Can It Bring Real Socio-Economic Change for the Workers and Poor Masses?
By HT Soweto
The 2011 general elections have kicked off on a shoddy note. The National Assembly election that was slated for April 2 had to be cancelled for lack of vital materials for the exercise. While voting had already started in a few places, many areas across the country did not even see the electoral officials. In some of the areas where there was voting, a good number of people could not find their name on the register while the logos and names of some parties were missing on the ballot papers. The entire timetable for the election has now been adjusted. The national assembly, presidential and state elections have been rescheduled to April 9, April 16 and April 26 respectively.
Expectedly, this has attracted a deluge of opprobrium on the chairman of INEC, Attahiru Jega who had a week earlier boastfully reassured Nigerians on the readiness of the electoral body. According to Jega, “For INEC, I can say categorically and convincingly that we are ready for the election, the question should be, are the lawyers and politicians ready?” (Guardian, 23 March 2011).
Many Nigerians, albeit myopically, had reposed the hope of a “clean break” from the tradition of heavily rigged elections in the INEC chairman, Attahiru Jega, on account of his widely-believed integrity apparently stemming from his being a former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which has a tradition of struggles for better funding of education in Nigeria and active in labour movement’s struggle against some anti-poor policies of the successive governments.
The April 2 botched election is just another example of the inability or failure ruling elite in Nigeria on the basis of their self-serving agenda to get right very basic things like conduct of election rights just like in other areas of national life education, health care, infrastructure, etc.
While credible elections should be desirable to the poor working people, they should consider the hue and cry trailing the failure of INEC on April 2 as a storm in a tea cup. This is because if the elections had been held as scheduled, it would have only produced another set of self-serving, thieving and anti-poor politicians who seek power for self-enrichment and implementation of anti-poor neo-liberal capitalist programme. This is because, as a result of the failure of the leadership of the labour movement, there is no party that represents the yearning and aspirations of the poor and working people contesting in the elections.
However, while the April 2 debacle on its own is not enough to conclude that the 2011 elections will not be free and fair, it is one of the strong indices that point to the opposite outcome to Jega’s promises to conduct credible elections. For instance, Jega himself has lamented the widespread intolerant and violent conduct that had characterized the run-up to the election. In his words, “we have been getting disturbing reports that some incumbent governors don’t allow other parties to campaign in their states, that billboards of opposition parties were being destroyed, that there is a high level of thuggery and that the opposition parties are not allowed to campaign through the state media” (Guardian Newspaper, 23 March 2011).
Besides, right from the outcome of the political party primaries, there have been clear signals that the 2011 elections may not fare better after all. All the political parties, including the opposition parties, conducted very undemocratic and highly flawed primaries, the outcome of many are still being challenged in court few days to the general elections.
Already, there are doubts on the credibility of some INEC resident electoral commissioners as well as the voters’ registration exercise. Out of about 73 million registered voters claimed by INEC, about 800,000 were discovered to be multiple registrations out of which 14,000 were discovered in Ondo State alone. Indeed, the figure could be more given the level of manipulations which took place during the voters’ registration exercise. Many Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines where discovered in the private residences of politicians during the exercise while some DDC machines were stolen by yet unknown persons at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos State as they were just flown into the country.
Background to the Elections: Economic and Ethno-Religious Landmines
The April 2011 elections is holding against a background of economic instability and a rising curve of ethnic and religious violence particularly in, but not restricted to, the northern part of the country. In Jos, there have been bloody sectarian crisis. In Bauchi, there have been daring attacks and violence by Boko Haram â€“ a religious sect in the Northern part of the country. In these crises, hundreds of buildings and vehicles have been burnt and thousands of live lost. The combined efforts of the military and police have largely been futile in rein-in this crisis. According to Director General of NEMA, Muhammad Sani-Sidi, “about 5,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from the crises in Plateau State have been absorbed into Bauchi State. The majority of those resettled were victims of the crises that erupted in Jos, Plateau State between January and March 2010 where over 10,000 of the displaced persons crossed over to the neighboring Bauchi” (WorldStage Newsonline). Equally in Bauchi, the Bauchi State Chapter of the Nigerian Red Cross Society claimed, “over 4, 000 people were also displaced in Bauchi State” as a result of break out of sectarian crisis”.
