DSM Holds National Meeting to Prepare for 2019 Elections and Struggles Ahead
DSM Holds National Meeting to Prepare for 2019 Elections and Struggles Ahead
By Wole Olubanji and Daniel Akande
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) held its National Committee (NC) meeting on Saturday, November 17 and Sunday, November 18 at the International Press Centre, Ogba Lagos. The two-day deliberation came at a time when the DSM is intervening in the forthcoming 2019 general election through the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) â€“ a political party whose registration was initiated by the DSM. There were inspiring discussions around the tasks of building the DSM and SPN especially in the wake of a mass disillusionment that has trailed the failure of the Buhari/Osinbajo presidency. Quite inspirational were the reports from the branches of the organisation that had stood on socialist programmes under the banner of the Socialist Party of Nigeria in gubernatorial and local council elections of Osun and Oyo states respectively.
This NC meeting drew participation from individuals other than members of the DSM national committee. Activists and trade unionists that have been attracted by our works in the SPN or Campaign for Democratic Workers’ Rights (CDWR) participated in the political discussions, and also shared their inspiring experiences with the meeting. Of course, one of the highlights is the participation of two casual workers from Summal, a Lebanese owned company in Ibadan, where DSM comrades had led the workers in a three-day struggle that won significant concessions on pay and conditions.
By and large, between the two days, over 60 comrades and visitors attended the meeting, including ten women.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto, a member of the DSM executive committee, introduced the discussion on Nigeria’s perspectives. The aim of the discussion, according to him, “(was) to appraise where we are coming from, where we are and where we are going.” Under Buhari government, the economy has been a shambles, the conditions of the working people are in mess and the unresolved national question, as shown in farmers-herders conflicts, Biafra agitation, has been aggravated etc. All indices show that things are worse-off for the working masses now than four years ago. For instance, Nigeria is now regarded as the poverty capital of the world. All these have provoked a widespread disillusionment in the Buhari-Osinbajo Presidency.
Soweto noted attempts by some analysts to explain away the failure of the regime. The old age of the President and his lack of promptness for instance in the appointment of minsters are sometimes offered as excuses for the failure of the Buhari’s presidency. Soweto warned that “the attempt to explain the failure of Buhari could also mean an attempt to create a new illusion.”
He identified the pro-capitalist policies of the Buhari presidency, which are fundamentally the same as his predecessor’s, as the inherent cause of Buhari’s poor performance. He noted that these policies are put in place to profit a handful few elites, and described the ill-fated and failed privatization of the power sector as one instance of such policies meant to enrich the elites at the expense of impoverishing the vast majority of Nigerian toiling and working people. He equally noted the hypocrisy and bankruptcy of the Buhari’s anti-corruption war in light of Buhari’s continued use of the contract-system of implementing government’s programmes â€“ which has become connivance between politicians and phony contractors to plunder government’s treasury.
Continuing, Soweto explained that corruption in the capitalist society is not limited to the politicians; but includes the broad range of investors and big business owners who connive with politicians to cheat the people out of their commonwealth. He cited the example of Skye Bank, which was plundered to bankruptcy by corporate sharks, and the description of its failure by the country’s central bank as “due to bad corporate governance.” In the case of the failed Skye Bank, the country’s central bank rushed to release billions of naira to save the bank.
Taking a look at the economy which recently climbed out of the worst recession in decades, Soweto noted that the high rate of growth recorded in the nation’s population contrasts markedly with the low GDP growth, This means that in real terms Nigeria’s economy is not really growing. But in order to look good, the regime and their international collaborators have stuck to a narrative of rising economic growth. But even this is stalling going by latest data. Worst still is that “a new economic crisis is now developing especially against the background of the growing instability in the world market. Crude oil prices are on their way down and there is a mounting public debt with debt servicing consuming 50% of revenue,” he observed. This would mean that whichever party that comes to power after the 2019 general elections may have little room to manoeuvre other than to launch more serious anti-poor economic policies including “SAP-style” austerity programmes. Such government may almost as soon as it comes in be greeted by mass struggle.
Our perspective for the next period following the 2019 general elections therefore is one of mass struggle developing as many would feel that no real progress has been achieved in the general elections given the dominance of the pro-capitalist parties and the weakness of the “alternatives” challenging them. While for reasons of looking good for the general elections, the regime may approve a new minimum wage, either N30,000 or something slightly lower, it would not be with the intention of seriously implementing it. Even regarding the old N18,000 minimum wage several state governments are owing backlog of salaries and pension. This means therefore that the minimum wage struggle, as well as increase in fuel and electricity prices, are likely going to be some of the key issues around which the working class and poor masses may return to the barricades following the general elections. How this struggle would develop would depend on the character of the leadership of labour but as we have seen, movements can also break out from below, including within the ranks of the trade unions, arising from frustration with the bureaucratic labour leadership. However if labour continues to fail to give a bold lead, we can also see a rise in ethno-religious crises of all sorts as anger at the system is diverted via other channels.
