The Federal Government declared war on Nigerians on New Year day, with its 120% hike in fuel price. With heads held high, the people gallantly rose across the country in stiff resistance, immediately. The resistance snowballed into a General Strike and series of escalating Mass Protests of historic proportions, with over ten million Nigerians demonstrating in more than 50 cities and towns within the country and no less than a dozen cities across Africa, Europe and the Americas.
After nine days of this earth-shaking manifestation of the people’s power, in which over twenty citizens were brutally murdered by the police, particularly on the heels of four days of an indefinite General Strike, it seemed the state wanted peace and normalcy returned to the land as it summoned a meeting with organised labour and representatives of civil society. Alas, it only feigned concern for the people and the country. The meeting ended in a deadlock as the state refused to heed the legitimate demand of the masses that petrol pump price be reverted to N65, as it was on December 31, 2011. It rather “offered” a mere pittance of reducing the criminal N141 to N120.
This position of the FGN takes the struggle to another level. The ruling class with the Federal Government at its head now faces the people with the working class as its vanguard, in mortal battle of epic proportions. Popular resistance which has birthed a revolutionary situation now takes a tentative step towards leaping into revolution, where decisively we, the people, will rise to win our self-emancipation and overthrow the system which the state and ruling class of “cabals” represent.
We are indeed at a precipitous juncture in the annals of our country’s history. It is not accidental that this is happening at a time of turbulence and change in the world. Regimes once thought to be unshakeable in North Africa have been brought down by people’s power on the streets and Mass Strikes that shut down their economies. In each of these, the state had confronted the people as a power beyond their might, which could treat the people’s demands with disdain, and sought to crush their uprisings in blood. In Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, the people triumphed with arrogant governments humiliated and overthrown by united and determined people.
It is instructive to note that in none of these countries did the initial demands of the people include bringing down the governments they defeated. Their grievances were against economic hardships such as unemployment and poor minimum wages and on political/legal issues such as police brutality and for free speech. As the momentum built up, mass anger burst across the banks of resistance into the seas of revolution. We are at such a juncture.
The primary demand of the working people and youths was on reversal to N65 per litre we stand! There is no justifiable reason for the fuel hike, as Nigerians have shown with facts and figure. In the course of the last ten days, the demands of the people have come to include: no to corruption in high places & for drastically pruning down the high cost of governance.
This is not surprising as Nigerians know just how genuine the need of the FGN to raise money for national development by hiking prices is, from the 2012 budget proposal before the National Assembly! With N1b meant for the feeding of the president’s family; N530m for new cars & SUVs in the presidency; N512.4m to overhaul power generating sets; N101.67m to rehabilitate the transformer sub-station in the villa; N512.4m to refurbish the family wing of the main residence in Aso Rock; N357.7 to renovate the administrative building in the villa (which N302.3 had been spent on refurbishing last year) & so on and so forth, that near makes me want to puke, we are definitely being only reasonable to consider President Jonathan’s tales by moonlight about using monies from removal of the “subsidy” for the betterment of our lives, as just simply bedtime stories that can only result in ghoulish nightmares.
We equally know that less than 17,000 political public servants are to gulp N1.125 trillion and security (plus defence & office of the National Security Adviser) would corner some N1.8 trillion of our national wealth, out of a budget of N4.749 trillion. This is while N400.15b, N282.77b & N31b only are allocated to education, health and science & technology respectively.
It is obvious enough that the FGN does not have its priority right & would not require the N1.3t it claims it is necessary to raise by making us groan under the burden of the dire consequences of its fuel price hike. Democracy is meant to be the rule of the people, by the people, for the people. But what we see here is the intent of the rule of and over Nigerians by Jonathan (and his ruling class of cabals) for Jonathan (and his ruling class of cabals).
Nigerians from all walks of life spoke with one voice against this nonsense and what do we get? Rather than heed the voice of the people and the call of reason, Jonathan ordered the killings of youths in the land. Muyideen Mustafa killed at Ilorin last week Wednesday was the first martyr of this struggle, in the war waged by the state in Nigeria against the Nigerian people. That was barely nine days ago. Since then, Ademola Aderinto, in Lagos; Raheem Mojeed in Osun; Olurin Olateju in Ibadan; Abdulgafar Mohammed Hadis, in Kaduna; Yahaya Abubakar Adamu, in Lambata; Rabiu Abubakar, in Suleja & at least fifteen other citizens in Lokoja, Jalingo, Kano, Maiduguri, Ibafo, etc have been made to pay the supreme sacrifice by a degenerate state which gives citizens bullets for bread.
