The major highlight of this year’s May Day event in Abuja, where the central rally of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Congress of Free Trade Unions (CFTU) took place, was the heroic display of workers who prevented the arrest of Demola Yaya and Eko John Nicholas (two leading members of Democratic Socialist Movement) by the police. Workers in their hundreds physically swarmed on the police when they were taking these DSM members away from the venue and wrested them from the grip of the police.
Two leading television stations Channels and Silver Bird filmed the incident, which formed a major item of their news bulletins on May 1 and 2, 2006. Channels television actually interviewed Demola after he was released. He reiterated the position of the DSM that the struggle against "third term" (the attempt of the sitting corrupt President Obasanjo to stand again in the forthcoming Presidential elections which would necessitate a change to the constitution) should be aimed not only at Obasanjo but also all the self serving politicians like Atiku, Babangida, Buhari, Marwa, etc. who share the same vision and mission of anti-poor policies of Obasanjo government. He called for a mass working people party to wrest power from the parasitic ruling elite and end all the anti-poor neo-liberal policies.
At least three national newspapers reported the event on May 2, with Vanguard newspaper using a picture of Demolala being dragged away by police on its front page.
The Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Command, Lawrence Alobi, ordered the arrest of the comrades because of the DSM’s banner and the lead article of its publication, Socialist Democracy (SD) that denounced "third term" and called for the mass working peoples’ party. The inscription on the banner boldly read: "3rd Term: Obasanjo Again? No Way! For a Mass Working Peoples Party Now To End All Anti-Poor Policies"
The comrades and three supporters, who joined in the sales of paper, had participated in the march past with the banner which drew the admiration of thousands of workers including Adams Oshiomhole, the NLC President, who rose up to salute the DSM contingent. Some of the enthusiastic workers even joined them in the march past, as the DSM was the only one with such bold banner against Obasanjo government. The "offensive" banner and its mass acceptance obviously unsettled Alobi who had to dash out of the VIP section where he was seated to personally arrest the comrades.
Commissioner Alobi is notorious for leading storm troopers to the meetings of the perceived opposition of Obasanjo and his policies in Abuja. For instance in August 2004 he led the police to prevent a workers demonstration around Abuja against the then Trade Union Amendment Bill and also recently denied the anti-third term national politicians the use of Sheraton Hotel Abuja for meeting.
The reception for the DSM comrades and their protection from the state security operatives’ dragnet by workers is a clear indication of the mass acceptance of the message inscribed on the banner. It shows that workers are not only against third term and Obasanjo government anti-poor policies, but also support the call for political alternative for working people. However, this is not unprecedented; the poor working masses have already expressed their rejection of Obasanjo and his capitalist neo-liberal policies with the seven massive protests and strikes against the regime in the last seven years. The problem has been the leadership of labour and mass organisations who have refused to lead the formation of political alternative to chase out the regime and shut out its clones from power.
Of course, Adams Oshiomhole in his speech stated the opposition of the NLC to "third term" and called on the working masses not to pitch tent with either of warring sections of the thieving ruling elite divided by "third term". But in his characteristic manner, he was conspicuously silent on the concrete political alternative for the working masses. He even called on the masses to prevent rigging in the next, 2007, elections without proposing alternative.
The Democratic Socialist Movement has resolved to intensify our campaign for a mass political party of the working people among the rank and file workers and other sections of working masses who will mount pressure on the leadership for the formation of such party.
In Abuja 170 copies of Socialist Democracy, our newspaper was sold. Police impounded the rest before we could sell them. 45 copies of the anti-casualisation publication of the Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) were also sold.
Abuja was one of the 12 rallies across the country where the DSM participated in May Day activities.