. But this is only a ruse as there is no doubt that this dismissal is in connection with the on-going strike of the state workers which has effectively grounded activities at the state secretariat, public schools, local government offices etc. After all other efforts including the imposition of a "no work, no pay" policy had obviously failed to succeed, the agenda of the government is to use this sack to intimidate, cow and break the fighting spirit of the striking workers.

The strike, which was called after the expiration of a 21-day notice, is over a series of provocative and anti-worker policies of the state government especially the non-remittance of various deductions from workers' salaries to the appropriate quarters and the mismanagement of such funds by the Amosun-led state government. These deductions, totaling several millions of naira, are meant for workers' contributory pension scheme, check-off dues and cooperative contributions. Instead of remitting them to the appropriate quarters, the state government diverted and stole this money in blatant violation of extant labour laws. According to reports available to the DSM, retirees in the state have not been paid since 2012 because pension funds that were deducted were not remitted to the pension fund administrator but diverted in contravention of the pension laws.

AMOSUN IS A TYRANT

A critical survey of the series of anti-poor and worker policies of the Amosun-led government will show that this is no democratic government. Governor Amosun is a tyrant. He operates as a sole administrator who rides roughshod over the rights of workers, their dependants and the mass of poor people in the state. For instance, according to reports, the state government unilaterally suspended unionism at the Tai Solarin College of Education (TASCE) thus paving the way for the current situation where the state government is owing workers of the institution as much as 15 months' salaries and allowances. Also reportedly, the same state government unilaterally scrapped the joint allocation committee which is statutorily empowered to distribute local government allocations thus leading to lack of transparency in the handling of the finances of the local government and the crippling of their activities all together. Also the state government has not been transparent in the usage of the bailout it recently received from the federal government. The sum-total of all these attacks on workers' rights has led to immense hardship for retirees and workers as well as their families.

Meanwhile none of these issues are new. Since 2014, the workers in Ogun state have been agitating over these issues without any reasonable response from the state government. The Amosun-led government has been intimidating workers instead of trying to dialogue with a view to meeting their legitimate demands. Indeed earlier in March of this year, workers embarked on a 10-day strike which was suspended after traditional rulers in the state intervened. But up till now, none of the provisions of the agreement signed then have been implemented by the state government thus forcing workers to embark on the on-going strike action.

Surprisingly the reaction of the Amosun-led government to the present strike which was called after the government's consistent show of insensitivity to workers' plight has been anything less than hostile. The state government has since imposed a "no work, no pay" policy and unleashed armed thugs to trail and hunt down labour leaders and worker activists. This is together with the several unprintable names and insults the governor himself has hauled at workers since the strike began. The latest in this aggressive attitude to what is no more than a trade and industrial dispute is the dismissal of 16 workers' leaders.

NO TO SIT-AT-HOME STRIKE! MASS PROTEST AND OTHER ACTIONS UNTIL VICTORY!!

The DSM fully supports the call of the NLC national leadership for a congress and rally to begin to challenge the tyranny of the Amosun government. However this should not just be a one-off affair or activity. Otherwise this will only give room for the Amosun government to recover and launch a new offensive against workers and their leaders. Starting from this moment, the NLC must abandon its failed stay-at-home-strike strategy and instead map out a consistent line of mass actions like congresses, rallies, protest marches, press conferences, symposia that shall take place from time to time together with the strike until all the demands of workers are won.

It is crucial for the NLC and the entire labour movement to draw appropriate lessons from the current dismissal of the workers' leaders in Ogun state. A key lesson is that this dismissal might not have happened if the NLC had been proactive at the beginning of the strike by organizing congresses, mass rallies and demonstrations on the major streets of Abeokuta and its environs. This would have allowed the workers to take their case directly to the members of the public whom the Amosun-led government is hoping to use against the workers. Such consistent public activities and protest marches armed with leaflets, handbills, posters and placards explaining the insincerity and anti-poor characteristics of the Amosun-led government to both workers and other categories of the working masses in the state could also have allowed the NLC to win many members of the public like artisans, transporters, market women and men, the youth and oppressed masses to the side of the unions thus isolating the state government and thereby weakening its ability to repress. Unfortunately, rather than do this, the labour leaders went into hiding in fear that they would be attacked by hoodlums sponsored by the state government. Yes we in the DSM have no doubt that the threats to NLC leaders' lives were real. Nevertheless, we believe that only the constant and consistent mobilization of the working masses into the streets for protests and demonstrations can defeat any ploy or threat. The Oyo state workers were able to demonstrate this with seven weeks of strike and mass rallies between June and July, 2016

