Tuesday, December 16, 2014

THE POSITION OF JOHESU ON THE NATIONWIDE STRIKE IN THE HEALTH SECTOR

Being the text of Press Briefing address by the Chairman
Joint Health Sector Union Com. (Dr.) Ayuba P. Wabba, mni
on 16th December, 2014

1.             
Com Ayuba P. Wabba, Chair JOHESU & Com Faniran Vice Chair
  
UPDATE ON MEETINGS BETWEEN JOHESU AND GOVERNMENT
It could be recalled that the Joint Health Sector Unions declared an industrial action on the 12th of November, 2014 as a matter of last resort.  This was due to government’s refusal to fully implement agreements freely entered into by the Federal Government with JOHESU and refusal to implement Judgment of the NICN delivered on July 22, 2013.

We have had two meetings without meaningful progress; but most sadly is the lack of commitment and seriousness on the part of Federal Ministry of Health, during both and also in between meetings.

At the last meeting between the Federal Government and JOHESU on the 19th November, 2014 government requested for 24days to look into all our demands and consequently fixed another meeting for 15th December, 2014.  Disappointingly at the meeting of Monday 15th December, 2014, key officials of Federal Ministry of Health notably the Minister, Permanent Secretary, and Directors were conspicuously absent thereby stalling the meeting.

 THREATS AND INTIMIDATION OF OUR MEMBERS
We are disturbed, that instead of Government showing concern and demonstrating commitment towards bringing an end to the plight of Nigerians and health workers by addressing the issues and restoring Public Health Services, it resorted to acts of intimidation culminating in the directive contained in Circular Ref. DHS/PLC/01/P/130 dated 9th December, 2014.

Furthermore the ignominious use of the police to brutalize our members against all known universal industrial relation norms is condemnable.  If the situation continues it may lead to breakdown of law and order in our health institutions similar to that witnessed in ABUTH and other Hospitals in the 1990s.

3.       HEALTH WORKERS’ RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING CANNOT BE WISHED AWAY

The Federal Government of Nigeria is a signatory to the ILO Conventions 87 & 98 which guarantee Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining for Trade Unions and which have both been domesticated in our labour laws.

Further, the Trade Unions Act (2005) is quite explicit and unambiguous in enshrining the respect for disputes of right i.e where and when trade unions embark on industrial action in situations where collective agreements are violated by the employers.

In the light of the foregoing which is objectively verifiable, JOHESU has fulfilled all righteousness and our strike action is both legal and legitimate.  The invocation of “no work, no pay” by the Federal Government is totally flawed and holds no water, whatsoever.

If any party is to be sanctioned here, in line with the laws of the land, it should be the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) for treating collective agreements the FGN freely entered into with JOHESU and which the NICN upheld, with utter disdain and contempt. 
We thus call for respect for our due right to strike based on what is a dispute of right.

4.                 DIRECTIVE FOR TOTAL COMPLIANCE WITH THE ONGOING INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Arising from the obvious tactics of intimidation and brutalization of our members in demanding for their legitimate rights and the obvious exhibition of bias against JOHESU by the Federal Ministry of Health including the refusal of key officers of the Ministry to attend the meeting of December 15, 2014, we are compelled to:

i).     Direct our members to suspend all forms of skeletal and concessional services in all healthcare facilities and ensure TOTAL COMPLIANCE with the strike action.
ii).    As a matter of necessity branch meetings should hold regularly for the enforcement of members’ rights and liberties and to resist any form of brutalization, intimidation and oppression, through all legitimate means.
iii).   Members should gird their loins for a long drawn battle if need be, as we will not turn back until victory is achieved.

Conclusion
We call on all well-meaning Nigerians to call on the Federal Government to live up to its constitutional obligation of respect for the rule of law by implementing the collective agreements reached since 2009 till date.

This is a struggle foisted on us and in as much as we find it painful to prosecute with our sincere concern for common Nigerians, we are left with no choice but to take this path of struggle as we call on the Federal Government to tow the path of honour and justice.


Thank you.

Friday, October 24, 2014

NO TO REMOVAL OF LABOUR FROM EXCLUSIVE LIST! FOR A LIVING WAGE NOW!

Socialist Workers League joins the Nigeria Labour Congress in condemning the National Assembly’s proposed constitutional amendment that would remove Wages from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list. This is a clear attempt to inflict a great blow on the working class. If it is allowed to sail through such draconian amendment would empower state governments that have never hidden their intent to give workers absolutely nothing as wages if only they could, to worsen the paucity of the starvation wages they presently pay.

It is bad enough that a minimum wage of N18,000 was accepted in 2011 as against the N52,500 demand of the trade unions. It is worse that a few states have refused to even pay this pittance of a take home pay that cannot take many a worker home. The worst situation would be that of liberalising the minimum wage regime, supposedly in the name of “decentralisation” and “true federalism”. This is a huge step backwards as the quest for Living Wage is supplanting even mere “minimum” wages. This is to say that minimum wages like the N18,000 pittance are being rejected, and rightly so, by trade unions and the working class as a whole, across the world, including in African countries.

