THE MOTHER OF ALL STRIKES!
With the looming NLC strike, we decided to go back to the very beginning; to the very first strike in Nigeria.
The Workers strike of 1945, the first of all Nigerian Strikes and perhaps, the mother of all. The strike was a direct defiance of colonial authority and a complete deviation from the colonial expectations.
As a result of the second world war, there was an astronomic increase (by over 50%) in the cost of living. The increase in the cost of living in Nigeria was however not matched with an increase in allowances and wages. This spurred the Nigerian railway workers to demand an increase in the wages of workers. They were later joined by nearly all workers in the nation.
On June 22, the general strike took off and lasted for 45 days. In the words of the writer, Owei Lakemfa, “they were days that shook the colonial administration to its foundations”.
During the strike, the worker’s union successfully resisted all attempts by the colonial government to frustrate it.
The strike was the largest strike in Africa involving between 50,000 – 200,000 workers. It was partly successful as most of the workers demand for an increase in cost of living allowance was met in 1946 and backdated to 1945..
In conclusion, the strike must be seen as more than just a struggle for an increase in wages, but also in the context of a struggle by a people for equality with the colonialists.