2015 GENERAL ELECTIONS AND THE WORKING MASSES
2015 GENERAL ELECTIONS AND THE WORKING MASSES
Aj. Dagga Tolar and Kola Ibrahim
Elections have become a periodic ritual, mandated and made compulsory by law, at least to keep the pretence of the so called “civil rule” in motion. In 2015, there is a sharper division among the ruling elites who, despite current economic and social hardships, are turning to the poor working peoples for votes. Indeed, the 2015 general elections are taking place against the background of the past 16 years of civil rule which has meant nothing but worsening living conditions for the working masses.
The question therefore arises: Will any of the different sections of the ruling elites that triumph at the poll offer anything characteristically different from the norm these past 16 years? Is there any possibility of breaking with the neo-liberal capitalist and anti-poor policies of deregulation and privatization? The answer is No. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the major bourgeois opposition, the All Progressives Congress (APC), are both locked in the same mode as they are hell bent on the same ruinous direction that left the ruling elites and their cronies awash with fabulous wealth and luxury while the teeming population are grounded in excruciating poverty.
With all of the primaries in the major political parties concluded and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) out with the list of candidates for the 2015 general election, all seems set for a “civil war” among the various sections of the ruling elites for the spoils of office. This is one “roforofo” fight that will leave the working masses worse off, no matter where the pendulum swings.
The various internal struggles within the two main political parties during the primaries, wherein huge monetary resources were deployed by various aspirants to woo party members, shows that the elections are already monetised. While President Jonathan only needed to gather party members in Abuja, under ‘right’ monetary atmosphere, to endorse him; various aspirants at state and legislative levels, had to battle, money for money, to secure the ‘fortune’ tickets to contest for political offices. In the APC, the headline of one of the major national dailies, the Punch, titled “Dollar Reign at APC Convention”, captures the level of monetization of the party primary, as all the contenders, including supporters of the so-called ‘incorruptible’ Muhammadu Buhari, struggled to outspend each other in the mad rush for the party ticket. At state and legislative primaries, similar scenarios played out as party bigwigs turned the primaries into a merchant business.
The fact is that there is no fundamental difference between the opposition APC and PDP, the ruling party. This is why it is very easy for PDP aspirants who lost out in the primaries to pick up the APC tickets a few days – in some cases a few hours – after decamping to the APC. Besides, many power wielders of APC like Rotimi Amaechi, Rabiu Kwankwanso, Bukola Saraki, Atiku Abubakar, etc., are former power-wielders in the PDP, who helped that party to rule with impunity in the not too distant past. Moreover, the social and economic policies of APC are the same as those of PDP, and do not pose any singular threat to capitalism and the capitalist class as a whole. The popular support for the emergence of Buhari as APC presidential candidate, rather than reflecting any radical situation, reflects the confusion in mass consciousness as result of the absence of a credible mass working class political alternative and the sterile nature of the APC’s ‘change’ mantra.
Flowing from the above, it can be safely concluded that, in the absence of a mass working class political platform to represent the independent programmes of the working and oppressed people, the election, ab initio, has been rigged against the working people. More than this, the election will not engender any serious shift in state policy that will unleash the enormous resources of the country for the development of people and the society. It is also important to note that the consciousness of the masses to the emergence of either of the two sides of the ruling class may not be the same. In fact, the view of many working class and youth elements towards this election will be divergent, on the basis of general confusion occasioned particularly by absence of any working class political alternative that can show the way out of the mounting social and economic problems. This is the reason we, as socialists, with benefits of foresight, need to look at the character that the election can assume and what can unfold afterwards.
We also must not fail to pose the question of what will be the fortunes of each of these parties in the coming election. Will the PDP hold of power at the centre in the past 16years be brought to an end? What is the nature and character of Buhari’s support base? Is the mood for change strong enough to engender an electoral mass movement that will oust the PDP government at the centre? Is Buhari capable of turning the apple cart and secure victory for the APC, given the general historical antecedence of the incumbency factor that has remained a dominant feature of elections in Nigeria?
