More actions needed to challenge fee hike and education underfunding
Report of DSM's campaign to build a movement to fight education attacks and anti-poor capitalist policies
On 1st October, 2012 - the 52nd anniversary of Nigeria's flag independence - protest marches broke out on two campuses and communities under the influence of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) members. The DSM has an on-going campaign under the platform of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) against fee hikes and education underfunding.
Days before October 1, posters and leaflets of the Campaign had been circulated on some campuses calling on unions and the main students federation - the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) - to declare mass actions against the raging inferno of astronomical fee hikes and the inadequate funding of education which has continued unabated under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led Federal government and the state governments led by both the PDP and the opposition parties.
Scandalously, at the forefront of the brazen attacks on the right to education is the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) - the foremost opposition party in Nigeria which claims adherence to the philosophy of late post-independence leader, Obafemi Awolowo. However in sharp contrast to the free education policy espoused by Awolowo, fees in universities under the auspices of ACN - led state governments have been hiked by more than a 100% in recent times. Over 2,000 candidates forfeited their admission into the Lagos State University (LASU) early in the year when fees were increased from N25, 000 to between N193, 750 to over N348, 750!
On October 1 in most places members of the DSM mobilized and led the protests. In Ibadan Oyo State, about 2,000 students and workers marched from the University of Ibadan (U.I) gate into the surrounding communities under the banners of the Joint Action Front (JAF) and Education Rights Campaign (ERC). Close to a 100 marched in Lagos in a demo called by the National Association of Nigerian (NANS) ZoneD.
Likewise, about 30 rallied at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) demanding restoration of the Students' Union banned last year for leading peaceful protests against fee hikes. In the leadership of the action were members of the DSM who called the rally to build support for our campaign against University authority's schemes to restore a toothless union through various undemocratic requirements for new union election. A symposium organised by the DSM a week before attracted over 50 with 18 students expressing interests in joining us.
|Ajegunle DSM Tabling (Paper Sale) on October 1 at Boundary Area of the community|
In the Ajegunle community in Lagos DSM members held a stall in the community selling Socialist Democracy, sold 11 copies of the Socialist Democracy while getting 2 contacts interested in the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and our campaign for a new mass workers party. A successful stall was also organised by DSM members at the popular Olaiya Roundabout in Osogbo, Osun State. The reports below from branches capture the mood for change on October 1.
OYO: Over 2,000 marched for adequately public funded education and against anti-poor policies
By Iseru Ebike
The Oyo State chapter of the Joint Action Front (JAF) and the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) jointly staged a protest march against the government's neo-liberal policies of full deregulation of oil sector, privatization of public-owned companies like the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), commercialization of education, devaluation among others. The continuous implementation of these policies has condemned millions of Nigerians working masses into a ridiculous and unthinkable state of misery and penury.
A few days prior to the march protest, the DSM had moved around the University of Ibadan (UI) campus to massively post posters and circulate leaflets produced by the ERC on the planned fees increase as recommended by Stephen Oronsanye Committee and how to fight the anti-poor agenda. The comrades also used the occasion to mobilize mass of students for October 1 action as a step towards fighting the attack on public education and joining the JAF in the struggle against fuel hike and other anti-poor policies. The mass turnout of the students on October was a product of this effort.
The protest march which kicked-off around 8am witnessed a massive participation of about 2000 people including workers, students, artisans many of whom were organized. Unions like Academic Staff union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of University (SSANU), Non-academic Staff Union (NASU), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), UI's Students' Union among others. There was equally a huge presence of the police.
After converging at the front of the UI main gate, the demo split into two - one led by JAF and the other by the ERC to march into the surrounding communities. The JAF detachment led by Dr. Demola Aremu, the State Coordinator of JAF, marched towards Samonda, Sango, Elewure, Bodija Housing Estate and at favour junction, re-united again with the student detachment led by the ERC which had marched towards Bodija Market and Bodija Oju-Irin.
Notably among those who addressed the gathering were: Dr Demola Aremu, Dr Segun Ajiboye, the Chairman, ASUU-UI chapter, Bashiru Olanrewaju, the Chairman, Oyo State Chapter of NLC, Rashida Adeshina, the JAF National Assistant Secretary who joined the protest from Lagos; Femi Aborishade, a socialist activist, and Comrade Ola Jimoh, who doubles as the Co-ordinator ERC and Secretary of DSM UI branch.
|JAF led protest in Ibadan on October 1|
During the course of the demo, various placards were displayed which carried various inscriptions like: "Nigeria at 52 still crawling like a toddler", "Stop unemployment and poverty now", "No to privatization of PHCN and casualisation now", "Education must be free, Nigerian Students say no to Oransanye Report", etc were visibly carried by over hundred protesters. Several thousands of leaflets from different organizations like JAF, DSM and the ERC were circulated.
The DSM also used the occasion to call on workers and youths to join the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and help build it as it as a fighting and true revolutionary party for workers and poor towards the conquest of political power
About 20 members of DSM, including two sympathisers from Ladoke Akintola University Technology, (LAUTECH) Ogbomosho participated, in the protest. 50 copies of Socialist Democracy (SD) were sold. At the end the protest 6 people expressed an interest in joining the DSM.
OAU: A march for education and an independent union
By Oluwole Engels, Secretary ERC OAU
On October 1st, a small but determined demo of about 30 took place at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The demo was organised by the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) to highlight the conditions of education 52 years after independence and to draw support for the campaign for restoration of an independent Students' Union in OAU.
