2015 GENERAL ELECTIONS: None of the existing political parties represent the change working masses a
2015 GENERAL ELECTIONS: None of the existing political parties represent the change working masses and youth desire
By Segun Sango, National Chairperson, Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN)
Nigeria’s 2015 general elections, from all key indications, promises to be the most beleaguered since post colonial rule in 1960. Politically and economically, the capitalist institutions and all their political parties are locked in an intractable crisis. This is manifested in their complete failure to meet the socio-economic and political needs of Nigeria and particularly that of its overwhelming citizens. Now the country is on the verge of plunging downwards as the export price of oil plummets, not only does this undermine much of Nigeria’s income, it also means even more vicious infighting within the ruling class as they fight to loot a smaller cake.
Given the failure of governance and attendant debilitating socio-economic situation faced daily by the working masses, the prevailing mood suggests a mass apathy towards the 2015 elections. This indicates that the elections will be characterized by massive vote buying and electoral rigging. Most unfortunately, for the vast majority of Nigerians that are and will continue to bear the brunt of the unfolding capitalist nightmare, the trade unions and the mis-named Labour Party lack the vision and capacity to proffer a working peoples alternative that can bring permanent respite.
ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL BACKGROUND
If it is held, the elections will be taking place against the background of unprecedented economic and political crisis and destabilization. Since the return to civil rule in 1999, the socio-economic infrastructures of the country at both federal and state levels are currently in the worst possible conditions. The ruling capitalist elites across board have virtually left the roads and highways within the states and interstate levels in the most horrific conditions possible. This partly is of course a reflection of the fact that most important government officials and private business elites no longer usually travel on these roads and highways.
Usually, at the approach of elections, some of these roads particularly those in the central cities are usually “repainted” and merely patched. As we write, the elections are less than 90 days away and most of the inter-state and states roads across the country are in horrific condition without any visible plans or indications that this can get the usual cosmetic repairs before the impending elections. These despicable conditions were what prevailed when Nigeria’s main source of incomes crude oil export was selling at between $100 and $125 per barrel. Working class and youth activists need not to wonder too much to contemplate the prodigious deterioration of the presently feeble level of infrastructures which Nigeria’s rapacious capitalist looters will inflict on Nigeria and its people in the wake of the unfolding fall in crude oil price.
The education sector remains in conditions of massive under-development and primitivity with inadequate decent, well funded education institutions to cater for the needs of the overwhelming proportion of Nigerians. Nigeria though, Africa’s top oil producer, has an estimated 64million of the adult population as illiterates. In the 2014 West African School Certificate Examinations, only 31.5% of the pupils that wrote the exams passed five subjects including English and Mathematics. Over 10 million school age children are completely out of schools and at the same time not learning any vocation. Education commercialization has reached an abominable peak with federal and state governments imposing outrageous school fees beyond the earnings of most Nigerians. Despite this, hundreds of thousands of graduates of different levels of education are permanently without jobs.
The ruling People Democratic Party (PDP) at federal level with the acquiescence of all the so-called opposition parties and the leaderships of the trade unions, completely privatized public electricity services. The story sold to the public was that privatization of this service would bring the fastest means of developing the sector. One year after privatization, electricity generation and distribution remains as terrible as they were before privatization. Recently, one of President Jonathan’s ministers stated that Nigeria’s households need an estimated 60,000 megawatts for regular supply of estimated 29million households at average consumption of one megawatt for 500 homes.
Meanwhile, government propagandists recently celebrated the fact that Nigeria has re-attained the production level of 4,000 megawatts. This miserable figure compared with estimated needs – was claimed after the federal government has just handed over additional sum of N213billion to the private electricity company out of which about N36.9billion was meant to settle gas debt. At the same time, agitations among the ruling capitalist elites within and outside government is currently at a peak to totally hand over Nigeria’s oil resources to capitalist corporations allegedly to guarantee gas supply needed to fast drive generation of electricity. This plot is expected to be consummated with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which is supported by all the capitalist parties and politicians together with their coattails the Trade Unions hierarchy.