THE SCORESHEET OF CIVIL RULE UNDER THE PDP
President Jonathan’s/PDP’s six-year rule, if anything, has not drastically departed from the previous 8 years rule under Obasanjo (1999-2007) and Yar’adua (2007-2009). An additional four years for Jonathan and the PDP will therefore not engender any fundamental change whatsoever that could result into radical improvement in the welfare or living conditions of the working masses. The working and poor people, on the contrary, should prepare for further attacks as it has always been the case after every election.
With the crash in oil prices to a figure much below $60 a barrel, from a peak price of $115 in mid-2014, and against the projected $65 per barrel benchmark for the 2015 budget, the economic future of Nigeria can only be bleaker. This can only mean a tremendous shortfall in income, which has seen government already announced some austerity measures, and the devaluation of the country’s currency. Already, various governments, both at the federal and state levels, are owing workers salary arrears, which is an indication of worsening situations for the working masses, their dependents and allies. Already, according to Punch newspaper, there is on-going thinking about retrenchment by policy makers in both the public and private sectors. It will not be surprising that state governments, including opposition-controlled states, will be the first to fire the first salvo of retrenchment, giving that most of them are unviable economically without robust federal allocation.
The economy remains largely oil dependent with over 95% of foreign exchange earnings and 70% of government earning coming from crude oil export. This will definitely have its toll on the working masses. The government is not shying away from this, it is only being currently held back by the elections. With the drastic depletion of the Excess Crude Account from a figure of $22 billion dollars to the current figure of $4 billion, and the Foreign Reserve, from $62 billion to the current $28 billion, the strategists of the ruling class are themselves at their wits’ end on how to save the economy from total collapse. Poverty is put officially at 70% of the population leaving on less than $1.25 a day, and unemployment at an underestimation of 28%.
It is imperative to point out that just 8 months ago, the government went to the roof tops with a screaming claim that Nigeria was now the “biggest economy in Africa” despite growing poverty level. This bogey has now been completely exposed. While we are told that the oil sector now contributes only 13 percent to the now rebased GDP, the reality is that, on the basis of the neo-colonial character of the economy and the rent-seeking nature of the capitalist class, this 13 percent has major impact on the economy. Most capitalist big businesses rely on the patronage and subsidy from the state to make huge profits. On the other hand, the state relies solely on rents and royalty from the oil wealth exploited by multinational corporations, to sustain crude capitalism. To diversify the economy will mean capitalist class across every spectrum will have to forgo immediate wealth accumulation for a medium and long term investment. This is actually what Nigeria’s capitalists are not prepared for.
This is clearly demonstrated in the auto industry, where the so-called development of local manufacturing of cars has become a mere bogey, in spite of the enormous subsidies the government is doling out to the sector. The failure to expand and improve the electricity sector, despite its centrality to any major development and diversification of the economy, is another major reflection of the backwardness of the capitalist class. Today, government has committed or guaranteed up to N300 billion – including the latest N213 billion bailout – to the private buyers of the legacy companies of PHCN, even when the companies were sold at rock-bottom prices to these capitalist sharks. The bailouts are not meant to seriously improve generation, transmission or distribution, but to allow the private buyers make adequate profits and pay outstanding debts and interests to banks. This January will mark the third time electricity tariff will be hiked in the interests of private buyers, even when actual supply to the consumers is dwindling.
In the oil sector, despite promises by government officials since 2012, there has not been any improvement in the country’s oil refining capacity. Aside from the private sector running away from any long term investment that will tie their capital down, and prevent them from making quick money from the state; the state oil company, NNPC, has been run aground such to such an extent that it cannot even refine up to 25 percent of its installed capacity. Yet, it was in the same NNPC that $20 billion was reported to have been missing by former governor of the CBN, Sanusi Lamido. In the cement industry, despite the fact that Nigeria now has self-sufficiency in cement production, this has not brought down the price to an affordable level that will allow working people to own houses. This is in spite of huge government dole out, including virtual creation of monopoly for few local producers. The so-called price slash by major cement producer, Dangote, from N1, 500 to N1, 000 has more to do with stiff competition aimed at protecting the company’s investment, than attempt to make lives bearable for the people. It is therefore not surprising that the prices were quickly and unceremoniously hiked again by the company, citing higher foreign exchange rate, according to newspaper reports.