He noted that as the problems in the country intensify, there is bound to be false ideas that attempt to provide explanations for the misery of the mass majority, especially given the absence of a vibrant leadership of the organised labour. He submitted that the initiative by the DSM to register the Socialist Party of Nigeria was a giant stride that continues to be proven correct by events unfolding in the country. The task before the members of the DSM, he noted, is in building the SPN with a clear socialist programme as an alternative political party for working people with ideas and programmes alongside with campaigning for the labour movement to either support the SPN or form a new mass workers’ party that can bring the nation out of artificial misery created by the capitalist ruling class.
Capitalism has proved incapable of developing Nigeria and guaranteeing a living wage for workers, decent shelter for the homeless, education for students, and better life for the farmers, artisans and self-employed neither gainful employment for the youth. All capitalism has been able to guarantee in the last 58 years of Nigeria’s existence is stupendous wealth for the top 1% of the population constituted of corrupt politicians, corrupt contractors, bankers, multinational oil companies. As stated by Soweto, the working people need to wrest power out of the hands of the 1% capitalist who make life difficult for the 99%, overthrow capitalism and enthrone a democratic socialist order under which the economy can be planned judiciously to create an enabling socio-economic development and guarantee a decent quality of life for the vast majority.
It is however imperative for workers, youths and the poor masses to resist capitalist attacks with struggles which could win them concessions. Socialists have to continue to intervene in such struggles to give direction that could lead to victory, point out to lessons both in victory and defeat and link such struggles to overall need of building a mass movement to defeat capitalism. For instance, there is ongoing demand of a new minimum wage which labour leaders have been fighting for halfheartedly. Socialists have to continue the intervention with a series of activities including reaching out to workers and activists on how to win the demand and also place demands on the labour leaders.
Following Soweto’s speech on the Nigeria’s perspective, Dagga Tolar, another member of the DSM NEC, introduced the discussion on the World Relations. He identified the wave of right-wing extremism in Europe, in the form of racism and xenophobia, as attempts to comprehend the failure of capitalism in these countries. He noted that the victory of Donald Trump in America has also successfully awoken a mass movement in the LGBT and #Metoo movements, which are proving as significant resistance to Trump’s alt-right agenda. He also showed the emerging pattern of alt-right parties and rhetorics that are gaining significant following across Europe and now in Latin America, as well as the failure of traditional organisations of the working people across the world that has allowed false ideas to fester in the minds of the people.
He highlighted the hypocrisy of the US imperialism in the light of the Khassoggi’s murder inside the Saudi’s consulate in Turkey. He noted that the US has made it clear that it would not hold the Saudi monarchy responsible for the murder on the basis of the existing arms deal between the two countries, despite the compelling evidences linking the Saudi’s crown prince to the murder.
Contributions from participants, including SPN supporters at the meeting, reflected keen interest in the discussion of the meeting. Dimeji Macaulay drew attention to the struggle of the Southern Cameroonians who are being heavily repressed by the despotic regime of Paul Biya in Cameroon. Lanre Arogundade in his contribution noted that the brain drain experienced in the country, with the migration of professionals such as medical doctors to countries with better conditions of service, also further reflect the deepening of the capitalist crisis. While Kola Ibrahim drew attention to the fraudulent borrowing of the federal government, which is majorly spent on unproductive and shoddy projects such as maintenance of websites or other capital projects that are siphoned off through the contract system of implementing government projects. Comrade Pelad in his intervention noted that the possibility of the PDP candidate Abubakar Atiku, with a public perception of a vastly corrupt politician, something which is a diametrical opposite of the image of incorruptible, Spartan person President Buhari rode to power, winning the presidential election underscores how seriously diminished is Buhari’s electoral value. This is a result of the huge disappointment that has trailed the failure of Buhari’s government to fulfil its promises on economy, security and corruption. However, whoever wins the election will likely deepen the capitalist attacks especially against the background of falling oil revenue and increasing debt burden that may leave very little room for manoeuvre.
Other participants who spoke commended the efforts of the DSM in building the Socialist Party of Nigeria, and reiterated their support for the ideas and programmes of the party.
The main objective of this NC was to prepare comrades for our participation and intervention in 2019 elections through the SPN. So the discussion on the SPN and 2019 elections was held in two sessions over the two days. Comrade Chinedu Bosah, a member of the DSM NEC and National Secretary of the SPN, led the discussion. He started by briefly taking comrades on memory lane of how the party is a product of struggle. It took over three years of both legal action and political struggles to force the INEC to obey the constitution and register the party. So the party is going into the general election as a party of struggle. This explains why the party is not contesting every election but fielding only candidates who can defend and uphold the programme of the party and in areas where we have forces. So, as he stated that SPN is contesting one governorship position in Oyo, eleven House of Assembly seats in Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Cross Rivers as well as two local government chairmanship positions and six councillorship positions in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja.