As recent analysts claimed, 43.3% of Nigerians live in dire poverty while 2.7millions of Nigerian children were not immunized against measles in 2013. All these horrific features prevail despite the fact that Nigeria earns a huge sum of $40billion from oil exports within a period of 6 months this year.
The post elections era cannot be expected to produce a better socio-economic climate. As a matter of fact, Okonjo Iweala, Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, recently announced that Nigerians should expect tougher times ahead. About this same time, states commissioners of finance across the country i.e. of both the PDP and so-called opposition parties, recently told the media that “We have agreed subsidy should go so that we can have the money and each of the states can plan more on how best to apply the subsidy”. No one needs to be an expert in economics to know that these statements from Okonjo Iweala and states Finance Commissioners portend greater hardship for the overwhelming majority of Nigerians in form of more vicious anti-poor policies including possible fuel price hike.
On top of the above outlined horrific economic conditions, Nigeria is also currently ravaged by a ferocious killings and kidnappings of thousands of ordinary Nigerians by an extremist Islamic insurgency group seeking to forcibly convert the whole or part of Nigeria into what they describe as an Islamic emirate.
One of the governors of the North East states, the current haven of Boko Haram, recently claimed that virtually one-half of the entire region is controlled or paralysed by these insurgents. Hundreds of thousands are now internal refugees or have fled to the Cameroon. Ostensibly to fight these murderous elements, the PDP government imposed a state of military emergency on Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states for eighteen months. The National Assembly recently rejected the request of the President for the extension of emergency rule by another 6 months. Far from stopping the ravages by Boko Haram insurgents, this military state of emergency has only worsened the situation
The state of emergency and military war against Boko Haram have been so ineffectual to the extent that the insurgents have successfully captured and occupied some major towns, with widespread reports of military personnel fleeing from war fronts allegedly due to poor motivation and inadequate firearms.
This situation has led to calls by media editorials, prominent capitalist politicians and hardliners on government to declare full scale war against the insurgents in the North East. Unfortunately, leaders of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and those of the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) have joined this disreputable league of those seeking to give the false impression that Nigeria situation requires martial, military intervention. But the fact is that the lawless brutality of sections of the military and police has often served to strengthen Boko Haram.
Of course, it is absolutely false to give the impression that the unresolved nationality question amplified by the Boko Haram insurgency is a phenomenon confined to the North East of Nigeria. Right now, Lafia, the capital of Nassarawa State in the North Central is engulfed in murderous face-off by the Kambari and Eggon ethnic groups. The periodic killings by Fulani cattle rearers and Tivs in Benue State have become more intractable for most of the years of civil rule. The Niger Delta militia campaign has only temporarily gone underground after hundreds of billions of naira have been spent to buy off these campaigns and their leaders through a so-called amnesty. The South East and South West remain in a state of subdued agitations. No thanks to the efforts of capitalist politicians who literarily buy off the leaders of the MOSOB and the OPC after lot of ruthless killings by state security forces.
Therefore, the ferocious and widespread nature of ethno-religious crisis confronting Nigeria in the past two decades or so is largely due to colossal underdevelopment and mismanagement of Nigeria’s stupendous human and natural resources. But this is not just the result of corruption and looting, it also shows how capitalism cannot develop a country like Nigeria whose economy is at the mercy of imperialist dominated world market. Also, to keep the working class in a state of permanent division so they can secure their own narrow political and economic agenda, the capitalist ruling elite have over the years played one ethnic group against the other or one religion against another. Consequently, only the democratic socialist transformation of Nigeria can provide a socio-political template where the basic economic and political needs of all Nigerians can be guaranteed and thus make unnecessary the incessant agitations by extremists and separatists for the break-up of Nigeria.
In the present situation, the clamour for a militaristic solution is a futile exercise that can only end by bringing additional oppressions on Nigerians without any redemptive measures and in fact with prospect of a total detonation of the Nigerian state.
WORKING PEOPLES POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE
The prevailing horrific socio-economic conditions sharply demand that the trade unions and all genuine labour and pro-masses organisations should be neck-deep involved in the processes of proffering and the building of a genuine working peoples political alternative as we approach 2015 general elections.