The 2015 budget proposes to spend 21% of the total budget amounting to N943 billion to service Nigeria’s debt. With external debt currently put at $9.5 billion, the government is out to enhance its ability to obtain more loans by sufficiently demonstrating its commitment to servicing the debt, and then use this as a credential to access more loans. We must not soon forget that Obasanjo and the same Okonjo Iweala struck a so-called debt cancellation bogey by fretting out $12.4 billion to the Paris club and IMF in 2005, to ostensibly buy out $18 billion and bring an end to burden of servicing debts to free funds for other vital needs. Just as we in the DSM stated during the debt-cancellation bogey, that the debt cancellation, aside meaning looting of public resources to satisfy the interests of global financial sharks, the action will actually not take Nigeria away from debt. Now, less than ten years, the country is back in a debt trap, with governments owing $9.5 billion foreign debt and over $47.6 billion local debt, totalling $57.15 billion. Nothing exemplifies the failure of government more than the fact that major increase in these debts happened at a period the country was earning so much from crude oil export. Now, the country is fully back to the era of committing public resources that should be used for public need to servicing debts that have contributed little or nothing to the improvement of people’s living conditions and infrastructure development.
The huge oil wealth during the boom, aside not translating to industrialization and diversification of the economy, has also left social services in terrible state. The six-month strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for improved funding of education that ended in December 2013 clearly underscored the horrible state of public education. Now the promised N200 billion intervention yearly intervention fund may be scuttled with the current belt-tightening measures of the capitalist government. Across campuses, fees are being hiked with authorities premising this on underfunding. The health sector is in disarray. Aside the horrible conditions of hospitals and their underfunding, the incessant strikes by health workers, seeking one improvement or the other, has shown the Jonathan government is simply a prodigal government. Many public roads, including the major ones like Lokoja-Abuja road, Lagos-Ibadan road, Apapa-Oshodi expressway, etc. are still in terrible conditions, despite billions of naira being committed to rehabilitate them.
While the working people are attacked from all fronts, the ruling elites, through direct and indirect means, have looted the wealth of the country, including gifting out trillions of naira to big businesses and politicians, for which the Jonathan government will be recorded in history as a government which took corruption to a new height. Under the government, monumental corruption became the norm in the government, with no single high-profile corruption case prosecution carried through to a logical conclusion. The government and in fact, the president, has no qualms associating openly with and granting a state pardon to corrupt persons like Alameiseigha. Various ministers indicted of corruption were either left untouched or given soft landing. Existing cases of corruption, including that of Muhammed Abacha, the son of late former dictator, Sanni Abacha, were tactically settled out of court. This is not unexpected as the government is founded and funded by corrupt individuals. This is coupled with the fact that the Jonathan government, having lost mass support within a very short time (since 2012), has to rely on the most rotten section of the ruling class.
Flowing from above, the working and oppressed people cannot hope to get anything better in another four year rule of Jonathan/PDP. In fact, left to majority of working and oppressed people, Jonathan/PDP government should not last one day more.
BOKO HARAM AND THE WAR IN THE NORTH-EAST
Is it a possibility that the insurgency of the Boko Haram can have any direct implication on the general elections? With territories taken over and flags hoisted on them, will elections hold in these conquered territories? Not with 1.6 million already displaced from their homes in the North East, and some 600, 000 camped outside of their homes. It is clear that this lot may most likely not be able to vote their preference in the elections.