Comrade Chinedu emphasized that why we must campaign vigorously to win good votes in the elections, another important objective of the contest is to reach out to the wider layers of the populace with our alternative socialist program on how to end the current woes confronted daily the working people and the people with a view of recruiting change seeking elements into both the SPN and DSM. Moreover, according to him, our roles in the election will prepare the SPN to play frontline roles in struggles that will break out sooner or later after the general elections in response to various capitalist attacks that will be unleashed irrespective of the party that wins the presidential election. For instance, struggle over a new minimum wage will likely break out and another planned increase in fuel price cannot be ruled out given the global crisis of capitalism that has not abated.
On Day 2 of the meeting which was opened with a continuation of deliberation on the SPN and 2019 elections, Comrade Abbey Trotsky did a recap of the discussion the first day. This was to refresh memory of comrades present and also brought up to speed those that were not present at the first day.
Part of highlights of the contributions from comrades was the importance of selling the Socialist Democracy (SD), the paper of the DSM, during the campaigns with a view of using it to engage people in political discussion and recruiting into the DSM and SPN. There was also contribution on how to strive to build the SPN as a mass party side by side with the call on the broader labour movement to join the SPN or build a mass working people party. There was emphasis on winning SPN members and other working class elements as well as young people into revolutionary programme and method of the DSM.
There were interventions from comrades on how our campaigns had fared and what more to be done in the areas where the DSM members are standing.
There were also reports of the two elections the SPN had been involved after the registration by Abbey Trotsky and Wole Engels. These elections are Ibadan South West Local Election where Abbey Trotsky contested for chairman and Osun State governorship election with Comrade Alfred Adegoke as the candidate. Against the background of limited resources, we were able to reach out to the working people and the poor masses with our program and also made contacts. An important task is consolidating these contacts and those we are going to make in the course of 2019 elections campaign into the party.
For over a month, universities and colleges of education have been shut down following strikes actions by ASUU and COEASU respectively. This further shows the failure of Buhari government on public education funding. It was noted that OAU branch has held a series of activities like leafleting and organizing public meetings to mobilise support for the demands of the strike. It was agreed that a national campaign of activities should be launched through the ERC to intervene in both strikes linking it to the campaign for adequate funding of public education and democratic management at all levels
To the finance campaign activities in 2019 election a struggle fund of about N280, 000 was raised both in cash and pledges at the meeting. This was not a bad outing given the composition of the meeting. We shall reach out to more comrades and supporters to contribute to the struggle fund. The SPN has a budget of about N10 million nationally to run the campaigns and elections nationally. We call on members and supporters to donate.
Below is the resolution agreed at the meeting on the Nigeria situation:
DSM NATIONAL COMMITTEE MEETING
November 17-18, 2018
Nigeria Perspective Resolution
Buhari First-Term Presidency, the Stage of the Class Struggle and 2019 General Elections
It is nearly four years since the Buhari All Progressive Congress (APC) government came to power in a dramatic election that saw an incumbent president defeated for the first time. Today all the hope and enthusiasm that defined that period have been replaced by disappointment and anger. According to a survey carried out by CLEEN foundation, Practical Sampling International and AfroBarometer to assess public perception of economic conditions, access to public services and government performance, 60% of Nigerians believed the country is going in the wrong direction (Guardian newspaper, 31 March 2018).
While liberal commentators often point to this or that factor e.g. the inability to form a cabinet within the first few months etc. as the reason for the regime’s failure, for Marxists, the reality is that the failure of the Buhari regime, a fact which an increasingly diminishing layer still argue against, is fundamentally the failure of capitalism and a sharp expression of the inability of the system, both in the neo-colonial world and in the industrialized nations, to implement lasting reforms to make live better for the mass majority. Even if the system is led by the most honest and straightforward person, so far the policies of capitalism are those being implemented, vast majority would still find themselves poor despite the enormous economic wealth and other potentials.
WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE BUHARI REGIME AND THE RULING PARTY?
The Buhari regime is first and foremost a capitalist regime i.e. a government representing the class of the rich and powerful and which implements policies to defend, maintain and expand the profit interests of the rich and powerful. The All Progressive Congress from which the regime emerged is a pro-capitalist party which was created from an amalgam of similar pro-capitalist parties e.g. ACN, ANPP, a faction of APGA and N-PDP. Almost all of its founding members had partaken in the mindless looting and violation of the rights of working people, youth and poor masses that has been the order of the day since 1999 when civilian capitalist politicians replaced military rulers as chief looters.
