LAGOS NCP BOYCOTT OF THE 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS
LAGOS NCP BOYCOTT OF THE 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS
The DSM fully supports the decision of the Lagos State NCP to pull out of participation in the forthcoming general elections. This decision, no doubt, has further reduced the options which the masses will truly have in the forthcoming elections.
In fact, apart from Edo State where Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past, radical president of the NLC is running for governorship position, the overwhelming majority of the candidates of the most prominent ruling parties across the country are the same forces and individuals that have been ruling and ruining the country for the past 8 years and more. Therefore, running a genuinely pro-masses’ campaign by Lanre Arogundade, a radical working class socialist activist, would at least have provided the opportunity for socialists and genuine change-seeking elements to have an anti-capitalist, anti-neo liberal, pro-masses option being taken to different working class communities and homes in Lagos state in the forthcoming elections.
Most unfortunately however, the conduct of the rightwing national NCP leadership in imposing an absentee candidate and, by so doing, practically preventing the Lagos State NCP from having a governorship candidate has largely made this limited objective impossible to realise. For many party members and activists who have held on tenaciously to build the party in Lagos State in the extremely difficult years between year 2003 and the eve of 2007 general elections, the decision to boycott the general elections is largely a very painful exercise. Some members and some candidates were of the opinion that the Lagos NCP should not boycott the elections partly because of the financial expenditures that had been incurred by candidates and partly to ensure that the NCP voice is not missing among the contending political parties. However, at the end of the debate within the party structures, the overwhelming majority of the party members and leaders came to the conclusion that unless the NCP is immediately reclaimed from the stranglehold of its current rightwing leadership headed by Obayuwana, all efforts, either presently or in the coming period to rely on NCP as a pro-masses, struggle-platform of the oppressed working masses will remain a mirage. For a party in which vast layers of change seeking masses invested a lot of high hopes, this is no doubt an extremely bad time for the NCP and those of its founding members who had the aims of building the party as an uncompromising political weapon of the working masses across the country.
NCP AS ORIGINALLY CONCEIVED
The NCP was, consciously, from the beginning, formed to act as a political platform through which the masses aspirations will be achieved. Its central motto, “abolition of poverty” was regarded as the main thing required to guarantee basic living standard for the masses. Thus when INEC initially, acting at the bidding of the main capitalist parties, refused its registration, the party’s leadership then headed by Chief Gani Fawehinmi launched a titanic legal battle and its members across the country, particularly in Lagos State, embarked on periodic mass protests to secure its registration as a political party and liberalise party formation in the country. Most of the parties in Nigeria today owe their existence to this historic struggle initiated and led by the NCP.
In late December 2002, four months before the 2003 general elections, the Supreme Court finally ruled in favour of the NCP and others that had challenged INEC’s unconstitutional guidelines used in refusing them registration in the first instance. Despite the short period before the 2003 general elections, the NCP, led by its founding Chairman, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and other party rank and filers, threw all what it had into that year’s electoral contest. At the end of the day, in spite and despite the party’s extremely lean financial resources and the large scale riggings and manipulations by the ruling PDP, ANPP and AD, which to one extent or another dominated the features of the 2003 general elections, the NCP still came fifth nationally and third in Lagos State.
Against the background of that modest, but very encouraging, beginnings and especially in the face of the palpable failure and absolute corruption which constitute the main visible features of the main ruling parties across the country, many change-seeking elements, including active members of the NCP were seriously looking forward to a more successful electoral campaign by the party in the 2007 general elections. Sadly however, far from the NCP being in the position to re-enact or better its 2003 electoral performance, its rightwing national leadership presently led by Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, Femi Falana, etc have created an unwholesome situation wherein the survival of the party as a fighting political platform of the masses hangs in the balance.
Right now, the party’s presidential candidate and his deputy, Messrs Obayuwana and Yunusa Tanko, National Chairman and National General Secretary respectively, have unilaterally sold the party’s mandate to General Mohammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the ANPP, the second biggest capitalist ruling party in contemporary Nigeria. The reason given for this unprincipled act of betrayal was that General Buhari had accepted to implement the NCP programmes if voted into power. These leaders, who were only chosen as candidates by the NCP national congress of December 20, 2006, were willing to surrender their mandate to General Buhari, whom they believed had a more functioning campaign activities than themselves. However, it was the undemocratic conduct of this rightwing leadership in its conspiracy with INEC to substitute the name of a non-member of the NCP called Christopher Obafunwa in place of Lanre Arogundade, the democratically and constitutionally chosen governorship candidate of the party in Lagos State, that has now sharply put in focus its reactionary and destructive character.
