THE EDO JULY 2012 GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION AND CRUCIAL TASKS FACING THE WORKING MASSES
THE EDO JULY 2012 GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION AND CRUCIAL TASKS FACING THE WORKING MASSES
Segun Sango, DSM General Secretary
The July 14, 2012 Governorship election held in Edo State has revealed some major political features which must be properly understood by the working people and the poor in general. Adams Oshiomhole, the ACN candidate, resoundingly won the exercise. Against the very acrimonious and sometimes murderous conducts of the big ruling parties in the pre-election period, prominent leaders of the PDP and the ANPP have warmly congratulated Oshiomhole on his victory.
In one of his comments after the election, Oshiomhole had stated: “Edo people from the South to the North to the Central have spoken as one. This shows that all efforts of some people to whip up ethnicity failed woefully. Edo elections have shown that merit alone would determine the pattern of voting” (ThisDay 16 July, 2012). On his part, the NLC President said “the re-election of Oshiomhole was a result of his performance in office and a triumph over years of orchestrated deceit and megalomania of a decadent ruling class“. As if accepting this line of thought, the Senate President, David Mark, a top PDP leader against whose party Adams won the election in issue, had stated: “This re-election is a reward for service. It must serve as an elixir for greater performance. You must therefore continue to do only those things that have made you the best choice of your people. You must therefore continue to make service to your people the focal point of your administration“.
Another prominent leader of the PDP, Atiku Abubarkar, Nigeria’s former Vice-President, also said: “The way and manner the people of Edo State conducted themselves at the polling booths in the weekend’s governorship election has further bolstered my confidence that democracy has indeed come to stay in Nigeria” (ThisDay 16 July, 2012). On his own part, “the National Chairman of the ANPP, Dr. Ogbonnaya described the re-election of Oshiomhole as well deserved. The conduct of the election and its outcome had given re-assuring hope that the future of democracy in Nigeria will be better“. Riding on the same band-wagon, “President Jonathan urged Oshiomhole to see his re-election as an endorsement of his outstanding performance in his first term and an expression of their desire for a continuation of his focused, purposeful and dynamic leadership“.
On a seemingly different note, a left group in a statement dated 18 July, 2012, described Adams victory as a landslide which has “exposed the uselessness and ineffectiveness of political God fatherism … Comrade Adams won on Saturday not because he stood for the ACN. He won because the masses perceive him as the leader of labour. Therefore, he should break with the ACN and use his immense authority to help build a genuine party of the working class“.
Based on the primary commitments to achieve the most decent living standard and democratic right of the working masses, socialists, as always, must treat the above quoted expressions and sentiments in a most honest and dialectical tradition. On the part of ordinary voters, there were many positive features that were shown in the governorship election in issue. Typical of all the elections organized by the capitalists in Nigeria, significant efforts were deployed by the main opposition parties to use “ethnicity“, “senatorial constituencies“, etc differences to sway voters. Most remarkably however, “the ACN candidate won in all the 18 local government areas in the state leaving nothing for his rivals“. (ThisDay 16 July, 2012). However, in his first media response, the ANPP governorship candidate in the election bluntly told the media: “We lost to money politics. Money was shared openly at the election centres to buy votes and that is what I have been campaigning against before the election. I did not have excess money to throw about like my opponents” – (ThisDay 16 July, 2012).
As the ruling party, Adams and the ACN were not in shortage of necessary material and personnel resources to mobilize voters and as well as ensuring that their votes were well monitored. And as normally happened in Nigeria’s elections, the incumbent usually mobilize all the state apparatuses and material resources to ensure victory at all cost. This was a pattern that those that was graphically demonstrated by the ruling AD government in Lagos State in the 2003 governorship election in which Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the current ACN leader, was the governorship candidate. The AD then not only used government’s machinery and state resources to procure its victory at the election but in fact specifically practiced widespread “money-for-votes” campaign under the inglorious coinage called “Jeunsoke” which, literarily translated, means, collect money and thumbprint the first party on the ballot paper which happened to be the AD!
However, in the Edo election under review, crooked slogans like “Jeunsoke” were not openly propagated by the ACN to achieve victory for Adams. This of course, must be a point in favour of the claim that in Adams’s first term tenure, certain visible infrastructural cum welfare development programme were implemented and which formed the basis upon which majority of those that voted in all the local governments across the state voted for his re-election. If money alone had been the primary reason why the majority of voters voted for Adams, the PDP candidate, his main opponent, could not honestly claim to have been placed in a disadvantageous position. As can be inferred from the above quoted statement of the ANPP governorship candidate, the two foremost parties; the ACN and the PDP lavishly spent money to win the election in issue but the PDP woefully lost.