Minimum wages represent a significant reform to curtail the worst of exploitation of the workers’ enslavement by the capitalists, as a reform won through struggle.

We hasten to state that the wage system is itself the most manifest form of the enslavement of the working class by the bosses. “Labour creates wealth” as the NLC’s motto boldly reminds us. But the bosses appropriate the social wealth and present us with meagre amounts as wages. Our ultimate aim thus must be for us, as the primary class of toilers, to change the system by and for us to be emancipated. This is the essence of the lines in Solidarity Forever that “we can bring to birth a new world on the ashes of the old, for the union makes us strong”. This new society, which the workers’ will build on the basis of solidarity and cooperation, is socialism.

In the cause of our struggle for self-emancipation, we have to fight for, win and defend reforms, without having any illusion that socialism can be won through piecemeal reforms. One of such reforms is of course the enactment of the living wage. The bosses will always do all they can to roll back such reforms as that of the National Minimum Wage legislation except we fight to defend such gains. We thus welcome NLC’s position that “We Shall Resist This”. SWL and its members and supporters across the country will join the trade unions, which we are part and parcel of, in this monumental battle.

In furtherance of this struggle, we call on the NLC and TUC to organise a 2-day General Strike immediately, as a warning signal to the bosses and their governments at all levels, that our resistance will be unwavering, if they do not retract their steps on this matter, forthwith. An indefinite strike action would of course be necessary, if the amendment process continues, to ensure that it is scuttled. And we must start now to struggle for a National Minimum Wage that is a living wage. Once again, we should demand a National Minimum Wage of N52,500.00 by 2015, with no going back on this.

It is also pertinent at this juncture which the current situation underlines to stress the pressing need for the working class to build a Labour Party that represents it, within and outside the National and State Houses of Assembly. The bosses might have the wealth from our sweat which they sit on, but “in our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold, greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand fold”. But for that power to be real we the working people need to build OUR PARTY as the collective bargaining nature of trade unions limits the politics necessary for our struggle to social emancipation.

This is why the Socialist Workers League in conjunction with the FCT Abuja Chapter of the Labour Party is organising a symposium with the theme: Labour Party and the Working Class: Which Way Forward?  by 11.00am on Thursday October 30, at the Labour House Auditorium. We enjoin you to join us   

Baba Aye

National Chairperson
October 24, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

THE “NUMSA MOMENT”; A RENEWAL OF REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS IN SOUTH AFRICA

A Report of the NUMSA International Symposium of Left Parties and Movements, August 7-10, 2014

Comrade Irvine Jim, General Secretary NUMSA, addressing the symposium
INTRODUCTION
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) held an International Symposium of Left Parties and Movements on August 7-10, 2014 with the theme: “Building Our Movement for Socialism: Learning from the Lessons of Others”. The symposium was simultaneously the Module 4 of the NUMSA Marxist-Leninist Political Schools for its 250-cadre Mbuyiselo Ngwenda Brigade (made up of shop stewards and activists in the NUMSA provincial structures), and a milestone within the programme adopted for effecting the December 2013 resolution of the union’s Special Delegates Conference to establish a revolutionary socialist party, forge a united front of revolutionary and radical parties, movements and groups and build a movement for socialism. On the eve of this path-breaking symposium, three NUMSA activists who were leading shop stewards in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province were shot dead. These were: Njabulo Ndebele, secretary of the Isithebe branch, Sibonelo Ntuli, the branch’s deputy secretary (who were both to have been participants at the symposium) and Ntobeko Maphumulo. While bothered by these apparent political assassinations, the NUMSA leadership was not deterred and dedicated the challenge of moving forward to their revolutionary memory. The symposium thus started with a sober mood of defiance, even at a dark hour.

ATTENDANCE
79 persons, parties, unions and groups were invited from 28 countries. 40 of these accepted the invitation. Communist Parties in governments such as in Cuba and Vietnam turned down the invitation to avoid souring relations with ANC, that of China ignored the call, CGT (the French trade union centre with historic ties to the French Communist Party) stated that it was no longer interested in socialist politics and discourse, some parties like Lalit in Mauritania were very busy with forthcoming elections, while some others particularly from southern Europe said they were on (summer) holidays. The French Left Front comrade was turned back at the airport (France had communicated its displeasure to NUMSA on French citizens participating in a subversive meeting). Eventually 27 persons/groups from 17 countries participated. These were from: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, China (Hong Kong), Ecuador, Egypt, El-Salvador, Ghana, Germany, Greece (Syriza sent a 7-page position paper which showed intent to be physically present, though absent), India, Nigeria, Philippines, South Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

