By SPN Reporters
In furtherance of its mass mobilization effort, the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Osun State Chapter held a symposium on Thursday, 12th June 2014. The symposium was tagged ‘June 12’ Symposium, in commemoration of the historic struggle of Nigerians for the actualization of democracy. The central theme of the programme is: Social and Economic Crises in Nigeria: Challenges before Working People and the Youth. Other themes are; Workers’ Strike in Osun Tertiary Institutions: the Way Forward; and Beyond Osun 2014 Elections: Building a Viable Working People’s Platform. The programme was held at the Secretariat of the SPN in Osun State, situated at 123 Station Road, Osogbo.
In attendance as speakers were: Segun Lana, Secretary of the Council of Academic Staff Unions of Osun State Tertiary Institutions (CASUOSTI), which is the umbrella organization of striking staff unions of tertiary institutions in Osun State; Mr. Lasisi, the chairman of CASUOSTI; Alfred Adegoke, state chairman of SPN; Hassan Taiwo Soweto, National Coordinator of Education Rights Campaign (ERC), and Kola Ibrahim, State Secretary of SPN, while Yemi Castro, moderated the programme. In attendance were over thirty activists, lecturers and members of CASUOSTI, students, members of SPN and DSM, and working class people and youth.
The programme started around 12.30 p.m. with solidarity songs, which was followed by opening remarks by Kola Ibrahim. In his speech, he gave introduction on why SPN is organizing a symposium on such important date as June 12, which represents a watershed in the struggle of Nigerians for genuine democratic rule. He dwelt on the social economic crises facing the country with particular reference to the issue of Boko Haram and its terrorist campaigns. He maintained that Boko Haram issue is a product of socio-economic injustice and the collapse of the economy occasioned by anti-poor neo-liberal policies. He also posited that western intervention in the issue could never solve the problem of terrorism, as capitalist western governments have not been able to resolve any terrorist campaign anywhere. He maintained that unless Nigerians change the economic and political foundation of Boko Haram, which is by uprooting capitalism and its implementers, there could not be end in sight to social menace, even if Boko Haram is defeated. He also spoke on the bankrupt policies of the Aregbesola government in Osun State, especially the dubious education reforms that have only meant billions going to the cover of government patrons and contractors, while the working people continue to suffer. He commended the staff unions of tertiary institutions for being resolute and consistent in their struggle even in the face of provocations and threats by the government.
In his speech, the Secretary of CASUOSTI, Segun Lana, analyzed the genesis of the current strike in the state tertiary institutions. He explained how the Oyinlola/PDP government and its successor, Aregbesola/APC government have turned tertiary education into a mess. Within the last five years, tertiary institutions in the state have been on strike for 24 months (two years) as a result of governments’ failure to honour agreements with staff unions. Interestingly, the same set of issues has become recurrent in all the strikes of the unions. For instance, workers have been campaigning against the obnoxious contributory pension scheme set up by the government, but rather than acceding to the demand of the workers for end to the policy, the Aregbesola government has worsened the situation. Aside enforcing the obnoxious policy of forcing workers to join the fraudulent contributory pension scheme or retire, the APC government in Osun State has refused to remit deductions in workers’ salary for the contributory pension to the pension administrators. Added to this is the fact that the 65-year retirement age agreed to by the government is not being implemented, which has created more crisis for workers than ever. While government was forced by workers’ struggle, to implement increase in wage, this gain has been clawed back through a retrogressive tax system that ensures that lecturers in Osun tertiary institutions are the least paid in the southwest, but the most taxed.
|Segun Lana, Secretary CASUOSTI|
But in addition to the horrible conditions of workers is the equally terrible state of tertiary education in the state. For instance, according to the union leader, the total number of academic staffs in the two polytechnics and two colleges of education in the state are less than teaching staff in Ekiti State College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti! Meanwhile, the students’ population are far more than that of Ekiti State College of Education. In many departments, there was only one or two academic staff, with some departments having one lecturer serving as his own Head of Department and Supervisor. Many part time lecturers have been placed on casual labour for more than ten years with extremely poor wages of less than N20, 000 a month. The tertiary institutions lack basic working facilities, with none of the institutions having standby power supply or functional ICT facilities. The libraries and laboratories are decrepit. In fact, since the emergence of the Aregbesola government, no new project, either in form of physical facility or improvement in staff recruitment and training, has been carried out.
