September 27, 2022
[FILE] President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba (third right); President, Trade Union Congress, Comrade Quadri Olaleye (third left); former President of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Alhaji Najeem Yasin (second right) and other members of the NLC Executive during the 2021 May Day celebration in Abuja… PHOTO: NAN
The NLC has a set of concrete demands for the Labour Party outlined in its Nigerian workers’ charter of demands. The charter of demand covers Education, Health Care, Living Wages, Prioritization of Workers’ Welfare, Management of Nigeria’s Natural Resources, Industrialization of the National Economy, Physical Security, Social Protection and Good Governance. The charter calls for free and quality education up to tertiary level for all Nigerian students.
It calls for a cost-free comprehensive health care services for all citizens and the enrolment of more Nigerians into the National Health Insurance Scheme. It demands the legislative prohibition of public officers accessing health care in foreign countries. It demands a reasonable national minimum wage and affordable Housing for Nigerian workers. It calls for equal pay for work of equal value. It demands a stop to the privatization of public enterprises and asset.
It demands the repair of our local refineries and the termination of 100% importation of petrol and other refined petroleum products. It rejects the perpetual increase in petrol prices. It calls for world class public infrastructure including double carriage highways, standard gauge railways, affordable public electricity supply, world class airport facilities, improved inland waterways, increased fiber optics lines for affordable internet, data and telephone services in Nigeria. It demands jobs for Nigerian youths and a fundamental reform of the Electoral Process.
The Labour party has been promoted as a Third Force. What are the specific concrete demands of the Labour Party as a Third Force? It is not clear if the NLC workers’ charter of demands has been adopted by the Labour Party as the basis of its existence. While the NLC and TUC set up the Labour Party as a tool for electoral struggles by workers, youths, farmers and women, Nigerian politicians see it as just an alternative bourgeois electoral party. The Labour Party has welcomed these Neo-liberal anti-worker forces into its leadership.
Thus, the present amorphous nature of the Labour Party is an obstacle to its ability to be a tactical, ideological, political united front of oppressed Nigerian masses fighting to win material benefits and guarantee the future of their children.
For example, in the 1990s, the Venezuelan Labour Party failed to build a Third Force as an opposition to the two dominant bourgeois political parties (COPEI and Democratic Action) because it allowed Neo-liberal anti-worker forces to seize control of its leadership. However, in April 1997, the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200, a small Venezuelan socialist party, supported the candidacy of Hugo Chavez for President. The party registered itself as the Fifth Republic Movement for the 1998 election.
Within a year, it formed a united front consisting of other small political parties such as the Peoples Electoral Movement, Venezuelan Popular Unity, Tupamaro Movement, Socialist League, Fatherland for All, For Social Democracy and the Communist Party of Venezuela and transformed itself into a Third Force. Campaigning on an agenda made up of a set of concrete anti-poverty demands, this Third Force won the 1998 election and brought Hugo Chavez to power. While in power, Chavez executed the demands and programme of the united front. The poverty rate fell by 50%.
A Third Force in Nigeria today should encompass the following set of demands in a 10-10 programme as the basis for a tactical, ideological, political united front of oppressed Nigerian masses fighting for sustainable economic development. Its demands should be:
Free Education at all levels for Nigerian Youths. Good Transport infrastructure (Roads, Railways, Airports) and Health Care for Nigerian people.
Full Employment and Jobs for Nigerian Youths and Workers.
Adequate electricity, housing and pipe borne drinking water for Nigerian people.
Free speech, rule of law and security for Nigerian people.
Adequate Food Production and Agricultural Development for Nigerian Farmers.
A massive reduction in Poverty and Hunger for all.
Total Resource Control at Zonal and State level.
Restructuring of Nigeria, true federalism and democratic socialism.
One united socialist Africa.
The Third Force should be up against:
Corruption (Misuse/Stealing of public funds).
Tribalism, State of origin and Ethnic Oppression.
Nepotism and Impunity by persons in high offices.
Gender/Women Oppression.
Religious fanaticism/bigotry/intolerance and State religion.
Racism, imperialism and neocolonialism.
Insecurity of life and properties.
Military Rule.
Police brutality and violence against citizens by State Agents and the Armed Forces.
Economic exploitation of the Nigerian masses.
The Third Force programme forms a minimum set of demands around which groups/small progressive parties can unite with direct action, voting and other forms of struggles. The programme forms an electoral platform for the Third Force as a political party during elections and a program for concrete struggles after the elections. It is not too late to transform the Labour Party or any other progressive party into a true fighting Third Force. This will require the acceptance of a set of concrete relevant demands by all members of the party and the construction of a united front aimed at mobilizing the Nigerian masses for the political struggle to actualize these demands.
Dr. Agbon, former ASUU Chairman, University of Ibadan, lives in Texas, USA.
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