Another background to this election is the unstable economic prospect of Nigeria. Economically, Nigeria’s economy is groping against rising inflationary trend and continuous crisis in the banking and financial sector However buoyed by rising price of oil on the world market due to increasing demands as well as political crisis in some oil producing countries in the Middle East, local and foreign bourgeois commentators have repeatedly claimed Nigeria’s economy is improving.
According to the Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman at a program at the Bayero University, Kano State on November 4, 2010, “In 2010 the oil and gas recovery has strengthened, monetary and fiscal stimulus remain in place and agriculture and the services and construction sectors have continued to expand, resulting in yearâ€onâ€year growth of 7.7% in Q2 and 7.2% in Q1. The nonâ€oil sector grew by around 8% and the oil sector 4% in each quarter. These trends should produce strong growth of more than 7.5% in 2010”. Dr. Shamsudeen equally claimed that according to a recent United Nations Development Report, there is improvement in Nigeria’s Human Development Indicators with the poverty rate, for example down to 50%, from 70% in 1999. Following in his stead, Jonathan claimed: “The growth in our economy in 2010 was driven basically by the non-oil sector, especially agriculture. There has also been an improvement in our crude oil sector made possible by our administration’s implementation of the amnesty programme in the Niger Deltaâ€¦It is gladdening to note that our external reserve has assumed an upward ride from $32.5 billion in September, 2010 to $36 billion in February, 2011. The various programmes embarked upon by the government over the years have enabled the economy to recover from the global economic crisis” (WorldStage Newsonline). Meanwhile, the external reserve was valued at $42billion in 2008.
Actually, this alleged growth in the economy has been largely aided by increasing revenue from oil and gas. Presently, crude oil sells above $100 per barrel and the on-going political crisis in Libya and oil-producing countries in the Middle East could account for a steeper rise in oil price on the world market. The oil sector still accounts for over 90% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange while the manufacturing sector account for less than four per cent to overall economic growth. However on the basis of capitalism and the disadvantaged position of Nigeria in the world market as an absolute exporter of crude oil and importer of finished products and food items coupled with lack of modern transport, electricity, security and communication infrastructures which makes cost of doing business highly prohibitive in Nigeria etc, this alleged ‘growth’ is highly unstable.
In real terms, there is no sign of an improved economy as far as the working people, youth and poor masses are concerned. The reality on ground is one of collapsing public infrastructures like education, health care, roads and electricity, mounting poverty, lowering of the living standard and purchasing power of working people and exploited masses. There is equally a sharp inequality in income distribution as seen in the worsening living standards of the bottom 30% and the top 10% of the population. In the Forbes latest rankings of world’s richest men, Aliko Dangote, president of Dangote Group, topped Africa rich list with a net worth of $13.8 billion in a country where poverty rate is an amazing 70%.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has raised Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) from 6.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent and also extended the deadline of CBN guarantees to foreign credit lines to banks to September 30, 2011 in a frantic effort to curb inflation and strengthen the banks. The MPR is the benchmark interest rate at which commercial banks borrow from the CBN. According to the CBN Governor, Sanusi, “the increase was informed by the need to further tighten monetary policy in view of heightened risk of inflation” (Guardian newspaper, 29 March 2011). This is however the third consecutive time the CBN has had to increase lending rates since 2009 which shows the increasing violability and instability of the economy. The banking sector is yet to fully recover from economic crisis. The extension of CBN guarantees to foreign credit lines for the banks â€“ a step taken by Sanusi’s CBN administration in the aftermath of the banking crisis of 2009 â€“ clearly shows that recovery is far from coming. A group called Renaissance Professionals has alleged that in 2009, “Nigerian bank’s exposure to the CBN was N250 billion. Today the same exposure is not less than N650 billion to the CBN and N1.5 trillion to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). Equally, “Ten banks have virtually been out of the banking system in the last two years neither lending nor doing any form of tangible business” (Guardian, 29 March 2011).