The massive death tolls of over 10,340 within a year period from Nov 2013 to Nov. 2014, a figure nearly equally the 10,733 for the same period in Iraq, only further demonstrate how immense the insurgency is. By the February 14 Presidential election, it will be over 300 days that over 276 girls have been kidnapped from Chibok, not counting the additional ones that have since been kidnapped, without the government having any clue on the whereabouts or demonstrating any serious effort at rescuing them. This in itself is enough to vote Jonathan and the PDP out of power.
That Jonathan has proved incapable of taking on the Boko Haram insurgency, if anything it has sought to negotiate with them and has been rebuffed as demonstrated by the failed peace deal in October 2014. In fact, as the German state radio recently commented, “Goodluck Jonathan is apparently unmoved by the most gruesome attacks and in their aftermath is quite happy to have his picture taken at birthday parties or wedding celebrations.”
The military effort has not been any better off. The Nigerian military is completely ill-equipped to take on Boko Haram, and the reaction of the rank and file of the military has been to challenge and voice their disapproval of the orders of the Generals and Army Commandants to virtually go and commit suicide given their poor weaponry. For stating this fact the Generals have chosen to make a scape-goat of the rank and file and junior officers, by accusing them of mutiny and subjecting them to court martial. So far 70 soldiers have been sentenced to death by firing squad and 203 have been dismissed from the military.
The Nigeria working masses must come to the full defense of these soldiers and demand their sentence be quashed and those dismissed restored to their posts without loss of pay! These soldiers cannot be expected to provide the tools with which to perform their duties, this explains why DSM and members of the SPN always call for the right to a trade union for both the rank and file soldiers and the police so that they can ventilate their views by demanding improved working conditions and the right to go on strike
Rather than call the military Generals to order, the Jonathan regime has turned a blind eye to their excessive actions and alleged corrupt practices, which will only further demoralize the rank and file soldiers and whittle down their enthusiasm to fight the Boko Haram insurgents. The question of the budgeted funds for the defence ministry these past 16 years and what it has been expended also points to how deep the Generals and the Jonathan regime are enmeshed in corruption.
But we must make the point that the fight to end the Boko Haram insurgency is not simply military, although the need for the organization of democratically run defence of communities from attack is vital. A purely military approach is incapable of addressing all of the economic issues of deprivation, poverty, corruption and oppression that over the years have provided fertile ground for recruitment into religious extremism in all facets. Only under a government committed to building schools, providing publicly funded and free education for all, provide jobs, and ensure a living wage, and all of the necessary health facilities, housing, roads etc. can religious fundamentalism be checked.
Who will therefore likely benefit from attacks by Boko Haram as we approach the elections? It is definitely not the working masses, whose blood will be shed and displaced from their homes. If, for instance, there are major attacks, bombings, on the eve or during the election itself this will instil fear in the North and discourage people from coming out to vote their choice
Both Jonathan and Buhari will try as much as possible to play on the political advantage that the Boko Haram activities offer to their ambition. It means that only the united effort and struggle of the working masses can we ever hope to end the menace of the Boko Haram and the scourge they constitute against the working masses.
CAN BUHARI AND THE APC BE TRUSTED?
This will be the fourth time that Buhari (a former Head of State from Dec. 31 1983-Aug. 17, 1985) is contesting the presidential elections since the return to civil rule. In the elections in 2011 he mustered over 12 million votes.
It is clear that unlike the previous three general elections that Buhari has contested against the PDP and lost, that this time around he will not be walked over and the election will not be a push over considering the growing support from sections of the ruling elite and growing illusion of a section of the masses. The possibility of violent protests breaking out in the North if the result is otherwise for Buhari, as was the case in 2011 when the PDP and Jonathan were declared winner, cannot be entirely ruled out, even on a bigger scale and possibly growing beyond the North. While acknowledging the right to protest against an illegitimate government, we in the DSM condemn violence and killing in the name of protest.
