Below is the concluding part of the lead presentation by Comrade Femi Falana (SAN), and Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM) at the Public Lecture to mark the 80th Birthday of Comrade (Professor) Omotoye Olorode, the Peoples Pedagogue. The celebration, anchored by the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) was held on Thursday, April 29, 2021 at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja under the Chairmanship of Prof Attahiru Jega. Click here, to read the first portion of the presentation.

Deformities of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP)
The military again seized power in December 1983 and in 1985 purported to have conducted a public debate on whether or not to accept an IMF loan with conditionalities that would impose anti-development and anti-people’s policies. The military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, addressed the nation on December 13, 1985, acknowledged the fact that the vast majority of the populace had rejected the enslaving loan and policies but proceeded to implement them under what it called a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).  This revisionist programme reversed the Nigerianisation and indigenisation gains.

Labour historian, Owei Lakemfa, said of SAP: “Designed and supervised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), SAP was deceptively presented as a programme to restructure and diversify the economy, attract and guarantee Foreign Direct Investment, stimulate growth, reduce the cost of governance, allow free trade by dismantling the commodity and agriculture boards, and enhance the naira by allowing it float freely with other currencies. But in practice, SAP destroyed the Nigerian economy; inflation rose from 5.4 per cent in July 1986, to, wait for it, 40 per cent in 1989! There were massive job losses rather than job creation as the local industries collapsed, social spending was drastically cut, the cost of production rose drastically and the naira was devalued. To repress protests against the destruction of the economy, the military regime declared that ‘There Is No Alternative’ (TINA) to SAP and those who disagreed, were detained without trial or shot during protests.”

Given the strategic position of labour and the fee-paying membership of the trade unions, why has it been unable to establish a labour-based party with pro-people manifesto that can sponsor its own candidates and win elections? The party that has come closest to this is the Party for Social Democracy (PSD) which changed its name to Labour Party. The highest electoral victory it has secured is the governorship of Ondo State and it was by a candidate who did not come from the labour movement. Perhaps the problem is that the labour leaders who ran elections since the 2002 establishment of the party did not believe it is an electoral vehicle good enough to carry them through elections. Later, the Labour Party became, essentially, a vehicle for hire by politicians who had failed to secure tickets in the mainstream bourgeois political parties!

Two years later, the Babangida regime promulgated the Privatisation and Commercialisation Decree No. 25 of 1988 to sell public wealth to the few rich. A 13-member Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation (TCPC) was created for the implementation of the programme. In an investigation of the privatisation exercise carried out by the Senate in 2011, it was found that the Ibrahim Babangida junta and the Olusegun Obasanjo administration had manipulated the decree to transfer public enterprises to their friends and cronies. The Senate also found sharp practices in the exercise ranging from asset-stripping, fraud and abuse of office and therefore recommended a reversal of the exercise but the federal government ignored the recommendation.

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Decline of Labour and Acceptance of Destructive Neo-Liberal Policies
The imposition of SAP and neo-liberal policies elicited a contestation of ideas. Under the Ali Chiroma leadership of the NLC, Congress vehemently fought against these reversals which had begun with the Buhari regime carrying out mass sack on an unprecedented scale. However, the Babangida regime removed the progressive NLC leadership in February 1988, imposed an employer, Michael Ogunkoya, as Sole Administrator for ten months before the emergence of the Paschal Bafyau leadership of the NLC. The Bafyau executive accepted most of the policy reversals including the privatisation programme. When that leadership asked for a labour seat on the Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation ostensibly to protect workers’ interests, an excited military regime gave it two seats!

