YAR’ADUA’S ELECTORAL REFORMS AND 2011 GENERAL ELECTIONS
YAR’ADUA’S ELECTORAL REFORMS AND 2011 GENERAL ELECTIONS
Segun Sango, DSM General Secretary
The 2007 general elections were adjudged nationally and internationally, as the most farcical exercise ever conducted in the name of elections anywhere in the world. Thus faced with the crisis of legitimacy arising from what practically was no more than stolen mandate and, especially, the possibility of mass anger exploding over this massive electoral fraud, President Yar’Adua was forced to openly admit the fact that the election which produced him and his fellow usurpers were seriously flawed. Furthermore, the President promised to carry out a fundamental Electoral Reform that would ensure that future elections would be free and fair.
Unfortunately, what was no more than an attempt buy time was unwittingly and wholeheartedly embraced by cross sections of labour leaders and of course opposition bourgeois politicians. Against those falsely proclaiming Yar’Adua as a God-sent President that has come to right the wrongs of the past, we in the DSM unequivocally warned that nothing positive would come out of President Yar’Adua’s promise. Specifically, we condemned and opposed the Electoral Reform Panel put in place by Yar’Adua on two main grounds. Among other things, we had argued:
“â€¦The primary reason why that elections and the previous ones were always highly manipulated and rigged was the direct result of the fact those in power have always used their positions to loot instead of using the state resources to develop the economy and better the lots of the masses. Therefore, unable to win votes on their own merit, they have always resorted to a “do or die” tactics to procure victory at all cost. There is no single provision in the 2006 Electoral Act which could be used as a basis for the unheard of frauds and manipulations perpetrated by INEC and the ruling elites to give “victories” to those declared as winners of the farce called 2007 general elections. Therefore, as long as the present capitalist arrangement which gives legitimate rights to a few individuals and corporations to convert to their own exclusive properties, assets and resources which otherwise should be used to better the life of all, is in operation, there can never be a real free and fair election, no matter how progressive the electoral law may be.
“Besides, the setting up of the electoral panel should not be seen as something spectacular by conscious working class elements and youths. In fact, the President action in this respect has merely confirmed the fact that Nigerian masses are still firmly held under an era of governmental motion without movement. For the past 21 years, particularly since the era of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida military dictatorship, bourgeois governments seemed to have perfected the idea of setting up unelected political commissions with a deliberate intention of diverting attention of the poor working people from crucial issues and or to deceive them. Thus, Babangida set up what was called the political debate on future of Nigeria headed by Prof. Cookey. The Cookey commission, as the body was widely known, traversed all sections of the country collating views on the system that Nigerians wanted. At the end of the day, the commission found and reported that majority of Nigerians preferred a socialist system to the “dog eat dog” capitalist system presently in operation. Without giving a second thought to the colossal time and resources invested on this exercise, Gen Babangida threw out the entire proceedings and the outcome of the commissions under the false pretense that his regime would not like to impose an ideology on Nigerians! When the late General Sanni Abacha in turn, through military usurped power and subsequently faced a serious political crisis of legitimacy, he decided to set up a highly undemocratic body called Constitutional Conference. A significant proportion of Abacha’s constitutional conference members were outrightly handpicked while the rest were purportedly elected through dubious elections which in reality was resoundingly boycotted by the vast majority of people across the country.
“Today, nobody hears or says anything about Abacha so-called Constitutional Conference. Faced with mounting agitation for the convocation of a democratically elected Sovereign National Conference (SNC) that would have power to draw up a new constitution for Nigeria, former President Obasanjo sometimes in 2005 decided to set up what was popularly known as National Political Confab to draw up a comprehensive agenda to redesign Nigeria. The confab, whose members were entirely handpicked, was launched with fanfare. Apart from being lodged in the most expensive hotel in Nigeria, huge public funds were subsequently expended by the confab members to traverse the various zones in the country. At the end of the day, nothing positive comes out of the whole futile exercise. Against this background, the point therefore has to be stressed by socialists and working class activists that nothing positive would come out of Yar’Adua’s own handpicked panel. At best, the panel members, particularly its officers, will attract some momentary publicity in the bourgeois media during the assignment and especially when submitting their reports to the president. Thereafter, their own reports will be consigned to the dustbin of history where it really belongs.” (“President Yar’Adua’s Era: A new dawn for the masses?”, DSM pamphlet, November 2007)
CAMPAIGN FOR 20 MILLION SIGNATURES
Instead of following the kind of socialist, working class perspective outlined above, the NLC and TUC leaders as well as other prominent labour leaders including the NLC’s former president, Adams Oshiomole, the current governor of Edo State, decided in their characteristic, but futile, political line of strategic partnership with varying sections of the capitalist ruling elite to participate in Yar’Adua’s handpicked Electoral Reform Panel. Now, in a belated conversion, those who advocated collaboration yesterday, are now singing war songs. They now state that the original report submitted by the Electoral Reform Panel headed by the retired Chief Justice Mohammed Uwais has been largely watered down and or totally rejected by the Yar’Adua government. At a recent meeting sponsored by the Alliance for Credible Elections the NLC made a commitment to help to gather 20 million signatures to compel the Yar’Adua government to implement fully the original recommendations made by the Uwais led Electoral Panel. The Punch newspaper, in its edition of April 17, 2009, reported that at this meeting “The consensus of opinion at the event was that Yar’Adua should concentrate on one point agenda, which is delivering the legacy of credible election to Nigeria, adding that if achieved, other critical national problems would follow”.