However owing to mass frustration with the 16-year barren rule of the PDP and the mass impoverishment as well as the inability of the labour movement to provide a clear pro-working people’s political alternative, the APC and especially Buhari were able to pose themselves as an a ‘alternative’. During the 2012 general strike and nationwide mass protest, the question of political power had been posed with power lying in the streets for days. But without a programme for power and a working people’s political alternative, the labour movement failed to take the initiative thus leaving the working masses and youth without a clear way out. This was the vacuum into which the APC stepped.
Essentially, the APC represented a coalescence of disparate layers of the capitalist ruling class which had taken seriously the warning from the January 2012 mass movement which clearly shows that if they do not effect peaceful change at the top then they would leave the road open for the masses to effect revolutionary change from below. In playing this role, the APC relied mainly on the contrived image of Buhari as an incorruptible and ascetic statesman as well as the lack of a clear direction from the labour movement.
However regardless of the minor differences and rivalries among them, all the layers are agreed about the pro-capitalist programme of the regime and generally come together when they feel it necessary to attack the rights of the working class, youth and poor people and any challenges to their rule. However, these differences and competing self-interests mean that as soon as the capturing of state power had been accomplished, the process of sharing the spoils inevitably provoked enormous disagreement and political crisis. Such is the scale of the political crisis that the APC has been referred to by pundits as both a ruling party and opposition party rolled into one. Now the crisis is near the point whereby it risks threatening the interests of the capitalist system altogether, something that imperialist strategists are concerned about.
In this sense, the APC could potentially actually turn out from a party that saved the system at a most critical time to one that again plunges the system in danger. The number one danger is of course the blunders and action of the regime speeding up the class struggle to the level where the working masses can challenge for political power. But there is a second danger, however remote at this period, which is the possibility of political crises and factional clashes combining with constant threat of Nigeria tearing apart from ethno-religious conflict at some point provoking a military intervention to ostensibly restore “normalcy and peace’.
The prominent role the military has been playing not only in fighting insurgency but also intervening in civil strife, the conflict between security agencies like the DSS and EFCC and the extreme autonomy each security arm seems to enjoy, the possibility of the existence of ‘deep state’ something which the so-called invasion of the National Assembly seems to corroborate all points to the fact that the president exercises lax control â€“ something which can be a potential source of crises including a usurpation of state power.
Another factor is that the electoral system is getting more cumbersome for the capitalist politicians to maneuver. Given the liberalization of the electoral system, arising from the struggle led by late Chief Gani Fawehinmi and the National Conscience Party (NCP) since 1999, there are now about 91 registered political parties and over 70 presidential candidates. This has given a semblance of free choice and alternatives to voters. Against the background of how an incumbent president lost an election in the 2015 general elections, the capitalist ruling elite are increasingly aware of the limit of democracy in guaranteeing the sustenance of the capitalist system especially in periods of acute crisis. This equally at some point can give the military a pretext to intervene in other to roll back some of these democratic rights.
Of course because of how a coup would be viewed from the point of view of which ethnic group or religious group are in charge, this can only be an extreme course of action for the ruling class when all hope of a normal functioning bourgeois democracy safeguarding the system has been exhausted. At the same time a coup, or an attempted one, could be the course of action that speeds up the process of a conflagration.
WHY DID IT FAIL?
In the agreed resolution of the DSM National Committee of April 2018, we wrote the following: “The fundamental reason Buhari/Osinbajo APC government failed is because it implemented the very capitalist economic policies like privatization, deregulation, underfunding, Public Private Partnership which were the hallmark of PDP’s 16 years misrule. Despite initial hints of possibly perusing limited “Keynesian” style policies this government was unwilling to go beyond the confines of capitalism by nationalizing the commanding heights of the economy under public democratic control and management. The result was that the regime deepened the private ownership of the means of production by sanctifying privatization including that of the power sector carried out by previous governments while trying to accomplish its own in the aviation and other sectors. In doing this, instead of improving the lots of the people, the regime succeeded at deepening the grinding poverty and inequality afflicting the mass majority”.
The lines above remain valid today. Fundamentally, the regime has not departed from the pro-rich economic policy path of past capitalist administrations. Rather it has intensified them. Whether it is in the education or health sector, energy or housing, it is the same agenda of commercialization, privatization and deregulation that is the order of the day. School fees are being hiked, public education and health care are being underfunded and workers welfare receiving scant attention. While several states are owing workers and retirees backlog of salaries and pension, the current struggle of the labour movement for a new minimum wage has exposed the anti-worker and pro-capitalist character of the Buhari regime.
At the moment, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is once again on strike leading to shutdown off academic activities in public universities across the country. The issues over which it has gone on strike twice in the life of the Buhari administration are the same issues of the violation of the terms of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement. This struggle has lasted three administrations starting from the Yar ‘Adua regime, Jonathan’s and now Buhari’s but the response has been fundamentally the same. This fact should not be lost on leaders and rank and file activists in ASUU because it does confirm the agitation of the DSM and ERC that the Buhari regime is a capitalist regime and therefore any hope that it would meet the demands of the working masses for improvement in their conditions without struggle is a vain hope.
