LAGOS STATE LOCAL COUNCIL ELECTION: A Bad Signal Of What To Expect In Year 2011
LAGOS STATE LOCAL COUNCIL ELECTION: A Bad Signal Of What To Expect In Year 2011
On October 11, 2008, the Action Congress (AC) controlled government of Lagos State finally held its own version of local council elections. In all its ramifications, the entire exercise, both in conducts and outcome was a big farce. As the third largest ruling party, which made so much noise about PDP’s manipulations and riggings of 2007 general elections, these local council elections conducted by the AC has shown beyond all reasonable doubt that the ordinary Nigerian working people cannot expect good governance and observance of democratic practices from any of the ruling capitalist parties either now or in future.
To start with, Lagos State has only 20 local governments recognized by the 1999 constitution. Yet, the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC), in tune with the dictates of the AC government, decided to conduct the so-called election in 57 local councils. Of course, under the 1999 constitution, the state has powers to initiate the creation of additional local council areas. But before such newly created local councils can become legal entities, the National Assembly has to pass a consequential Act to ratify such creations. As a matter of fact, way back to 2004, the Supreme Court had had cause to pronounce the newly created 37 “local councils” in Lagos State “inchoate” and that no kobo from public funds must be appropriated for the purpose of running the so-called newly created councils.
Way back in 2004 when members of the DSM were in the leadership of the Lagos State chapter of the National Conscience Party (NCP), we had equally opposed the idea of conducting elections into these ‘inchoate’ entities on the grounds that under the 1999 constitution, the new creations cannot attract additional revenue from the central purse until the National Assembly passes a consequential act ratifying same.
We had argued that additional 37 local council structures without additional revenues could only produce the kind of prostrate situation, which prevails across the State vis-Å•-vis services expected to be performed by local councils. Far from bringing government to grass root level, the contemporary local councils are like instrument of extortion and terror to most of their supposed constituencies. Things of course cannot be otherwise. Right from the beginning, the motive behind creation of additional 37 local councils was to create fiefdoms through which the AD/AC leaders across the State can be financially and politically “settled”.
These facts notwithstanding, LASIEC, headed by a former Chief Judge of Lagos State, acting out the script of the Lagos State Government, (itself headed by a lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) for that matter) wilfully and unceremoniously brushed aside the opposition parties objection and went ahead to conduct elections into the so-called “Developmental Area Councils” entirely unknown to the constitution. When challenged that there is no provision for developmental Area Councils under the 1999 constitution, and that the holding of election into such entities is nothing short of act of executive rascality, Raji Fashola (SAN), the AC governor of Lagos State responded by stating that even the Yar’Adua government handed over Bakassi, a disputed part of Nigeria, to Cameroun without effecting necessary constitutional amendment required before such an exercise can be legally done. If anything, this response has clearly revealed that the PDP, AC, ANPP etc are fundamentally the same notwithstanding the frequent but hollow moral grandstanding by the AC that it is different or better than the political throw-back called PDP.
More importantly however, the response has only established a detestable similarity between the AC, PDP and ANPP and that these capitalist parties would stop at nothing to capture or retain powers at all costs by resorting to the most bare-faced manipulations. Secondly, the Lagos State local councils election, has equally established a weird pattern. And this is that the sitting government must always win and control elections into all local councils under its jurisdiction.
Secondly, the 100% “victories” recorded by AC in these Lagos State local council elections is by no means unique. In fact, the ruling parties and governors in all the states of federation that have conducted their own local councils election have, in most cases virtually won 100% of all the seats contested. Even in states like Osun, Ekiti, etc where the rival AC opposition party won a considerable proportion of votes in their states even during the highly rigged 2007 general elections, the incumbent governors of these states have subsequently conducted their own so-called local council elections with the ruling PDP, winning 100% of contested seats in most cases, in a blatant manner, that falsely portrays absence of other opposition parties. Therefore, the “winning” of all the local council positions in Lagos State, in a state controlled by the AC (which had always dominated Lagos politics) should not be seen as something out of ordinary. However, what should be most worrisome is the fact that the ruling AC achieved its 100% “success” in the local polls despite the fact that the election held at a time when for instance, most of the roads in Lagos State were and still are in a very sorry state. Actual support for AC has been eroding on account of the deplorable state of roads, education, health and other vital services.
Again, in the recent years the so-called Local Councils, in addition to whatever allocation they receive from the State government, have mostly become institutions through which local residents are frequently raided, arrested and fined under the guise of one bye law or another, and this when no visible service is being performed. At the end of the day, the overwhelming majority of Lagosians stayed away by refusing to come out to vote. Yet the AC “won” 100% in all contested seats!
