A revolution has started in Nigeria, fuelled by anger birthed from a genuine discontent with the system and the cycle of gerontocracy being forced on Nigerians. It is not enough to have a revolutionary anger; that anger must inspire us to change our objective condition – Omoyele Sowore.
As inherent in the motto of the Nigeria Labour Congress and duly supported by history: labour creates wealth. And this wealth generated by the labour of workers remains the foundation upon which any economy including Nigeria’s is erected. However, the wealth created by the Nigerian workers has been that which subsequent governments have used to enslave Nigerian workers for the past 58 years. This groundless enslavement erected on a system of servitude has confronted workers in different forms; slave wages, lack of basic healthcare, lack of occupational safety, labour casualization, unemployment/underemployment, education commercialisation, attacks on independent unionism and insecurity of both lives and jobs.
The most monstrous of these deliberate attacks on workers is privatisation of publicly owned property. This fraudulent scheme has not only translated into overconcentration of our wealth in the hands of the few and irreconcilable class inequality, but has also meant that Nigerian workers are made direct victims through mass retrenchments. This scheme can be chronicled to the ugly days of Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) during which we took up the military regime led by General Babangida’s government against an attempt to use this policy to create a haven for the rich and a paradise for the thieves.
However, these attacks on the Nigerian working class have not always come without conscious resistance from workers, students and the Nigerian masses at large. The history of the Nigerian ruling class is that of violent attacks on the living/working conditions of the Nigerian workers. Ours is a history of fighting them to a successful standstill. This is our history; the history of the revolutionary Nigerian working class. It is a history of consistent attacks, consistent resistances and consistent victories.
The TakeItBack Movement and the African Action Congress are prepared to join Nigerian workers in their demand for a living wage. It should be recalled that the African Action Congress has been unrepentant on its stance to pay workers a minimum of a 100,000 naira living wage. This is very possible considering the enormous wealth created by the workers themselves but ironically at the disposal of profligate and rapacious ruling class.
It would interest you to know that Nigeria, despite its enormous wealth, pays the least amount as minimum wage but ironically runs the most expensive Government that pays political office holders outrageous salaries and extravagant allowances. Even the ideologically wretched and economically subversive World Bank premises economic growth on the need to pay $300 (unskilled workers), $900 (skilled workers) as minimum and $1,800 on the maximum to workers. This was arrived at after considering the living index in Nigeria. Despite the mindless attachment of the Nigerian ruling class to its IMF imperial master, $38 is what the Nigerian government could disgracefully pay to its workers – and that, inconsistently.
Unfortunately for some ‘economists’ who, at best, understand the subject matter through the lenses of the ‘Washington Consensus’ and International Monetary ‘fraud’ (IMF), they believe an increase in minimum wage would lead to inflation. These ‘economists’ would never come with this same outdated argument when its time to attack workers with increase in fuel price, electricity tariff, water bills, tenement rates, school fees and irrational extortions. They would never talk of inflation when politicians loot billions of dollars from the nation’s treasury and reward themselves with outrageous salaries and allowances.
The last time the minimum wage was increased in Nigeria was in 2011, yet the cost of commodities between 2011 and now has tripled if not quadrupled. Between these same periods, politicians have looted more and increased their respective allowances. Yet no one is talking about inflation. But when it comes to paying workers who are the actual producers of wealth, then they blackmail workers’ demands with the menace of inflation.
For us in the African Action Congress, we will not only increase living wage to 100,000 naira, we would also reverse all policies of privatisation by previous governments and forthwith build a very strong and democratically managed public sector.
To bring to conclusion my message to you at this decisive stage in our history, I would like to reiterate that our struggles against slave wages, casualization, commercialisation and privatisation viz all policies that create class inequality must nevertheless be connected to overthrowing this overbearing system of servitude.
This is what the TakeItBack Movement and the African Action Congress stand for. We call on you to join us in the struggle to overhaul this exploitative system characterized by profligate rulers even as we march into the 2019 general elections.
Let the oppressed and the workers take it back.