Not only has the Buhari regime failed to turn people’s lives around positively, even what was considered ‘low hanging fruits’ for example anti-corruption fight has proved difficult for the regime. This is not to say nothing has been done. A number of anti-corruption cases are on and reportedly a number of seizures of monies and properties illegally acquired have been accomplished. But all these pale into insignificance when compared with the opulent salaries and lifestyle of members of Buhari’s cabinet as well as the flippant way allegations of corruption against members of his inner circle have been treated.
Despite exiting recession from the third quarter of 2017, the worst is not yet over for the Nigerian economy. Fragility remains the key word. Clearly, the expected rapid growth has not occurred, rather we have seen sluggish GDP growth which Moody described as “slow and sturdy”. Growth rate slowed from 1.95% in the first quarter of this year to 1.5% in the second quarter. Now 2018 annual growth is projected by IMF to be no more than 1.9% -something which is still lower than the rate of population growth. A symbol of the crisis is that it recently has been reported that, for the last year, the National Bureau of Statistics does not have enough money to calculate the unemployment rate.
The exit from recession was powered mainly by improved crude oil prices on the world market. Now crude prices are falling due to a combination of oversupply from non-OPEC producers like the United States and weaker demands from emerging markets. For instance, as of mid-November, oil prices plunged more than $20 since the start of October when Brent Crude rose to $87 a barrel â€“ a four year high. Brent crude dropped to $65 which is the lowest since March. Prices are expected to be much lower next year as OPEC has reduced its forecast for oil demands in 2019. For Nigeria, this suggests a worsening economic situation next year.
A key factor in the economy is the increasing public debt. In a bid to reflate the economy, the regime went on a borrowing spree. Now in the condition of a stalling economic growth, the debt burden could be the trigger for a new crisis. Already, debt servicing takes as much as 50 percent of revenue. Now the foreign reserve has slumped from about $48billion in June to about $43 billion in October which raises the possibility of another currency devaluation and even a new “SAP” style austerity programme. This by no means mean that previous policies of the Buhari government have brought any real improvement. Rather we have seen elements of austerity alongside heavy spending on capital projects like rail and roads. For instance, unemployment and poverty statistics have shot through the roof over the past three and a half years. Fuel price and electricity tariff have been increased while at some point, over 20 state governments were defaulting on salary and pension payment. Also we have seen cuts in education budget. All these indicates that even in the period of reflation and heavy spending on capital projects, austere conditions exist even though very limited. Probably the regime could have gone further but for fear of provoking mass opposition. So instead of increasing taxation, efforts were made instead to increase the tax base.
But all these can change in the new period post-2019 general elections. Now there is a struggle over a new minimum wage and it is clear that neither the Federal nor state governments are ready to pay. This actually reflects the increasing weakness of capitalism, either here or in the industrialized nations, in raising the living standards of the working people. However, in the condition that the world economy and Nigeria’s economy could be (falling oil price, ballooning public debt, declining foreign reserve etc.) post-2019 general elections, the Buhari government may find it harder to maintain the current level of spending. In this sense, an entirely different economic direction could be pursued by the regime manifesting in a further cutback in budgetary spending on all fronts including on capital expenditure, massive retrenchment in the public sector, increase in taxes, further devaluation of the currency etc.
The conundrum into which strategists of the system have found themselves is not typical. Actually, it is logical from the point of view of a system that has exhausted all possibility for taking humanity forward. This is why whatever step taken to resolve the economic crisis seems to carry within them the factor for a new instability and collapse. The takeover of Skyebank and the exit of two foreign banks, HSBC and UBS shows that all is not well in the banking and financial sector. Other factors like cut in oil production due to increased militant activities in the Niger Delta could further compound the economic situation for the regime.
But even if the economy manages to avoid any doomsday prediction and grows in the next period, this may not fundamentally reflect in social conditions. Nigeria already is now the poverty capital of the world with over 89 million declared extremely poor. An additional factor is Nigeria’s population which is growing at an immense rate, and now put at 200 million. At least 65 percent of that population is youth. Meeting the needs of this expanding population is beyond what is achievable within the prism of a neo-colonial capitalist economy run for profit and which is growing at a slower rate than the population is increasing.
The worsening of the national question under the Buhari APC regime has not abated. The war on Boko Haram remains inconclusive as the insurgency has managed to continue despite superior fire power of the military. Kaduna remains a killing field with almost daily occurrence of violent crisis. The herdsmen and farmers conflict appears to have abated but the last may not have been heard about it. As a crisis having as its fundamental trigger the environmental crisis of capitalism and lack of investment in agriculture, anything can provoke renewed violent attacks. The assault on Shiites means that a potential new phase of crisis and instability could be opened should the group organize to challenge the state.
