AFTER THE ONDO ELECTION: What Next For The Working Masses?
AFTER THE ONDO ELECTION: What Next For The Working Masses?
By Aj. Dagga Tolar
But for the media hype over the acrimonious campaigns and mudslinging between the Mimiko led Labour Party in Ondo state and the Bola Tinubu led ACN, the Ondo elections could have passed as a non-event as far as the majority of the working peoples in the State are concerned.
Like other working but suffering masses across Nigeria, they have become used to the deceit of millionaire politicians whose achievements are often more recorded on newspaper pages and TV screens than on the streets and neighbourhoods where motor-able roads, functional schools and hospitals, public conveniences etc continue to be a rarity. The attitude of the mass of the people in Ondo state to the elections is indeed reflected in the fact that less than 60% of the registered electorate actually voted. The total votes cast was 624,659 out of 1.6million registered voters according to INEC.
The declared winner, Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party (LP), also did not even score up to half of the votes that were actually cast as he got only 260,199. This suggests that if the masses had had a genuine alternative in the form of a truly working class political party, they would have opted for it.
On the other hand, Olusola Oke of the People Democratic Party (PDP) and Rotimi Akeredolu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) respectively scored 155,961 and 143,512 votes indicating that the voters did not really distinguish or see any fundamental difference between the two and their platforms.
This should not come as a surprise as both the PDP and ACN governments across Nigeria have shown their true colours in the form of commitment to anti-poor policies. At the Federal level the masses cannot easily forget the hardship of the increase in fuel prices, huge costs of higher education and health care delivery in a country that on the basis of its huge wealth as well as human and natural resources can actually afford free education and free health care at all levels.
For the ACN, the Ondo masses didn’t need to look too far. In Lagos State, the minimum wage of N18,000 is implemented under a so called “Oracle contraption” that leaves workers worse off making nonsense of levels and grade with no one in the know of the criteria employed to arrive at the figures. This is why teachers, doctors, lecturers have at different times gone on strike with that of doctors attracting ruthless reaction from Fashola’s government including mass sack. Similar brutal tactics, akin to the military dictatorships of yesterday, were deployed by the Fashola government to suppress protests against the collection of tolls in Lekki, the introduction of astronomical fees in Lagos State University etc. Currently, thousands of Okada â€“ motorcycle – commercial riders are being bloodily attacked for supposedly congesting the roads whereas the state lacks good roads and real mass transit system.
In Ekiti State local government workers have just called off a strike over the non-implementation of minimum wage while recently also, higher institution students pelted Osun State Governor with stone during a protest in the state capital over non-payment of bursary awards that students normally use to cushion the effects of high cost of learning, living and feeding in the absence of free education and affordable accommodation.
These, no doubt, were major factors that weighed on the mind of the few voters in the Ondo elections. However, Mimiko’s victory must also be weighed against the fact that incumbents rarely lose elections in Nigerian bourgeois politics where access to state treasury often provide a huge war chest of funds during elections. As it has been in PDP and ACN controlled states, particularly during local government elections, so it is now in Ondo State.
Yet, the situation in Ondo State might have been radically different, if the Labour Party had been built as a genuine working class alternative offering public ownership and democratic control of the commanding heights of the economy in place of liberalization and privatization. Neither Mimiko nor the official labour leaders – both of the NLC and the TUC â€“ who were active in his campaigns, have such commitment. The same Labour leaders had some months back in Edo state campaigned for Oshiomhole of the ACN in his bid for a second term. This implies that the party actually is of no consequence and Labour would continue like before to remain uninvolved in the political process; outside of supporting one supposedly “progressive” candidate or the other while unmindful of their political platforms and their bourgeois orientation. This is despite the fact that the January 2012 anti-fuel price increase protests which labour led actually demonstrated more than ever before the urgent need for a mass workers’ political party that can fight to take political power from the corrupt capitalist ruling elite.
This is a consequence of the fact that the capitalist ruling elites will not bulge and have continued to insist that there is no alternative to condemning the people more and more into poverty and sub human conditions of existence through its neo-liberal policies of deregulation and privatization, so as to guarantee super profit for the exclusive rich.