COSATU, NACTU and the affiliates of these two federations were invited as were ANC and SACP as well as other Left groups in South Africa which included: AZAPO, EFF, WASP, DLF, PAC and SOPA. Not surprisingly, ANC, SACP and COSATU turned down the invitation. EFF also issued a public statement that it would not participate because: its leadership had tried to meet with NUMSA for some months, and; it would not share platform with ANC (and SACP). The NUMSA National Treasurer debunked the first reason that NUMSA’s Special Conference had resolved to give priority to internal discussions on the way forward before engaging with other Left groups. And one of the participants during a break-away session wondered why it would be difficult for EFF to share a symposium platform with ANC while it could seat with the party in parliament.

METHODOLOGY
The symposium included blocs of: plenary presentations, panel discussions, breakaway sessions and meetings of the Mbuyi Ngwenda brigade to reflect on the presentations at both plenary and breakaway sessions.

Presentations at the plenary sessions included: a briefing to international guests by the NUMSA General Secretary Irvine Jim, “The State of the South African Revolution and the Significance of the NUMSA Moment”, opening speech by the NUMSA President Andrew Chirwa, “The South African Working Class, the NUMSA Moment and the Importance of Global Solidarity” and a video presentation by Samir Amin on “The Theory and Historical Evolution of Organisational Formations Struggling Against Capitalism”.  There were breakaway sessions to discuss these, particularly that by Samir Amin.  

The central panel discussion was a “tri-continental” discourse on social-economic and political developments with emphasis on the struggles and achievements of “socialist/communist political organisations”. Fred Fuentes of the Socialist Alliance spoke on Latin America, Firoze Manji of the Pan-African Baraza on Africa and Andreas Geunther of Die Linke (standing in for the Left Front’s Christophe Aguiton) on Europe. In 6 groups, participant’s discussed the panel’s inputs and each group presented 3 priority questions/comments to the plenary where further discussions took place.

There were 4 “socialist stations” which were working commissions where international participants provided insight of their experiences to Mbuyi Gwenda brigade cadres and other local participants. These were structured to encompass: current socialist/left parties in governments (Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Uruguay); socialist/left groups that have not formed government but have mass following/energy (Germany, Greece, India, Philippines); where trade unions have established workers/labour parties (Egypt, Nigeria, South Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, Zambia, Zimbabwe); where there are ongoing “socialist/leftist experiments” but without any party representative of such present at the symposium(Brazil, Peoples Republic of China (Hong Kong), Venezuela).

In socialist stations 1 & 2 where official party officials spoke, there were also “critical voices” from outside the party structures to give alternative views. This was the case in particular with India and Egypt. And in station 4, leadoffs on the Brazilian situation were made by both members of the Landless Peoples Movement MST (a critical ally of the ruling PT) and Conlutas, an alternative trade union federation to the dominant trade union federation allied to the PT, i.e. CUT and with ties to the United Socialist Workers Party of Brazil.

The symposium’s conference documents also included 6 “core reading materials” some of which the MG Brigade cadres had studied in the course of the 3 earlier modules. These were:

·         Samir Amin: “Popular Movements Toward Socialism: Their Unity and Diversity”, in Monthly Review, June 2014
·         Charles Post: “What is Left of Leninism? New European Left Parties in Historical Perspective”, in Leo Panitch, Greg Albio and Vivek Chibber (2013), Socialist Register
·         Ernest Mande: “On Vanguard Parties” Address made at the Marx Centenary Conference – Marxism: The Next Two Decades, March 1983
·         Marta Harnecker: “A New Political Instrument to Build a New Hegemony”, Part 3 of A World to Build: New Paths toward Twenty-first Century Socialism, Monthly Review Press (coming November 2014)
·         Vladimir Ilyich Lenin: “The Primitiveness of the Economists and the Organisation of Revolutionaries”, Chapter 4 in What is to Be Done?, 1902
·         Mao Tse Tung: “Part II: The National Democratic Revolution”, in Revolutionary Thought in the 20th Century, 1980




IN LIEU OF A CONCLUSION
The International Symposium was a milestone within the process NUMSA is unfolding towards establishing a revolutionary working class alternative to the class collaborationist politics of the tripartite alliance. The next major step would be a Conference on Socialism, scheduled for March next year. At the closure of the symposium, the union’s president opined that theorization on the way forward, resting on lessons learnt from the symposium and the lived and living experiences of NUMSA and its membership would inform discussions at this forthcoming conference.

There are great possibilities for the unfolding situation which the NUMSA moment reflects. But these go with huge challenges as well. In conclusion, these are considered briefly, below.

