THE 2011 GENERAL ELECTIONS AND THE WORKING MASSES
THE 2011 GENERAL ELECTIONS AND THE WORKING MASSES
Segun Sango, DSM General Secretary
The main political parties recently conducted their primaries to elect those that will fly their flags in the forthcoming general elections in April. Very tragically, these so-called primaries have once again revealed the well known fact that all the ruling parties are being led by highly undemocratic elements who merely believe that political power is just a means to acquire undeserved wealth for themselves, collaborators and family members. All the ruling parties from the PDP to the so-called opposition parties organised so-called primaries where only the highest bidders won and/or those arbitrarily imposed by the leaders! Except for the politically deluded, there was not a single ray of light from the parties’ primaries that can correctly justify the call on the working masses, by both the NLC and TUC leaders, to act as “monitors” for the inter-party elections fixed for April, ostensibly to ensure the free and fairness of an exercise that would be no more than a mere contest between the different sections of the thieving capitalist elite and gangsters.
Even the most critical sections of the bourgeois press nationally and internationally, are to say the least, unimpressed and to a large extent disillusioned by the farce called parties primaries. The Daily Trust (a choice paper of sections of the ruling elite from the northern part of the country) of January 14, 2011 summed up the frustration and fears of the thinking sections of the ruling elite in the following unflattering words: “The appointment of Professor Attahiru Jega as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has meant that it will no longer be business as usual at INEC. However, the recent shoddy conduct of the party primaries, which is mainly the internal affairs the political parties, has shown that business has continued to be as usual in the political parties. As a matter of fact, with every election, the political parties seem to be moving the nation away from democracy and towards anarchy”.
PDP PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES
The BBC of January 14, 2011 reports the PDP primary with the following words: “In the language of Nigerian negotiation, the matter of whom the ruling People’s Democratic Party delegates chose as their presidential candidate for April’s election is “settled”. Cash has been dispensed; favours and gifts have been granted; and political support given in return. Thousands of smiling PDP members â€“ their wallets swollen with booty â€“ are packing up to leave the jamboree in the capital, Abuja, that commentators call “the cash and carry” primary.”
On its part, the Daily Champion of January 14, 2011made the following reports in respect of the primary: “Accusations and allegations of bribery among the delegates were part of the low points of the national convention of the People Democratic Party (PDP), which was held yesterday to pick a presidential candidate of the party. Delegates who spoke to Daily Champion on the conditions of anonymity alleged that both the camps of President Goodluck Jonathan and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, tried to offer delegates monetary incentives. There was no official confirmation of such allegations. However, exact amount spent trying to woo the delegates could not be ascertained but there are indications that the President’s camp may have spent about $5million wooing delegates. Similarly, the Atiku camp was alleged to have matched the Presidents’ camp in wooing delegates with monetary incentives said to be in dollars. The president’s camp was alleged to have doled out $10,000 per delegate vote, while the Atiku camp also moved up its bargain from $5,000 per delegates to equal the presidents’. Though state governors practically quarantined delegates to avoid losing them to poachers from the Atiku camp, the delegates also managed to sneak out at attend to promptings from smart poachers from the Atiku camp“.
Nigeria’s unresolved national question and ethno religious divide also played a prominent role in deciding the winner of the PDP primary. This was why President Goodluck Jonathan overwhelmingly won the delegates votes from his south-south region, the south-east and the south-west. His victory in most states within the middle belt also bears a clear stamp of ethno-religious divide. Hassan Sanni Kotangora, publisher of the now rested Kaduna based Hotline Magazine, was quoted thus on why the middle belt zone in the northern part of the country voted for Jonathan: “We were the people that the Hausa-Fulani people used to fight the wars. In the First and Second World War, my people went. During the civil war if not for us, Biafra would have become a reality. What did we get for it? We got dead peopleâ€¦They now made all of us foolish people, calling us, come and join us, they are cheating us, we northerners. When they were chopping, killing people, taking everything for themselves, how many people in Benue were given oil? They forced us into one thing called northern Nigeria. Then the people they believed should rule from northern Nigeria ruled. Whether it is military coup we make, they rule and then they want all these privileges to continue. What kind of country is this that I will like to pass as my country”.