Buhari has cut for himself a figure of a no-nonsense individual who in spite of being a former Head of State maintains a frugal existence with no known outlandish properties to his name, outside of his residence in Daura, Katsina State and another one in Kaduna. The arrest, trial and sentencing of politicians of the Second Republic to prison for corruption has earned him, from liberal apologists and some sections of radical elements, the status of one who can take on the monster of corruption in the country. He wears the moral toga of possessing the credibility to fight corruption and this has endeared him to the masses mostly in the North, and a significant layer of the vanishing middle class layers whose living conditions is not any different from the working masses and large layers of change seekers, both in the north and south. It cannot be ruled out that given a free and fair election, Buhari may win the election. However, the claim by Buhari that he was able to get a loan of N27.5 million from bank in a jiffy to pay for the APC nomination form has cast a dent on his anti-corruption image.
But then, elections in Nigeria, if anything, are far from free and fair. Already at the primaries both in the APC and PDP, the ticket was won by the highest bidder. Delegates returned home with as much as 5,000 dollars and above in their kitty. The elections will therefore be greatly influenced by monetary inducement. Much before now, the poorest of the poor have in the past drawn the conclusion that if they do not take whatever is on offer by the politicians, they could as well kiss them goodbye until the next election. This reality is underscored by the growing popularity of ‘Stomach Infrastructure’ (a term used to describe ridiculous bribing of people with food items and money for political patronage).
While Jonathan has raised N21 billion from his looting partners, Buhari has reportedly raised N118 million from ranks of his supporters. However, this is just a side of the story. Buhari’s supporters are big time contractors, corrupt politicians and business men and women; many of whom are former members and funders of the PDP.
While Buhari may cut the image of an anti-corruption fighter, his candidature is nothing short of contradiction. His image as a clean candidate is being undermined by the structure and people behind him, the likes of Tinubu, Amaechi, Saraki, etc. On the other hand, Buhari, despite garnering up to 12 million votes in 2011 elections without the support of these individuals, believe he cannot win the presidential election without the support of the corrupt bigwigs around him. This clearly shows the limitation of Buhari.
The APC is a machinery completely controlled by Tinubu, whose rule of 16 years in Lagos (under various names – AD, AC, ACN and now APC) is also so very much loathed that given a genuine working class or even reformist mass popular party it could also be defeated. The party was defeated in the governorship elections in Ondo, while incumbent APC governor in Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, was rounded defeated by a similarly rotten PDP under Fayose. In Osun State, in spite of the much hatred the PDP and its candidate, Iyiola Omisore has courted from the masses, the APC candidate Rauf Aregbesola could only win with 55 percent of the votes.
All this is because of the anti-poor policies of the APC governments at state levels. Across the APC-controlled states, fees in tertiary institutions have been hiked astronomically, while public education is in messy state. In Lagos State for instance, it took a mass struggle and the fear of the possible backlash in the coming election to force it to revert an atrocious fees increase at the Lagos State University (LASU). Everywhere they are in power, APC has not proved anyway different from the PDP. Most of the policies of the APC governors are elitist and pro-rich – contractors, financial sharks, etc. Many of these states have incurred huge debts that have little impact on the people. Osun State has not paid workers’ salaries for three months now, while Fashola’s Lagos has refused to implement the Teachers’ Salary Scale. The only difference being that it has not had access to larger pool of fund available in the centre.
Therefore, the good intention of Buhari – if there is any – will not be enough to change the reality on ground. For instance, how will Buhari, a known advocate of austerity, address the dwindling revenue of the country? Where will the money come from, if not from serious taxation of the people and massive borrowing, that will only enrich contractors and big businesses but economically disenfranchise working and poor people? How will Nigeria, which economy is backward, be able to decouple from dollar?
Is Buhari’s Candidature a Mass Electoral Movement?
There has been attempt to present Buhar”s candidature as a form of mass revolt against PDP. This is given: (1). The utter failure and cluelessness of the Jonathan/PDP government to resolve or address basic issues facing the country, and the continued worsening of living conditions of the people; (2). The anti-corruption image of Buhari; (3). The implosion of the PDP and the ability of the various strands of politicians to form APC and (4). The failure of the labour movement leadership to build a formidable mass working peoples’ political party.