The long shadow of the ANC is obviously tainted by the “four legs good, two legs better” metamorphosis of its napoleons, but it still has many a boxer’s loyalty. Drawing further from animal farm, the Marikana massacre clearly revealed the erosion of differences between the faces of the pigs and former white male masters. NUMSA will have the opportunity of this erosion of confidence in what used to be a national liberation movement. But it could be an uphill task in the short-term; particularly with the older generation that still have a nostalgic attachment to ANC. This would most likely include violent fight back by the dying leviathan.

The united front is a critical element of the thrust of the NUMSA moment. Most of the political groups that appear set to forge such with NUMSA are small and with near negligible influence. The challenge of winning the confidence of EFF fighters, to be actively part of such a front-in-practice, at the very least cannot be overemphasized, if it is to be robust, in today’s South Africa, in my view. NUMSA youths would have a central role to play in appealing to the rank and file “fighters” of the EFF through struggles from below in the communities (and even some workplaces).

“What kind of party do we want to build?” is a question that NUMSA will have to answer in theory and practice. The answer will not necessarily be as simple as it is often posed on the Left in general; “vanguard or mass party?” Luckily, so to speak, NUMSA will not be starting (in either theory or practice) from a point of zero. Discussions at the Symposium, the reading materials circulated and the unfolding reality of crises and revolts we are living through provide nuggets of answers.

In my opinion, something to be guarded against is the tilt towards compromising revolutionary programme with the massification of Left parties as they get sucked into the labyrinth of electoral politics. Avoiding the reefs of reformism on one hand and sectarianism on the other can best be rooted in revolutionary programme that posits reforms not as an alternative to revolution, or part of a National Democratic Revolution, but as rungs in building the confidence and power of the working class as it climbs the self-emancpatory ladder of revolution.

NUMSA’s inclusion of service delivery struggles as a trade union, as part and parcel of its moment, in the rejuvenation of the movement for socialism in South Africa points towards a grasp of this, as does its readiness to debate on the concept of the NDR, while still holding firmly to it.

At this point, I cannot but say like Chinua Achebe that “it is morning yet on creation day”. And, the greatest contribution of revolutionaries in different countries globally to the NUMSA moment might not be the theoretical debate we will engage in as it deepens, but to deepening the revolutionary struggle of the working class to overthrow capitalism across the world. For NUMSA though, while it is correctly committed to a process-driven approach at arriving at the goal of building a mass-based revolutionary socialist party, it would have to take the plunge sooner than later, if the party would be participating in the March 2016 local elections in South Africa, as it has hinted.  The dynamics of local elections are quite different from those of national elections where EFF could make a credible showing within just 8months of its establishment. Socialism is the future, and the future starts today.
Abuja, 7th September 2014

Friday, December 6, 2013

AWAITING INTERMENT (on Festus and Us)

the remains of rof. Festus Iyayi...killed by a projectile in the heart
The remains of Festus Iyayi await the silence of soils that is mother earth’s final embrace, barely a day from now. I still find it difficult to put words on paper somewhat on the great mind with a large heart that Comrade Festus was, and will continue to be, as an inspiration to us, and those that will come after us. A lot has been said and written about his life, and his death, not the least during the tributes session of the ceremonies for his last journey, which started two days ago. A lot more will still be said, indeed, have to be said.

I wouldn’t know if “tribute” would be the most apt word to describe what I know try to write here. But I cannot think of any more appropriate term, really. When I heard the news some two hours after his brutal killing in what initially seemed to be an accident, numbness was what came over me. This was partly due to my state of health at the time. Arriving from the NUMSA International Colloquium four days earlier, I hit the road in pursuit of an inter-party struggle, ending up with an auto-crash. Unscathed though, I took ill the following day, but self-discharged against medical advice to meet up with long delayed book chapter for Lou R, and to prepare for travelling to Lagos for Baba Omojola’s burial rites. With all these, I just found a seat in my General Secretary’s office when he broke the news...and literally broke down.

The sudden loss of so many of our tribe of activists have hit me badly before, particularly such of my generation like Teslim, Laitan and particularly Chima whose corpse I received at Abuja from Potiskum. They were all in the prime of their lives, in their early forties. Festus died when he was sixty six, some fourteen years younger than Baba Omojola whom we lost three weeks before that black November 12. Why has such a broad spectrum of activists and other citizens been shocked by Festus’ death to this hardly describable extent?

The circumstances are important in this regard. Like Chima Ubani, he died in a car accident, whilst on active service in the cause of the working people. Festus Iyayi might still be alive if the Federal Government had the slightest tinge of honour and had respected the agreement it reached with ASUU four years ago. Further dimensions of “circumstances” have also unfolded with the realization that he was his heart was pierced by a projectile, which could have been a bullet.