The scale of pre-election violence has risen sharply, perhaps, higher than the 2007 levels. In the last few days, the media have been awash with tales of political assassinations, killings and arson in Akwa Ibom, Ekiti, Anambra, Imo, Ogun, Borno states, etc with the casualty figures rising. In a highly detailed report entitled “Loss of life, insecurity and impunity in the run up to Nigeria’s elections”, the Amnesty International (AI) highlighted how hundreds of people have been killed in politically-motivated, communal and sectarian violence across Nigeria ahead of the elections. In the report released early this month, AI noted that more than 50 people have been killed since July 2010 in violence directly related to elections and that human rights defenders, who will play a key role in monitoring the April election, are facing increased threats and violence with no adequate protection from the security forces. In its own report, the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law claimed “it is evident that as the all-important April general elections draws near about 100 Nigerian citizens have been killed and over 300 injured in pre-election related violence since July 2010.” (Next, 25 March, 2011).
Few days to election, the prevalent spectacle is that of a nation preparing for war. On a daily basis, pictures of burnt buildings and vehicles and screaming headlines about politically-motivated violence and killings fill the front pages of newspapers. For instance, according to the Sun newspaper of March 27, 2011: “In 24 hours, political brigands held four states to ransom as they unleashed sorrow, tears and blood”. As if all the law enforcement agencies, the sleepy Akwa Ibom State was turned into a theatre of war. Supporters of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) reportedly engaged faithful of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in retaliatory attacks over alleged refusal of the incumbent PDP state government to allow ACN access to the public- owned venue for a rally. More than five persons were reportedly killed, houses burnt and about 500 new cars were set ablaze at the government secretariat. â€¦ In Benin, the Edo State capital, the police orderly of an ACN senatorial candidate was shot dead. In Anambra State, kidnappers and political thugs had free rein. For the first time in the nation’s 50-year history, bombs are freely detonated at political campaign venues, such as in Jos, as if they were bangers. Yet, electioneering is supposed to feature peaceful rallies at which politicians display to potential voters the stuff they are made of in terms of their manifestoes, and delivery modalities for socio-economic” dividends”.
Equally, “In Ekiti and Ondo States clashes among the supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party, the Action Congress of Nigeria and Labour Party left two dead and eight others seriously injuredâ€¦ two policemen allegedly shot two persons dead in Kota, Ekiti East Local Government Area. A former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Femi Bamisile, was reported to have escaped when bullets were fired at his sport utility vehicle. Bamisile’s driver, Mr. Femi Bankole, whose hand was hit by one of the bullets, is said to be receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital.” (The Punch, 24 March 2011). The Guardian Newspaper of 28 March 2011 also reported violence in Ogun, Ondo, Lagos, Benue and Borno States. “One person was killed in the Borno incident while the ear of security personnel was chopped off in the campaign train of Ogun State governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Senator Ibikunle Amosun. The campaign office of Mrs. Ajoke Adefulire-Orelope, the running mate of Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola on Idimu Road in Alimosho, was also attacked by suspected supporters of a rival party”. “The situation was the same in Jigawa State, where supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Nigeria’s Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) engaged in a free-for-all in Hadejia Local Council. The secretariats of the PDP and CPC were allegedly burnt in the process by angry supporters, who also destroyed flags of political parties during the violent clash” (Guardian Newspaper, 24, March 2011).
