FROM 11 to 14 October the Nigerian working class showed its potential to lead the rest of the oppressed and exploited in the fight to win a better world.
A coalition of the main trade union and labour organisations, human rights and pro-democracy organisations called a four-day strike.
It won overwhelming support, particularly in the major cities and towns. Banks, schools, markets, factories, hospitals and offices were all shut.
Self employed commercial drivers kept their vehicles off the roads. The streets were deserted.
Nigeria’s workers have shown that they have the power to be the salvation of the whole of society.
The strike had only one major demand—the removal of the recent 25 percent increase in the price of petroleum products. Nigeria is a rich nation in terms of natural resources, but its people are poor.
Oil, a natural blessing, has been turned into a curse.
Nigeria is a vast oil producer, but relies on importation of refined products.
The four state-owned refineries have been run down and cannot produce enough to meet local demand.
Top government officials have successfully established private refineries outside the shores of Nigeria. Petroleum products are now being imported from those privately-owned refineries at the prices decided by the international market.
So when oil prices go up internationally the government collects a huge increase in revenue on the oil it exports, the offshore refineries also make vastly more money—but prices rise for ordinary people.
This makes transport, cooking and heating incredibly expensive. We live in a country of oil but can’t afford it.
No wonder so many millions supported last week’s action.
The state met the strike with repression. The president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Adams Oshiomole, was assaulted and arrested.
In Kaduna State, in the northern part of Nigeria, a 12 year old peaceful protester, Mohammed Sani Idris, was shot and killed by the police, while other protesters sustained various injuries.
In Ibadan, in the south west, clashes occurred between the police and students, and many were injured.
The weekend before the strike I was “invited” in for interrogation by the director general of the Nigerian secret police, the State Security Service. When I left I was offered a large payment for “fares”. This was probably designed to buy me off or be used as fake evidence of corruption. I gave the money to charity.
The issue of the strike remains unresolved. And more struggle is likely.
There will be no alternative to mass actions in the coming period. We could see street protests, demonstrations and strikes in the near future.
The Nigerian labour movement will need the solidarity of the international labour movement. The Nigerian state is monstrous and bloodthirsty. It seeks to dissolve the Nigeria Labour Congress, the main union federation.
Critical and independent media houses have been closed down, and journalists and editors locked up.
But we are convinced that with determined action in Nigeria itself, and the global support of other workers, it will be possible to win this battle.
That can be an important step in bringing about a new world, not only in Nigeria, but also on an international scale.