However, this is just one side of the story. There are no programmatic slogans rooted in welfare of people e.g. job creation, free education, etc., that can incite mass support. In the second republic, Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) popularized the idea of free education at all levels as a campaign slogan. Today, the dominant slogan is the mantra of ‘change’, which itself doesn’t say much and is dangerous for APC at state level. The APC has been therefore playing up the anti-corruption image of Buhari to mobilize and attract support.
This is why Buhari’s main support has revolved around middle class, educated youth and a growing number of working class people, grossly disgusted with the Jonathan government. Aside this layer is the sizeable population of the North, especially the core north, who are supporting the Buhari.
However the election, aside mobilization for campaigns by both parties, has not witnessed any conscious mass movement of the working masses. Besides, there is still a significant layer of working people and youths, earnestly searching for a genuine alternative to the main pro-establishment parties. While, because of the generalized hatred for the Jonathan government, Buhari/APC may gain huge votes that may make it closer to winning the election, but, because the opposition politics has not incited needed mass movement, even close to that which installed Macky Sall in Senegal against Abdoulaye Wade in 2012, it may not overcome incumbency power. However, politics is a life issue. Between now and the election, new developments can reinforce or modify this prognosis. Certainly in the less likely event of Buhari defeating Jonathan, either through a truly mass mobilisation or a significant split in the ruling elite, the consequences could be enormous, both in terms of the immediate post-election situation and in sections of the masses feeling that the time is right to press forward their own demands.
What Stage are we passing through in Mass Consciousness?
Behind the general confused mood in this election is the issue of the dampened mood of the mass of people. Clearly, the capitalist crises has aggravated to the extent that the seed of revolution is not only ripe but it is getting rotten. The latest oil revenue crisis only adds fuel to the already raging fire of capitalist degeneration. Moreover, the ruling capitalist class and their big business partners have shown beyond any doubt that they cannot move the society forward. Internationally too, capitalism is facing its worst crisis in decades, with Europe and elsewhere in seeming permanent economic recession.
Expectedly, there has been rise in mass anger against the expected attacks on the living conditions of the working and poor people as the economy get worse. However, despite the huge anger, the labour leadership, since 2012 has tried to roll back the wheel of progress. Aside stabbing the 2012 general strike and mass revolt in the back, the labour leadership has played the role of prison warder for capitalism, helping to hold working people at bay, both on the industrial and political fronts. The deliberate destruction of Labour Party by labour leaders and failure to build a new working class political alternative has created a confused political consciousness among the generality of the working people. More than this, the labour leadership has almost deleted mass struggle from its lexicon. All this, in addition to the belief that the labour movement cannot lead, but only betray mass resistance and struggle against attacks by the ruling class, has generated political confusion that has partly made working people to queue behind different sections of the capitalist political class. While conditions for revolution are very present, coupled with the latent anger against the system, the treacherous role of the labour leadership has disoriented vast layer of the working class people, and has thrown back what could have been a generally radicalized mood suitable for mass mobilization for genuine change. It is therefore no accident that religion, ethnicity, parochialism and seeming individualism (as shown in the ‘stomach infrastructure’ mantra) have become visible factors in the current political scene.
Therefore, as against attempt to portray the support Buhari has gained, as a form of revolutionary mood, as being advocated by some “lefts”, the current mood is that of political confusion caused by the lack of a formidable working people political alternative. It is the task of socialists and working class activists to mobilize the most advanced among the disillusioned layer in this period through patient explanation of the bankruptcy of the two bourgeois parties, and by participating in various pockets of struggles breaking out.
Beyond 2015 elections
As said earlier, neither of the two main political parties or contestants stands for any policy that can lift the masses out of poverty and want. Inescapably, any of the two parties that emerge victorious will be forced, on the basis of objective reality, to force down the throat of the masses, anti-poor, neo-liberal policies, while safeguarding the interests of big business. However, some more specific prognoses need to be drawn out.
