Nigeria: Time for regime and system change

Open letter to NLC leadership and the general public

The Nigerian Labour Congress has gone ahead with its planned general strike today against the rocketing price of fuel in the country which affects all layers of society. The NLC has gone ahead with the strike despite a court ruling banning such action. Two hundred thousand police have been deployed but media reports say that millions of workers have refused to go to work and the streets of cities like Lagos are deserted. publishes below a press release from the Democratic Socialist Movement, the cwi’s affiliated party in Nigeria which is involved actively on the ground in building for the strike.

Time for regime and system change

We in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) welcome the declaration of the ultimatum by the leadership of NLC after its NEC meeting of Wednesday June 2, 2004 that by June 9 if the prices of petroleum products are not reverted to the pre-May 2004 price levels it would call out workers for an indefinite strike.

It is on record that the leadership of NLC has already called a series of general strikes against the incessant increase in the prices of petroleum products. The Vanguard (June 3) reports NLC President Adams Oshiomhole saying "we also want to re-assure Nigerian people, Nigerian workers and our allies that we have learnt sufficient lessons from the manipulations of this government, which has led to some confusion in the past. We now know that signing agreement with this government need not translate to reality because they have not respected previous agreements."

What is therefore needed is not just a protest to get concessions or undertakings on fuel prices, but also a big and sustainable fight back that would successfully lead to the defeat of the Obasanjo led PDP’s capitalist government and its anti-peoples policies of privatisation, commercialisation and deregulation of the economy. We in the DSM have always stated that as long as capitalism (a system which values profits above the needs of people) remains, so long would pains, poverty and misery continue to be the lot of the Nigerian masses.

The NLC leadership should stop appealing to President Obasanjo "to show human compassion by acceding to the demands of Nigerians to revert to the old price". The IMF and World Bank’s capitalist policies which the Obasanjo regime is committed to implement have no human face and as such they cannot be appealed to, for the logic of capitalism demands that they continue to oppress and exploit both human and natural resources of the society for their selfish interest as opposed to collective benefit of the whole society. To reverse this trend, only the organised and coordinated mass action of the poor working people can stop them.

What is required therefore is a mass protest to kick start the process of regime and system change. But are the masses ready for such a struggle? The NLC leaders say that anyone who does not strike should be treated as "enemies of the people". But it is not enough to simply give an ultimatum to the government and expect working people automatically to follow the NLC. There is need for mass rallies in all the states with leaflets, posters, megaphone to speak to mobilise and conscientise the poor masses, in the language they will understand, of the next stage of struggle.

In doing this, NLC should initiate forums at all levels of all trade unions within and without its umbrella, civil society groups, pro-labour political parties like the NCP, Labour Party, the student movements, etc for coordination of this major task of mobilising the working masses and wrestling power from the present decayed capitalist ruling class, to be replaced with a workers and peasants government that will take control of the economy out of the hands of the imperialists and ruling elite.

Then it will be possible to start planning the economy under working peoples’ democratic control to give priority to the needs of the majority, like massive investment in health care, education, housing, job creation, etc for all the populace as against pro-IMF and World Bank government of deregulation, privatization, commercialization and capitalist profit.

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June 2004