THE OPPOSITION PARTIES’ PRIMARIES: THE ANPP AND CPC CHARADES
The purported primaries conducted by the ruling opposition parties have shown beyond any reasonable doubt that these so-called opposition political parties are not in any positive sense different from the corrupt ruling PDP. The ACN, ANPP, CPC and the Labour Party all individually and collectively organized farcical exercises in the name of party primaries. As a serious political force, the ANPP has now become a shadow of what it was in 1998, at the beginning of the current civilian rule. At the moment, the party has been decimated by series of defections into the PDP and CPC â€“ a direct political fall out of its opportunistic, self-serving alliance with the PDP at the centre.
Despite the not too bright political prospect for the ANPP come the 2011 elections, its primaries, particularly in states where it controls or active, has been characterized by the same negative features prevalent in the PDP, ACN, etc. For instance, only the very rich and or those backed by the rich and or those currently holding political offices have been able to secure the party tickets across the country. This of course has created massive condemnations and resentment across the country amongst the party’s rank and file. On Friday January 28, its governorship candidate in Borno State was gunned down in his father’s house in Maiduguri alongside 6 other persons including a brother of the current governor. Bunu Sheriff, the State governor, holds the view that this gruesome day light murders was carried out by those who felt short-changed in the parties’ primaries.
The Congress of Progressive for Change (CPC) which is largely a splinter group from the ANPP does not presently control any state government, although it has a fair share of political office holders elected on the platform of ANPP before their defection. With Major General Mohammed Buhari, (a man generally perceived as being less corrupt than other prominent politicians) as its presidential candidate for the 2011 elections, it is the general belief by the CPC aspirants, particularly in some states in the north of the country, that securing the CPC tickets offer a fairly easy ride to power. For this reason, its own primary has been dominated by manipulations and violence, which in Jos, Plateau State, has resulted in the killing of about 6 persons.
ACN: THE SELF-ACCLAIMED PROGRESSIVE
The ACN leaders, most especially in states where the party governs and where it appears to have high prospect of winning, collected various outrageous sums from prospective aspirants and thereafter refused to organize primaries, in most cases, for the different aspirants. One Mr. Seun Williams, an aspirant for the Lagos State House of Assembly seat was quoted thus by The Independent of 20 January, 2011: “I can’t count how many times I meet with members and supporters of the party since 2008, I spent my money gathering information from them and equipping myself with details on how to better their lot when I get to serve them in the Assembly. I have been assumed by the ACN members that I would get their votes regardless of the party platform I contest under. He recounted that he won the 2007 primaries under the ACN platform but was asked by Tinubu to step down for Ademola Adekunle, now a lawmaker. My feeling was that I would get back my mandate this year, but there were no primaries as far as am concerned. The party hierarchy cannot deny this fact”.
The Vanguard of January 14, 2011 also filed this report on the ACN primaries in Lagos State: “An INEC official on ground of anonymity spoke to Vanguard thus: The candidates emerged under questionable circumstances. After you media were asked to leave the election venue, we were equally ushered out while the officers took the ballot boxes into a room. Later they came out with a paper where the results were written and asked us to sign which we refused. It took the mercy of security personal to see us safely to our cars and as I speak, the result sheet is in our office and we have officially written our reports. The absence of agents for aspirants, which the party did not allow is the first indication that all is not well with the election. Reacting to protests by the media on why the result should be given to only two media houses after everyone was asked to leave, Chief Funso Ologunde, Assistant State Publicity Secretary declared: “Let me also say that the ACN constitution did not say we must count result in the presence of journalists.”
Meanwhile, similar complaints of manipulations and imposition of candidates characterized the ACN primaries in states like Edo, Osun, Oyo, etc. Faced with barrage of protests by ACN aspirants accusing the party leaders of imposition of candidature instead of allowing candidates to emerge through primaries, the National Chairman of the ACN, Chief Bisi Akande totally justifies the party’s undemocratic and reprehensible conduct in the following manner: “The British democracy is the oldest in the world and you cannot see political parties there conducting primary elections before choosing their candidates. They do it by picking competent hands that are trustworthy in the judgment of the party. So, we believe that elections under a democratic setting is when we are contesting with other political party during polls.
