OSUN GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION 2014: The need for a genuine working people’s alternative
OSUN GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION 2014: The need for a genuine working people’s alternative
By Kola Ibrahim
Governorship election will come up in Osun State on 9th of August, 2014. If the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), initiated by Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and like minds across the country, does not stand in the election it is as a result of the undemocratic nature of party registration in Nigeria. The party was openly launched on May Day 2012 but being a party of the masses and workers means that it took time before the onerous requirements for registration with INEC like payment of N1million could be met. As we go to press, the party has submitted its formal application for registration with INEC. However, the party will gain strength in the coming period based on the no-choice situation the election has put the citizens of the state.
The ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), which is seeking extension of tenure of the current governor, Rauf Aregbesola will be contending with a similarly pro-rich, reactionary party that is ruling at the federal level, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). PDP candidate is Iyiola Omisore. Some other contestants like Fatai Akinbade, a former PDP stalwart and former secretary of the immediate past Oyinlola government, who is contesting on the platform of Labour Party and Segun Akinwusi, a former head of service contesting under Social Democratic Party (SDP), are minor contenders in the election. One thing that is common to these parties and contestants is their pro-rich, anti-poor policies and dispositions,
AREGBESOLA GOVERNMENT UNINSPIRING
For instance, while Mr. Aregbesola is posing as a “progressive” and strutting around towns for his campaign, students of tertiary institutions in the state have been kept away from schools for four months running, no thanks to the failure of the government to meet the genuine demands of the striking workers in the institutions. These demands include proper funding of infrastructures in the institutions, and employment of more teaching staff, to cover for chronic shortfall of teaching staff in the institutions. Meanwhile, according to the propaganda machine of the government, the government has improved education in Osun State to ‘global standard’. While the government claimed to have rebuilt about thirty schools, committing as much as N14 billion to the projects, more than 2, 000 schools are still in deplorable state, with not enough teaching facilities or functional laboratories, libraries, pupil learning aids, etc. The so-called distribution of educational computer tablets to students in secondary schools, without basic improvement in school facilities, is like painting a fracturing house.
While we in DSM will welcome any improvement in social infrastructures, no matter how little, we are quick to point out the futility of piecemeal approach and capitalist manner of such policies. For instance, with public works ministry properly equipped and developed, the N14 billion handed over to big time contractors to make profits for themselves out of the rebuilding of such 30 schools could instead have been used to reconstruct hundreds of schools, to standard. More than this, it will lead to decent and secure employment for thousands of young people, and not handful of part time and casual employment contractors undertake in order to maximize profit. This also applies to road construction, where several billions of naira have been expended on limited stretches of road. The over N10 billion used to construct some hundred kilometers of inner township roads, could have been used to construct several hundreds of kilometers of roads, if the contracting system had not been entrenched. Today, the Ministry of Works, and its professional staffs have been rendered idle, as their jobs have been contracted out. It will thus not be surprising when the government starts using the excuse of redundancy to retrench workers.
While the APC government is committing public resources to lining the pockets of the rich and politicians, working people are being squeezed under the guise of financial prudency. While government used close to a billion naira of public fund, under the guise of giving free school uniform to pupils, to help a private businessman establish a garment factory in the state, poor parents are now being forced to procure the same school uniforms from the private garment factory (which now has the monopoly of producing public school uniforms) at more than double the price of former school uniforms. This has caused an untold hardship to poor parents.
While politicians are earning millions of naira as salaries and allowances, working people are made to go through hell to get their basic incomes. A case in point is that of thousands of retirees who are still owed several months of pension arrears; while no gratuity has been paid since the current government emerged almost four years ago. Worse still, many workers have been pushed into the exploitative Contributory Pension Scheme that hands over workers’ pensions to private pension managers, who pay workers peanuts but earn huge profits from them. To add insult to injury, the government has refused to remit its contribution to the fraudulent pension scheme, thus denying many retirees of their entitlements. The so-called government job creation like the Osun Youth Employment Scheme (OYES), where twenty thousand young people are employed, has been nothing but rip-off. Aside being paid peanuts of less than ten thousand naira as salaries, those in this scheme many of whom are graduates are engaged in menial works that have little or nothing to do with their fields of study. Moreover, they are denied any democratic right including regularization of job, accident allowances, retirement opportunity or right to unionization.