The Bafyau leadership in completely subjecting the trade unions to control by the military, publicly denounced the 1990 National Conference it was helping to organise, and accepted the military’s annulment of the results of the June 12, 1993 Presidential elections. When the Abacha regime seemed tired of the grovelling Bafyau NLC leadership, it issued Decree 9 of 1994 which dissolved it. The successor, Adams Oshiomhole leadership of Congress, while rejecting some of the neo-liberal policies of the political elites such as the removal of subsidies for petroleum products, enthusiastically embraced the privatisation programme to the extent that the NLC President personally took a seat on the National Privatisation Council. That is the apex body that oversees privatisation in the country.

It is crystal clear that the neo-colonial state has lost the monopoly of violence to the armed gangs. Apart from the manipulation of ethnicity and religion and use of brute force, the federal and state governments have run out of ideas and are incapable of finding lasting solutions to the worsening security challenge facing the country. The negotiations between bandits in power and bandits in the bush have yielded no positive results. Since 2009, the armed forces have been waging the counter-insurgency operations in the North-East region. Realising that the armed forces are ill-equipped and ill-motivated, the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, General Yusuf Buratai, predicted that the war on terror will last for another period of 20 years.

Labour and Electoral Contestation
The labour movement in the country has since colonial times been split between those who want a change of the system through revolution and those who prefer or have taken the electoral road.  In the First Republic, some of them, like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, founder of the Nigeria Produce Traders Association, former Secretary of the Nigeria Motor Transport Union and Executive Member of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUCN) and Malam Aminu Kano, former leader of the Northern Nigeria Teachers Association, became full time politicians. Some like Gogo Chu Nzeribe, Secretary General of the Post & Telecommunication Workers Union, and Haroon Popoola Adebola, then President of the United Labour Congress were parliamentarians.

In the Second Republic, Comrades Joseph Ansa of the Water Transport Union and Senator Raji Ayoola Adeleke, former Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Nurses Association, and Assistant Secretary-General of the NLC, were Senators. One of Comrade Adeleke’s sons, Isiaka Adeleke was to become the Governor of Osun State, and a second son, Ademola Adeleke, also became a Senator. Also in the Second Republic, the former President of the United Labour Congress (ULC), Yinusa Kaltungo, was a member of the House of Representatives and Chair of the House Labour Committee.

In the present dispensation, Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, former Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in Niger State, became a two-term governor of the state, Ibrahim Shekarau, a leader of the NUT and President of the All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCPOS), became Kano State governor and later Education Minister while Adams Oshiomhole, former NLC President, became two-term governor of Edo State.

Former President of the Nigeria Union of journalists (NUJ), Smart Adeyemi, is currently a Senator while one of his predecessors, Sani Zorro, was a member of the House of Representatives as was former NLC Deputy President, Joseph Akinlaja. Former President of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Peter Akpatason, remains a member of the House. However, except Honourable Akinlaja, none of these trade unionists won elections on the platform of a labour-centred party.

Given the strategic position of labour and the fee-paying membership of the trade unions, why has it been unable to establish a labour-based party with pro-people manifesto that can sponsor its own candidates and win elections? The party that has come closest to this is the Party for Social Democracy (PSD) which changed its name to Labour Party. The highest electoral victory it has secured is the governorship of Ondo State and it was by a candidate who did not come from the labour movement. Perhaps the problem is that the labour leaders who ran elections since the 2002 establishment of the party did not believe it is an electoral vehicle good enough to carry them through elections. Later, the Labour Party became, essentially, a vehicle for hire by politicians who had failed to secure tickets in the mainstream bourgeois political parties!

It is crystal clear that the neo-colonial state has lost the monopoly of violence to the armed gangs. Apart from the manipulation of ethnicity and religion and use of brute force, the federal and state governments have run out of ideas and are incapable of finding lasting solutions to the worsening security challenge facing the country. The negotiations between bandits in power and bandits in the bush have yielded no positive results. Since 2009, the armed forces have been waging the counter-insurgency operations in the North-East region. Realising that the armed forces are ill-equipped and ill-motivated, the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, General Yusuf Buratai, predicted that the war on terror will last for another period of 20 years.