“If election within our party is what you are trying to describe as internal democracy, then we reject such idea. Can we impose when we are contesting against PDP? Party knows what people want.
“But we can do something within our party if the leadership of the party feels that that is the best thing. This is because it is the leadership of the party that understands the manifestoes of the party and knows what the people really want.
“This is not a matter of an individual but the party. Nobody should accuse ACN of imposition because that is our style. Anyone that is not comfortable with that should go and contest in another political party. So if you see anyone carrying placard around, he is wasting his time.
We know the efforts we made before the party becomes what it is today and where were they when we were making the efforts. It is when they saw that the party is popular that they were attracted to it and we don’t expect them to come and hijack the party because of their dirty money”. (Vanguard 21 January, 2011).
Truly, anyone that fully understands the kind of elements that control and dominate all the ruling parties, including the ACN, could not but ironically sympathise with the dilemma which the party leaders have found themselves. Largely due to the jumbo salaries and allowances being paid to political office holders, combined with the “profit first” neo-liberal capitalist ideology which insists that government should keep “hands off” all issues of socio-economic development – a strategy that deliberately encourages the sales of public assets and resources to private capitalist individuals and companies, there are now more individuals seeking political posts than used to be the case. For instance, in states where the ACN are in power, numerous individuals put themselves up to be elected as the party candidates.
To a large degree, many of these elements may just be new members and or those wishing to buy their way through political posts. And because these parties themselves lack a genuine pro-people ideology, the various party leaders have invariably monetized the process of seeking party candidatures. Huge sums of money were collected from prospective aspirants seeking to become party candidates, without in most cases, conducting any primary elections. While most of the aspirants duped in this regard could not themselves claim to be genuinely motivated by sincere desire to serve the masses, at the same time, this does mean that most of those imposed as candidates cannot be expected to genuinely serve the interest of the ordinary people. Ultimately, they should be expected to recoup, in multi-fold, the resources expended by themselves and their god-fathers to acquire their positions.
THE ECONOMIC SITUATION
As amply demonstrated above, the working masses cannot reasonably expect a free and fair exercise and neither can they expect the emergence, in post 2011 elections, of elements that are genuinely committed to implement pro-masses policies. Paradoxically however, the self-serving and utterly corrupt PDP government at the centre, has been busy painting a picture of rapid economic growth that gives the erroneous impression of a country doing well economically, if not so much democratically and politically!
The PUNCH of February 3, 2011 reports: “The Federal Government on Wednesday said that Nigeria’s economy grew by 8.29 percent in the last quarter of 2010. It explained that the growth was largely due to improved power supply across the country and enhanced performance of the non-oil sector, particularly agriculture. The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, disclosed this while presenting the 2010 Fourth Quarter Report to the Federal Executive Council at its meeting in Abuja”. Elaborating further on what the CBN governor was said to have told the FEC meeting, Information and Communications Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku had made the following claims: “In October 2010, the IMF had said that with a 7.4 percent growth rate, Nigeria was the third fastest growing economy in the world, after China and India. The CBN also projected a growth rate of 8.29% in the first quarter of 2011. Capacity utilisation has grown from 25% to 29.6%. Foreign exchange rate stabilised at N153 to a dollar” but the CBN is striving to keep the figure at N150 to a dollar.
Reacting to this “spectacular” growth rate, the MD/Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, told the Punch: “We are amazed at the 8.29% growth rate. We would want to feel it. We want to see the impact on the quality of lives of the people”. According to an Economic Consultant, Professor Kayode Familoni, “we have had growth without economic development. We must ensure that the growth results in full employment, price stability and equitable distribution of income and wealth, otherwise, it will be meaningless”. Thus, this is a complete and gross misrepresentation of Nigeria’s economic reality. It is for this reason that the above bourgeois economic analysts themselves are incredulous about the veracity of the government claims. Way back in July 2010, Mr. Sanusi had equally told the Federal Executive Council that “there is no cause for alarm” as far as the overhaul economic prospect are concerned. In the Socialist Democracy issue of October 2010, we have debunked the false sense of optimism being painted by Sanusi and the Jonathan presidency.
