2007 ELECTION AND THE WORKING MASSES
2007 ELECTION AND THE WORKING MASSES
Although, 2007 general elections had come and gone, it would continue to be seen by all honest people as the greatest farcical electoral exercise ever conducted in the history of Nigeria. The background to the April elections was an indication of “a do or die” contest among the thieving ruling elite. Perceived formidable figures and opposition elements within the capitalist ruling parties were gruesomely murdered without the perpetrators being brought to book. The first major signal that the elections would be far from free and fair was the insistence of INEC Chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu that his body intended to use electronic device to compile voters register. In a country where millions live in rural communities without electricity and where those who live in cities go most of the times without light, a major uproar greeted INEC’s decision in this respect. But like those who must first become mad before their actual destruction, INEC stuck to its gun.
Despite the public boasts of the INEC Chairman, the complication that characterized the so-called voters registration exercise was such that disenfranchised many eligible voters from registering because of inadequate machines and other associated technical problems. An exercise billed to last one month actually took six months. Many prospective voters who were lucky to get registered were unable to vote, as they could not locate their names because the voters’ register was never displayed as required by law. This is apart from the recorded cases of the under aged who freely voted without hindrance. In many places, elections did not take place at all but INEC awarded votes to PDP candidates. In few places where elections took place, ballot boxes were brazenly snatched by the PDP thugs, results doctored with fictitious and fabulous figures awarded to PDP candidates. Same rigging and manipulation were recorded in states where opposition capitalist parties hold sway.
While there was a very low turn-out of voters for the elections, INEC awarded fat figures to PDP candidates to give the impression that there was an impressive turn-out. In fact, both local and international elections observers declared the April 2007 elections in Nigeria as the worst in the history of the country and below even Nigeria’s unenviable standards! And of course, there is a general consensus that the elections were not free, fair and credible, hence, the general clamour for cancellation of the elections.
Apart from the mass protests against the farce, there have been heaps of petitions at election tribunals against the elections and declared “winners” from presidency to state assembly. Swimming in the waters of lack of credibility and legitimacy, President Umaru Yar’Adua and his PDP have sought to reconcile with the “opposition parties”, which is only limited to political parties that are ruling in the states ANPP, AC, PPA – by proposing “a unity government”. The idea of a unity government is merely an invitation to the opposition to come and share out of the proverbial national cake, a means of creating jobs for the boys. Expectedly, ANPP has jumped to the offer. AC would sooner or later follow suit notwithstanding Abubakar Atiku’s seeming indisposition at the moment. The Atiku factor is not based on any fundamental principled position. It simply has to do with the condition of participation in “Unity Government” which is withdrawal of all petitions by the participating party amongst others, which are unacceptable to Atiku and others. This invitation to “come and eat” and the response of the bourgeois opposition parties have clearly shown that they are not fundamentally different from the looters in the PDP.
However, because of his ‘radical’ background and some recent actions like release of the Lagos State local government fund illegally seized by Obasanjo, etc some sections of the working class have been hoodwinked to believe that President Yar’Adua government would be radically different from its predecessor’s in terms of delivery of better quality of life, decent housing, gainful employment, security of lives and property and basic social infrastructures amongst others. Working masses should not be deceived, Yar’Adua government will not be fundamentally different from Obasanjo’s regime in terms of attacks on the socio-economic interest of the masses through neo-liberal policies of privatisation of our collective heritage and commercialization of social services that will make very few rich stupendously rich and make poor people poorer.
The recent general strike against increases in VAT, fuel prices, sale of refineries, etc should serve as a lesson. Despite the fact that at the eve of relinquishing power, Obasanjo’s regime unilaterally slammed the attacks on Nigerians, Yar’Adua’s government refused to revert the petrol price to N65 per litre. It instead, faced with imminent general strike that could bring down the regime, reduced the price to N70 from N75 Obasanjo regime had increased it to. Again, the “new government” has promised that there would not be any increase in the next one year. This implies another increase after a year if it keeps to its promise!
As we in the DSM have always pointed out, as long as the thieving ruling elites remain to hold sway, poverty will continue to be the portion of the poor working masses. They can only eat the fruit of their labour, live decent lives, etc, if they can put in place an independent political movement and structures that can fight for their day to day struggle and effectively contest political power against the capitalist class and its political parties.
An opportunity for this was lost in the 2007 farce dubbed general elections. The elections met the working masses without their own political party. The former NLC President, Adams Oshiomhole, who could have energized the processes that could midwife this platform squandered the historic opportunity that presented itself. Adams who had led seven general strikes and seen by majority of the working masses as a defender of their interest and aspiration, only contested in Edo State as Governor and under the platform of one of the capitalist ruling parties, AC while capitalist elements who could not favourably contest on their own platform or were schemed out in power game like Femi Pedro, the former Deputy Governor in Lagos State contested under the Labour Party platform. With Adams contesting for President under the platform of Labour Party with other credible candidates for senate, house of reps, and at the states, 2007 elections would have been a different ball game entirely. If the party had campaigned on anti-capitalist programmes, class issue would have been sharply posed and the political climate before, during and after the elections would have been radicalised. It would have been a major step by the working masses to wrest power from the thieving ruling class.
Notwithstanding this complication, but for brazen snatching of ballot boxes and figure manipulation by INEC in favour of PDP candidate, Adams Oshiomhole contest radicalized Edo state working masses in terms popular support and agitation for him. In fact, it could be confidently said that he won the election in Edo State going by what was on ground before, during and after the elections.
As time goes on, Yar’Adua’s government will show its real colour. What is urgently required is for labour and pro-labour allies to initiate a conference that would review the perspective of a working class political platform that can fight the regime’s neo-liberal attacks and be positioned to contest with the view to wrest power from the ruling class come 2011 general elections. Otherwise, 2011 will come and meet the working class without a platform of its own. There is therefore, need to make hay while the sun shines!