The 2nd memorial anniversary of Beko Ransome-Kuti, the former chairman of Joint Action Forum, the civil society arm of Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), was held on Sunday 10 February, at the Nigeria Labour Congress Secretariat, at Yaba, Lagos. LASCO led seven general strikes and mass protests against the last Obasanjo regime over the incessant increases in fuel price.
Members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM - CWI in Nigeria) took part, and distributed a special publication on Beko, produced in 2006, after his death.
The participants at the meeting include representative from NGOs, left organizations, radicals and activists. There were about 200 participants.
Speakers present were the former National Labour Congress (NLC) president, Adams Oshiomhole; Deputy NLC President, Assistant National Secretary, Owei Lakemfa; General Secretary, Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Segun Sango; Convener, United Action for Democracy (UAD) Convener Biodun Aremu; former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu; former NUPENG (oil workers) general secretary, Frank Kokori, President of the Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), Federick Fashehu; the immediate family of the late Beko Ramsome-Kuti etc.
Apart from eulogies on what Beko stood for by some of the speakers, there was no concrete call to build an alternative pro-masses’ platform. Adams, for instance, called for the people to be organised, without any concrete suggestion on how pro-masses’ and labour-oriented organisations should begin a process of building a mass organisations.
The former governor of Lagos State, Tinubu, criticised the anti-corruption war of the federal government on the basis that it was selective. He questioned the rationale for prosecuting the governors whom he described as "rodent" compared to the bigger looters like Obasanjo, who sold himself to the "fat cats".
However, Tinubu betrayed his right wing character by calling on the striking judicial workers to suspend their action because of the various election tribunal cases going on across the country. But he did not offer solutions on how the demands of workers would be met. Tinubu also called on civil society groups, lawyers and NGOs to join forces to expose the mass rigging that took place in the 2007 general election in different electoral tribunals, as a means to guarantee victory to Action Congress (AC) candidates. In between his speech, some youths jeered at Tinubu using a local song that implies that all ruling elite, including Tinubu, are responsible for the woes of the poor working people.
One significance of this event, compared to all others, in recent past, was the overwhelming attendance of the pro-capitalist forces and their ’radicals’, who, apparently, are trying to build forces with the left and labour leader as a means of settling scores with the other section of the capitalists.
The only slogan by the labour leaders present, and some other ’bourgeois radicals’, was the call for the removal of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) boss, Prof. Maurice Iwu. Apparently, they are trying to raise campaigns around "Iwu must go", which might take the shape of protests, demonstrations etc., in the coming period, and will get the support from a section of the ruling elite - some of whom feel cheated at the last 2007 general election.
In his speech, DSM General Secretary, Segun Sango, stated there was a need to build a mass working peoples’ political party to challenge the rot in the system. He challenged all the genuine radicals to join forces with labour and pro-masses’ organisations, to build a fighting and formidable mass party. He argued that such a party should be used to wrest power from the thieving ruling elite, deploy the resources of nature and society to provide for the needs of all and to fight for the interests of poor working people, in and out of office. Segun Sango underscored his point by saying that the radicals in pro-capitalist parties robbed in the 2007 election could not mobilise mass support to defend their vote because they had not contested on pro-masses’ platforms.
Sango’s speech was well received by the audience; even one of the Action Congress (AC) gubernatorial candidates said to Sango that the messages made sense and were well understood!
As part of the line up of the meeting programme, Dagga Tolar, a member of National Executive Committee (NEC) of the DSM, recited a poem on the Nigeria situation, which was well received by the participants.
By and large, the roles of Beko in popular struggle were emphasised. He was acknowledged as one of the few radical activists who matched words with concrete action.