The massive turn-out by Nigerians in their hundreds of thousands to a rally called by Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) against the incessant increase in the fuel price and other neo-liberal, anti-poor polices of the Obasanjo led PDP government on Wednesday, 14 September, 2005 is another testimony to the fact that Nigerian poor working people are ever prepared to struggle for a change.
Democratic Socialist Movement, CWI Nigeria What has been holding them back is leadership. With a correct labour leadership and focus, the poor working masses have resolved to kick-out the pro-rich and anti-poor Obasnjo?s regime as nothing positive, as long as this regime and its anti-poor policies hold sway, can come to the masses way.
Apart from our contributions in planning for the rally at the LASCO leadership level, Segun Sango, has appeared in series of television programmes towards mobilising for the rally. For instance on Monday 12 September, he was on Lagos state television (LTV8) stating LASCO plans and urging the masses to participate in the rallies in Lagos and other major cities nationally and again, on Thursday, 15 September, on Muri International Television (MITV).
In planning and preparation for the rally, we had proposed to LASCO a declaration of a work-free day or a sit at home for Lagos workers to allow them participate in the rally but this was not adopted. However, the depth of anger of the masses against the regime was demonstrated with major offices and banks shut as most people stayed at home. The local wing of Murtala Muhammed Airport also recorded low passenger patronage. The traffic on major roads was very low as commercial vehicle operators stayed off the road leaving some commuters stranded. The ever-busy Oshodi- Apapa Expressway, Pen Cinama in Agege, Ikorodu Expressway were virtually empty until after the rally.
In addition to our intervention in the rally that kicked-off from National Stadium on Western Avenue, Surulere and terminated at the Lagos State secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja, comrades in Agege, Ajegunle, and Ejigbo branches organised rallies and protests in their respective branches with banners, placards, and leaflets. For instance, the NEW AGE news paper of Thursday, 15 September 2005 reported ” The Democratic Socialist Movement in Agege Local government area of Lagos also organised a peaceful protest in support of the NLC-led fuel price increment rally?..The DSM protesters carried placards, some which read “Obasanjo must resign now; Nigerians are tired of anti-people?s policies; We want more jobs, not retrenchment, among others. Police officers stationed at strategic places around these areas did not distrupt the rally. DSM took its protest to the Lagos state government secretariat, Alausa Ikeja where hand bills with inscriptions as ” Fuel price hike, chase out Obasanjo regime” and “fight all anti-poor policies” were distributed to people”.
Again in Ajegunle, where seven of the victimized floor mills workers worked and participated with Ajegunle?s comrades rally and intervention, Daga Toler, Editor of Socialist Democracy, was arrested at Boundary in Ajegunle at about 8 a.m and was detained at Area B Apapa Police station. Overwhelmed by the level of mobilisation and the massive turn-out, the District Police Officer (DPO) released Dagga at about 10am (two hours later) and gave him N500 to transport himself to join the rally and protesters. He also informed him of the exact place where the protesters were.
While delivering the LASCO letter to Governor Tinubu of Lagos State to be forwarded to President Obasanjo, NLC President, Adam Oshiomole called ” on labour unions to form a political coalition towards getting political solutions to the problems at hand”. This statement is a radical departure from labour leaders? responses and positions whenever DSM calls for formation of an independent working peoples platform with the goal of capturing political power and implement pro-people policies.
The rally which started as early as 8am from National Stadium in Western Avenue, Surulere moved to Yaba, Marry land, Ikeja and terminated at Alause at about 2pm (about 15-kilometer walk) had in attendance, Adams Oshiomole, Mrs. Peace Obiajulu, NLC and TUC Presidents repectively, Dr. Beko Kuti, JAF Chairman. Others are Professor Wole Soyinka, Convener, Citizen Forum; Dr. Fedrick Faseun, Founder, OPC, Mr. Femi Falana, NCP Deputy National Chairman South-West, Segun Sango, General Secretary, DSM, Chima Ubani, Executive Director, CLO, Abiodun Aremu, Convener, UAD, Dr. Dipo Fasina, Former ASUU President among others.
1,000 August/September edition of our paper Socialist Democracy, and 45 copies of the July Special edition were sold with 10,000 leaflets distributed. Some people have called and sent text messages to join us having read some of our materials. We intend to intervene in all major cities where rallies will be held with the goal of spreading our ideas of a regime and system change. These are Benin, Jos, Yola, Kano, Kaduna and Abuja.