The challenge of insecurity
In view of the worsening insecurity in all states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, it is feared that the country may either break up or engage in a full-scale civil war. A retired general who once warned that ‘no nation survives two civil wars’ has called on Nigerians to rise up and defend themselves on the ground that the armed forces and the police have compromised the security of the nation. Many youth bodies have queued behind the members of the ruling class agitating for the balkanisation of the country.

Others who are disenchanted with unemployment, illiteracy and poverty traceable to the implementation of neoliberal economic policies have engaged in crimes such as armed robbery, banditry, terrorism, drug trafficking, advanced fee fraud, internet fraud, prostitution and human trafficking. The failure of the regime to control the violent attacks on farmers and destruction of farms by a group bearing AK-47 rifles operating as herders and lopsided appointments by the Buhari administration have fuelled the separatist agenda of several groups.

In spite of the programme of its own party for restructuring or power devolution from the centre to the other federating units, President Buhari has sworn to defend the status quo. A regime that had negotiated and granted amnesty to terrorists and bandits in the recent past has rejected the call for dialogue with all separatist bodies. The House of Representatives has just passed a resolution calling on President Buhari to declare a state of emergency to combat insecurity in the country. But without declaring a state of emergency, has President Buhari not deployed and authorised the armed forces to wage a full scale war on communities in Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, Niger, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Ebonyi, Benue and Taraba states in order to fish out terrorists and bandits? Have a number of militias and vigilante groups not retaliated by attacking and killing scores of military and police personnel?

It is our submission that several decades of legacy of misrule and bad governance, corruption and diversion of the commonwealth and anti-people’s policies have led to the ascendancy of insecurity in the country. No part of the country is safe as marauders have been abducting people including undergraduates, secondary school students and even primary school pupils. We have found that armed bandits, armed insurgents, armed herders, armed militias, armed cultists, armed robbers, and armed kidnappers lay siege to the country, exercising varying degrees of suzerainty over large swaths of the territory of the country. The State is incapable of ending kidnapping or rescuing abducted citizens and foreigners. In the circumstance, ransom is paid by family members and friends to secure the release of victims of abductions from captivity.

It is crystal clear that the neo-colonial state has lost the monopoly of violence to the armed gangs. Apart from the manipulation of ethnicity and religion and use of brute force, the federal and state governments have run out of ideas and are incapable of finding lasting solutions to the worsening security challenge facing the country. The negotiations between bandits in power and bandits in the bush have yielded no positive results. Since 2009, the armed forces have been waging the counter-insurgency operations in the North-East region. Realising that the armed forces are ill-equipped and ill-motivated, the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, General Yusuf Buratai, predicted that the war on terror will last for another period of 20 years.

Having been overwhelmed by the security challenge the ruling class will not hesitate to sabotage the democratic process or plunge the country into another civil war. No doubt, the central labour unions and individual trade unions have routinely condemned the booming business of kidnapping. But the failure of the government to address the security crisis has continued due partly to the failure of labour to mobilise the people to hold the government accountable. In particular, labour has failed to challenge the ongoing refusal of many state governments to pay the minimum wage and pension, salary reduction, retrenchment of workers, increase in energy costs (fuel and electricity) etc. It is high time the trade unions were reorganised and repositioned to challenge the dominance of the political space by the ruling class and the implementation of neoliberal economic policies including the removal of subsidies, devaluation of the national currency, dollarisation of the economy, unemployment, poverty, etc.

Since the Nigeria Police Force has been demobilised from maintaining law and order by successive regimes, the overstretched armed forces have been deployed and mandated to free many communities that have been overrun by nihilist forces in the various states.