The very vast depth of Festus Iyayi as a person, an intellectual, a revolutionary, equally account for the avalanche of tributes that have poured in since that Black Tuesday. I do not intend to go regurgitate much of this. It was a honour for me to have written a tribute to this great man when he turned sixty, on the pages of The Health Worker, the flagship periodical of Medical and Health Workers; Union of Nigeria, which he appreciated. Festus was always very practical as well as having a rich grasp of theory. I am concerned here, as his remains await interment to point out some critical elements of who and what he was, that maybe, could be imbibed more within the circles of the revolutionary Left, and change-seeking activists in general. This is particularly so as we live through an era of crises in which discontent is rife, revolts become more commonplace, but the theoretical and practical leadership remains abysmally weak and inchoate.

Comrade Festus Iyayi was first and foremost a revolutionary socialist. His literary works, dynamism as a unionist, patriotic and yet internationalist activism were derived from this primary commitment to the socialist transformation of society which can be enthroned only with the emancipation of the working class. The fate of the socialist movement operating more often than not underground was woven with that of the social movements and mass democratic organisations in which Festus played key roles.

He was ASUU President at a crucial point in Nigeria’s history. But this is only part of that story. A deeper part is the charged flux of changes going on in the world in the mid o late eighties when he was president of the union. This was the period of Mikhail Gorbachov’s perestroika and glasnost. Socialists and activists in the labour movement world over were faced with the challenges of interpreting and acting on the basis of a world-historical context of capitalist triumphalism as the Soviet empire moved from decline to collapse.

In Nigeria, there were turning point events within the socialist Left as well as in the trade union movement (with the 1989 “compromise” of the progressives with the democrats that brought in Pascal Bafyau as NLC President). In 1986, when Iyayi was taking up the mantle of ASUU, the Socialist Congress of Nigeria was established. While it was supposed to be a united platform for the Marxist-Leninist left, the Working People’s Liberation Movement was formed more or less immediately as well, and the Trotskyite Labour Militant publication commenced within months of this period.

Festus Iyayi was a dedicated member of SCON till he died, serving at a point in time as its General Secretary. He was one of the most doctrinaire Marxist-Leninist you could ever find. But, he was never sectarian. He never allowed tendential differences to stand in the way of working together, and was actively involved in every effort to rally the Left as a body, in his lifetime.

It was one of such efforts that brought me to working closely with him. This was in 2002/2003 during preparations for the 3rd All Nigeria Socialist Conference, which held on February 21-23, 2003[1]. The Conference established the (short-lived) Nigeria Socialist Alliance (NSA) and elected a 14-person leadership comprising 2 persons each from the seven leading organisations that participated. Festus insisted that the leadership structure should be called “Working Committee”, as it had to work a lot. His Centre-piece Consultancy office in Benin City became the base of the Working Committee.

It was great trying to work with Festus in that committee. I say trying to because most of the members of the committee were never available for work, and never attended meetings to even plan such work. Despite the battles in the CDHR then, which Iyayi was in the thick of, he always found time to be active in the committee (I remember him shuttling between a CDHR national meeting and the WC meeting on May 31). But apart from him, there would only be myself, and both Eskor Toyo and Laoye Sanda (both representing the SRV) being available. Eventually NSA simply stopped existing. Chima Ubani was saddled with coordinating NSA, but his hands seemed to be filled with work as the Executive Director of CLO.

It is important to point out here that Chima Ubani and Festus Iyayi were the two representatives of SCON on the WC. Why is this important? It is not so much because they had such strikingly, and painfully so similar endings of their lives. It is much more that they lived such strikingly, and honourably so, similar lives. They were both doctrinaires as Marxist-Leninists. But they were strongly against sectarian politics and had open hearts. Consequently they established bridges of trust, respect and work with comrades across the broad spectrum of the Left. Another important dimension of the matter is that SCON had earlier split nine years before then.
In the pro-democratic movement this took the form of the breakaway from Campaign for Democracy and formation of Democratic Alternative by the largely NGOs-based (younger) “SCON II” cadres (which Chima was a part of). “SCON I” remained rooted in the Universities-based intelligentsia, of an older generation. The Iyayi-Ubani representation of a joint SCON presence in NSA thus reflects a unity-seeking within a revolutionary Left organisation, as part of the broader unity-seeking between organisations that the alliance was.         

A sharper and more lasting effort after the NSA was initiated in 2005 and could be considered as having collapsed by 2011.. This took the form of the All-Nigeria Socialist Alliance (ANSA), which Festus Iyayi was a pillar of. On October 12, 2005, at its inaugural meeting, the Abuja Socialist Collective (an effort by the then Socialist Workers’ Movement to rally Left activists based in Abuja as a united front for discourse and work), resolved to utilise the presence of comrades from far and wide at Chima Ubani’s burial on October 27/28, to call for a national united front of the Left). This united platform which adopted ANSA from the earlier experience of 1989 had several contradictions within it, which Festus Iyayi and Eskor Toyo were the first to point out.

