RSM organises public event to commemorate 2012 Occupy Nigeria
On Saturdaby February 19, activists from different organisations gathered to reflect on one of the biggest mass movements in the recent history of Nigeria, that of January, 2012.
Opening the discussion, Dimeji Macaulay, National Organiser of Revolutionary Socialist Movement (RSM) said that Occupy Nigeria was one of the biggest movements in the last decades, one that shows the fighting spirit of Nigerian workers and youth, in a struggle that lasted eight days with mass protests and a general strike.
The Nigerian people wanted to continue the protest movement to the end, as is shown by the slogan “Reverse Back to N65 or the protest continues”, which was widely raised. But the labour leaders suspended the strike after the fuel pump price was reversed to N97.
The Nigerian people are still suffering from the same neoliberal policies; and that shows that the Buhari administration is no different from the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan administration.
The Buhari administration has already increased fuel pump price twice and a third attempt was suspended early this year when the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) called for mass protests.
When Buhari was contesting for the elections in 2014/15 he promised to provide regular electricity supply to households within six months. Today, after more than seven years in power, nothing has been done to fulfill those promises, instead everything has become worst.
Presently we are told that the fuel subsidy has to be cut, and that dirty fuel has to be taken off circulation. This is an attempt of the ruling class is to justify an increase in fuel pump prices.
Dimeji Macaulay ended his introduction by calling for the nationalisation of the oil sector under the democratic management and control by workers and society. “Ten years after Occupy Nigeria, what Nigerians have seen is more suffering” he said and called for the nationalization of the key sectors of the economy under democratic management and control by the working people. “That’s the only way we can permanently resolve the energy, oil, health and education crises in the country” he said.
Abbey Trotsky, the national Chairman of Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and a member of Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI in Nigeria) also spoke during the event.
According to him, the Nigerian ruling class are responsible for the crisis that we have today in the oil sector. The January 2012 Occupy Nigeria mass movement shook the country to its foundations and showed the power of trade unions and how far ordinary people were willing to go to resist the attacks they face. But today Nigeria is still facing the same crisis and unfortunately the labour leaders are not ready to build a political alternative to rescue Nigerians from the hands of the rogue ruling class.
The Goodluck Ebele Jonathan regime increased fuel pump price from N65 per liter to N145 per liter, but the Occupy Nigeria movement struggle put the administration on its toes and forced the government to reduce it back to N97 per liter after sustained mass protests and general strikes.
When the Buhari regime came to power in 2015, they promised to change Nigeria for the better, but instead many of the crises they promised to resolve actually escalated. The Buhari led government increased fuel pump price twice with little resistance from the masses because the organised trade unions didn’t provide leadership to express the mass anger that exists.
Since 2012, things have become even more unbearable for the masses. Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) just commenced another strike and the federal government has lost control of the economy. All of these crises have the potential to fuel class struggle in the coming period. We need trade unions to be active and with a strategy to form synergy with civil society allies for a revolutionary process to save Nigeria from the crisis of capitalism.
Similarly, Martins Luther, the General Secretary of Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professions, added that the struggle of Occupy Nigeria shows that Nigerians are ready to fight back.
The crisis is still ongoing and the ruling class passes it from administration to administration. The trade union leaders will continue to do the little they’re doing and we have to push them to do more.
Many union representatives are employees who can be victimized as a result of radical union activities. If Nigeria adopted a policy of nationalizing oil production and refining, our story would be different. Practically all key sectors of the economy are in a worrisome stage. The healthy sector is in shambles, and the ASUU strike in the education sector is telling about the situation. He stressed the need for more political education among workers.
We need to build a movement against the current regime, he said. The civil society has to be more active to give hope to ordinary people. As a member of a trade union related to the health sector, I see that the rate at which brain drain is affecting the country is very big. Many health workers have already left the country, and those who haven’t are thinking of it.
Among other speakers at the event was Prof Omotoye Olorode.
In his contribution, he said that Nigeria needs to be salvaged from the hands of the present ruling capitalist class, who are only interested in the practice of wealth accumulation on the backs of society. He explained how they’re paying businessmen to export oil, and then pay again to import it back after refining it in another country.
Nigerian roads are in a very bad condition and as we speak the use of dirty fuel in the country is dominant. Everything the ruling class are doing is basically to maximize their profits. As we speak there are queues everywhere in Nigeria even though we have more than enough resources to take care of our people.
What we need in order to move forward and shape a movement that will be prepared to challenge the ruling elite is to have a kind of Labour Support Group that will bring social movements, civil societies and left parties together.
Sanyanolu Juwon, from the “Take It Back” movement, said during his contribution that the ruling class see our movements as a threat to them.
It’s important that despite all their attempts to silence our voices, the End SARS movement against police brutality broke out less than ten years after Occupy Nigeria. We need to build movements against oppression and the system of profit that the Buhari regime represents. He draw the attention of the participants to the coming 2023 elections. He posed the question how could the coming election campaign period be used to mobilise our forces together to challenge the ruling class.
Wole Engel in his contribution said that the present fuel price crisis was artificially created by the big oil tycoons and the ruling class in an attempt to continue to make huge profits. If the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was in control of functional refineries the situation today might be different. But there are continuous lies and the ruling class is using the media to cover up the truth on how a different policy could change things.
The public event ended with an enthusiasm to continue to build the collective resistance against the continued attacks on the living standards. The Revolutionary Socialist Movement (RSM) will continue to strive for unity between genuine fighting forces both within the left and the trade union movements.
About 30 people participated in this online public event. This number is indicative of the problems of the majority of the population to have constant power supply, steady internet access, affordable data, the relevant devices or even enough time to participate. Colonial and neoliberal policies applied for decades in Nigeria have created conditions of despair. But at the same time, they have created people with the will to fight to change them. RSM is committed to this struggle!