ELECTORAL REFORM CAMPAIGNS AND THE HOPE FOR GENUINE CHANGE IN EDO
ELECTORAL REFORM CAMPAIGNS AND THE HOPE FOR GENUINE CHANGE IN EDO
By Lateef Adams
Free and fair election is a miracle that many Nigerians are waiting to happen in Nigeria. It has often been said that if Nigeria could get it right on elections, then it will be possible to resolve all other socio-economic problems which the country is enmeshed in. As the general elections of 2011 is getting closer, many Nigerians including the people of Edo state are not prepared to witness a repeat of the farce called general elections conducted in 2007 by the last board of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headed by Prof. Maurice Iwu.
Indeed, the working masses of Edo state, who witnessed the brazenly rigged election of 2007, embrace with high hopes the present Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s campaign slogan of “One man One vote”. However, this slogan which is tagged the philosophy of the Adams Oshiomhole, was met with mixed feelings in the state capital Benin on 29th of April, 2010 when former military President Ibrahim Babangida made a physical appearance at one of the rallies organized by Oshiomhole to popularize this campaign. Babangida is popularly hated in Nigeria for annulling the June 12 1993 general elections, amongst other anti-poor policies implemented while he was a military Head of State. Adams Oshiomhole’s “One man, One Vote” campaign has been linked with Babangida’s agenda to contest for president in the 2011 elections.
Indeed, it must be expressly conceded that there is a consensus opinion on the need for credible elections as a necessary requirement of popular democracy. However, this campaign cannot be built on the shoulders of corrupt capitalist ruling elites like Ibrahim Babangida especially when electoral malpractices and other crises confronted by the poor and working class are caused by the same ruling elite. In the real sense, the corrupt Nigerian capitalist ruling elite resist free and fair election precisely because they cannot hope to maintain their grip on political power in an atmosphere where the masses’ votes count. Besides, there is cutthroat desperation for political power by the thieving ruling elites because it provides an avenue for brazen looting of public resources.
As election draws nearer, the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Edo State has had decampees from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) joining it. Even chairmen of local governments are also not left out on the list of decampees. Many of these people are joining the ACN in order to evade probe and prosecution for fraud and other crimes committed while in office.
It was bad enough that Adams Oshiomhole ditched the Labour Party (LP) to contest on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) which is another pro-capitalist bourgeois party. However, the new rapprochement of Adams Oshiomhole with PDP decampees and highly discredited members of the capitalist ruling political elites like Ibrahim Babangida will no doubt make nonsense of Adams’ government pro-people’s promises and particularly his campaign for electoral reforms.
The general public has rated Oshiomhole government high as regard his performance on infrastructures than the previous recent administrations. The only limitation to Adams’ performances is that these projects are carried out by the highly expensive contract system which reduces the quality and number of projects to be carried out and allows big business and political charlatans to make money out of the government. At the same time, given the fact that the forces surrounding Oshiomhole government are pro-capitalist elements in the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) who see governance as a business, the policies of his administration have unfortunately swung more and more in favour of the interests of the ruling class and the against the interests of workers, youths and poor masses of Edo State. The DSM had, during and after Adams Oshiomhole’s elections as Governor of Edo State, warned about the possibility of this quagmire should Adams hope to implement pro-peoples’ policies while remaining under the platform of a bourgeois party like the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
The series of strikes embarked upon by workers in the state clearly bears out this point. There have been strikes and protests by workers in the state owned institution for better condition of service. Recently in the month of June 2010, the Academic staff union of university (ASUU) Ambrose Alli University (AAU) chapter embarked on a warning strike over payment of salaries. Also in the same period, the Academic Staff of the Edo State Institute of Technology and management (ESITM) Usen also embarked on a protest over neglect of the Institution by the Government and poor facilities. Besides, students of some Edo State higher institutions, particularly the Colleges of Education and ESITM protested in their hundreds on Monday August 16 2010 in Benin to call on Oshiomhole to meet the demands of their lecturers who have been on strike for the past 5 weeks. At the same time, the fees hike in AAU has hit students who are from the working class background. This fee hike has worsened the condition of a sizeable number of students in AAU who engage in petty trading and jobs like sales of recharge cards and commercial bike riding to see themselves through school and many who survive on little allowance given to them by their poor parents.
Unless labour-oriented policies are implemented in Edo under the leadership of the working class, fundamental change that will guarantee better life for the people of Edo State will remain a mirage despite the little progress recorded under Adams Oshiomhole’s administration. Oshiomhole himself can help the masses of Edo State to transform society by leaving the ranks of bourgeois parties like the ACN, and capitalist individuals like Ibrahim Babangida, and joining the Labour Party with a view to building it as a genuine working class political alternative. Without this, all the promises of Oshiomhole to improve peoples living conditions will be a mirage as a result of the resistance which the capitalist ruling elite who benefit from the current unjust situation will always put up.
At the same time, Adams Oshiomhole’s campaign for free and fair elections can only be meaningful if the working and poor masses have their party which they can vote for. For instance, it will be pointless if the masses fight for electoral reform only for general elections to be held with the masses having to vote for anti-poor candidates of ACN, PDP, ANPP or APGA. Therefore for Adams Oshiomhole’s campaign for electoral reform to be a genuine process for change, building a formidable working class party becomes necessary. The challenge to transform Edo State and fundamentally improve the quality of life of the Edo people lies on the masses of Edo State trade unions and the labour movement, and not ruling capitalist elite like Ibrahim Babangida, ACN stalwarts or PDP decampees.