Having been overwhelmed by the security challenge the ruling class will not hesitate to sabotage the democratic process or plunge the country into another civil war. No doubt, the central labour unions and individual trade unions have routinely condemned the booming business of kidnapping. But the failure of the government to address the security crisis has continued due partly to the failure of labour to mobilise the people to hold the government accountable. In particular, labour has failed to challenge the ongoing refusal of many state governments to pay the minimum wage and pension, salary reduction, retrenchment of workers, increase in energy costs (fuel and electricity) etc. It is high time the trade unions were reorganised and repositioned to challenge the dominance of the political space by the ruling class and the implementation of neoliberal economic policies including the removal of subsidies, devaluation of the national currency, dollarisation of the economy, unemployment, poverty, etc.

The Invitation to the United States Government to Combat Insecurity

The 1962 Anglo-Nigeria Defence Pact imposed on the ruling class by the erstwhile British colonial regime was rejected by Nigerian students and workers. A few years later, Nigeria led the struggle for the decolonisation of the African continent. Indeed, the liberation of Africa became the cornerstone of the foreign policy of Nigeria.

On January 14, 1976, the military ruler of Nigeria, General Murtala Mohammed, called off the bluff of imperialism when he declared that “Africa has come of age.” Despite geographical distance, Nigeria was made a frontline state on account of her enormous moral and financial contributions to the struggle against apartheid and colonial rule in the Southern African region. Nigeria has also through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ensured the restoration of law and order in war-torn neighbouring countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone and prevented civil wars in The Gambia and Guinea Bissau.

Regrettably, Nigeria is currently witnessing the virtual collapse of the security architecture of the neo-colonial State due to the diversion of the huge fund earmarked for procurement of arms and ammunition for the armed forces and the police by successive regimes. To prevent terrorists and bandits from sacking the government, President Buhari has appealed to President Joe Biden to come to the aid the ruling class in waging war against terror and banditry.

And without consulting either the African Union or the ECOWAS, the federal government asked President Biden to relocate the US African Command (AFRICOM) in Germany to Africa. Since 2009, the cry for help in prosecuting the counter-insurgency operations had fallen on the deaf ears of the leaders of the West. As if that was not enough, the United States and her allies prevented Nigeria from acquiring vital security equipment to prosecute the war on terror due to the abysmal poor human rights record of the armed forces and the police. In particular, the federal government has been accused of failing to account for the prolonged detention of thousands of people in military camps without trial and the extrajudicial execution of unarmed civilians by military and police personnel.

In my analysis, the current generation of leaders of the trade union movement, in comparison with the Michael Imoudu, Nduka Eze, Wahab Goodluck, Hassan Sunmonu and Ali Chiroma generations, has since the Bafyau era, suffered from lack of clear-headed, unambiguous and principled stand on national development. However, given the rise of ethno-religious cleavages and the dominance of the individual over the collective, the labour movement remains the most Pan Nigerian, and practically the only movement that can command voluntary national compliance on national issues and actions. As centrifugal forces gather momentum and begin to dictate the direction and pace of the country’s movement, the patriotic and Pan-African forces in the country need to close ranks and move the country towards a different direction, one of collective interests and survival based on the basic needs of the people.

Although the federal government instituted two judicial commissions of inquiry in 2017 to investigate allegations of gross abuse of human rights of the Nigerian people, the report of both panels have not seen the light of day. Hence, the government has failed to prosecute the security personnel indicted by the panels. Even though the Buhari administration was allowed to pay the sum of $329 million for 12 Super Tucano fighter jets in November 2018 to aid the counter insurgency operations in the North-East Zone, the jets have not been delivered. Instead of giving Nigerians the false impression that the United States is going to send troops to defend them, the federal government should be compelled to embark on mass recruitment of military and police personnel, equip and motivate them to defend every part of the country. In addition, all state and local governments should proceed to set up defence committees constituted by young men and women in every community to collaborate with the police in securing the lives and properties of all citizens.

