Human Rights Day, Nigerian Workers And The Task Ahead

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December 10th passed away gently and unnoticed by many Nigerian workers. This situation is indeed a very pitiable one because of the significance of the day to all oppressed and exploited people all over the world.

December 10th is the date set aside by the United Nations in commemoration of International Human Rights Day which represents when the Bill on human rights was (adopted by) the United Nations in 1948. Although the bill was accepted and adopted in 1948 it was not until 1976 that it became functional after it was ratified by about  35 nations.          

What is the real meaning of the International Human Rights Bill ? The Bill is best understood in its two special parts: Civil and Political rights, and Economic and Social and Cultural rights. It is the feeling of the United Nations that all men are entitled to enjoy all forms of rights and liberties. These include rights to life, assembly, speech, gainful employment, medical attention, and housing. Others include the right of people to self-determination, the right to form trade unions, to strike, etc.

These rights and liberties accepted by the United Nations are mere statements in capitalist societies such as Britain, United States, and especially neo-colonies like Nigeria (where the working people are concerned). The truth of this can be best demonstrated by providing examples from the living conditions of the working people in these countries. Let us take our country.

In Nigeria the constitution (drawn up by members of our ruling class to protect their own interests)by an act of lip-service, accepts most of the rights under the Bill of Human Rights but it is no more than that. There is talk of ‘freedom’ to life but the vast majority of our people are denied the material basis for life. The result is that people live like corpses, go hungry and are jobless and homeless. They talk of ‘freedom’ of movement but people on peaceful procession are shot down(as they did students of Unife in 1981).

There is also talk of ‘freedom’ of assembly but sections of the work Class (Central Bank and Minting Press workers) as well as Policemen, and the Armed Forces are denied the right to form trade unions. They are forbidden by law to go on strike. It should be remembered too that NO government in Nigeria(under their constitution) is obliged to provide the citizenry any form of economic and social amenities.

On the International level, despite hollow phrases about freedom and human rights, it is the imperialist countries of Japan, Britain, France, West Germany, and the United States, that support very openly, the terrorist regimes of the world, and thereby frustrating the self-determination efforts of peoples(see Editorial of November 1983).

The implications of all these for the Nigerian working class is clear. REAL freedom is a lie under capitalism. It is impossible to talk of political rights when social and economic rights are not guaranteed to the populace. As the situation is now, it only imposes greater challenge on workers for greater struggle to realise our basic human rights which can only be achieved when the working class becomes the ruling power of the land. The future belongs to the working class.

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