Niyi Adewumi: an interview from 2003
Niyi Adewumi: an interview from 2003
We republish below the interview with Late Niyi Adewumi in the Socialist Democracy (Paper of Democratic Socialist Movement) July/August 2003 edition in the aftermath of 2003 general elections in which he contested and won 14% of the total votes cast as the House of Representatives candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) for Ifako-Ijaye Lagos Federal Constituency.
A REWARDING EXPERIENCE FOR NCP
Niyi Adewumi, a lawyer and member of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), was the NCP candidate in the Ifako-Ijaye constituency in Lagos State in the House of Representatives election held on 12th April, 2003. In this interview, he spoke to Ojo Olajire on the lessons of the elections:
Socialist Democracy (SD): The elections have come and gone, but the memory will remain. How would you describe your experience in the elections?
Niyi: Well for me it was quite rewarding, in the sense that it is like one went back to school, to a new kind of life that one has never actually been involved in. Generally, we have observed politicians from afar and one’s involvement in the politics of this country has always been from the perspective of the left protest movement and human rights activities, that is, fighting for the right of our citizens either in the court or organising mass action. But this is the first time that you have candidates with serious left background actually mounting the soapbox and trying to sell the programmes of National Conscience Party, NCP, to the generality of the people, and actually asking for their mandate to be able to get into power and implement some of those pro-masses programme contained in the NCP manifesto.
SD: In Ifako Ijaiye where you contested for House of Representatives, the NCP got 14% of the total votes cast. Would you consider this as a setback for the party?
Niyi: I do not see the 14% as a setback for the party. I see it as a clear indication that our people are very much interested in changing our society. It is only that we have not been able to carry our messages to every nook and cranny of our society. There is no doubt that the PDP, ANPP and AD governments have failed in their policies, that a lot of people are frustrated by various capitalist policies of the present crop of politicians in power. But the problem we have as party was because of our late registration in December 2002, and of course lack of finance, lack of dedicated large membership. In terms of party’s cadres, we were unable to carry our messages to every nook and cranny. But if you look at it this way. We started effective campaign in January and we had election in April and we were able to get 14% of the voters in Ifako Ijaiye without giving them material gifts for which all the other parties were noted for. People have to be induced to come to the polling centres either by money, clothes and all worth not. But it is only the people that voted for NCP that came out to vote consciously because they believe in the ideals and programmes of the party. And you will discover that it was only our party, NCP that really set the tune and agenda for politicians in this country especially in Lagos State. Until we got to the campaign, no politician was distributing leaflets as for programme, nobody was trying to either explain why promises were not kept or even make new promises. But when we started the approach of leafleteering and trying to explain to the people things we stand for, what we will do if we get to power, and so on, our opponents were forced to bring out something no matter how wishy-washy it was.
The 14% represents a tremendous achievement. That against all odds we were able to get about 11000 votes for the House of Representatives candidate in Ifako Ijaiye while the senatorial candidate had over 11000 votes. Now the candidate from AD that won in Ifako Ijaiye had 32000 votes. He was an incumbent and there was massive rigging in various polling units. You discover that if you are to remove the votes illegally procured and counted for the declared winner, i.e if we had an election in the real sense of it, they did not win that election. So I do not see the 14% as being not something encouraging. On the contrary, it is very encouraging and it shows that with a dedicated leadership, dedicated followership, committed members who are interested in changing our society for the better, we would get to where we are going and we would be able to make more impact in our society.
SD: By this, the party must have gained one or two experiences, what are those experiences do you think the party have gained?
Niyi: First, there is recognition for the party by virtue of the campaign we organised. So, the first time Nigerians felt that NCP is not just a party of human rights activists that is only interested in fighting government for the sake of it or going to court or Gani’s party just for making noise, no. They saw for the first time that it is a party that has members like themselves, full-blooded people who are interested in changing society and that the party is actually on ground and people can relate with it. Second, the programmes of the party we were able to bring it forward and juxtapose it with plainlessness and the visionless approach of the politicians of the other parties. We have also gained more members for the party. If we harness all these gains, in the next four years, we would make a greater impact in the 2007 elections.
SD: Based on the outcome of the elections, what hope do you think exist for a party like NCP to come to power?
Niyi: Coming to power of a party like NCP is possible but it is going to be very difficult. The members of the ruling class are not asleep and they know the implication. It is not accidental that other characterless parties like APGA and so on were allowed to win few positions here and there. The reason why the ruling class is anti-NCP is because it is the only party that stands for real change and empowerment of the masses. So, while it is possible that we may win in a true, free and fair election after properly educating the masses on our programmes and what we stand for. It is also likely that using the machinery of the state, the capitalist ruling class will do everything possible to prevent a party like NCP from taking power. Those who are looking for change in our society must understand this. Therefore, while we may win through the ballot box, we must not lose sight of the fact that the most essential and important thing for us to do is to empower, educate and mobilise the working masses of this country to stand up for what is theirs, and to take power by a mass-based revolution if it is the option left for us to achieve our objectives.
SD: Aftermath of the elections, what do you think should be the important tasks of the party and its membership in order for it to successfully face the challenges ahead?
Niyi: Most important task for the party now is to build structures. We need structures in every ward, local government, neighbourhood, every part of a state and nationwide. We must build a dedicated core of party’s cadres. If you look at what we were able to achieve within that three months, it was due to the dedication of the cadres we that had who were part of the electioneering process. And there is no alternative to dedicated core cadres who are genuinely doing what they believe in and not necessary because of pecuniary benefits. In other words, because of payment that has been made to them but because they believe in those things from within themselves and are willing to do everything to achieve those objectives inspite all odds. So the party must build those cadres; we need the core of dedicated cadres in every nook and cranny of the state. I tell you if we have structures on the ground, rigging becomes much more difficult for your opponents because there are people that will stand up and defend their rights or votes. The reality is that a lot of people will come out ordinarily and vote one way or the other and go back home. But you must have people who are willing to stand up and insist that the right things must be done. So, if we want to make impact, we must build that core of dedicated cadres. We must have vehicles; campaign vehicles are an essential part of the propagation of the programmes of a party. With only two vehicles in Lagos State we were able to create awareness. Now, if these local governments had a bus each of their own with public address systems, we can make twenty times the kind of impact that we had.
Finance is also very important, and it must be addressed in two perspectives. One is from the donation from the better-off members of the party who can put in some large amount of money to assist. The other aspect is that our members must be encouraged to donate, to contribute, pay subscription no matter how small. If we do that, we would make progress. We must also move into campuses. The youths remain the important bedrock of the society and the most active supporters of NCP. If we are able to convince our youths and move into the campuses now and have a programme of creating NCP youth wing in all the campuses. We must also get involved in day-to-day activities of local labour unions and other deprived people in their fight. If we get involved in their struggle, the masses will identify with the party. When people are bonded with a particular party because that party has stood for them, no matter the amount of cassettes or money that is being distributed, people would have cause to say “no, these ones were with us when it matters. We had this problem, they stood for us. We had this problem, they were the ones that we saw. We are not going to votes based on money”.