Prognosis on the Way Forward

In my analysis, the current generation of leaders of the trade union movement, in comparison with the Michael Imoudu, Nduka Eze, Wahab Goodluck, Hassan Sunmonu and Ali Chiroma generations, has since the Bafyau era, suffered from lack of clear-headed, unambiguous and principled stand on national development. However, given the rise of ethno-religious cleavages and the dominance of the individual over the collective, the labour movement remains the most Pan Nigerian, and practically the only movement that can command voluntary national compliance on national issues and actions. As centrifugal forces gather momentum and begin to dictate the direction and pace of the country’s movement, the patriotic and Pan-African forces in the country need to close ranks and move the country towards a different direction, one of collective interests and survival based on the basic needs of the people.

We are not unaware of the on-going effort by the NLC to repossess the Labour Party, rename and rebrand it or retire it in favour of a new party. Whatever the case, the fortunes of the Labour Party or its successor will depend on many factors including the trust workers have in the leadership of the trade union movement, public confidence in labour and the fidelity of labour leaders to the movement, workers ideology and faith in the ability of workers, farmers, intellectuals and the youths to redirect the country from the current ruinous politics of the mainstream political parties.

Notwithstanding the success recorded by the #EndSARS movement last year in the popular agitation of the youths against police brutality, labour remains the only group that has the capacity to mobilise and organise the Nigerian people politically to seize power from the soiled hands of members of the ruling class. In other words, labour has to reject lethargy, step forward and play its leading role in facilitating the accession to power by the Nigerian people.

It is pertinent to note that at an alternative political summit held in Abuja from March 26-27, 2021, and attended by a number of socialist groups, radical political parties and progressive labour and youth organisations, it was resolved that a common political platform called “People’s Alternative Political Movement” be established as a tool for political engagement, social intervention and contestation for political power.

As a coalition committed to the emergence of a mass workers party and the socialist transformation of Nigeria, the movement further resolved to embark on a 3-month broad consultation to popularise the political platform and its program, mobilise other left groups and radical progressive forces to join in the new initiative, and intervene regularly in the day-to-day struggles of the popular masses across the country.

In his goodwill message at the summit, Comrade Toye Olorode said: “The Nigerian ruling class has, especially in the last two decades or so, grouped and regrouped, conspiring with international capital to push Nigeria to the current economic and cultural brink that has also begun to threaten the very integrity of our country and the centuries-old solidarity among our peoples.”

Let us reiterate that we are here to declare again that A NEW NIGERIA IS POSSIBLE; and to declare the imperative of pursuing and realising that POSSIBILITY!

We are here, today, to pursue the restoration of the sovereignty and the dignity of Nigeria’s working masses; to pursue the restoration of the ownership of Nigeria to them! We are here to pursue the restoration of the strength of the diversity in our country, and of our peoples!

We are here to pursue the untethering of the liberating economic, social and cultural powers of solidarity among the dispossessed, impoverished, and humiliated masses of Nigeria.

We are not here to substitute ourselves for the masses and their self-organising power. We are here to pursue solidarity with them and with their organisations.”

Upon a critical review of the state of the nation, the summit came to the conclusion that Nigeria’s capitalist ruling class and its state, as presently constituted and structured ideologically and politically, cannot halt what now increasingly threatens to become a terminal crisis for the nation. The platform has decided to mobilise the working people of Nigeria in contestation of political power with the ruling class by any means necessary; including through revolutionary electoral politics on the basis of class struggle.

To achieve the objective, the movement decided to strengthen its relationship with the labour movement in order to reclaim the workers movement, broaden the base and promote working peoples’ participation in the political and economic processes of the country towards the realisation of the socialist transformation of Nigeria.

As part of its mobilisation work amongst the popular masses, the movement would build and organise the women, the youths, students, peasants, artisans, and other exploited and vulnerable groups in the country, as well as Nigerians in the diaspora and build effective political relationships with their movements and organisations.

Finally, as I thank you all for your patience, permit me to wish Professor Olorode Happy Birthday and many more years of healthy and productive service to the country and humanity!

Concluded.

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