Unconditionally, the DSM members welcome labour’s initiative to engage and support activities involving millions of ordinary masses to struggle for a more democratic electoral process and better living conditions in general. Sadly however, the ACE and labour’s commitment in the given contest to mobilize 20 million signatures of ordinary Nigerians in order to compel full implementation of the original report submitted by the Uwais led-panel is based on a totally false premise and approach.
On a specific note, fighting for a more democratic electoral process and elections is one thing. However, basing a mass struggle for the implementation of the original recommendations of the Uwais led-electoral review panel is a different ball game entirely.
In the first scenario, this can be called a general fight for the betterment of the masses whereas, in the second scenario, it would mean assuming full responsibility for propositions and actions which when critically examined can not be said to be in the interest of the ordinary masses. For instance, there is already an avalanche of complaints over the fact that Nigeria’s so-called federation is too centralized. Totally oblivious to this sentiment, the Uwais led-panel has gone ahead to recommend the abrogation of state-controlled electoral commissions. Correctly, the panel has noted the fact that even more atrocities and manipulations are carried out by the state controlled electoral commissions. However, before these arguments can be validly used for the abrogation of the state controlled electoral commissions, same criteria has to be applied to the national INEC.
We believe that the Uwais led-panel arrived at this contradictory and undemocratic recommendation because the entire members of the panel themselves could not think of a truly democratic measures that can really make the electoral process more accessible and democratic to all and sundry. For instance, one of their major recommendations rejected by the Yar’Adua government is that which demands that the power to appoint the principal officers of the INEC be removed from presidency and be put under the National Judicial Council. If the truth must be said, this recommendation still falls short of the demand that members of the INEC be composed by elected representatives of labour, Civil Society Organisations, and the political parties, etc. Thus, under the present constitutional dispensation, the 2006 Electoral Act and the recommendation of the Uwais led-panel with respect to the composition of principal members of INEC, the electoral affair would still primarily remain a function of top bourgeois state officials!
Primarily, the ACE and labour’s projected campaign is hinged on a false and or futile perspective of seeing President Yar’Adua as a “God-fearing” leader who can be helped or encouraged to take fundamental actions that would benefit the ordinary masses. On the contrary however, President Yar’Adua has continued to demonstrate through pronouncements and actions that he is an out-an out consummate representative of the ruling and looting capitalist elite in power.
Two years after Yar’Adua became president, the vast majority of ordinary Nigerians continue to live substandard lives while the tiny colony of the thieving rich continue to live in stupendous opulence and immunity from legal prosecutions for their numerous crimes. Just as under his inglorious predecessor in office, top political office holders continue to earn fabulous salaries and allowances, which is 20,000 times more than the incomes of ordinary working class Nigerians. Simultaneous, workers agitation for increased pay by teachers, judicial workers and a general minimum wage of N52,200 have all met with rebuff and outright refusal. The so-called reduction of top state officials’ salaries is nothing more than a smokescreen to try to trick working people to not struggle for higher living standards. In fact, The Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Committee (RMFAC), the body empowered by the constitution to fix salaries and allowances of political office holders has already openly kicked against the presidential directive to reduce the salaries and allowances of top states officials. Thus, there might be no any reduction in the salaries of these vampires at the end of the day.
Lately, the regime has just unfolded a deregulation and privatization agenda, which would totally hand over Nigeria’s very rich oil sector to private capitalist interests. This breathtaking anti-poor, pro-rich policy was said to have been taken to prevent corruption in publicly owned enterprises. Suffice to note however, the Yar’Adua government, just like the Obasanjo government, its predecessor in office has stubbornly continue to shield these big time looters from prosecutions.
