Nigeria: The Labour Party and the Nigerian Workers’ Political Alternative

The Nigerian workers’ genuine mass organised expression is the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), a powerful trade union body. But they lacked a political expression, a genuine workers’ party. In recent times a Nigerian Labour Party has been formed, which has attracted some attention from activist within the movement. The problem is that the NLC has not put its full backing behind it, leaving it in a kind of half-way house, limbo state. What is required is to transform it into a genuine mass party with the full backing of the NLC.

No doubt, the present state of the Nigerian Labour Party falls far short of what is expected of a genuine party of the working class. It is neither an independent voice of the workers nor a clear representation of their wishes and aspirations. The leadership of the party is presently in the hands of former right-wing leaders of the trade unions, a leadership that is prepared to accept anything but a programme that defends the real interests of the Nigerian working class..

The present leadership of the party seems to concentrate more on furthering their own careers rather than using the party to defend the interest of the working class. How else can we describe their policy that seems to be more a “party is for sale” policy than an independent working class policy? In whose interest do they do this? Not the workers, evidently! It is a fact that imperialists and their local lackeys will go to any extent to ensure that the Nigerian workers do not have their own independent political voice. The pity is that the present leadership of the party are not fighting back against this.

The recent entry into the party of a renowned renegade bourgeois politician (Ayo Fayose), a former PDP Governor of Ekiti, is just one more in the series of the Party-for-sale campaign of the present leadership of the Labour Party. For as long as these right-wing elements remain within the leadership of the party, we are going to witness more Fayoses, more Ubas and more of such elements taking over the party.

How did we get to such a state of affairs?

Adams OshiomholeAdams Oshiomhole As we have stated in our previous publications, the Nigerian Labour Party was formed by the right-wing leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) so as to checkmate the growing pressure from the minority left-wing leadership and socialists already mobilizing for an independent working class party with a socialist program. The then President of the NLC, Comrade Oshiomole has played a big role in this process. He is very popular among wide layers of the Nigerian working class. Had he put himself at the head of the Nigerian Labour Party and stood on its ticket, who can deny that the party would have won the support of millions?

Oshiomhole rightly recognized the implications for the ruling elites of Nigerian workers having their own independent political expression. By his political affiliations in recent times he has shown that he was not prepared to be at the head of such a movement. Instead he created an alternative political apparatus in his own image. Obviously Oshiomole was not alone in this. He did this with the active support of sections of the Nigerian ruling class and their imperialist masters. The Nigerian working class is a powerful force, and if it were to have its own independent voice no force on earth could stop it.

Equally important to mention is the role played by comrade S.O.Z Ejiofor, a renowned Labour veteran. Comrade Ejiofor headed the committee setup by the NLC to get the Labour Party registered. This he did perfectly well and became the first chairman of the party; at least to help them stabilize the party. Comrade Ejiofor then voluntarily handed over the leadership of the party at the end of his first tenure as planned; when they felt there was no longer any fear from the left. He handed over to the present leadership (Dan Iwanyanwu, a former President of the Bank workers’ union) who earned himself the nickname of “Anything Goes” during his tenure as president of the union. His curriculum vitae fitted perfectly the kind of personality Oshiomole and his cohorts needed at that time.

Once having completed the job, Comrade Oshiomole simply abandoned the party and went over to the AC, a bourgeois party. Having popularized himself on the shoulders of the Nigerian workers, won Man of the Year twice, he abandoned the Labour Party and embraced the bourgeois party. In spite of this, Oshiomhole did very well in Odo State. Who can deny that the votes he won in Odo State for the gubernatorial elections were in fact working class and urban poor votes for what they perceived as the leader of “Labour”? But the votes only served to strengthen a bourgeois party. Further to this, he recently demanded that all his commissioners should leave the Labour Party for AC!

It is an unfortunate fact that a small number of Labour bureaucrats are holding back the Nigerian Labour Congress from adopting a militant stance against the Nigerian elites. They have called many strikes, even general strikes in the past, but always pulling back from an all-out struggle. They have won some important concessions, but as the same old rotten bourgeois elite has remained in power, in the end the interests of the working masses have not been met. The Nigerian Labour Party is also being diverted away from becoming a fully fledged mass workers’ party.

So what is to be done? Should genuine socialist abandon the NLC and the Labour Party as is being canvassed by some ultra-lefts? That would be a mistake. The NLC is the mass organisation of the Nigerian working class. Our task is to fight for this organisation to be under the genuine control of the membership. The Labour Party also needs to be radically transformed. In the coming period, as the political situation gets hotter and more turbulent, the Nigerian workers will inevitably move leftward as they seek to defend their vital interests. This will make it extremely difficult to continue holding the Nigerian workers back. This will inevitably lead to a radical mood developing within the ranks of the NLC, and at a later stage they will look for a political alternative to all the present bourgeois parties that dominate the scene. The Labour Party could become the instrument that the workers take up for a political battle.

The coming period will make it possible for the genuine defenders of the workers’ interests to build a strong opposition within both the NLC and the Labour Party. It would be criminal to leave the unions and set up new ones now, as is being canvassed by the sectarians, when the opportunity to succeed is already close by. The Labour Party was financed by the resources of the Nigerian workers in its most difficult period of formation; it was nurtured by the leadership of the Nigerian workers in the name of the Nigerian workers to its fruition. The present attempt by the Party leadership to completely cut-off the link between the Party and the main trade union centres must be firmly resisted and, on the contrary, it is the right-wing that must go and the rank and file workers that must be brought into the day-to-day running of the party.

Salvation of the Nigerian workers is impossible without an independent political party of the working class, a party that is independent of the bourgeois and their hanger-on, an independent party with the following demands among others:

  • Nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy (Banks, oil and gas industry in particular) under workers’ control;
  • Decent wages for the working class that reflects the rate of inflation;
  • Free and qualitative education at all levels;
  • Provision of Free and quality health systems.

In essence, a party that rejects capitalism and embraces socialism, is what is required.