This is not unusual nor an unprecedented phenomenon. In 1979, during the general elections which ushered in the so-called Second Republic, the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) led by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, massively won the elections in all the present states within the south-west zone of Nigeria plus the current Edo and Delta States primarily on the basis of the fact that he implemented free primary education programme which significantly helped the poor amongst other welfare programmes while he was previously the Premier of the former western region of Nigeria. In that election, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the political party of the most right-wing and corrupt capitalist elements â€“ the equivalent of the PDP today â€“ spent massively to buy votes but nonetheless woefully lost just as the PDP governorship candidate lost in the election under review despite their widespread practice of “money-for-votes” politics.
THE OTHER SIDE OF ADAMS’ VICTORY
However, reporting the full results of the election, the ThisDay newspaper of 16 July, 2012 had revealed a very significant feature shown by the election under review: “Although, there was a high turnout of voters, INEC said only 647,698 votes were cast representing 40% of the total registered voters of 1.651,099 in the state”. One obvious conclusion that can be drawn from the above quoted fact was that 60% of the registered voters in Edo State did not bother to vote in the election in issue. For genuine socialists and conscious layers of working masses, this must be seen as a disturbing situation. Of course, based on Nigeria’s factual and practical political experience, the INEC Voters Register itself may have included lots of fictitious names slotted in by desperate politicians with a view to fraudulently using them in the election period. In this case, it may be that the percentage of registered voters that did not vote in the election in issue may not be rightfully be up to 60% of the total registered voters.
However, as socialists that have real experience in Nigeria’s electoral politics, we boldly assert the fact that Adams made some visible and widespread infrastructural and other welfare developments in his first term in office. This, we strongly contend placed him in an advantageous position against his main PDP opponent whose party was in power previously for what practically was seen by the vast majority of the Edo state masses as nine barren years of misrule. Thus, obviously, in the well-known politics of “lesser-evil“, the preponderant majority of the 40% of the registered voters that voted in the election in issue, voted for the re-election of Oshiomhole. This must be pointed out, is not an extra-ordinary phenomenon. In the absence of a viable working people oriented political platform, the ACN political family has won all the governorship election in Lagos State since the return of civil rule in 1999. This, we should stress, is largely due to the fact that the vast majority of Lagosians do not regard their main PDP rival as a desirable political alternative in any sense.
For instance, the ACN government of Lagos State in media propaganda claimed to be transforming the state into a Mega-City. But this only means that at the best of time, the main inter-local government roads are kept in a fairly tolerable condition while the vast bulk of the roads and streets in the entire Lagos State communities remain unpaved and in pre-civilisation condition. Virtually, all public secondary schools in Lagos State have a minimum of 140 pupils per classroom. The Lagos State public health service is in equally pitiable condition with just about 1,000 medical doctors for a population of over 15million people. The bulk of Lagos citizens continue to live in slums and ghettos with neither access to proper drainage nor pipe-borne water services. Most often government policies are implemented in way to unjustly enrich few money bags under the dubious strategy called public private partnership (PPP). If a viable working class and poor masses oriented political platform develops in Lagos State today to offer a political alternative different in policies and character from all the thieving capitalist parties like the PDP, it will not require a much too serious efforts to vote out the impostors calling themselves progressives from power. In this regard, it should be easy to understand that the vast majority of the Edo voters that did not vote in the election under review may have done so because they could not see any substantial political and ideological differences between the ACN and the PDP.
CONDUCT OF THE ELECTION
A few important points on the conducts of voters and the INEC before and during the elections must be properly underlined. In his reaction to the election in issue, Atiku Abubakar had pointedly stated: “The way and manner the people of Edo State conducted themselves at the polling booths in the weekend’s governorship election has further bolstered my confidence that democracy has indeed come to stay in Nigeria” (ThisDay 16 July, 2012). On his part, Dr. Ogbonnaya, the ANPP leader had equally stated: “The conduct of the election and its outcome had given re-assuring hope that the future of democracy in Nigeria will be better“. Certainly, it is noteworthy that the voters conducted themselves most properly before and during the elections.
This however, only goes to confirm the fact that the masses, on their own, have never been the main instigators of electoral malpractices and other unruly behaviors in elections time. This particular fact has been demonstrated in several national elections including the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by late chief M.K.O Abiola and even the general elections that held in 2011. We are bold to state that most acts of criminalities and general violence that have become the normal features of Nigeria’s election from the colonial times up till this period were usually sponsored and provoked by the bourgeois politicians with their do or die, desperate quest to win the poll at all cost, especially against the natural desire of the electorate.