In drawing these lessons, the NLC must equally remember its recent experience in Nassarawa state where police fired at a protest of workers led by no other person than the NLC president Ayuba Wabba, reportedly killing two workers. What this shows is that the capitalist state has no sympathy for the working class. Therefore, the working class is not expected to show understanding to the interests of the oppressor class but to organize to fight uncompromisingly for its own class interest.

With the untold hardship and immeasurable suffering that workers and retirees in over 27 states are going through as a result of refusal of state governments to pay salaries and pensions, there is no justifiable reason why the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) cannot call, as a first step, for a one-day nationwide general strike and mass protest to demonstrate the anger and disenchantment of the entirety of the working class. Without national action there is the danger that the current strike in Ogun state will be isolated, as it was the case in Oyo and other states, allowing the labour leaders to make rotten compromises. Such a general strike would bring together and give direction to the growing anger in the country and send a clear signal to the government and the capitalist ruling class at all levels that the working masses would accept nothing less than N56, 000 as the new national minimum wage at the end of the negotiation that will reportedly start soon.

FOR A MASS WORKERS POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE TO CAPITALISM

After all is said and done, the labour movement must equally begin to draw the conclusions that except for minimal concessions, there is no possibility that workers' welfare can be sufficiently and permanently guaranteed on the basis of the capitalist system. The on-going economic recession which constitutes the background to the current bankruptcy of the states and the loss of revenue afflicting the federal government is not an accident. It is a condition that follows every few period of economic growth under capitalism. Therefore, even if the economy recovers in the immediate future, it is only a matter of time before another economic crisis come calling.

More so, an economic recovery would not even automatically mean that workers welfare will improve. In the last 10 years when crude oil sale boomed, the condition of most workers has only gone from bad to worse while inequality has increased with vast wealth concentrated in the hands of an increasingly narrowing few. All this means that together with the struggle to fight for improvement and concessions, labour must offer a clear way out of the capitalist crises that the working masses confronts by forming and building a mass workers' political alternative armed with socialist policies to rescue Nigeria from the economic and social peril the country faces.

JOIN THE DSM

If you agree that there is a need to build a labour movement that fights energetically and uncompromisingly for its members, please join the DSM. The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) is a democratic socialist organization that believes that Nigeria vast human and material resources are enough to ensure a happy and comfortable live for all its citizens. Unfortunately, capitalism has ensured that these enormous resources have only benefitted a few people while vast majority wallow in stupendous poverty. The DSM campaigns for public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under democratic workers' control and management as a panacea to begin to ensure that we take control of the vast wealth and ensure it goes to benefit the mass majority.

This, alongside a democratic plan of the economy and the implementation of socialist programme, can ensure a rapid building of a self-reliant and industrialized economy capable of providing a life of comfort and abundance for a majority of its people. This can only be achieved when the workers organize to take political power. This is why members of the DSM along with others including trade unionists, socialist, community and youth activists have formed the Socialist of Nigeria (SPN) as a political party representing the interests of the workers, youth and poor masses even while still calling on the trade unions to use their enormous powers to form a more authoritative party based on the same programmes.

The DSM through the Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) also intervenes in support of struggles of workers over pay, welfare, conditions and democratic rights. Please join us so that together we can defend economic, social and political right of the working masses and build a labour movement that links today's struggles with the ultimate necessity of ending capitalism and transforming society. Call: 08022634850, 07033775517. E-Mail: dsmcentre@yahoo.com.

Eko John Nicholas
Coordinator
DSM Ogun state