Nationally, this rightwing leadership claimed that the sale of the NCP presidential mandate to General Buhari was because they had no sufficient time and resources to mount an effective presidential campaign. However, in Lagos State, where the party ran a relatively successful campaign in 2003 general elections and was prepared to run for some of the elective posts including the governorship, the Obayuwana rightwing leadership decided to behead and kill its political activities by imposing a total stranger as the party’s governorship candidate. In the 2003 general elections the Lagos State NCP contested 97% of the elective positions. However, largely as a result of the protracted internal warfare being waged by this rightwing leadership against all the chapters and individuals working to build the party as a masses’ fighting political weapon, the party has been unable to field candidates in many states where it ran in 2003 general elections. For example, all the states in the Southwest presented candidates for governorship elections and other elective posts in the 2003 general elections. Today, five of the six states in the Southwest zone virtually have no candidates for the forthcoming general elections while Lagos, which now was only able to present candidates for just about 33% of the elective posts, got stabbed in the back through the imposition of an unknown person as the governorship candidate.
We need to be quite clear, the current national NCP leadership have carried out a planned manoeuvre, the removal of Lanre Arogundade was not done on the spur of the moment. Therefore we have to ask “who benefits” from this deliberate action? The only possible answer is the ruling elite. The national NCP leaders have collaborated with the ruling class in an attempt to prevent the NCP in Lagos State and elsewhere presenting a radical alternative to the current system. The ruling elite feared that an energetic NCP campaign could gather and mobilise workers, the poor and youth and prepare the way for opposition to whichever robber officially “wins” what is likely to be a rigged election.
Outwardly, this rightwing leadership gives the false impression that its conduct has been governed by the desire to create a viable national opposition to the admittedly bad PDP central government, headed by General Olusegun Obasanjo. But this immediately raises two fundamental questions. One, what type of national opposition should be built to fight and defeat the prevailing anti-poor economic and political powers that be? Two, how best can the NCP leadership ensure that the interests of the masses and particularly those of the NCP members will be best protected in such a national opposition?
To the first poser our answer is, and has always been, that the party should always consciously go out to build a pro-masses’ national opposition to the prevailing unjust economic and political order. Specifically, this means alliance and collaboration with pro-masses’ organisations of the working class in the labour movement, cities and rural communities. In this respect, the current pact/alliance with the ANPP presidential candidate and/or the ANPP in general is a politically suicidal strategy. Yes, the ANPP is presently in opposition to the PDP controlled government. But this is as far as their opposition go. Mutatis and Mutandi, the ANPP is a very conservative capitalist party which wholesomely subscribed to all the prevailing capitalist, neo-liberal anti-poor policies of the President Obasanjo led PDP. In the state where they govern, the conduct and performance of their elected officials are virtually the same with that of their PDP rivals. At the end of the day, there is only one major desire behind the ANPP campaigns â€“ the desire to be the ones centrally in charge of the central government so that they can be the choicest beneficiaries of the prevailing inequities.
Secondly, the practical political policy of this rightwing leadership has equally led to a dead end. Under the guise of putting in place an alliance between two parties, the NCP rightwing leadership has only succeeded in killing the NCP’s independent activities. Right now, the party is not conducting campaigns nationally because there were practically no functioning chapters in many parts of the country. And in Lagos where the party has the capacity to run some candidates, the rightwing leadership consciously beheaded the party’s campaign in the state partly to hide its own failure and presently to please its political mentors in the ANPP.
Now, about ten days to the elections, Christopher Obafunwa, the imposed governorship candidate for the party in Lagos State is physically not on ground to carry out campaigns. In effect, the opportunities given by the media to political parties to propagate their political ideals has been wasted. But never to worry, this is the very condition desired by the Obayuwana rightwing leadership. This destructive anti-party conduct will now be used as justification to call on the masses of Lagos State to also vote for the ANPP in Lagos State.
