A meeting organised by Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) as part of activities in the run-up for the funeral of prominent civil rights activist Beko Ransome Kuti was held on Thursday, February 23, 2006 in Lagos.
Among the speakers at the event, which was attended by about 60 labour and civil society activists and journalists, were Adams Oshiomhole, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and Ms. Peace Obiajulu, President, Trade Union Congress (TUC). Segun Sango, General Secretary, Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI Nigeria) also attended and spoke at the meeting.
Adams Oshiomhole while delivering his speech briefly introduced the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) new pamphlet on Casualisation stating that the Labour movement in Nigeria was the first to bring the casualisation issue to the attention of the public. He commended the efforts of CDWR in the fight against casualisation. He also mentioned the issue of Socialist Democracy, newspaper of the DSM, which covers the crisis in Oyo State (where there is a vicious battle between two wings of the ruling party) in detail. He explained that the DSM is always very critical of labour leaders but despite this always offered a way forward to the working class and poor for the problems they face.
Oshiomhole spoke with high regards of Beko, stating that he was a man that agreed in people taking chances provided it can bring good results. He cited an instance when LASCO sent delegation to the ‘Mantu palliative committee on fuel price’, stating that Beko jokingly commented that he had no business with any ‘mantuing’ or ‘dismantling’ committee but that what he wanted was a solution to the incessant petrol price increases and its attendant hardship on Nigerians.
Segun Sango, of the DSM in his speech emphasised the need for the labour leadership and the civil society groups to come together and form a political platform with the aim of wrestling power from the present corrupt politicians. He stressed that the working class has enormous power, which has been demonstrated in the series of general strikes it led in the recent past. He stated that with right philosophy, programmes and objective we can win political power. For 2007 not to be business as usual for corrupt politicians, we all need to work together and carry the poor and oppressed millions of Nigerians along by providing a formidable leadership with socialist alternative programme.
Comrade Lanre Arogundade, a DSM member, gave a brief tribute to Beko stating how closely he worked with Beko when he was President of NANS (National Association of Nigerian Students) in 1984. He threw a political challenge to the labour leaders. In the 2003 elections he contested the Lagos West Senate seat on the NCP platform and, despite not being a household name among the masses, officially scored 77, 000 votes. This illustrated the potential that much more renown activists could have if they contested on the basis of coalition of pro-masses parties and organisations, indeed they would perform much better. He therefore challenged labour and all pro-masses organisations to come together under one platform and contest the 2007 elections to win political power in the interest of the poor masses
Towards the end of the symposium, the LASCO leadership, at the suggestion of Segun Sango, issued a press statement demanding the unconditional release of all the activists who were arrested and detained by the police while on a peaceful protest at one of the venues of the constitutional review hearings at Oshogbo, Osun State on Wednesday, February 22, 2006.