Most of the left groups were comatose to some extent or the other at the time. An “alliance” formation became not just a call for “Left unity”. It also spurred the re-awakening of most of these groups. A debate on how loose the alliance/coalition/organisation should be. Both Eskor and Festus pointed out the centrifugal forces that could be unleashed in the context within which the re-alignment was taking place. In 2008 when this debate raged, Festus got the Abuja Socialist Collective (which was a model of working together despite nuanced differences) to pass a resolution that ANSA be a “Socialist Organisation of Nigeria”, with room for platforms.

This was when Comrade Festus was doing his sabbatical with the Nigeria Labour Congress. He was a leading light of the ASC serving on the editorial board of Working People’s Vanguard which I was editing, and which later became the ANSA paper. Our resolution was defeated and ANSA it was...at least as a nomenclature, for slowly, but surely, like NSA even if in a different way, it atrophied. But while it lasted, Festus hosted most of the ANSA meetings. His office, and more often than not (particularly for those meetings throughout the night when the few that slept where much younger comrades”) in his home became home to ANSA.

At this different junctures, a number of leading comrades of became distraught drawing back from efforts at building unity in work and/or organisation/coalition. Some did out rightly drop out of that penumbra of revolutionary political life in the shadows (of semi-legality at the best) as a whole, while still being active in the social movements. And some even just fashied everybody and continued living their lives as if the knowledge of socio-historic truth did not place the burden of fighting on their shoulders. We need not talk of those like Labarn Maku who lived in Iyayi’s boys squatters and ate from the same pot as Festus during his NYSC days in Benin. For those, we have no description short of dammed treachery.

But Festus never tired or looked back. In February 2011, he was at the fore in initiating the process of “Benin meetings” at forming a Socialist Party of Nigeria. He had been very active in the Labour Party hitherto, and had been commissioned by the NLC to write on how to revamp the party. He was of the view that the socialist party cannot be “seized back” by revolutionary forces.

We had healthy debates on this. I pointed out that he was more active in the Labour Party “nationally” in a way that was through the trade unions that had themselves been distant from it, at the time. A clear manifestation of this was during the 2nd National Convention of the party on December 19, 2009 when Festus Iyayi initially wanted to vie for the office of National Vice-Chairman South-South. Meanwhile, structures from below in Edo state and the zone had settled for a veteran trade unionist, Comrade Lawson Osagie, without his being aware of this initially. He subsequently withdrew from the contest.

The road to the SPN efforts could arguably be said to have started with Professor Eskor Toyo’s declaration of ANSA as dead and calling for a “Revolutionary Socialist Party”, at Calabar in August 2010. Festus, did something that few ever got to do, while agreeing with Eskor on the essential, in his view, i.e. establishing a  socialist party, he challenged the “superman me” approach of Eskor to this. Without the slightest sense of disrespect for Eskor’s greatness as a revolutionary, he does obviously have a chronic sense of acute megalomania, which is only near matched by his genuine self-sacrificing commitment to revolutionary struggle for the past 60 plus years.

As the organisationally-minded revolutionary that Festus was, the Benin meetings were initiated based on collective decisions and efforts. This time it was largely on the platform of Edo Future group, led by Comrade Ihonde, a former Deputy President of the NLC. The SPN1 if I may so put it, with the formation of yet another SPN, this time by the DSM in Lagos[2], had dozens of activists from the different geo-political zones in the country.

Iyayi was however very much bothered by the fact that most of them were tested and trusted over the years, but on average, in their 60s and 70s. He called for regeneration and made it clear that for the party to have a future it had to be driven by young hands, with the old guards as trustees within the structures, while remaining active as members. He did see Felix O, Sylvester O-A and my humble self as being a fulcrum in that direction and many a time he called on me to be ready to serve as the General Secretary of the party.

Of course, I pointed out time and again equally that, based on party formation on the basis of the 199 constitution, I would rather be in a party with workers that is not explicitly socialist than in one that is socialist but not rooted in the working class as it were. I thus would choose, if the decision were mine alone to make, to be in the Labour Party, warts and all. This I saw as not barring collaboration with the SPN as a non-member.

The last time I saw Iyayi, which was in September, we still had this debate. Alas, I did not know it would be the last time, I would see him...alive.

Why have I eventually taken up the task of this rather lengthier than I thought it would be when I started article, as Festus’ remains await interment? I think it is largely to stress a few important lessons to be learnt from Festus Iyayi’s life.

