Labour Day in Nigeria comes on May 1st, as it does in over 140 other nations, and is frequently called “May Day”.
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Labour Day is also referred to, however, as International Workers’ Day or simply Workers’ Day.
Labour Day stems, in part, from an ancient European spring festival, but its modern manifestations arise from the organised efforts of socialist and communist groups to establish a time for honouring “workers and the working class.” More specifically, the holiday was first promoted by the International Workers Association in 1904 to commemorate the slaughter of protesting labourers in Haymarket Square in Chicago, USA in 1886. It was to be a day to push for the eight-hour work day and other demands. However, most Nigerians simply see Labour Day as a long weekend to spend with family and friends, a chance to take a short vacation, or at most, a day to honour workers of every industry and speak out for better working conditions.
In Nigeria, some take part in nationwide marches and rallies on Labour Day. Their biggest concerns are normally for an increase in the minimum wage, an end to workers being left unpaid for months on end, the need for government action to address the high unemployment rates of recent years, and the need to move Nigeria off of over-dependence on petroleum exports.
Many speeches are given, both by politicians and labour leaders, on the strength of the Nigerian economy, on how to improve it, on the contributions of workers in different industries to the national good, and other related topics. Hundreds of thousands often listen to these speeches, and you can likely hear them on TV or radio.
Three things to do should you be in Nigeria on May 1st are:
- Attend the National May Day Celebration in Abuja, the capital city, in Eagle Square. The president himself will be there to make a speech, and thousands will crowd the square to hear him. You can also attend any number of other events held all across Nigeria on this day, organized by schools, labour unions, hospitals, and various other institutions.
- While in Abuja, go shopping. You will want to stop by the most modern shopping mall in town, Ceddi Plaza, which has numerous big-brand shops, a great book store, a wine shop, and plenty of cafes. Also stop by Silverbird for its theatre, arcade, and bowling alley and Shoprite, the newest Abuja mall, for its many shops and its gigantic supermarket. Finally, go to Abuja Farmers Market for excellent, local fresh produce or to Garki Open Air Market, where you will find arts and crafts along with fresh food.
- Get out of the big city and see Africa at its wildest in Gashaka-Gumti National Park. This is the largest national park in the country and is located in the central Cameroon border region. The terrain consists of grasslands, mountains, valleys, forests, cliffs, and gorges, and there are numerous wild animal species, including: elephants, antelope, wild dogs, buffalo, golden cats, chimpanzees, and over 500 species of birds.
While Labour Day can be rather political in Nigeria to some, it is more of a day off to many of the locals and a chance to explore both the urban and rural areas of the country to tourists.