Photo: DSM
Photo: DSM

For a 48-hour general strike as the next step

Peluola Adewale, DSM national organising secretary

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) considers the decision of the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to suspend the two-day nationwide protest of 27-28 February, after only one day of protest, counterproductive. It was a missed opportunity by the labour movement to roll back the avalanche of neoliberal onslaught of the past nine months and win real concessions that can bring some relief to the mass of suffering workers and poor.

Given the enthusiasm with which the mass of workers trooped out to join the protest on the first day, as well as the huge support the action elicited from commuters and members of the public, the least the NLC should have done was to allow the nationwide protest to run its full course. Then, immediately afterwards, to prepare for a general strike which it had said was the next step. This is the only way to fight and win against a viciously anti-poor capitalist regime where determination to force through its neoliberal poison is in no doubt.

According to a communique released on the evening of 27 February, the NLC NEC-in-session resolved: “To suspend street action for the second day of the protest having achieved overwhelming success thus attained the key objectives of the two-day protest on the first day”.

To start with, we are shocked at the claim that the struggle has achieved the “key objectives of the two-day protest on the first day”. Which objectives do the NLC NEC mean? As far as we can tell, the crisis of fuel price hikes, naira devaluation, hunger and inflation that is devastating lives, incomes and jobs, for which the two nationwide protests were called, is still very much there. Workers, traders, artisans, students and young people are still struggling to afford three square meals for themselves and their families due to soaring food prices. The prices of cement and other commodities are still high while the naira is still in free fall compared to its value nine months ago. In fact, so desperate is the situation that some people were killed and many injured after they were trampled during a stampede at a customs facility in Lagos, where they had gone to queue for free bags of rice. How many more Nigerians have to die from hunger and other crises associated with the cost of living before the labour leadership understand that this is a struggle that needs to be waged with all the seriousness it deserves?

Of course, the claim that the protest achieved its objective on the first day is only a figment of the labour leadership’s imagination. As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which, together with the World Bank is behind the current neoliberal offensive in Nigeria, has pointed out, inflation will likely soar up to 44% by the end of the year. This shows how much more devastating the situation can still be unless we continue the mass resistance now.

If anything was achieved on the first day, it is that sections of the working masses used the opportunity to demonstrate their readiness to fight. A momentum was starting to build.

Workers let down by leaders

In fact, so enthusiastic were layers of the working masses about the struggle that a few activists and working-class elements who did not participate in the protest in Lagos on 27 February turned up on the second day, not knowingly that further streets protests had been suspended the night before! The protests would most likely have been even bigger and more successful on the second day than what we saw on the first day! The NLC leadership acted as a brake and made an emergency stop.

Now, suddenly, another excuse has emerged from the NLC leadership. At a press conference organised by the NLC on 28 February, Congress president Joe Ajaero said the government intimidated and harassed the union to suspend the action.

Both from a strategical and tactical point of view, the appropriate response to intimidation and threat of harassment or violence by the state is exactly what the NLC said before the 27-28 February nationwide protest, when it warned the police that, if the state went ahead to attack the protest, then the NLC would embark on an immediate general strike!

Why publicise the government intimidation only after the action was called off and not use these threats as a further reason to continue to mobilise? It is clear that President Tinubu’s base of support is weak. Less than nine million Nigerians voted for him last year, a small minority of the country’s roughly 220 million population. Many public sector workers are low paid and often paid in arrears. And even if some public sectors are regularly paid, they suffer from the raging inflation and see how their families and friends are also suffering. So, a serious push by labour could get mass support across the country.

But the truth is that the leadership of the labour movement has a penchant for making bold statements without any plan to actually put words into action. This is the only way to understand the shameful retreat. If the second day protest had gone ahead, there is no doubt that, a solid momentum for a general strike would have been consolidated.


By retreating, not only has the NLC leadership created further doubts in the minds of the working people in its sincerity to lead a consistent struggle, it has also given the capitalist elite a period of grace to further consolidate their neoliberal assault. To be clear, without mass struggles, very little progress will be achieved on any of the issues between now and 13 March when the new ultimatum expires.

By and large, the overall conduct of the NLC so far shows that trade union leaders are yet to learn anything from the past, especially our immediate experiences since the Tinubu regime came to power nine months ago. Between 29 May and now, the NLC and TUC individually and collectively must have called nothing less than four actions (strikes and protests) against the neoliberal policies of fuel subsidy removal with its attendant cost-of-living crisis. Each of these actions were either suspended because the labour leadership wanted to explore further talks with the government or, where the actions were executed, the labour leadership had often expressed hope that the success of the action would compel the government to reconsider its disastrous policies, only for this not to happen.

What we need at this point is a fighting labour leadership and coherent programme of struggle that involves both fighting over anti-poor policies and the day-to-day issues, with a view to winning real concessions. Also needed is to make the necessary political and organisational preparations for the working people to seize political power from the capitalists in order to establish a workers’ and poor people’s government that can run the country in the interest of all.

Our experience over the past two decades of civil rule shows that no section of the capitalist elite can be trusted to run the country in the interests of the working people and poor. We need a sharp break from capitalism to pave the way for a socialist transformation of the country.

The first step is for worker activists everywhere to begin to campaign within their unions for immediate preparations for a 48-hour general strike as soon as the 14-day ultimatum expires on 13 March. This can take the form of organising workers’ meetings on the shop floor and communities to collect signatures mandating each industrial union to vote for a general strike as the next step.

Determined struggle

Workers must insist that the trade union leadership leads a determined struggle. Those unwilling to fight because they are compromised with the ruling party and the state should step aside. There should also be a continuation of independent actions by the working masses, youth and pro-masses’ organisations, something that actually contributed to the pressure that forced the NLC to call the nationwide protest on 26-27 February in the first place.

We also need to call for either the rebuilding of the Labour Party as a democratic, non-monetised party, or the formation of an entirely new mass workers’ party, in either case with a socialist programme. After all is said and done, without the working class taking political power in its own hands, no lasting, significant real change can be achieved. With a workers’ and poor people’s government on a socialist programme, it will be possible to begin to use Nigeria’s wealth to meet the needs of all and not the greed of a few by nationalising the key sectors of the economy under democratic workers’ control and management.

This must be our ultimate aim!