BOYCOTT BY THE LAGOS NCP AND THE RESOLVE TO RECLAIM THE PARTY
Therefore, notwithstanding the temporary set-back which is inherent in the decision to boycott the forthcoming general elections by the Lagos State NCP, a successful struggle to reclaim the party from its current rightwing leadership is certainly the only guarantee that the NCP can ever come to power as a genuine political party of the oppressed, which can really implement fundamental pro-masses policies.
Suffice to stress, the struggle to reclaim NCP must not be conceived as a simple, straightforward issue. Right now, the overwhelming majority of elements on the NCP national Executive Committee (NEC) and the National Coordinating Council (NCC) have one major characteristic. Virtually, all of these elements are either totally uninterested in building the NCP as a mass party of the oppressed and or totally incapable of doing what it takes to build the party in that direction. Overwhelmingly most of the elements currently holding positions on the party’s NEC and NCC joined the party after the titanic legal and mass struggles fought by the NCP founding members before the party was finally given constitutional recognition in December 2002. For instance, Mr. Femi Falana, undemocratically imposed by the Obayuwana leadership as the National Deputy Chairman for Southwest, only joined the party in 2003 after his failure to secure the governorship ticket of the AD, a ruling bourgeois party in Ekiti State. Many others being paraded as state chairmen and secretaries have no properly constituted excos in their states, not to talk of any organised party activities. However, the now regular state subventions being paid to political parties through INEC has enabled the rightwing leadership to keep up an appearance of a party with nationwide spread. In the struggle to reclaim the party, these kept lackeys should be expected to use their artificial numerical strength within the party’s national structures to frustrate and fight any process that seeks to remove them from their present positions.
Today a successful campaign to reclaiming the party’s original pro-masses radical traditions would require an outright coherent pro-masses political outlook and strategy. In this regard the party has to be expressly built as a pro-masses, anti-capitalist and anti-neo liberal political platform. Unlike all bourgeois political parties, the NCP or any other genuine political platform of the masses can only be successfully built on the basis of an uncompromising philosophy which maintains that the commanding heights of the economy and nature’s resources are commonly owned and democratically controlled and managed by the working people themselves with a view to satisfying the basic needs of all. Two, in pursuance of this objective, there has to be a conscious and constant idea and practice of building the party as an independent political platform of the working masses. In this respect, the political endorsement of General Buhari, the capitalist ANPP presidential candidate by Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the founding National Chairman of the NCP and the main political figure behind the formation of the NCP, places a serious question mark on how far the processes of reclaiming the NCP can go.
Whatever reasons, circumstances that might have informed this endorsement, the fact still has to be noted that this kind of endorsement would only ultimately undermine the masses’ challenge to build their own independent political alternative. One, this endorsement has given a misleading impression that the socio-economic plights of the masses can be fundamentally resolved within the framework of the capitalist government headed by supposedly good and incorruptible bourgeois politicians. Two, this kind of endorsement only seeks to underplay the necessity of building the NCP as a fighting platform of the oppressed in or out of elections time. There must always be conscious understanding that the objectives originally behind the formation of NCP can only be actualised under a true workers and poor peasants’ government. This, of course, means working ceaselessly to raise the independent profile of the party, even when not strong enough to win political power, instead of sowing an illusion that the masses aspirations can be met through the voting of capitalist candidates, no matter how upright those candidates may seem.
Unless the above outlined approach is strictly and constantly adhered to, the process to reclaiming the NCP from the current sets of undertakers parading themselves as leaders may not even kick off the ground let alone become successful. Yes, the current national leadership has committed all manners of political treachery and unimaginable acts of unconstitutionality. Nonetheless, only sustained campaigns built on a superior pro-masses’ ideals, morally and practically can sufficiently inspire the needed material and political resources to reclaim the party from the current rightwing leadership. Here, it is important to stress that the process and the idea of rebuilding the NCP as a pro-masses’ party can only be successfully developed as a component part of the strategy to build a pan-Nigerian working class political platform. Any genuine mass working peoples’ party either in form of NCP, Labour Party or called by any other name will only command the true and creative allegiance of the masses if founded on a coherent pro-masses’ ideology and on a platform that is not solely built to canvass for votes once in every four years, but as a fighting companion of the masses in their day-to-day economic and political struggles.