And what are the responses of security agencies? Under a banner headline “SSS, in mind game, readies dungeons for politicians”, the Guardian newspaper of Monday 28 March 2011 reported that “the SSS at the weekend took politicians on tour of the cells to demonstrate its zero-tolerance for violence in the polity”. The cells located at the Maitama office of the State Security Service (SSS) are underground cells and therefore ventilation is a luxury. According to the SSS Director-General, Mr. Ekpeyong Ita, “the security agencies are capable of containing any possible breakdown of law and order before and after the election. We will continue to work on politicians’ minds where they brew all these crisesâ€¦the minds of politicians are the battlefields.” The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Hafiz Ringim, in his own case, declared that “no fewer than 240, 000 policemen and women would be deployed for next month’s general electionsâ€¦each of the 120, 000 polling units would have at least two policemen” (Guardian newspaper, 11 March, 2011).
If the performance of the police and other security agencies in investigating the already confirmed incidence of political violence, killings, arson and bomb blast that started since July 2010 is anything to go by, it clearly shows that the security agencies are heavily compromised and cannot be relied upon to stem the tide of this political violence or prevent them from marring the conduct of the April 2011 elections. This is equally against the background of unresolved politically-motivated killings of high profile politicians like the late Chief Bola Ige (former Minister of Justice) of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 2001 and Harry Marshal, a political chieftain of the ANPP in 2003,both of which have not yet been investigated or prosecuted successfully by the police. According to the Amnesty International “Just like the 34,000 Nigerians killed outside the law since 1999, including over 200 political assassinations that mostly went uninvestigated, not to talk of being prosecuted, these killings are meted with the same fate, and the perpetrators have remained on the prowl”.
Every rigged election in Nigeria has been achieved with the active connivance of the top hierarchy of the police at the national and state levels. The undemocratic process of selection of Inspector General of police as well as Police Commissioners means that they are always in the pay of politicians especially the ruling party. Meanwhile, many of the perpetrators of this political violence are high profile politicians in the ruling party as well as the opposition parties or their aides. For instance on January 3, 2011, the Oyo State Police Command arraigned the Senate Majority leader Senator Teslim Folarin in court for his alleged role in the murder of the factional chairman of the state’s chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Lateef Salako (a.k.a Eleweomo). Eleweomo, an ardent supporter of Governor Alao Akala, was shot and stabbed when a local government congress of the PDP in Ibadan was turned into a battlefield by two factions of the party.
Heavily Monetized Election
As the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) have always pointed out, elections will never be free, fair or credible for as long as politics remains a veritable source of unmerited access to public wealth instead of a means to use society’s resources to improve the lives of ordinary people. This is one of the reasons socialists campaign for political office holders to receive wages not higher than the national minimum wage and for the right of recall of all political office holders by the people. To start with, the pro-establishment politicians contest elections in the first place with looted funds. Right from the process of party primaries, tens of millions of Naira are spent by candidates to pick nomination forms. For instance in the PDP as well as ACN, CPC, APGA and the LP, party primaries were heavily monetized with aspirants for Governorship and Presidential offices paying nomination of fee of N5million and N10 million upward, this is aside what they will give to godfathers and delegates! Hundreds of millions of naira are being spent by contestants and their parties to conduct their campaign in contravention INEC’s regulation and the provisions of the amended electoral act. All the contending parties, especially those like the PDP, CPC, ACN, ANPP and APGA who are in government either at Federal of State levels or have members in the national and states house of assemblies, have been holding mammoth rallies with rented crowd in most cases across the 36 states of the federation with expensive billboards and advertisements on print and electronic media.