We then wrote:
“While back-slapping themselves for the alleged wonderful achievements being presently recorded by combinations of their macro economic policies and at the same time making false promises of sustained growth and improved living standard, every key sector of the economy and the living conditions of the overwhelming majority of the people have continued to grow from bad to worse.
” ‘Between 1985 and 2004, inequality in Nigeria’ according to the UNDP Human Development Reports for the years 2008 and 2009, ‘worsened from 0.43% to 0.49%, placing the country among those with the highest inequality levels in the world. Many studies have shown that despite its vast resources, Nigeria ranks among the most unequal countries in the world. The poverty problem in the country is partly a feature of high inequality which manifests in highly unequal income distribution and differentia access to basic infrastructure, education, training and job opportunities’.
“Despite its abundant human and natural resources, Nigeria is ranked 158th in the world Human Development index out of 182 countries surveyed. Although Nigeria constitutes roughly 2% of the world population, the country tragically accounts for 11% of maternal death and 12% of the world’s under-5 mortality rates respectively. According to another UN survey, 92% of Nigerians live on less than $2 per day. Not surprisingly, the lifespan of most Nigerians have sharply declined with 49 years and 59 years estimated for men and women respectively.
“Stable and affordable electricity, seen by all and sundry as an unavoidable element in modern economic growth and social development, remains largely non-existent for an overwhelming majority of Nigerians; while services for the minority, individuals and companies that have access remain ever epileptic. South Africa, which roughly has only about 33% of Nigeria’s population generates 45,000 mega watts of electricity per annum. Most lamentably however, Nigeria currently generates less than 3,000 mega watts of electricity per annum. In fact, by the time former President Obasanjo left power in May 2007, Nigeria was only generating about 2,500 mega watts which actually declined to about 2,000 mega watts by 2009. Here, it is appropriate to add that this pathetic situation remains, notwithstanding the fact that the country was said to have invested about $16 billion under Obasanjo’s presidency to shore up electricity production!
“Education that is seen by all and sundry as an essential requisite for the overall development of society and individuals remains in the most debilitating condition. For instance, The Nation of March 17, 2010 reports that “Only 4,223 of the 236,613 candidates who sat for last year’s November/December external Senior Secondary School Examination (SSCE) of the National Examination Council (NECO) had credits in five subjects including English and Mathematics”. In its edition of April 15, 2010, the Nation also reported that only 25.99% and 10% respectively scored 5 credits and above, including English and Mathematics, across the country in the May/June 2009 WAEC and NECO July 2009 Examinations.
“These pathetic and worrisome results were roundly condemned by both government and, non-governmental officials and private individuals. According to the above-cited publication of April 15, 2010, ‘The poor outing of the candidates compelled the Federal Government to summon the chief executives of the two examination bodies to explain the mass failure and proffer solutions. This was followed by a meeting of the then Education Minister, Dr. Sam Egwu, with principals of Federal Government Colleges in Minna, Niger State capital, in January. Even the then governor of Ekiti State, which prides itself as the ‘Fountain of Knowledge’, Mr. Segun Oni, read the riot act to principals of public secondary schools to shape up or be shown the way out, in the wake of the appalling results. The Northern Governors Forum (NGF) through its Chairman, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, had to convene a meeting of the 19 governors of the region to address the poor outing. In the Eastern region, the outcome of the examinations became a thing of concern to governmental and non-governmental organizations’.
“Coming from the very elements that were and are still responsible for the collapse and growing decay in the education sector, the above quoted responses of the different government officials is both cynical and hypocritical. This response is largely cynical because it is these various government officials through their policies of education under-funding and corruption in all spheres of life that have created the conditions responsible for the prevailing abysmal failure in schools and examinations.
“Way back in 2005, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in its Human Development index reports had already painted a very gory picture of the education sector in Nigeria. The report in part states: “Due to poor funding for education, education at all levels suffers from low academic standards; lacks the requisite teachers, both in sufficient quantity and quality. Even the few qualified teachers available are not sufficiently motivated in terms of remuneration or operating environment conducive to maximize their output into the educational system. Schools are over-populated and classrooms are over-crowded, facilities are inadequate and over-stressed, library shelves are empty and covered with cobwebs, while laboratories lack up-to-date equipment”. Against this background, the above quoted responses against mass failure in secondary schools examinations by government officials is nothing but sheer hypocrisy.