The worsening of the national question under the Buhari government shows in a way the dead-end that capitalism represents. This is in addition to how different section of the ruling elite utilizes divisions in order to promote their ambitions and interests. Only the working class can unite Nigeria on the basis of a programme to take political power and establish a socialist re-organization of the economy to meet people’s needs and respect of democratic, language and cultural rights of all peoples including the right to self-determination.
These past years have been an immense school of experience not only for the working masses and youth but also for Marxists. Even though Marxists foresaw the failure of the regime, nevertheless, we have equally learnt enormously over the past few years, thereby reinforcing our understanding and strengthening our forces, while witnessing the changes in mass consciousness under the impact of events. In the short period between the last general elections and now, mass consciousness has experienced innumerable changes under the impact of events. At the inception of the Buhari administration, many had the naÄve believe that Nigeria’s problem could be resolved just by an honest man becoming president and turning things around. But today, polls after polls shows just how much this is no more the case.
From blind illusion in Buhari and the APC at the inception of the administration, mass consciousness has moved from a state of bewilderment, disappointment, muted anger and now to one in which many are opposed to the regime and searching for alternatives. But despite the immense anger and disappointment, a feature of this period, just as it was in the period before the last general elections, is the inability of mass consciousness to grasp what is needed to end the vicious cycle and begin to really transform society. Many are angry that the Buhari government has failed but cannot comprehend while it failed. A layer continue to believe that Buhari means well and could have succeeded but for the corrupt elements that surrounds him. In both opinions is revealed an inability to understand the class-basis of exploitation and oppression, the role of capitalism and the fact that only by re-organizing society economically and politically can we begin to make a difference.
So in a sense, while we have seen consciousness develop over the past period yet the development is actually short of the historical task posed by the overall development of capitalism. Actually when viewed over an historical period, there has been a throwback in consciousness â€“ something reflecting the declined influence of the ideas of Marxism within the movements since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the bureaucratized but planned economies of Eastern Europe. Three decades ago, in 1986, when the Babangida junta organized, through the Political Bureau it organized, an investigation to determine which socio-economic system the working people preferred for the running of Nigeria, it found an overwhelming percentage for socialism. Similarly in 1989, when the labour movement formed and launched the Nigerian Labour Party rapidly, to the horror of most labour leaders, crowds turned up enthusiastic about revolution and workers’ power.)
But even if we beam our light at a not too distant past, especially the period starting from 1999 and 2012, you could see how sharply different the class struggle was compared to now. Within that period, the class struggle was on an unprecedented upswing with 9 general strikes and mass protests against anti-poor policies. Against this background, it would appear today that Marxists are starting all over again to reconquer grounds that past generations had long conquered.
However, the march of historical development is pointing forward and not backward. Given the severity of the crisis and the inability of capitalism to offer humanity a way out, every generation would be impelled by the objective situation to struggle and in so doing seek their best ideas and programmes that can take humanity forward. In this situation, the best condition for socialist ideas to thrive would be created and several more opportunities for the working class to take political power and transform society would be presented. But as our experience shows, such opportunities would not be seized if there does not exist a working people’s political alternative and a programme to take power.
THE LABOUR MOVEMENT
A key factor in the perspective for Nigeria is the role of the leadership of labour. That the labour leadership is not prepared to build a movement to take power is not in doubt. However even concerning the day to day struggle of the working people, the labour leadership has proven incapable of fighting hard except when pushed. Nothing better demonstrates this than the on-going minimum wage struggle. The NLC and TUC initially demanded N56,500 and ULC originally N96, 000, the three centres harmonized on N65,000, but then climbed down to N30, 000 during negotiations.
The way and manner the general strike of November 6 was hastily suspended on the eve shows how the leadership of labour is itself fearful of unleashing the powers of the working class. That strike if it had gone ahead could have been very successful and won support of other sections of the oppressed masses. Also it could have strengthened the resolve of workers and given confidence to other layers of the oppressed people to fight the regime. This explains why the regime did everything to ensure the strike did not take off.
Now, the regime is trying to out-manoeuvre the labour leadership over the weak deal struck at the tripartite committee on N30, 000 minimum wage. Should it happen that a lower minimum figure is what the government approves, the image of the labour leadership would be severely damaged as many would question their class-collaborationist tactics. This could impel the leadership to now want to fight more seriously. But as we have repeatedly pointed out, workers are not taps that you can switch on and off at will. The hesitant and half-hearted manner the labour leadership has been pursuing it struggle especially the example of the failed strike of May 2016 and the hostility suspended strike of November 6 2018 could also demoralize the working masses and make them less excited if a new strike is called. This could also mean that the tendency, which we have seen in the struggle over unpaid wages and pensions in the state, for struggle and strike to break out from below could be stronger and widespread as distrust in the labour leadership grows.