In a feature article titled “High Cost of Campaigns Weighs Down Candidates”, the Guardian of March 12, 2011 revealed how much is really being spent by politicians to contest elections. According to the paper, in Benue State, the incumbent State Governor, Gabriel Suswam of the PDP “held a fund raising dinner, where over N600 million was realized from friends and associate” to support his campaign. Equally in Ebonyi State, the State Governor, Martins Elechi of the PDP “has ready sources of funding being the incumbent â€¦During a ceremony to herald his ‘acceptance’ to seek a second term held at the Abakaliki Township Stadium, two business men from the state donated buses and cash totaling N20 million on the spotâ€¦ opposition politicians accuse the governor of obtaining N16.5 billion from the capital market to fund his campaigns. With this reservoir of financial muscle, the PDP boasts that it could win the governorship election saying when other parties may be paying their polling agents N200 each, it has budgeted N1, 000 for the same purpose. At the recent fund raising dinner organized by the PDP, over N115 million was harvested, including N11 million cash”. Little surprise therefore that it is only new parties who have no members in the government that are complaining of lack of funds to run their campaigns. Meanwhile for the big bourgeois parties like the PDP, ACN, CPC and CPC, funds is not a problem as they can always deep their hands into public purse as well as patronage from business men and contractors.
In this kind of heavily monetized election, only corrupt politicians and moneybags who have looted the treasury can contest as the vast majority of the population have been automatically disallowed from exercising the right to vote of be voted for. At the same time, this heavy monetization of the electioneering process means the stake is higher and the pressure to win at all cost becomes ever greater knowing that is the only guarantee to recoup money expended on elections. Therefore for any of the political parties (whether PDP, ACN, CPC, LP, ANPP or APGA) to win, they must deploy billions of Naira during the campaign and most especially on election days to bribe voters and settle INEC staff and Police. Also, they must mobilize and arm thugs to snatch ballot boxes and for multiple voting, rigging, killing and maiming of opponents.
Against this background, the deployment of 240,000 policemen and women which translate to at least 2 policemen in each of the 120, 000 polling units across the federation will do nothing to discourage or stem ballot snatching, rigging and violence during the April general elections. Considering the huge resources at the disposal of political parties and candidates and against the experience of elections of 1999, 2003 and 2007, it will not be hard for political parties and politicians to ‘settle’ policemen thousands of whom are being paid poverty wages by government in the first instance.
In the 2007 elections, thousands of police officers and heavily armed soldiers and tanks were deployed to man polling units as well as strategic trouble spots across the country on the days of the election, yet the 2007 elections resulted in record-level manipulation, rigging and violence in all states across the federation. Commenting on the April 2007 elections in its April 26, 2007 edition, “The Economist”, a London based imperialist journal, in an editorial titled “Big men, Big fraud and Big trouble” made the following unflattering revelation about Nigeria so-called 2007 general elections: “On the day of the presidential election money-politics could be seen in action in central Kano, the dusty, dilapidated industrial capital of the north. There, in the local government area of Fagge, the PDP had budgeted 35m naira for political ‘mobilization’ and the main opposition party, the All Nigerian Peoples’ Party (ANPP), 40m naira. In one ward, Fagge A, the PDP, according to one of its operatives, had budgeted 594,000 naira ($4,650) for 21,000 registered voters and 35 ballot boxes. Thus each “independent” presiding officer at the polling station was given 3,000 naira and his clerk 2,000 naira. Each policeman was getting 1,000 naira. That left payments of about 200 naira ($1.57) per voter â€“ whose votes, far from being secret, were inked with a thumb on the ballot in front of party agents. Multiple voters, who will have registered several times with sympathetic election officials, might vote ten times, at a reduced bulk rate of 100 naira â€“ still picking up a tidy 1,000 naira each”. The result of this election was so unacceptable to local and international observers that the foremost beneficiary of this broad day light robbery, late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua had to publicly concede the election was substantially flawed.
It is only by transforming society from this unjust capitalist socio-economic arrangement which ensures that 2% of the population arrogate to themselves over 80% of Nigeria’s oil wealth while over 80% of the population struggle to share the remaining 20% to a democratic socialist order where the commanding heights of the economy will be placed under the democratic control and management of the working people that Nigeria’s politics can be free from rigging and violence.