The victory of Jonathan/PDP will mean a mandate to continue and consolidate the anti-poor policies and orientation of the government. As said earlier, austerity policies are being planned. Electricity tariff has been hiked, and will be fully implemented in July; retrenchment is in the offing while fuel price hike/full deregulation is on the agenda, even when falling price of crude oil necessitates reduction of fuel prices. Surely, these attacks will meet mass resistance, as the labour leadership may be compelled to lead mass struggle. The masses, having exhausted all ‘peaceful’ means may move to the arena of struggle. Of course, it is possible that a PDP electoral victory may first engender some dampened mood, but the shock and awe will be replaced sooner than later, by mass radicalization. A similar situation played out in 2011, where Jonathan triumphalism was met, some eight months later, by mass resistance to fuel price hike.
If, on the other hand, the opposition wins, there may be a period of honeymoon with mass of working people giving the new government chance to express itself. Socialists would demand that the government implements its promises and call upon the working masses to independently mobilise to struggle for their demands. On the other side, the Buhari/APC will use the excuse of high level of rot in the system, to demand sacrifice and belt-tightening, although this could be combined with some anti-corruption actions. This sooner than later will cast away the illusion as people, impatient for the grandstanding of the opposition, will demand result for their support. This is coming on the heel of worsening of economic indices of the country.
But, aside these two prognoses, is also the possibility of rise in violence, as various forces wanting the Jonathan/PDP government out, and seeing no solution in the electoral front, may take to violent means. Even, some leading figures of the opposition, such as Rotimi Amaechi, are already talking tough, including raising the prospect of a parallel government. Besides, the question of post-election violence, whether it is in individual states or more widespread, particularly if there is a popular feeling that the results have been rigged, cannot be ruled out.
The defeat of Jonathan may lead to rise in militancy in the Niger Delta, as both parties are already playing the politics of regionalism and sectarianism. Just recently, Jonathan’s government awarded the contract for procurement of warships to a former militant, Tompolo in addition to juicy contracts for securing oil pipelines to the Niger Delta militants. Also, the “Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND)” has openly endorsed the APC. All this portends serious danger to Nigeria’s existence, as politicians on both sides are becoming so desperate, and fearful of defeat. This is because the national cake is getting smaller, and the question of who controls it is becoming a life-and-death struggle.
This also raises the question of a military intervention in politics if things should degenerate out of control. This is a real possibility as Nigerian politicians are very narrow-minded in defence of their interests. Indeed, if things degenerate, a section of the capitalist political class, in conjunction with imperialism, may canvass military intervention. Moreover, the military high command is very unpopular, not only among the general populace, but even among rank-and-file soldiers who have become resistant in recent time. The military hierarchy is seen to be corrupt and ineffective, especially in the face of inability to contain the Boko Haram insurgency. A military intervention against a background of charged ethnic and religious division will most likely worsen the situation with catastrophic implication for the working and poor masses. Nevertheless, a military coup or a form of “Interim Government” is a possibility.
Whichever direction the pendulum swing, one thing is very clear. Unless a working class platform emerges to mobilize mass of workers, youth and the oppressed against the system, Nigeria capitalist class can only lead the country to the blind alley of barbarism.
Besides, whatever happens or whoever wins, Jonathan or Buhari, the working masses cannot escape the lash of the whip of capitalist attacks. Therefore there is the need to prepare ahead for the struggle to resist the deepening of the austerity measures. It also means that ultimately the working class people have to rely on their strength and organization to struggle and provide the necessary leadership for the poor to commence mass struggle for the complete overthrow of ruling elites and capitalism.
LABOUR LEADERS AND THE LABOUR PARTY
The working masses can in no way be deceived by the recent attempt by the labour leadership to purportedly reclaim the Labour Party by setting up a caretaker committee with elements who do not have any authority and position within the party. From all indications it is extremely unlikely that this party will be reclaimed from the anti-poor elements and electoral merchants to whom the labour leadership surrendered the leadership of the Labour Party.