Sadly to note however, the leaderships of the main trade union organisations i.e. the NLC and TUC, together with those of the so-called Labour Party, have repeatedly demonstrated a nauseating incapacity to defend and advance genuine economic and political interests of the working people in general. These trade union organisations and their leaders have perfected the ideas of talking or appearing to be fighting for a better alternative for the working masses without appropriate vision and sufficient passion. For instance, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) was recently reported in the media to have rejected the austerity measures being planned by the federal government in the wake of the ongoing collapse of crude oil prices, Nigeria’s main income earner.
However, typical of make-believe opposition and radicalism of contemporary trade union leaders, the association only called on government to reduce drastically the number of political appointees and aides with a view to reduce the cost of maintaining them without breathing a word on what the union will do if the government fails to heed this call. This political reductionist mentality is informed by the fact that the entire gamut of trade union leaders in the country have consciously or unconsciously sided with the neo-liberal capitalist policies of privatization and deregulation of the entire economy. However, it is the inability or the absence of preparedness of the trade unions and their leaders to proffer a working class political platform and alternative against the 2015 general elections that most starkly drive home the points that the Nigerian working masses cannot expect to come out of the nightmare of life under capitalism in a short time to come.
The trade unions, particularly the NLC initiated the formation of what became the Labour Party in 2002. However, between that time and now, there has never been any genuine conscious effort to build and develop the party as a working peoples fighting platform. In fact, over the years, the party has been largely used as the safety nest of individuals that fail to win nominations within the big capitalist parties like the PDP, APC, APGA, etc. It was that background that enabled the Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko, then rejected by the PDP, to contest on its platform. Recently, when governor Mimiko decamped back to the PDP, both the NLC and TUC leaders called for pro-labour members of the party to boycott the National Convention fixed for November 10, 2014. Notwithstanding this call, the convention held as the entire trade unions movement had just only 3 allotted members within the Labour Party NEC of hundred members.
Now, there is a new announcement that some individuals have been appointed by the leadership of NLC and TUC to take over the Labour Party by organising another so-called National Convention. Socialists argue that this does not suggests a serious effort to reclaim the Labour Party let alone being an effort that can ensure that working peoples political alternative is posed during the 2015 general elections. We have seen too often trade union leaders utter grandiose words which result in nothing. A mere press statement or interview is not a campaign. We would support a genuine campaign to build a mass party of labour, but so far we have not seen any steps to mobilise working people. Furthermore we note that none of those now saying that they want “to take control, revitalise and strengthen” the Labour Party publicly protesting when that Party backed Jonathan in 2011 and, for some time now, has been saying it will support Jonathan again in 2015.
A programme to proffer a working class political alternative towards the 2015 general elections and thereafter must of necessity starts by advancing genuine economic and political programmes needed to ensure that Nigeria’s abundant human and natural resources are run and controlled in a way that can benefit the entire Nigerian people. This sharply would require a democratic socialist programmes and methods to build a genuine fighting platform that is resolutely and doggedly committed to the defense and advancement of the economic and political rights of the Nigerian working people in and out of elections.
Within this context, to say the least, it is very comical to believe that a genuine working peoples political alternative can be advanced through a method that hopes to remove from office the current leadership of the Labour Party, endorsed by INEC and protected by the Nigerian law, by elements that hold no positions or political authority within the party or within the broad labour movement.
As we write, the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) is currently battling to secure the registration of the party. Having met all the stipulated conditions under the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act needed for a political association to be registered as a political party, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) reflecting the overall political fears of the capitalist elites has refused to register the party. This undemocratic decision of INEC not to register the SPN is currently being challenged at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Going by the characteristic delays of litigations in Nigerian courts, we cannot at the moment say when the case will be decided and whether the party will have legal basis to participate in the 2015 general elections. Nonetheless, all genuine socialists and working class elements would continue to agitate and fight for the crystallization of a working class, democratic socialist political platform to pose genuine political alternative for the permanently suffering people of Nigeria. This constitutes the best way and strategy to ensure ultimately that the Nigeria working people and poor would recover Nigeria from the capitalist locusts presently ruining the country.
There were gifts and awards presented to some students by the Education Secretary of AJIF: Adewale Adeogun. Also, certificates were presented to the volunteers teachers.