These killings have been roundly condemned at home and abroad. Amnesty International, has demanded that police stop “firing indiscriminately at protesters”. The state has however not tired of violence against the people. Apart from its use of the police, it has recruited no less than 5,000 armed thugs, which it intended to use in dispersing the rallies called by NLC & TUC in Abuja, just as it had mobilised similar paid thugs that had marched on Labour house on January 6. The sheer mass of the rallies which kept rising from 20,000 on the first day to about 100,000 by day 4 was much more than the thugs and their pay master in Aso rock had envisaged.
The situation in Abuja is replicated across the country. In virtually every city where the people reclaimed the streets, our numbers kept swelling! In cities such as Kano, Ibadan, & Benin, the state declared curfews, ostensibly to curb “hooliganism” but really with the hope of curtailing the spread of people’s power. These have been futile. The draconian step by Governor Sullivan Chime in Enugu to ban protests has equally not quelled the revolutionary fervour of working people and youths. As if we were in the military era, this governor who is a lawyer constituted a special mobile tribunal with its base at the State CID office, with which he tried and summarily jailed Comrade Festus Ozoeze for mobilising the people for a mass protest. The state however remains grounded by a mass strike.
The General Strike has been total, with businesses and offices shut down, even in those few states where mass protests could not continue due to the antics of the state or based on the decisions of organised labour to avoid playing into the state’s hands and witnessing more loss of lives. In the past four days, the Federal Government estimates that N1.28t has been lost. Is this not being penny wise pound foolish when this war it unleashed is to cut-off a “subsidy” worth N1.3t for the whole year?
This is however in acting true to character for the class of the 1% across the world. We the masses, the 99% whose labour creates the wealth they appropriate are not meant to benefit from the sweat of our brow, in their view. They have led the world to an economic crisis from which we are still reeling. But we must pay the price for their greed, corruption and the inefficiency of the capitalist system.
We have however chosen to seize our destiny in our hands and fight unto victory. We are more than them and with our unity and determination, we will win. The belligerence of the state and its continued contempt and war against we the people can only spur us to even more determined strides of struggle and solidarity. Indeed, the cry across the country as labour leaders and representatives of civil society met with the state was that even N65.10k would not be accepted. That organised labour held the forte for the people has sent adrenaline shooting through our blood as men, women and youths cry out boldly: to the barricades tomorrow!
We are very aware that our struggle is part of the broader struggle of working people and youths across the world. The 99% of toilers in every land equally realise the singularity of our different struggles as being for the self-emancipation of we who have been exploited, alienated, marginalised and oppressed for just too long and now rise to break the chains. As Nigerians in the diaspora “occupied” spaces in several cities across the world, our brothers and sisters, comrades and colleagues from other climes have marched with us. The World Federation of Trade Unions, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the Communist Party of Swaziland amongst others, have equally expressed their solidarity with us as we fight.
We call for more of such support, even as the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress prepare to take President Jonathan and Hafiz Ringim the Inspector General of Police to the International Criminal Court for prosecution, in the light of their continued murders of unarmed protesters. As our struggle gathers momentum, moving from resistance to revolution, such solidarity could greatly help us to minimise the loss of lives, as each martyr that falls fills our hearts with pain.
Making the leap from resistance to revolution involves broadening our demands. It also entails moving from fighting against power, to fighting for power. It is the moment of occupying what we have been alienated from, the freedom to be the masters of our own destiny. Our movement is that popular, because it is one of people’s power. Our movement is one of revolution from below! The power we shall win can not be from top down. This is the power oppressors covert for such power being over and above the heads of the 99%, can only be the power of the 1%.
We have to build mass power now and in earnest, from below. We must expand the social and political spaces we occupy as much as the physical space of the streets where we manifest this. In our different “Tahrir Squares”, from Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Square at Ojota to Liberation Square at Kano and Freedom Square in Abuja, as well as in our different neighbourhoods, we must create structures of popular power NOW. Form General Assemblies of People’s Power constitute Action Committees in defence of the unfolding Nigerian Revolution. Occupy power from the Local Governments and the states and together we will bring the Federal state to naught and build on it one which is ours, for the construction of a new society based on cooperation and solidarity.
Together with the 99% seeking to realise the possibility of another, better world, we shall overcome and establish an order in which the fullest development of each and every one is the essence of the development of society as a whole.
A luta Continua! Victoria Ascerta!! FORWARD TO VICTORY!!!
Baba Aye is the National Chairperson of Socialist Workers League