NO VIABLE ALTERNATIVE
But no matter the limitations of the ruling Aregbesola/APC government, the alternative of PDP and its candidate, Iyiola Omisore is a horrible spectre. The PDP ruled the state for seven and half years which were years of the locusts, as every facet of social services and public infrastructures decayed. There were serial attacks on workers and students’ rights. The state university established by the Oyinlola/PDP government was made exclusively for the children of the rich. For instance, fees in the state university were put at over N200, 000, even when the state government hardly implemented the N11, 000 public sector minimum wage. The party, PDP has been ruling the country since its emergence in 1999, yet more people are living in penury than ever. This is in spite the fact that the country had earned unprecedented wealth running to over $600 billion since return to civil rule in 1999.
The party’s candidate, Omisore, who has been in politics since 1999, is part of this rotten politics. He was a former deputy governor between 1999 and 2003, and the first major event associated with him was siphoning of millions of naira meant for water treatment and supply. He was fingered, but later acquitted of the murder of former Justice Minister, Bola Ige. He is a two-time senator, whose elections were fraught with violence. As the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation between 2007 and 2011, he was at the centre of enactment of budgets that denied young people of education, destroyed social services and handed public wealth to the rich few. Therefore, his candidature has nothing to do with improving the lots of the working people, but in reality of using growing disillusionment of lots of people with the current government to access power and implement probably worse anti-poor policies. He has never been identified with any pro-working people policy. It is no accident that, despite being an incumbent senator in 2011, he was trounced in the 2011 election, where he could hardly win a local government. This is because direct rigging and violence were minimized. But, on the basis of general disillusionment among voters, which may lead to voters’ apathy, the major bourgeois parties will try to rig, where they have opportunity and strength to get away with it.
The other pro-capitalist candidates like the Labour Party’s Fatai Akinbade and Social Democratic Party’s Akinwusi (immediate past Head of Service in the state) have no fundamentally different resume from APC and PDP candidates. They were part of the rottenness associated with current and past administrations. Akinwusi was Head of Service for eight years under Oyinlola and Aregbesola. He was the brain behind the fraudulent Contributory Pension Scheme that has led to dislocation of career and financial conditions of many workers and retirees. Akinbade was Secretary to Oyinlola government for eight years, superintending over several anti-poor policies of the government. Indeed, the emergence of these villains, including Omisore, who should have been consigned to dustbin of history, aside being a product of lack of viable working class and socialist alternative, is a reflection of the failure of the Aregbesola government, whose four years have not engendered any serious improvement in people’s lives.
Consequently, on the basis of the power of incumbency, coupled with absence of any credible alternative, the incumbent governor may win the elections. But, this can only mean consolidation of anti-poor regime, and further diversion of public funds to private contractors, political patrons and political office holders. It will also mean further attacks on working and poor people, including introduction of obnoxious tax regime on the poor. However, in the unlikely event that the opposition PDP being able to rig itself to power, it will mean emergence of another scoundrel in power.
JOIN AND BUILD THE SPN
This is why the building of Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) as a viable platform and melting point for struggle of working people, youth and the poor is necessary in the coming period. The DSM calls on workers, youths, students, and the poor in general to join and help build the SPN as a party of the working and oppressed people.
An SPN administration would be completely different from day one. It would have not wealthy godfathers, as the SPN will be built as an activist party of the working masses, poor and youth. With such a basis the SPN members will not allow the party top be used for personal advancement. Political office holders under an SPN government will earn the salaries of civil servants while public funds will be committed to public need.
At state level the SPN will strive to win the maximum improvements for working people, the poor and youth. Public works ministry will be developed to carry out major projects of the state including road constructions, mass housing projects, school building and renovations, etc. With this, it can be possible to undertake several projects at lower costs while serving as opportunity to gainfully employ young people on decent and secure working conditions. SPN will also embark on environmentally sustainable industrial projects to lay the basis for economic development. There will be genuine provision of free and quality education and healthcare, and expansion of water projects to provide potable water to the citizens.
But there are limits as to what can be achieved at state level so long as Nigeria has a pro-capitalist federal government and a capitalist controlled economy. Therefore an SPN state government would strive to mobilise support throughout the country for a complete change in direction, for a workers’ and poor peoples’ federal government that can break Nigeria free from the chains of capitalism and oppression. At state and national levels, the SPN campaigns to put the mainstay of the economy under public ownership, in order to liberate the resources needed to provide the needs of the people and develop society. All this will be done with democratic involvement of the people across the state. Legislators under the banner of SPN will serve as mouthpiece for working and poor people in struggle, and will defend this aforementioned programme. They shall serve as platform of opposition against all anti-worker, anti-poor policies. We call on working people to join us in the struggle to establish this party, as 2015 elections draw nearer.