First, the struggle to change society beyond merely winning the concessions of a few reforms now and then is one which requires the building of social movements as well as unwavering commitment to building vanguard organisation, without which the steam of social movement’s rising could dissipate without fully turning the wheels of history. Festus was one of those rare breeds that gave the most commendable levels of leadership in the most self-sacrificing manner at all levels of service to the organisation and the working people. The linkages of the concentric circles of organisation driving revolutionary struggle are hardly ever visible for most, not the least because of security concerns, but require documentation, in the ways we can.
Second, is the fact that our pathways as revolutionaries could at times, indeed most times, be frustrating. But radical faith is not only possible, it is the essence of a permanentist commitment to permanent struggle itself. But within this haze of frustration, there is a halo of fulfilment. While we cannot fully win until capitalism is globally overthrown, the partial victories won yesterday and today are because we dare to seek for much more than what they are. Besides to live in the hearts of the masses is to live forever....as Festus does.

It would not be apt to round up without addressing one or two other issues relating to Professor Festus Iyayi.

One, I daresay that Festus Iyayi had one of the most robust relations with working class activists amongst our comrades outside the trade union movement. Shop stewards, state, zonal and national officers of different unions that had the opportunity to listen to and read Iyayi’s presentations over the years would run into a few tens of thousands. Over the last ten years, this has largely been as a result of his being one of the most regular lead speakers at the NLC National Schools. As a member of the NLC Education and Training Coordinating Group, I can say the reasons for these include: the succinctness of his presentations, which were simple without being simplistic; his down-to-earth nature which saw to his establishing close relations with several unions beyond the schools and; the fact that you could be rest assured that Festus would have a fully completed paper ready when he would arrive for his presentation, unlike many other presenters.

Two, I had a debate once with another radical professor who has impacted on me, particularly in the field of industrial relations, with regards to Professor Iyayi as a consultant, not being a poor man. It is important for the records to point out that Iyayi built his Centre-piece management consultancy to survive after he was kicked out by the state in UNIBEN for his ideas. He fought this impunity and won after a decade, during which Centre-piece flourished. There was no untoward practice by the consultancy, and more importantly, he put his substance where his ideas where. I actually remember discussions with Paulo Bambe, Lanre Filani and Muyiwa A, when in 1990 I took the decision to leave medical school and become a professional revolutionary and build the M31M. While I would still take the same decision within those same context, I think their argument then that our objective roles in the logic of capitalism as bourgeois or petit-bourgeois elements those not necessarily have to debar our political commitments. Engels as a manufacturer is probably the sharpest example for us as Marxists.
Three, Professor Festus Iyayi could and did commit his life to the revolutionary cause, to a great extent because he was blessed with a warm heated, loving and tolerant wife. Aunty Grace would always make us feel so much at home whenever we visited No 11 Bello Street. And it did not matter if we were two or thirty two, she would prepare such mouth-watering dishes and interact with us all as family. And believe you me, she cooks some of the most delicious ogboni soup you can ever imagine. In fact the last time I saw comrade Festus, I asked him to tell her that I was missing her ogboni soup and would be coming soon to Benin to eat some more.

Fourth, I learnt from Comrade Festus that it is not enough to have the best of ideas and be “committed”. We were discussing once about his being profound as both a novelist and a political essayist. He said there are no two ways about it beyond “hard work and perseverance”.

Finally, I must say that I did not know where I was going or where I have ended with this piece, when I started. But I do think that the death of Festus, and just days after Baba Omojola, is a very symbolic one for us at the threshold of what would most likely be a tumultuous 2014 in Nigeria. The challenge of learning from the lives of these greats who have just departed from us cannot be overemphasized. But much more importantly, as Festus would argue, I do hope this inspires greater commitment to theoretically-informed action for us, in the unfolding period, as hopefully, the Nigerian Left awaits rebirth with the working masses rising revolts to come.

For now....my last respects I must go pay! Hasta la Victoria, commandante Festus!!





[1] The doyen of the Nigerian Left, 83-year old Professor Eskor Toyo has challenged the description of that Conference as the 3rd “Al Nigeria Socialist Conference”, tracing similar conferences, even if not so described then since 1953
[2] Interestingly, while a number of members of the SPN at Benin felt a sense of betrayal by the DSM in adopting the same SPN-identity, after a leading DSMite had participated in one of the SPN meetings at Benin, and thus were of the opinion that discussions need not be held with the DSM-SPN, Festus was of the view that the essential thing was to forge Left unity and deepen its partisan capacity, and thus, despite this legitimate question of the sincerity of the DSM in this direction, discussions should be pursued with its SPN efforts

Saturday, November 9, 2013

on attempts at self-perpetuation by the LP Chairman

The National Chairman
Labour Party (LP)
LP National Office
Ladoke Akintola Boulevard
Garki II

Dear Chairman,

IN DEFENCE OF THE 3RD LP CONVENTION HOLDING BY OR BEFORE DECEMBER 19, AND AGAINST A THIRD TERM BID

By December 19, 2013, it will be four years since the 2nd Convention of our Party was held at the Labour House, Abuja, where you were returned to run for a second term of office as the National Chairman, haven been elected into the office on February 28, 2004, at the 1st LP Convention which held at the National Women Centre, Abuja.

