SPN TAKES SOCIALIST PROGRAMMES TO NIGERIANS IN THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS
SPN TAKES SOCIALIST PROGRAMMES TO NIGERIANS IN THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS
- The Struggle to Mobilise Nigerians Around Socialist Change Continues
By Bosah Chinedu
For the first time in the history of Nigeria, a political party with socialist programmes participated in a general election. For years, the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) struggled and defeated the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the ruling elite who have fought tooth and nail to narrow the political space to right wing parties. Finally, the SPN was registered on January 15, 2018, about one year to the 2019 general election with very little time to organize and mobilise.
Nevertheless, we felt a sense of responsibility to use the opportunities the 2019 general election offered to campaign on a socialist alternative to the unjust capitalism system and anti-poor policies and using the campaigns to radicalize, recruit and improve on the state of consciousness of the working masses. This was necessary because election in Nigeria in recent history is devoid of clear programs, debate on social-economic issues as election/campaigns have been characterized by manipulation, violence, ballot snatching, heavy monetization (vote buying, bribery of electoral officials, bribery of security officers), ballot snatching, killings etc.
SPN stood 20 candidates in 5 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja and they are one Governorship position, Eleven House of Assemblies seats, two local government Chairmanship and 6 Councillorship positions. In Lagos, we contested Alimosho Constituency 01, Ifako-Ijaiye Constituency 02 and Ajeromi-Ifelodun Constituency 02; in Oyo State we contested the Governorship, Ibadan South-West constituency 2, Ibadan North Constituency 2, Ona-Ara Constituency 1 and Oluyole constituency 1. In Ogun we contested Ifo 2 Constituency and Odogbolu Constituency. In Osun state, we contested Olorunda Constituency. In FCT Abuja, we contested in AMAC Chairmanship as well as Nyanyan, Karu, GUI and Kabusa Wards while in BWARI we contested the Chairmanship as well as Kuduru and Byazhin Wards.
In all, the various campaigns produced 19,000 Posters and 80,000 leaflets that were circulated in the communities and workplaces. Unlike other political parties, we used the campaign materials (posters and leaflets) to articulate alternative radical and socialist programs as bases of engaging the masses in discussions. Many other parties only displayed pictures of themselves and at best verbose slogans on their campaign materials and none articulated any real alternative political program. For instance, our alternative programs to capitalist policies in addressing the poor wage being earned by workers, poor infrastructure, joblessness, poverty, illiteracy, poor healthcare delivery, hunger, deprivation, homelessness etc., is reducing the outrageous salaries earned by political office holders to the wage of skilled civil servant, abrogation of corrupt contract system, nationalization of the commanding height of the economy, transparent and democratic management of the economy and institution at all levels. This is the only way the economy will be opened up to massive public investment, freeing huge resources and means of production/service in the hands of few privileged individuals and ending monumental corruption all with the aim of redistribution of wealth, planning production/services at a bigger level to meet the needs of all as against the profit of a few. These political materials were circulated through the following political activities: 45 public meetings were organized, 3 public symposiums were organized, about 115 street-to-street campaigns were oragnised while 25 rallies were orgainsed; and through these activities, the candidates and leading members of SPN were able to push socialist ideas. Due to the aforementioned activities, the party got over 1700 contacts of persons who put down their numbers for more discussion while about 140 persons officially joined and most of them were active during the electioneering campaign.
REASON FOR LOW VOTES
We knew we were going into the election obviously with small membership strength, lacking fully organized structures and with little resources. In Nigeria, the establishment ruling parties use money and patronage to maintain structures as a basis of mobilizing for votes and support. The very low political consciousness of the working masses, something that is worsened by cynical views of politics because of the successive capitalist governments at all levels, affected our chances of getting huge votes. In absence of a mass alternative party, it is either of the PDP and APC that benefited from protest votes as a result of the incumbent failure. So, many voted for bourgeois opposition as a desperate move to punish the incumbent. The SPN, which is new and small as a party, is seen as weak to benefit from such protest votes but our work was aimed at raising the socialist red flag of a real alternative.
Another factor is also the very low consciousness among the working masses due to the collapse of socialist and radical consciousness since the collapse of the former Soviet Union and growing degeneration of the trade union movement lacking a fighting leadership and the collapse of several radical left organizations. This explains why the vote buying became dominant with each succeeding general elections as many voters have drawn the mistaken conclusion that collecting money from politicians and voting for them is the only “dividend of democracy” to be derived. On Election Day, it was like a bazaar wherein the highest bidder most likely win the day. For instance, in Lagos, the APC spent about N400,000 per polling bribing voters, security official, INEC officials and raising army of thugs. Despite the massive vote buying, only about 35% of registered voters voted in the presidential election while less than 25% voted for the governorship and House of Assembly Elections. In many streets, youths were seen playing football while many stayed at home. The low participation is indicative of a growing mistrust of election being a means of effecting a real change.
Only in Abuja, we have gotten an official results of the scores, every other places is still being awaited despite writing INEC for the result. Results that would have been easily gotten through the collating centres were stalled by violence and militarization as SPN agents could not access them.
SUPORT AND SOLIDARITY
SPN got support from trade unions, radical organistions, socialist organisations, pro-labour activists, trade union activists, human rights activists and change seeking individuals. For instance, financial and material donations were received from members of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Amica Cabral Ideological School (ACIS), Joint Action Front (JAF), Community Youth Movement of Nigeria (CYMN), Campaign for Workers Alternative (CWA), a leading member of Socialist Workers league (SWL) and several others.
The solidarity and support we got from pro-labour activists in addition to the amount raised by members of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) made it possible to raise a sum of about N4 million that was spent to prosecute the campaigns across the federation. We want to use this medium to thank all party members, sympathisers, supporters, friends and allies for this wonderful support.
With the electoral campaign we were able to reach out to wider layers of the masses through rallies, public meetings, house-to-house campaigning, leafleting in communities and workplaces, with a socialist alternative program. So we achieved the primary reason for participating in the 2019 general election which was to mobilise the people around radical and socialist programs and use it to increase our influence, recruit change seeking people into the party and use that to continue the struggles against capitalist attacks after the election.
Arising from the election, we plan to sustain building of the SPN as a fighting, pro-working masses party. Meetings are being called where we stood candidates and places we have members as a basis to plan program and activities around issues that affect the working masses like epileptic and expensive electricity rate, lack of basic infrastructure, joblessness, casualisation and resistance against capitalist attacks etc. This is with a view of mobilizing and supporting working masses and youths in fight back side by side with struggle and mobilization for a socialist change.
We appeal to all the left organizations and pro-labour activists and change seeking individuals to join forces in the building of the SPN. We also call on the trade union leaders to end their collaboration with the capitalist ruling elite, defend workers interest against unfair labour practices and spearhead a conference of all pro-labour organisations and activists to discuss the building of a mass working masses political party.