LAST week working people celebrated May Day, the international day of working class solidarity. Since 1981, May Day has become a national holiday in Nigeria.
That fact in itself is an acknowledgement of the tremendous role played by the working people in the coming into being and the construction of Nigeria. Even when working class heroes like the late Comrades Michael Imoudu, Wahab Goodluck, S.U Bassey, Alhaji Adebola were not decorated with national honours, those conversant from the bottom, with a people’s history of Nigeria, know that the working class movement has been arguably, the most significant detachment of the anti-colonial movement.
And at vital points in Nigeria’s history, the working people have been the most patriotic defenders of the country’s integrity.
Yet when one recalls the cake cutting and the presence of members of the ruling elite, from President Jonathan and his ministers in Abuja, to governors in the states, that have become central to the annual May Day celebrations, there are two dialectical forces at play. On the one, labour has managed to earn a space of civil society, which even the ruling classes have to acknowledge with their presence in an event, which must make them feel very uncomfortable.
They are mixing with the most conscious segment of the oppressed classes. On the other hand, the sanitized celebrations also represent the incorporation of the dissent which labour represents in our neo-colonial, capitalist society.