It is therefore an exercise in futility for labour leaders to expect to convince or force the capitalist ruling elites to adopt a more working people-friendly policies and programme especially at this time when the focus should be on building an alternative party that represents millions of the working people and that can be used to build a mass movement to dislodge the ruling elites from power. This was why the DSM welcomed the formation of the Labour Party in 2001 and canvassed for the party to be built to defend the interest of the working masses while vying for power on the basis of socialist programmes of nationalization of the commanding sectors of the economy under working class management and control to free the resources currently being stolen in the name of the capitalist public private partnership for real development via a programme of massive public works in education, health, roads etc .
Despite the urgent need for workers and poor to have their own independent political party that genuinely represents their interests, it is sad to note that the idea of building the LP is apparently not on the agenda of the labour leaders, and the party has largely remained unattractive to the working masses given the series of undemocratic conditions for membership and monetization of the party’s internal elections thus making it extremely impossible for working class members to emerge as candidates on its platform.
AFTER THE VICTORY WHAT NEXT
But what happens next? The standard attitude of second-term governments in Nigeria is that of harsher anti-poor policies and stealing of the resources of the state for the future comfort and wellbeing of the political gladiators cannot be entirely ruled out. What this would imply is that the wellbeing of the working masses would further worsen as government not expecting the vote of the masses again now reveals its real and brutal anti-poor character.
Is there any prospect for the LP to act any differently from the way it has conducted its affair so far? Would Mimiko and Co. not ultimately feel the bug of isolation and crave to return back to the PDP, with no conscious attempt to build the LP as a national force outside Ondo state?
As stated before, the result of the election itself makes a large statement, with nearly two-thirds of the registered voters not deeming it necessary to vote; a pointer to the fact that the majority of the mass of the people are in no way deluded as to believe that the parties that partook in the elections, including the LP, fundamentally differ from one another.
While we would welcome and support the campaign to drive the moneybags out of the Labour Party and start to build it as a party of and for the working masses, it is clear that this is not a task for those labour leaders who are in agreement with neo-liberal capitalist agenda and would not lift a finger to bring about building Labour Party as a pro-working peoples’ party. This explains why the trade union leaders choose the pro-establishment parties like ACN and PDP other than LP to contest elections when they decide to participate in politics. Therefore, a struggle to reclaim the Labour Party has to be waged side by side with the struggle for fighting trade unions with genuine pro-working class leadership. All trade union officers must be elected and put on the average wages of the workers.
The fact that the Labour Party’s decision making and internal elections are completely monetized is just one indication of how it is run like all other pro-capitalist parties. Today the Labour Party is totally integrated into Nigeria’s rotten political system. Despite opposing Jonathan’s attempt to remove the fuel price subsidy, the Labour Party Chairman Chief Dan Nwanyanwu, said during last January’s mass strikes and protests that “the party had no regret in supporting the President” during the 2011 elections (Punch, January 7, 2012). But statements such as these go unchallenged by the trade union leaders. Even the very few lefts who hold positions in the party are silent about the party’s anti-poor policies and monetized internal life.
This explains why the DSM has taken the initiative to commence the process of the registration of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), as a step forward for the campaign for a new mass workers alternative. While building the SPN, the DSM will continue to argue in the labour movement and among the Nigerian left for the formation of such a new mass workers party as ultimately necessary to build a mass political movement that can wrestle power from the grip of the capitalist ruling elites.
We are confident that the over one million registered voters who turned their backs against all the bourgeois parties, and the LP, and all those who because of no credible alternative and acting on the doctrine of the “lesser evil” voted in the election, would in all regard welcome the formation of a genuine mass working people political party. This explains why we feel justified not to have in anyway called for a vote, even a critical one, for the LP in Ondo as the labour leaders and a few other left activists have so done. Ahead of 2007 election, of course, we had canvassed for LP to be built into a genuine workers’ party, with a fighting programme, that would have been at forefront of the struggles of the working masses against the capitalist ruling elites.
But the LP’s subsequent evolution has shown how it has become a “normal” Nigerian party, despite having among its national leadership a leading socialist activist who has neither been seen or talked no evil about the party in the face of its egregious anti-poor character. This is a betrayal of those who initially had hopes in the party and something which underlines the need to start to build a genuine party of working people and poor.