In the absence of a genuine working class political party that campaigns on policies to improve the living standards of the poor and redistribute social wealth, the option facing voters in the April general elections is just one, that is, to choose among candidates that support and defend neo-liberal economic policies of privatization of public assets, deregulation of the oil sector and commercialization of education and health care. On all issues, whether healthcare, infrastructures, electricity, education etc, all the presidential candidates especially those from the PDP, ACN, CPC, APGA and the ANPP defend the same neo-liberal mantra of Public Private Partnership (PPP), deregulation and privatization of public assets. This explains the lack of real enthusiasm, save for some illusions in Attahiru Jega’s ‘integrity’ and ‘ability’ to conduct a credible election, of many changing-seeking workers, youths and poor masses towards the elections.
Hence, for good reason, there is actually nothing to be excited about in the April 2011 elections. The options available to the people are basically same of the same. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whose presidential flag-bearer is President Goodluck Jonathan, has for the past 12 years presided over reduction of the role of the state as a provider of social services like education, health care, housing, employment and infrastructures. The major emphasis of government policy under the PDP government has been cuts in funding of socials service and the creation of a market for indigenous and foreign investors to make quick profit at the expense of the working people and economy.
Since 1999, major public corporations have been sold at rock-bottom prices to the private sector without any positive improvement in service provision. Equally, tens of millions of dollars have been wasted by the PDP-controlled Federal government to upgrade refineries and improve power generation without positive result. Frequent power outages have turned Nigeria to a generator-dependent economy with Nigerians spending dearly to fuel generators. At the same time, there has been rapacious looting of the enormous oil wealth realized in the last 12 years by the capitalist ruling class through official and unofficial means. The immediate consequence of this has been a consistent lowering of the living standards of average Nigerians especially the working class and poor masses. For instance, about 17, 474 political office holders cost the country 30% of annual budget while 80% of oil revenue finds its way into the pockets of multinationals and indigenous big business through a thousand and one routes.
According to the UNDP, Nigeria ranked 142 out of 169 countries on the Human Development Index. Despite a recent raise in the National Minimum Wage to N18, 000 due to massive protest rallies and demonstration led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the sharp rise in inflation and the high price of prices of food, shelter, electricity, transport etc means that the purchasing power of workers is rapidly worsening instead of improving. The National Bureau of Statistics put unemployment in Nigeria at about 19.7 per cent â€“ a level much higher than the global average. According to the bureau, almost half of 15-24 year old youths living in urban areas are jobless. Despite the statistics being deployed by government officials to prove otherwise, more than 70% of the population is poor. The standard of living has plummeted with increasing number of Nigerians feeling they were better-off 12 years ago. Road, communication and electricity infrastructures are largely undeveloped, damaged or unavailable in many communities in Nigeria. Infrastructures remain deplorable while quality education, health services and decent housing are only the preserve of the rich – they remain inaccessible to a large majority of poor working class people.
The major opposition political parties like the ACN, CPC and ANPP are not offering fundamental alternatives to the anti-poor and neo-liberal economic policies of the PDP which has brought Nigeria to a state of ruin. Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), was a former military head of state. While a layer of the population have illusions that Muhammadu Buhari would be tough on corruption if he becomes president, there is also the apprehension that his regime could encroach on democratic rights under the guise of fighting corruption. His regime was notorious for arrest and detention of journalists, workers, student and civil society activists for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. On policies, Buhari supports the same neo-liberal policies of privatization, commercialization and deregulation. The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has as its presidential candidate, the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. Ribadu of course enjoys enthusiastic support from a layer of Nigerians especially the youth on account of his role as EFCC Chairman in prosecuting high-profile corruption cases However, his campaign lack real alternative economic policies and programs to what is being offered by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The ACN is an opposition party in name and not in terms of advocating economic and political programs that are fundamentally different from that of the ruling PDP.
Unfortunately, no political platform is being offered by the labour movement to act as a spring board through this yearning for change can be coherently and programmatically articulated. For the second time since 2003 when late Gani Fawehinmi contested for presidency on the platform of the NCP, working class people, the working people are going to the polls with no party that offers economic and political alternatives to the rots. Yet, workers, youths and poor masses have in several strike actions and mass demonstrations organized by the NLC and TUC clearly shown their rejection of neo-liberal policies of deregulation and privatization and wish for a permanent change in the ways society is run.