Lana, aside giving this expose on the crisis in tertiary education in Osun State also debunked the ridiculous assertion of government officials, including the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, that the strike is politically motivated. He reminded the cynics that the lecturers’ strikes and struggles predate the Aregbesola government, but the situations were made worse by the anti-worker and recalcitrant attitude of the Aregbesola government. He called on students, activists and socialists to support them. He also called for convocation of a Stakeholders’ Summit on tertiary education in the state to review the state of education. He warmly welcome the support given by the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) for the struggle of workers in Osun tertiary institutions, and nationally. The ERC has been consistent in its support for lecturers in Osun State. It has also supported the struggle of lecturers of polytechnics and colleges of education nationally. He commended the SPN for organizing the kind of thought-provoking programme like this to discuss issues affecting the people.
In his contribution, the chairman of CASUOSTI, Lasisi gave credence to the positions enunciated by Lana. He further expressed his happiness that organizations like SPN and ERC are giving support to workers’ struggle. He recalled how students were and are still being used to attack workers’ struggle. He called for unity of workers and students. He maintained that the struggle and strike of workers are also in students’ interests. For instance, the question of adequate recruitment and better working conditions are necessary for quality education to be received by students.
|HT Soweto ERC National Coordinator and SPN Youth Leader|
In his contributions, Hassan Taiwo Soweto, spoke extensively on the failure of the Nigeria’s ruling class in moving society forward. He gave detailed review of the education sector, and the crises facing working people and youth. From LASU to OAU, he pointed out that the Nigerian ruling elite are united in their anti-poor policies that is aimed at taking education out of the reach of the common man. He challenged Osun State government to public debate with ERC and striking unions on the genuineness of the so-called education reform of the government, which he termed a ruse. He called on students and workers to unite in the struggle to save education. While commending the striking staff unions in tertiary institutions for being consistent in their struggle, he proposed that the struggle should go a step further, by the striking workers organizing mass actions including rallies and protests, and mass enlightenment about the strike and the crises facing public tertiary education in the state.
He maintained that this kind of approach would expose the government, and indeed meet audience among the working and poor people in the state. He also reiterated the need for education workers to mobilize students, and form united front, as a way of prevent government from using divide-and-rule tactics to cause schism among them. He maintained that the ERC would continue to support workers’ struggles. Answering questions on the way forward in rebuild student movement, he called for the rebuilding of revolutionary organizations like the ERC and the DSM on various campuses, as a way of regenerating a radical layer that can play active role in rebuilding students’ movement. This, he said, has been the work of the ERC. He bemoaned the state of students’ movement, especially the rottenness of leadership of the movement. On the question of the way forward, he called for people to join the SPN as a way of providing political alternative. He highlighted the stages that the SPN has reached in its quest for registration, especially the fact that we have submitted our application. This received a wide applause from the audience.
In his contribution, the State Chairman of SPN, Comrade Alfred Adegoke gave the ideological background to why the socialist alternative is the only way out of the capitalist rot. He mentioned the fact that unless the working people take political power and establish a socialist order, there cannot be a way out on a long term for the working people, especially in the third world country like Nigeria. He maintained that all political classes that have emerged since the end of independence have only served as vassals of imperialist capitalism. He also maintained one of the main albatross of the working people is the pro-capitalist leadership of the labour movement, which has derailed the struggle of working people. He posited that the building of the SPN would provide opportunity for working people and youth to move their struggle forward on political plain.
Various contributors commended SPN for organizing the symposium and called for more of such. Some students called for staff unions to support struggles of students. Others also called for staff unions to go on mass struggles to compel government to concede to workers’ demands. They demanded for public enlightenment by the staff unions on the state of tertiary education in the state. In his closing remark, Kola Ibrahim reiterated the need to build mass actions of workers and students to compel government accede to lecturers’ demands. He further gave support of the SPN for the struggle of the Osun lecturers. He stated that the SPN would organize more mass activities and campaigns in support of the struggle of the striking workers, and on the state of education in Osun State. He called on all people to join the SPN as a way of challenging the parties of the ruling elite.
A sum of N1, 000 was raised as fighting fund while materials worth N300 were sold. The programme ended around 3.30 p.m. with solidarity songs. By all standards, the symposium was a major success. Aside bringing people together to address issues affecting the working people, it also projected the SPN as the only political platform close to the yearnings and aspirations of the working people.