“Notwithstanding the misleading impression being given by government spokespersons about the prevailing economic conditions of Nigeria, both inter and intra states roads and streets remain in the most deplorable conditions leading to constant massive loss of lives due to frequent motor accidents on the death traps being called roads. At the same time, Nigerians and industries continue to lose incalculable working hours as they daily navigate on bad roads in the course of their movements. In fact, a cursory survey of every basic aspect of life and economy reveals a feature of colossal failure and decay”.
PERSPECTIVE FOR POST ELECTION PERIOD
On the basis of the prevailing socio-economic and political situation, the working masses can only expect a tougher tomorrow, irrespective of the sections and or combinations of members of the capitalist ruling elite that come to power after the forthcoming general elections. All the ruling parties, without exception, are committed to the self-serving, ‘profit first’, neo-liberal capitalist strategy that could never make possible the maximum utilisation of the country’s human and natural resources, to develop the economy and people’s living standard.
Talking about “poor in riches” the Next newspaper of 30 January, 2011 states: “As the world’s sixth highest exporter of oil and gas, it is natural to expect that Nigeria should have no business with poverty. Between 11999 and 2009, Nigeria earned about $200.34billion (about N30.051 trillion) from exportation of about 4.56 billion barrels of crude oil. The recent United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Report (HDR) for 2010 ranks the country among the poorest among the developing economies, along with Chad, Vietnam and Yemen. Though the country’s life expectancy ratio for last year nudged a marginal improvement from 46.9 years to 48, the human development index (HDI) leaves Nigeria stranded in the 158th position out of 182 countries included in the quality of life ranking. This leaves her behind such less natural resources-endowed countries like Swaziland, Angola, Madagascar, Kenya, Ghana, Cameroon, Djibouti, Lesotho and Uganda”.
Under the rule of the corrupt capitalist elite, the vast majority Nigerians will continue to be deprived of basic social needs and infrastructures. As reported by the Punch of 27 January, 2011: “Nigeria might have lost about $130bn (N19.5tn) between 2000 and 2008 to illegal financial outflows, a new report by United States-based group, Global Financial Integrity, has said. The report titled, “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2000-2009,” said Nigeria had the 10th highest measured illicit outflows in the developing world, an average of $15bn (N2.25tn) per year. The News Agency of Nigeria reports from New York that the GFI report ranks countries according to the magnitude of illicit outflows. â€¦The report also shows the annual outflows for each country and breaks outflows down into two categories of drivers: trade mispricing and “other”, which includes “kickbacks, bribes, embezzlement and other forms of official corruption”.
In order to bring to an end the rule of the locusts and the vicious circle of mass poverty in the midst of abundance, the working masses need to spearhead the struggle for a revolutionary socio-economic change that would enable the abundant human and natural resources that the country is endowed with to truly be used to benefit every Nigerian and not just the few rich as under the prevailing unjust capitalist order. This will require that the commanding heights of the economy including natural resources be publicly owned and firmly but democratically controlled and managed by elected committees of the working people themselves. This is the only practical way to end the prevailing mass misery in the midst of plenty. Towards this goal however, the working masses need its own independent, revolutionary mass political party to mobilize the working masses and the rest of the poor in society, including the youths with a view to remove from power the self-serving, thieving capitalist elements and in its place form a workers and poor people’s government only which can be interested and capable of building a society where no one will be in want.
LABOUR AND 2011 ELECTIONS
Unfortunately, the Labour Party which was formed by the trade unions especially the NLC, and which should have been the political platform through which the working masses can be mobilized to chase out the corrupt capitalist elements from power has itself become degenerated and in fact almost indistinguishable from the other capitalist ruling parties such as the PDP, ACN, ANPP, etc. Warnings of this were already seen in 2007 when, for example, the Labour Party ran the ex-AC politician, and soon to be PDP member, Femi Pedro for the Lagos governorship.