However, a positive development in this period is the unity of the three labour centres (NLC, TUC and ULC) in jointly pursuing the minimum wage struggle. This confirms the call of the DSM over the years. Workers activists in each centres must endeavour to ensure this tradition of united struggle continues, especially at grass roots level, and is utilized for other struggles regardless of the division at the top. The historical task of socialists and activists in the labour movement is to transform the unions, make them more democratic and elect fighting and class-conscious leadership.
2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS
It is less than 50 days to the next general elections and the political crises gripping the ruling elite has further increased. The ruling APC which right from day one had suffered severe internal dissensions has now become even more divided and riven with crises. Rather than abate, this has deepened even after the party’s primaries and convention from where candidates for the general elections were picked. On the one hand, the political crises gripping the ruling party has led to a situation whereby some its key members, including former PDP members who helped form the ruling party back then in 2014, have defected either to the PDP or other parties. As a result, the leadership of the National Assembly has fallen into the hands of the opposition PDP and it does not appear this can be reversed until the next elections.
On the other hand and closely related to this, there is a resurgence of the PDP which is now positioning to benefit from the anger building up in society as people continue to feel that not much has changed positively for them since the APC regime emerged. But because many would not see the PDP as an alternative to the ruling party, a new realignment of forces have equally taken place with a new front opened through the ADC, which enjoys former President Obasanjo’s patronage, as a sort of reserve force that could step in should the APC and PDP become too discredited to rule.
(30) Certainly, a crisis of political representation has opened up again for capitalism in Nigeria. This is sharply expressed in the hostile attitude of US imperialism towards the Buhari regime and in a number of unflattering editorials of international media. For the US of course, the closeness of the regime to China is equally a factor in its hostile attitude. Meanwhile, just a few years ago Buhari was lauded and feted as the best thing to happen to the continent. But the concerns of the ruling class and representatives of global capitalism is not about the suffering of the working masses. Rather they fear that Buhari and the APC may have become incapable of guaranteeing the sustainability of the capitalist system by virtue of their increasing loss of credibility due to opposition to the capitalist policies they are implementing. But this crisis of political representation is still in its first phase. Certainly, it is not yet on the scale and dimension of 2014 which propelled the dramatic emergence and rise of the APC in a move to effect partial change from above in order to prevent revolutionary change from below.
(31) Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP, as Vice president to President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007, was part of the regime that laid the foundation for the current crisis. As head of the regime’s privatization agenda, Atiku oversaw the sale at rock bottom prices of key national assets most of which now lay in ruins after they had been ransacked by their private owners. That such a deplorable figure is being presented by the PDP as an alternative to president Buhari shows just how much the PDP continue to remain a corrupt and pro-rich party devoted to the capitalist and imperialist agenda to keep the working masses in a permanent state of misery. This is why all working class and class-conscious youth have to look beyond the familiar parties like PDP and APC to vote in the next elections. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that should either Buhari or Atiku win as President in the coming general elections, Nigeria would go from frying pan to fire.
WHAT ALTERNATIVES ARE ON OFFER?
(32) A key characteristic of the period is the emergence of a host of political parties. There are now 91 registered political parties and at least 60 presidential candidates. This is an unprecedented political development that in some ways demonstrates a burning popular desire to find an alternative different from the dominant PDP and APC. At the same time, several sections of the ruling elite are exploiting this desire for ‘something different” and for “new faces” by utilizing fronts to register new political parties which they could defect to once their ambition is threatened in any of the dominant parties.
(33) For instance, the former Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, defected to a new party curiously named Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) as soon as his desire to run as presidential candidate of the better known Labour Party (LP) faced steep obstacles. Now reports indicates that Mimiko has now settled to drop his presidential ambition and contest for Senate as part of the familiar trade-offs and alliances of Nigeria’s unprincipled capitalist elites. The ADC and also ADP are and have equally played similar roles especially in the Osun State gubernatorial elections. Infact except for the resurgence the PDP is currently having, the ADC formed by loyalists of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was already being primed to play the role of the leading opposition party to challenge the ruling APC in the 2019 general elections.
(34) In a number of places, for instance Ogun state, where a combination of both the failure and internal crisis in the ruling APC together with the unpopularity of the PDP gets to a decisive point, the ADC could become the new sanctuary of the capitalist ruling elite to cut across and take advantage of the radicalization that may occur among the mass of voters. What this means ultimately is that it is not enough to seek to replace one dominant party with any new political party or candidate, the question of ideas and programmes are very important if we do not want to repeat the debacle of the Buhari/Osinbajo administration. The ADC and ADP are in many respect minor capitalist parties whose ambition is simply to gain power and implement the very same anti-poor policies.