The protest which started by 9am took off from the Anglo-Moz car park with students carrying placards bearing various inscriptions. This depicted their displeasure concerning the educational sector and their demands. Some of the inscriptions on the placards were; 'N450, 000 - N525, 000 tuition we can't pay', 'we demand 26% budgetary allocation to the educational system', 'For democratic management of universities with elected representatives of workers and students', 'No to Oronsaye committee report', 'No to education underfunding', 'we demand a democratic and independent union', 'pay 40, 000 COSA to all students now' and many more.
The small demo is significant given the prevailing situation of despondency on the campus as a result of the illegal ban on the students union. Not minding the heavy presence of the security outfit of the university administration, a few determined students came out to join the protest. The demand for a democratic restoration of OAU students union was prominent at the demo. The procession ended at the students' union building (SUB) with speeches from DSM members and student activists.
The pockets of protests nationwide on Independence Day showed that students are not at peace with the rotten state of the Nigerian educational system and that a fighting and democratic students' movement is needed to challenge government capitalist attack on education. Definitely this mass action of students should not be the end of the fight against government attack on education but as the beginning of a campaign for more coordinated actions in the future.
LAGOS: Close to hundred protest attack on public education
By HT Soweto National Coordinator ERC
In Lagos close to a 100 students from various higher institutions marched at a protest called by the NANS Zone D (the South West leadership of NANS). 3 members of the DSM in Lagos joined them with the ERC banner and circulated the leaflet of the campaign. We sold 8 copies of the Socialist Democracy.
Due to tardiness of the leadership, the demo could only kick off late in the afternoon. As a result and coupled with the low turnout (Indeed, only two of the seven member Zone D leadership came for the action), the leadership had to hurriedly change from the original plan of the demo which was supposed to be an elaborate march through the city to just protest to nearby media houses. An elaborate march requires a bigger crowd and of course an earlier start!
|ERC at NANS Zone D Independence Day Protest|
However members of the Socialist Workers League (SWL), a group who the Zone D Assistant General Secretary is a member of, chose to carry their own banner at the front of the demo trying to create the impression that it was a SWL demo. There was not a single banner of the NANS Zone D which purportedly called the demo! Except for the NANS Zone D Assistant Secretary and its Public Relations Officer, no other officials including Zonal Coordinator were at the demo.
Simply placing your own banner at the front of a demo or activity is not a Marxist method of seriously intervening in a mass organisation which the NANS represents. The ERC was at the demo, so also was a civil society organisation - the Veteran Groups for Operation Clean Crusade (VGOCC). However neither of these organizations was acknowledged by the leadership and none was asked to give solidarity speeches! While this could give the SWL a momentary but false sense of its influence, it is nevertheless an undemocratic method that could be latched upon by the rightwing to discredit the left. This would of course make nonsense of any avowed efforts to rebuild the NANS.
While applauding the NANS Zone D for calling a demo - something which has not happened in recent years! - the reality is that a turnout of less than 100 is abysmal. Rather than a reflection of the real mood of students, this low turnout is a reflection of the Zone D leadership's poor mobilization. Posters for the demo left the printers' stable on Friday September 29 – the weekend before the demo! NANS Zone D is a federation of close to 48 higher institutions which translates to hundreds of thousands of members! A day of mobilization activities just at the Lagos State University (LASU) could have brought several hundreds to the demo. This was the same campus where, just two weeks before October 1, first year students had organised independently of their compromising union leaders in a protest demanding reversal of the over 725% fee hike.
Instead, the NANS Zone D leadership concentrated on mobilizing student union leaders most of whom are opposed to anti-fee struggles on their own campuses and are really the obstacle to a serious battle against fee hike. However for all their efforts, they were rebuffed by the union leaders who demanded bribes if they were to come!
The poor planning for the action was further underscored by the fact no leaflet was produced for mass circulation in the course of an action that had been originally billed to involve a protest march from Yaba to Ojota – a distance of about 4km.
Despite the bungling of the SWL, the demo did still make an echo with bystanders who shouted greetings in solidarity.
The DSM through the ERC campaign will continue to urge unions and NANS to call for united mass actions against fee hike and other capitalist attacks on education while emphasizing the importance of proper mobilisation of rank and file students this time around. Instead of the undemocratic method of the SWL which poses a grave danger to the prospects of building a strong and wide movement against fee hike and education attacks, we call for an immediate congress of the zone to discuss on what next after the October 1st demo.
OSOGBO: Successful Paper Sale on Independence Day
By Ayo Ademiluyi
Following a branch meeting of the Democratic Socialist Movement, Osogbo members resolved to organize a public sale of the DSM paper, Socialist Democracy, on the Independence Day anniversary at the popular Olaiya Roundabout in the Osogbo metropolis and equally be ready to intervene in possible mass actions that would break out based on the groundswell of anger growing against the wave of anti-poor capitalist policies.
As early as 9am, comrades had set up the stand at the Roundabout and displayed the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and DSM banner. Equally, SPN leaflets produced on minimum wage struggle were in abundance for circulation.
The paper sales afforded comrades the opportunity to gauge the consciousness of the broad layers of the working masses through discussions. A Youth Corps member took time out to reflect with us the appalling state of things under the current capitalist arrangement and the need for a socialist alternative. He subsequently signed up to join the SPN in the state with many others also promising to join us at our Sunday meetings at our Station Road Secretariat.
In all, 16 copies of the Socialist Democracy were sold and hundreds of SPN leaflets were handed out. We also submitted a press statement calling for resumption of mass actions against total removal of the so-called fuel subsidy and fresh fuel price hike, which was published by Vanguard and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).