However, when the conduct of the INEC is critically examined, the election under review clearly shows that Nigeria’s elections are still largely distorted by organizational and bureaucratic inefficiencies or conscious sabotage of the electoral umpire, the INEC. Just like in all previous elections, there were significant cases where electoral materials did not arrive on time and cases where many voters could not find their names on the voters’ Register despite the tens of billions of naira allegedly spent to electronically capture the biodata of all registered voters. When the fact is noted that the election under review only took place in just one of the 36 states of the country and the fact that INEC could not avoid the usual organizational lapses or sabotage that characterized the exercise, then the full gravity of the danger that await the Nigerian masses during the 2015 general elections can be better appreciated.
In addition to the above listed areas of danger, it must be specially noted that party formation and activities in contemporary Nigeria have remained largely undemocratic due to a number of constitutional and several bureaucratic bottle-necks put in place to discourage the emergence of a genuine political platform of the masses. This is aside from the practical fact that politics have become so highly monetized that all the ruling parties, including the so-called party of labour, collect millions of naira in the fees they demand before members can aspire to run for intra-party post or an elective post in government.
In the given circumstances, socialists and working class activists must be able to correctly make correct prognosis and proper intervention in anticipation of future elections. In this respect, the main capitalist opponents of Oshiomhole in the election appeared to have signaled a new kite. Instead of the usual vehement rejection by those who lost elections in Nigeria, prominent leaders of the PDP, including President Jonathan, have warmly congratulated Oshiomhole whose victory they said was a kind of approval by the electorate of his good performance in his first term in office. With Oshiomhole’s well known but unpopular support for key anti-poor, pro-capitalist policies of deregulation and privatization of key economic sectors like petroleum and electricity, the main PDP leaders quoted above may be making obvious political overtures to entice Oshiomhole to their political fold.
Unfortunately, given Adam’s own known political inconsistency â€“ remember that at first he announced his decision to run for the governorship of Edo State on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) only later to defect to contest on the platform of the ACN, the main rival capitalist party to the PDP. And now that he is being praised to a high-heaven by his opponents in the PDP, only time can confirm which political steps Adams might take after concluding his second term as governor of the Edo State. Another possible scenario would be that Oshiomhole, based on his profile as two-term governor of Edo State may be picked by the ACN and their political bed fellows as their presidential candidate come 2015 general elections.
From the socialist standpoint, based on the political and economic needs, none of the above stated options would economically and politically be beneficial to the long suffering working masses and the poor. These options will only leave and or plunge the working masses into a deep political nightmare.
Similarly false is the canvassed idea that “Comrade Adams won on Saturday not because he stood for the ACN. He won because the masses perceive him as the leader of labour. Therefore, he should break with the ACN and use his immense authority to help build a genuine party of the working class.” Right from the time he joined electoral contest up until his first winning the governorship election, socialists and several working class activists had always demanded that Adams should quit the ACN to teem up with forces striving to build the Labour Party as a genuine political platform of the working masses and the poor in general. Unfortunately Adams has always rejected this political overture. At the same the Labour Party started to be run like any other capitalist party with party members having to pay huge sums before they can seek to vie for internal party posts or elective positions. For the socialists therefore the idea of simply asking Adams to quit the ACN and join the Labour Party as it is today will not make much difference to masses economic and political needs.
Also, it is illogical to argue that by voting for Oshiomhole, the masses had rendered politics of God-fatherism useless , without acknowledging that he has impacted on the socio-political conditions of the masses in any sense; that he simply won the election because ‘the masses perceive him as the leader of labour’. Of course we recognize that sections of the working masses still see Oshiomhole, the “comrade governor”, as different from other politicians because of his record as a labour leader and also his performance in his first tern in office. But, as we have explained, this was not the only factor. Furthermore the concentration on Oshiomhole himself, and not building a genuine mass movement for change, means that Oshiomhole can be seen as another God-father, albeit a “friendly” one.
Socialists would warmly welcome an about-turn by Oshiomhole if he was to break with the ACN, stop supporting privatization and other anti-poor policies and take steps to help build a mass movement of working people against capitalism. But Oshiomhole is unlikely to take such steps, although if a mass movement developed without him he may then leave the ACN and try to put himself at its head. There is an urgent need for such a movement as the world economic crisis is starting to affect Nigeria, especially as the oil export price falls. This is why we socialists have to take steps to build an independent political working peoples’ party, opposed to all pro-capitalist parties. To achieve this goal we have equally resolved and are committed to collaborate will all genuine revolutionary elements, groups and individuals that correctly recognize this as the present and most urgent political task confronting the vast majority of the working masses who live in perpetual misery in the midst of abundant human and natural resources.