This, it must be pointed out is as a result of the ideological disorientation and the inconsistencies of most trade union leaders who have persistently refused to rise up and provide consistent program and resolute leadership to the working class, in its historical responsibility of salvaging the society from the perpetual misrule of the capitalist elements. Instead of active involvement in the building of Labour Party, the leaderships of both the NLC and the TUC have continued to emphasize a hopeless strategy of striving for a free and fair election among different sections of the capitalist gangsters without paying any attention to the development of a working class party. John Kolawole, the General Secretary of the TUC, recently told the media: “The TUC is firmly committed to contributing to an electoral process that focuses on free, fair and credible elections and as a result has constituted an election monitoring team tagged the TUC Election Monitoring Committee (TUCEMT) in addition to over 2000 trained members as election observers to ensure that the 2011 elections are free, fair and credible”. His counterpart, Abdulwahed Ibrahim Omar, the NLC President, told the media thus: “The NLC will therefore not hesitate to lead the people in mass protests against politicians who despite the electoral reforms, decide to subvert the will of voters during the elections. The campaign of ‘One man, One Vote, One Woman, One Vote’ should not just be a slogan, but a creed, it should not be a campaign but a movement”.
Against the background of the rigmarole, manipulations, corruptions and violence which characterized the party primaries exercise within the PDP, ANPP, ACN, CPC and even Labour Party, the trade union leaders sole emphasis on the free and fairness of the forthcoming election is, to say the least, highly illogical, absurd and totally counter-productive. Under the guise of fighting for a free and fair election, the leadership of both the NLC and the TUC simply urge the working masses to ensure that 2011 general elections are free and fair. Very unfortunately, the NLC and TUC leaders are not even putting concrete and specific demands on crucial, socio-economic issues that daily confront the workers and the poor people in general before the ruling political parties. In reality the Labour leaders are demanding that working people have a free choice of which gangster should exploit them, rather that fighting to remove the entire gangster elite.
The Labour Party, originally registered by the trade union leaders, has at the same time, been abandoned to the electoral merchants who have been using the platform as a haven for bourgeois politicians that decamped from the PDP, ACN, ANPP, etc. Against the wrong political position and strategy being championed by the NLC and the TUC leaders, the DSM has been ceaselessly campaigning that the Trade Union leaders together with all pro-labour/masses groups should strive to build an independent political party of their own, whose central goal and philosophy will be the utilization of Nigeria’s abundant human and natural resources in order to meet the needs and aspirations of everybody and not just a tiny proportion of the rich as being done under the present unjust capitalist order.
The DSM has always argued that Nigeria’s neo-colonial, capitalist elites because of their late arrival in the capitalist world, a factor which effectively confined them to excessive corruption and looting of the nation’s treasury, will never be able to organize a truly free and fair elections either within their own parties or in inter-party elections. The show of shame that passed for the primaries of all the ruling political primaries demands that the NLC and TUC leaders abandon immediately their futile and false representation that anything good can come to the masses on the basis of the forthcoming 2011 general elections. Consequently, the DSM wishes to reiterate its age-long demand that the trade union leaders, LASCO leaders, socialists and all change-seeking elements do urgently convoke a special conference to work out political and economic strategies that can rescue Nigeria from total destruction which the self-serving rule of the capitalist elite is inexorably driving it to. Given the fact that the elections are just few weeks away, many may validly argue that not very much can be achieved through this strategy at this point in time. Nonetheless, it is very vital to start such processes now in preparation for the inevitable myriad of socio-economic attacks which the capitalist ruling elite will seek to unleash on the backs of the ordinary Nigerians in the aftermath of the elections so as to recover the billions being spent presently to remain and or capture power at all cost.
Just two months after the misnamed 2007 general elections Nigeria witnessed possibly the most widely supported general strike in its recent history. Undoubtedly the huge support for that strike was because the mass of the population saw through the 2007 charade and drew the conclusion that they had to fight for change themselves. While the timescale is open, there can be no doubt that because these elections will solve nothing, the mass of Nigerians will, sooner or later, take to the road of protest and struggle again. However this is only the start. Since 2000 Nigerian workers have staged a series of general strikes, but while these have shown the strength and mobilising power of Labour they have not secured fundamental change. What has been missing has been a clear socialist programme and a leadership determined to fight for it. The DSM strives to build support for socialist ideas and struggle methods amongst workers, youth and the oppressed that can revitalise the Labour movement, helping prepare it for the struggles ahead and the task of transforming society.