THE YOUTH PHENOMENON
(35) However, a development that cannot be ignored is the perception among many young people who feel that younger persons in power will perform better than the recycled old and corrupt politicians. The African Action Congress (AAC) and its presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore, a former student leader and now publisher of the well-known Sahara Reporters website is one of the candidates that identify with this trend and feeling. Of all the new presidential candidates, Sowore is unarguably the most prominent especially among young people seeking an alternative. His campaign which rests on the youth population aims to challenge ‘gerontocracy’ in the leadership of the country.
(36) Unfortunately, save for generally correct criticism of the status quo, there is not much Sowore is concretely offering in terms of economic programmes. He has talked of paying a N100, 000 minimum wage â€“ a progressive programme that all genuine change-seeking people cannot but support. However, Socialists point out that to really achieve such requires a programme to take the wealth off the one percent and enthrone a socialist transformation of society.
(37) However, because of the echo his campaign is likely to get from a youthful population already disillusioned in either of the dominant parties, Socialists and genuine working class activists cannot simply ignore this development. Rather, our attitude would be to approach those who are gravitating towards this campaign with the understanding that they are doing so because they desire a change in the way the country is being run. We would argue that only with a Socialist programme can a lasting change be made. Arming them with the understanding that real transformation goes beyond electing a “youth” as president would be vital in preparing the working class and young people for the next stage of the class struggle which shall open in the aftermath of the 2019 general elections whichever of the dominant capitalist political parties win.
(38) Against the above background, only the programme of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) fully meets up with the desires of the mass of workers, students, youth, traders, artisans and all those who are fed up with the status quo. Clearly there is a mood among many layers to utilize the coming election to demonstrate opposition to mass poverty in the midst of plenty and imposition of anti-poor policies that the past four-years of the Buhari/Osinbajo APC regime has meant for vast majority of the population.
(39) In demonstrating this opposition, all workers, youth and oppressed people who do not want to repeat the mistake of putting into power the same ruling class elements who have always impoverished us need to vote against all anti-poor candidates that would be presented by the ruling APC and the opposition PDP and their satellites like the ADC, ADP, SDP etc. A vote for either APC, PDP or any of the other anti-poor parties would only commit us to another four years of mass poverty in the midst of plenty.
(40) Unlike previous general elections which were dominated by establishment and pro-capitalist parties and politicians (with the exception of 2003 when the National Conscience Party, then under the leadership and influence of the inimitable Chief Gani Fawehinmi as well as radicals and socialists especially those from the ranks of the DSM, contested on a ten-care programme), a socialist alternative exists in this elections mainly represented by the registration of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) early in the year and its decisions to present candidates for some elective positions in the coming elections.
(41) Unfortunately the SPN is unable, given its present strength to present candidates for all elective positions most significantly that of the President. This is because the labour movement and many elements in the left have so far resisted the pressure to boldly take the opportunity of the emergence of a distinct socialist party to build a mass political alternative. However, the few positions the party is contesting provides an opportunity to begin to build a rallying force against the pro-capitalist and anti-poor status quo. Therefore, every change-seeking person need to rally behind the SPN and its candidates using the election to cast protest vote against all the anti-poor policies imposed on us and all the pro-rich parties and candidates that stands for these criminal policies.
(42) We must however be clear that a vote for SPN or any other anti-establishment candidate in the 2019 general elections, even if they win, would not mean an automatic end to the crises of mass misery unless the working class, youth and oppressed masses themselves are mobilised to struggle to rid themselves of the inequitable capitalist system. Certainly, one or two Socialists and radical candidates winning political office next year could take the class struggle in Nigeria to a whole new level as the working people and youth can then utilize such positions to both challenge the anti-poor policies of the APC and PDP, spread the ideas of socialism and also demonstrate the possibility of running society in a different way. However, even this would only be achievable by using such political office to build a mass movement to resist anti-poor attacks and a mass workers political party to take power all across the length and breadth of the country.
(43) Therefore, as we go into the general elections, all SPN members and supporters must realize that, even though winning is very vital, our aim goes beyond simply winning political offices. Our real objective is to use the campaign period to spread socialist ideas and mobilize the working and toiling masses around a programme to take political power and run society along socialist lines. This therefore means that whatever happens in the elections, whether our candidates win or not, our attitude would be to consider everyone who votes for us, no matter how few or much they maybe, as people who consciously voted for us because they are fed up with the status quo and want something different. We would therefore seek out these people in the aftermath of the elections with a view to organize them to now begin to take action to fight for those programmes.
(44) The reality is that major class confrontation and mass struggle awaits in the aftermath of the 2019 general elections. The electoral campaign must therefore serve as a school of revolutionary politics to prepare for these mighty battles by helping the advanced layers of the working masses and youth understand the tasks which are posed, wean them off illusions of changing society bit by bit, pose to them the real programmes and methods with which Nigeria can be transformed, expose their real class enemies and ultimately arm them with socialist ideas and especially the understanding that Nigeria’s immense wealth is enough to cater for all of us if collectively owned and democratically managed.