9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN25 Social Movements

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Trade Unions and Workers Building I, 1E3

Ups, Downs and Come-Backs of Social Movements on the Democracy TrailL: The Trade Unions in Nigeria (1994-2004)

This paper will deal with the role as democratic agents of Nigerian trade unions inside social movements throughout a decade of intense and important political developments.
The Nigerian trade-unions have been at the forefront of the 1990s democratization movements which powerfully shook the military regimes that had been ruling the country for the most part of its history. But as the authoritarian system resisted and a new, more violent junta succeeded in putting an end to the long-awaited transition and the popular unrest, social movement activists and organisations were met with a brutal repression. Having been at the centre of the agitation for the restoration of democracy, the trade union movement bore the brunt of the crushing. During the period that followed, they underwent a dual and contradictory process. On the one hand,the trade-union leadership got more closely linked and co-opted by the power; but on the other hand, there has been some sort of a renewed militancy from the rank and file. Their relationships with other social movements were also altered. When the country finally went back to a civilian and democratically-elected regime in 1999, it was also for the trade union movement an opportunity to rise up from the ashes. In tune with the African political "Zeitgeist", it is under the banner "Rebirth 99" that Adams Oshiomhole campaigned and was elected president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, the main trade unions umbrella body. Indeed it looks like the trade union movement has since been able to best position itself within the post-transition civil society and social movements. It has regularly been able to make its voice heard nationally - although not without controversies - in the public and political debate. How did the Nigerian trade-unions manage to play such an important role on the national scene' Articulating analyzes of the Nigerian system of political opportunities and constraints, with the impact of trade unions as mobilizing structures and their framing strategies within wider social movements, we will try and explain their dynamic trajectory and contribution to the democratic renewal in Nigeria.