Despite the fact that the national rally of the Nigerian Labour Congress (the main workers’ union federation) did not take place in Lagos this year, the Workers’ Alternative (the genuine Marxist newspaper in Nigeria) was able to dominate and completely win the day. This was in spite of the fact that only the CFTU and the TUC (Union Of Senior Staff) held their rallies in Lagos.
An interesting development of that day was the way workers started carrying the paper as if it were a poster and they were displaying it for others to see and urging them to quickly go and buy their own copy. We sold out very quickly and 241 copies of the papers were sold in the space of 30 minutes! These were all the copies we had taken to the rally. We had earmarked this amount for the Senior Staff rally. A rush for more copies immediately began, but unfortunately for the senior staff union workers, the remaining copies had been earmarked for the NLC Lagos State branch that was holding its own rally at another venue.
What caught the attention of the workers most was the story on the National Dialogue (titled “National Dialogue: National Deceit”) and the other article, “The Anti-Corruption Campaign: How Genuine?” These are in fact the two main stories being presently employed by the regime to divert the attention of the working class away from their real suffering and exploitation. This reaction of the workers shows quite clearly that a big battle is near at hand.
Other left newspaper sellers at the venue were surprised at the way the workers were rushing to get copies of the Workers’ Alternative. It even got to the stage whereby workers started asking the other vendors to first find the Workers Alternative for them before they could buy their papers.
It was a real success and it was the first time in recent times that a Marxist newspaper has dominate and completely won the May Day.
The situation was not the same at the other venue where the Lagos branch of the NLC held their rally. This rally mainly consisted of low paid Junior Workers, Commercial Drivers and petty artisans. There social composition reflected what eventually happened. Convincing them to part even with 20 Naira for a paper was a very tasking exercise for our comrades, who had to do a lot of talking and agitation. This was not because they were indisposed to national issues, but simply because they are so poor. Even 20 Naira could not just be parted with without a fight. They were more in numbers than the CFTU/TUC (Senior Staff Unions put together) but the total sale was just 65 copies after one and half hours of selling.
We met some interesting people and some of them are already having very encouraging discussions with us. They requested that news about their union should always be carried in our paper and they said that they are more than interested in giving us what they can, so as to make the future production of the paper a success.
What we saw on May Day is a reflection of the real, militant, fighting mood that is developing among the Nigerian workers. The process of radicalisation within the working class was more than evident. Obasanjo will have a lot to worry about over the next period.