If there were to be a serious mass-based working class party contesting in this election with pro-working people programs and policies, such a party could rapidly become a rallying point of all workers, youths, students and poor masses who are looking for permanent end to the vicious cycle of poverty amidst plenty, unemployment, homelessness and destitution which has been the lot of 70% of the population under successive capitalist government. Such a party enjoying large-scale and active grass-root support of change-seeking workers and poor masses could give a serious challenge to the anti-poor ruling parties at the Federal and State levels. However, such a party does not yet exist. The Labour Party (LP), which was formed by the NLC, is not being built as a party of workers and poor people but as a platform for aggrieved politicians from the PDP and ACN to achieve their political ambitions. The party is not on ground in terms of grass root campaigns among working class and poor people. At the same time, in terms of programs and ideology, the Labour Party (LP) is not distinguishable from the bourgeois parties of PDP, ACN and CPC. The LP leadership method of build the party emphasizes more on attracting money bag politicians instead of sinking root among the working class, youths and poor masses. Thus generally, many working class and poor people who should gravitate towards the Labour Party are horrified of it. Now the Labour Party (LP) is supporting PDP’s presidential candidate, Goodluck Jonathan. The same party is equally supporting Governor Babatunde Fashola of the ACN in Lagos for re-election.
Step Up the Struggle against anti-Poor policies and for a Genuine and Mass-Based Workers Party
The blame for the absence of a genuine working class political party that articulates the yearnings of workers, students, youths and poor masses for change rests squarely on the counter-productive politics and methods of the leadership of the NLC and TUC who instead of fighting for take-over of political power by the working class entertain illusion in the ability of a rotten and unjust capitalist system to guarantee some measure of improved living standards for the mass of working and poor people. As a result, the only role of the NLC and TUC in this election is campaigning for free and fair election and one man, one vote while relegating the working people to spectators in April 2011 general elections.
It is clear that any candidate that wins in the April 2011 elections at all levels is bound to launch further neo-liberal attacks on the conditions of the working masses, youths and oppressed people. Policies like deregulation of the oil sector, privatization of the PHCN as well as other public assets, cut in government spending on education and health care as well as retrenchment of workers by state government and private employers of labour on the excuse of inability to pay the new national minimum wage of N18, 000 on the basis of the same staff strength will be pursued with vigour. All this is bound to lead to inevitable collisions between the working people and the thieving capitalist ruling elites.
Therefore in the aftermath of the 2011 elections, the labour movement needs to step up the struggle for improved living standards and against government anti-poor policies. Particularly, labour must begin a renewed mass mobilization for protest rallies, demonstrations and strike actions to compel the state governments to implement the new national minimum wage of N18, 000. Labour must insist on full implementation without retrenchment as well as a workable mechanism to ensure increase in wages in consonance with rise in inflation. In the aftermath of the 2011 elections, Labour must also begin mobilization and sensitization activities across the country for a one-day general strike and mass protests against neo-liberal policies of privatization of the PHCN and other public assets as well as deregulation of the oil sector. The counterproductive strategy of accepting privatization while insisting on guaranteeing the employment or terminal benefits of workers must be stopped forthwith by labour. Instead, labour must counter pose to government policy of privatization and deregulation a demand for the take-over of the public concerns and their democratic management by workers. This must be linked with the need to bring the rest of the economy under a rational plan through the major sectors of the economy under workers’ control.
Ultimately, only a revolutionary transformation of society through the take-over of political power by the working masses and establishment of a workers and poor people’s government armed with the socialist program of public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control and management of workers can ensure radical redistribution societal wealth and guarantee a better life for the working and toiling masses. For this to be achieved, labour must build a real and genuine workers’ political party to fight for political power.