Here, it should also be noted that this is not a peculiar Lagos phenomenon. For the past nine odd years or so, the PDP controlled central and state government have failed woefully, collectively and severally to make notable impacts in the development of necessary economic and social infrastructure as well as improving the living standard of the vast majority of Nigerians. Yet, the party, in an astonishing manner that defies sense and logic, has continued to claim “massive victories” in all elections conducted since 1999. In the wake of the farce called 2007 general elections, the elections of some PDP governors were subsequently set aside by some State Election Petitions Tribunals, which severally ordered new elections to be conducted in the affected states. Instructively, all the affected PDP governors “won” their re-elections with more massive votes than recorded for them during the general elections. Even though, the mass media well documented the facts that mass apathy and absence of voters characterized all these so-called re-elections. On the basis of this pattern, the 2011 or any future bye-elections can only produce results that would perpetuate the current sets of self-serving politicians in power and here lies the biggest challenge to the working masses.
WARNING TO THE WORKING CLASS
Regardless of the manner of their “victories” and the colouration of their rhetorics, all the ruling parties are virtually dominated by self-serving politicians. Outside massive propaganda by paid writers and beneficiaries of the prevailing rots in society, very little physical or economic social development are taking place in any part of the country, whether in the states controlled by the PDP, ANPP and AC. But notwithstanding this brutal reality, these same elements with minor variations will do everything to ensure their continuation in power come 2011.
Of course, the prospect of the current set of rulers remaining in power up to 2011 and after will be nothing but an unmitigated disaster, an endless nightmare. But there is only one way to arrest and stop the absurdity of mass misery in the presence of super abundance, and that is for the working class as a collective to take control of political power from the hands of self-serving capitalist exploiters and put in place, a socialist arrangement of production and distribution, being controlled and managed by the working people themselves and wherein productions and all human activities will be directed to meet the needs and aspirations of all and not just a few as under the current unjust capitalist system. To take the first major step towards the actualization of this kind of objective, the working people, first and foremost, need to form its own political party that is ideologically, politically, organizationally different from all the existing capitalist political parties.
Yes, there is currently a Labour Party in existence, but that party only exists in name. So far, there is no conscious and concerted effort being made by trade unions, pro-labour activists and organizations to build the party as a truly working peoples party. In few areas where the party has active presence, this was largely made possible with the intervention of some capitalist politicians like Dr. Olusegun Mimiko in Ondo State, who decided to utilize its platform (having previously lost the official tickets of their own party) to further their own electoral ambition in the 2007 general elections. Expectedly, the party’s national leadership has been unable to exhibit the image and credentials, which would make it appealing to the ordinary working masses and seen as something different from the rest corrupt political parties.
Suffice to stress, if this deplorable state of affair persists in the period before 2011 elections, all the current detestable and widely hated political elites will crookedly do everything to retain or control political power across the country. Therefore, in order to avoid this kind of debacle, we in the DSM wish to reiterate our call for an urgent conference by trade unionists, labour activists, left parties, LASCO, DSM, UAD, etc, with a view to specifically address the issue of working class political platform and alternative in the preparation towards the 2011 general elections. With a bold campaign, built on programme of action, which addresses the basic needs for infrastructural development as well as the living standard of the working people, the Labour Party, or any other name with which such a party is called can be rapidly built into a formidable and unbeatable political force, which can easily sweep aside the existing capitalist parties whose support and mandate are usually based on bribery and manipulations. Of course, this will only happen if the labour party and its leaders across board are seen by the working people as those who engage in pre-elections struggles for better economic conditions, political and general democratic rights. All that such a party requires to achieve the needed mass support and creativity is a firm commitment and activities to always uphold the interest of the vast majority against those of the few self-serving capitalist interests.
In addition, the day-to-day running and decision making within such a party must always and scrupulously be based on the democratic control of the party by rank and file members through its established structures. This is the only way to eliminate the domination of political parties by self-styled “god fathers” whose stock-in-trade is imposition of favoured candidates at election times so that the capitalist class could continue to loot money which ought to be used for economic development with a view to improve on the masses living standards. Only this approach can bring the best out of party members that would make it absolutely impossible for capitalist parties, who usually rely on riggings, manipulations and bribery to win elections. Only a party committed to the basic needs of the working masses, run and controlled by the democratic aspirations and decisions of the party members can produce sufficient creativity and sacrifices needed to generate necessary financial and human resources to fight its elections campaigns and other mass activities, which could be very crucial for victories or defeats in specific struggles. If you agree with this kind of approach, then we invite you to take a decision today to join DSM in the struggle to build a formidable mass party of the working people with a view to struggle to take power away from the ruinous and self-serving capitalist class.