When some of the elements on the NLC sponsored caretaker committee held positions in the immediate past leadership of the Labour Party which could have been used to initiate internal struggle to reclaim the party they were, in practice, complicit in the atrocities of the Dan Nwanyawu led executive. This included turning the party tickets into “cash and carry” commodities for anti-poor, moneybag politicians who lost out in any of the major bourgeois parties, in most cases the PDP, and open endorsement of President Jonathan and his anti-poor neo-liberal policies both in 2011 and now. All this explains why the Labour Party was not attractive to working people and youths apart from the fact that the party leadership did not make any effort or showed interest to orientate the party towards the working class people. Even when members of the DSM together with some socialists and trade unionists launched the Campaign for a Mass Based Labour Party (CMBLP) to agitate for repositioning of the party and opening of the party for workers and youths in order to build it as a genuine mass working people party, we were witch-hunted out of the party
We must recall that left to their antics that the Labour leaders would never have registered the Labour Party as it took the struggle of Gani Fawehinmi and supporters around him, which included the members of the DSM, to legally and politically challenge and defeat the military imposition of only 3 parties after the 1999 general elections. Even after this, it was the pressure of the working masses following a series of general strikes from 2000-2003 that left the Labour leaders with no choice than to be seen to have taken the step so as to prevent others from seizing the initiative.
So this latest effort amount to nothing. If anything it is to pretend that it is doing something and working at reorganizing the LP, when in actual fact this translate to mean that the working masses will not have a formidable platform ahead and beyond the 2015 general elections to ventilate their anger and challenge the ruling elite for power.
As made quite clear by the leadership of LP, the NLC and TUC trade union centres’ leaderships, in spite of being the founders of the party, have no such powers and having even failed to take up their 3 seats in the NEC of the LP. There will be no stopping the INEC backed LP leadership from retaining the party as a trash can of anti-poor politicians as it has happened already in the states across the country, as well as endorsing and mobilizing support for Jonathan like it did in the 2011 general elections, something the labour leaders may not have a problem with.
Like Trotsky pointed out, the crisis plaguing the working masses can be reduced to the absence of revolutionary working class leadership, with the added challenge in Nigeria of organising the broad masses. But limited organisation did not limit support for the January 2012 general strike, which stopped the entire country. But in spite of the overwhelming mood in the January 2012 mass protest against Jonathan that even went as far as demanding an end to the regime. The labour leaders have taken no practical step till date. Indeed they have not even consistently struggled to win the full implementation of the N18,000 minimum wage which was passed into law almost four years ago!
This explains why the DSM and its supporters combined the campaign for the formation of a mass working people party with the initiative to register the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) to provide a platform with which to begin to organize the working masses to challenge the ruling elites and their rabid anti-poor capitalist policies. The party will be used intervene in the daily struggles of the working people and youths for improvement and against anti-poor policies, as well as to contest elections where possible in order to reach out to the working people and youths with socialist program. If members of the party are elected, they will be representatives of the interests of the working people and youths and receive the average salaries of skilled workers together with incidental expenses while the rest is donated to the party and labour movement to promote the struggle for a mass working class political alternative.
However the INEC has refused to register SPN despite it fulfilling all the legal requirements for registration. This is apparently not unconnected to the conscious attempt by the ruling elite to deny the working masses the opportunity for an alternative choice to the thieving ruling class parties. We have already challenged the undemocratic decision of the INEC in the court. The matter is coming for hearing at the Federal High Court Abuja on January 28. It is clear that if we get favourable judgment it is already impossible to participate in 2015 elections. But the party will intervene in the turbulent period that will most likely follow the general elections irrespective of the party that wins given the deepening economic and social crisis.
What is certain is that we in the DSM and SPN shall continue to struggle along the working class people and youths against all capitalist attacks and organize to put forward a working class alternative. We will continue the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and revolutionary transformation of Nigeria along a democratic socialist direction that will make possible the nationalization of the commanding sectors of the economy under a workers and poor farmers’ peoples’ government, democratically managed by the working people to free up the resources that will bring about the necessary infrastructural development of society and meet the needs of the working people.