At this juncture, all well-meaning party members, and supporters are looking forward to the convocation of the 3rd LP Convention and you handing over as National Chairman after spending almost a decade in that highly exalted office. I am constrained to have to point out the obvious, due to some unclear signals that you just might be interested in self-perpetuation as the party chairman: such a step would not augur well for either you or the party, and I would have otherwise considered such signals as being nothing short of rumours.

I was however very much bothered at the last National Working Committee meeting where you were very ambivalent when the issue was raised and I noted that it was most likely a non-issue as you had not indicated interest that you would run. Your response that I should not put words in your mouth, and that you had equally not said you would not run, was, and indeed is, very worrisome.

A further cause for concern in this regard is that barely two months to whence it becomes illegal for us to still continue holding office on the basis of the mandate of the 2nd LP Convention, there is no sign that the 3rd Convention is to be summoned. Indeed, if we are to recall the ruling of the Courts on the case of “the five governors”, your second term as National Chairman should have ended on February 28, last year, which made it eight years since you took the oath of that office.

There was a general feeling that the last NEC meeting at the beginning of September would have fixed the date for Convention and set up the necessary committees for this, which I expressed at the pre-NEC NWC meeting. But you rather assured both the NWC and subsequently the NEC that yet another NEC meeting would be held by October 9 for this purpose, but till date, there has been no notice of a NEC meeting.

At the heart of the possibility of your running again, as you pointed out, is the contrived lacuna in the constitution with regards to tenure of office. At the 2nd Convention, you had proposed that the provision limiting tenures of office to two terms be expunged in the course of constitution review, and got this proposition passed.

This was not without debate. But you argued that in Norway for example, the Social Democratic Party which is the approximate equivalent of our Labour Party in that country has no tenure limits for its officers. But there are quite a number of things wrong with this argument.

First, the political system in Norway is different from that in Nigeria. It is not only the party of labour that has no term limits. Virtually every party and indeed the governments do not have term limits. This is not something peculiar to Norway. It is common with parliamentary systems in general. Thus, same goes for ALL parties in countries such as Britain and Germany, where Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel respectively did win third terms in office.

Second, being registered on the basis of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the party’s constitution cannot be superior to the letters and spirit of the laws of the land, which envision limits for political office holders.

Third, beyond the law, there is a serious question of morality and legitimacy, particularly for a party like ours that aspires to promote politics of a new social-democratic kind. How do we defend self-perpetuation, particularly as you spoke the mind of the party when you openly condemned President Olusegun Obasanjo’s botched third term agenda?

Beyond the possibility of your running for the office of National Chairman again, what could appear to be a justification is the great strides you have apparently made in placing LP as a leading party in the country, with a serving governor who has distinguished himself with pro-people programmes, and several legislative seats at the federal, state and local government councils’ levels. Without any doubt, this is a laudable achievement for which you should be commended, as party leader.

But, this is the more reason why you should leave when the ovation is loudest and with your track record intact. There will always be sycophants who will tell you that “no one but you”, at the detriment of your good name. They are like the sirens to Odysseus, and are best kept at bay.

There are ways in which the party could continue to tap from your wealth of experience and goodwill that are honourable. It is in this light that I proposed earlier that a Board of Trustees could be constituted wherein you could continue as a leader, if you so choose and it is democratically assented to, by the party.

Labour Party has been, arguably the only party with any significant electoral presence that has not been rocked by internecine feuds thus far. It is also the only one within this fold that has had the same chairperson serving for almost a decade. In my humble opinion, it would do the party no good, for us to stir avoidable crisis over an otherwise simple and straight forward matter, as men and women of honour and dignity, rooted in the traditions of the labour movement. This is particularly so as the party is presently hopeful for success at the polls in Anambra and should be keen on unity and not divisiveness.

I would thus at this point in time call for: the initiation of Convention process, with the summoning of NEC to fix a date for the 3rd Convention and constitute the requisite committees and; due respect for honourable politics and democratic traditions against self-perpetuation.

In summing up, permit me to observe that, I still do not want to believe that you will take the plunge into a third term bid that could tear the party apart, at this decisive point in time. No matter how it turns out politically, the legitimacy and moral authority of the party would be dented by such a calamitous plunge.

Further, I must say, my intervention with this letter is a principled one. You might want to recall when in 2006 there was an attempt to remove you from office in what I considered objectionable circumstances, I stood firmly against this, despite being a major critic of yours, starting from 2005 when I had to write demanding that the National Working Committee be summoned after nineteen months with no meeting held. This led you to commend me as a principled partisan at the peace parley initiated by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who was then the NLC President. It is with this same spirit that I now raise a voice of reason, which however you might feel about it today, is as much in your interest as it is in the interest of the party as a collective.

Thank you,




BOA Ayelabola
Deputy National Seceretary