A few weeks back, an Appeal Court Tribunal affirmed the nullification of the declaration of Segun Oni as the duly elected governor of Ekiti State based on the findings that the votes counted to declare him a winner were fraudulently procured. Instead of apologizing for its party’s act of electoral robbery, President Yar’Adua, while campaigning in the re-run election ordered by the court had, stated that Segun Oni will win the re-election and for that reason, he believes that the Ekiti people will have the singular honour of having a governor that will spend six years in his first term in office! Thus, by his general and particular conducts enumerated above, President Yar’Adua has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that as a beneficiary of highly rigged elections conducted by thieving capitalist ruling elites, he would always faithfully live up to the expectations of his backers. Consequently, any struggle aimed at making him to concentrate on one point agenda, which is delivering the legacy of credible election to Nigeria, is doomed to failure abinitio, from the beginning.
Secondly, the proposed campaign to get 20 million signatures of ordinary Nigerians to compel the Yar’Adua government to fully implement the Uwais Electoral Reform Panel’s report is fundamentally faulty in that labour in this regard, would be helping to sustain the false perspective that election in Nigeria were being rigged because of the shortcomings in the Electoral Act. Here, the point should be stressed that Nigeria’s 1999 constitution, being an imposition by the military as well as the 2006 Electoral Act are far from being fully democratic. In fact, there are many provisions in these combined documents relating to elections, which can benefit from serious progressive and democratic amendments. Nonetheless, none of the shortcomings in the constitution and the 2006 Electoral Act can be used to rationalize the act of brigandage and brazing manipulations that characterized the 2007 general elections. Consequently, the current campaign for free and fair elections must be based on the recognition and understanding of the character of the Nigeria’s economy and the state’s institutions that has arose from this phenomena.
Beyond any shortcomings that may exists in the relevant laws governing elections, the major reason why every election in Nigeria is usually rigged by the ruling class is as a result of the class character of Nigeria’s ruling elites. Historically, Nigeria’s ruling elites had always generally used power for their own personal material and political ends to the detriment of the interest of the ordinary working class people. This counter-productive characteristic has however, assumed a worrisome dimension since crude oil became the virtual source of Nigeria’s revenue. For a long time now, Nigeria’s society has remained under the rule of bourgeois elites that do not earn their wealth from industry, agriculture, banking, trading, etc., but solely from crude oil exportation. Of late, the little industrial and agricultural potential which the country used to have has been virtually destroyed by the ferocious neo-liberal policies of privatization, commercialization of education and health, wholesale liberalisation of the economy, etc. Presently, only those who control political power can, through that power, lay hands and control the nation’s oil wealth. This is why every election has acquired and or become a “do or die” affair for rival gangs within the ruling class.
To bring an end to this vicious circle would require an outright social transformation of the economy and polity. This for instance, would mean that the major means or production and resources of nature including oil, banks, and other financial institutions would have to be outright nationalized under a general system of public ownership to provide an objective basis for economic development and planning that would make it possible to meet the basic needs and aspirations of the entire people and not just the few rich as obtains under the present unjust capitalist dispensation. However, in order to make sure that such nationalized and planned economy is not wrecked by bureaucratic bungling and looting by its managers, it would be imperative to put and run the entire economy under the democratic control and management of the working people. Only this arrangement can prevent a situation where political parties and individuals will have to be going all out to win elections at all costs for their own self-serving ends and personal aggrandizement.
Finally, we in the DSM fully agree with labour leaders that the issue of free and fair election is of utmost importance to the working class people. But a free and fair election can only take place if millions are mobilised in action to defend free voting and defeat the riggers and election fraudsters. However, in order to make such mass action happen, labour needs to clearly demonstrate to the masses that its quest for a free and fair election is ultimately aimed at putting in power a democratic socialist government of the workers and the poor in general. Towards this end, labour needs to vigorously fight for a decent living wage and incomes for the generality of the working people and the poor. Labour needs to counter-pose public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy as well as its democratic control and management by the working class people to prevent bureaucratic strangulations and lootings by managers of publicly owned enterprises as an alternative to privatization and deregulation which would only lead to higher prices for goods and services as well as mass retrenchment of workers.
However, for all these aims to be achieved, labour needs to build its own independent political party as a fighting and democratically run platform of the ordinary working class people with a view to struggle and win political power. In other words, labour should stop acting as an electoral umpire between the different sets of capitalist gangs and begin to act in a clear partisan manner on behalf of the working class people. This is the only way to checkmate the capitalist ruling class’s conventional practice of riggings and manipulations of all elections.