President Yar’adua’s Era: A new dawn for the masses?
Full Text on one webpage: This pamphlet was originally written by Segun Sango, the General Secretary of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), barely 100 days in power of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and then discussed within DSM. Yar’Adua was declared President by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in April 2007 general elections which were marred by unprecedented massive rigging, manipulation, brazen stealing of ballot paper and boxes, etc unparallel in Nigeria’s history.
As a result of 8 years experience of persistent attacks on democratic rights, deliberate disobedience to courts order, vicious attacks on living and working conditions via neo-liberal policies and unmitigated level of corruption amongst others by the Obasanjo regime, there is a widespread believe that Yar’Adua regime will be different.
The conduct of the regime with its so much touted respect for rule of law and its 7-point agenda that it claims will make Nigeria to be one of the 20 biggest economies by 2020 are the basis of the believe that the regime meant well for the country.
The pamphlet therefore x-rays the regime with its 7-point agenda and shows that it is a continuation of Obasanjo capitalist misrule. Instead of being disillusioned, it asks the labour leaders, poor working people, mass organisations, socialists, etc to immediately commence the process that will crystallize the formation of a viable mass working peoples’ party with socialist orientation and programmes that will transform Nigeria along socialist line. It is this kind of party that can fight for the poor masses and wrest power from the present capitalist predators in power and bring permanent decent living and working condition for the mass majority of the people.
Since this pamphlet was written, the “elections” of four governors have been nullified by the Elections Petitions Tribunals for one technical reason or another. As we go to press, the “election” of President Yar’Adua is still being hotly contested by General Muhammadu Buhari and Abubakar Atiku, the ANPP and AC Presidential candidates respectively.
Will this pamphlet therefore remain relevant if President Yar’Adua “election” is nullified by the Election Petitions Tribunal? It has anticipated this poser but concludes that in itself would not fundamentally tilt the balance of political power in favour of the working people and the poor in general.
The pamphlet also contains appendixes which include some of the DSM statements after the farcical exercise dubbed general elections, an exposition on the desirable labour leadership after 2007 elections, Niger Delta, an interview on the now moribund National Conscience Party (NCP) which DSM had worked in and built since its inception in 1994 but had to quit along with most members of the party in Lagos as a result of its take over by the rightwing elements following the resignation of Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the founding National Chairman of the party, in 2004.
HOPE TRIUMPHING OVER EXPERIENCE
Within a few weeks of President Yar’Adua coming into office, there was a widespread belief that somehow, he was going to be “different”. Truly this is another example of hope triumphing over experience. In the real scientific term, President Yar’Adua’s era is a mere continuation of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s inglorious anti-poor and incorrigibly corrupt government. Both in outlook and origin, the Yar’Adua government is an embodiment of the widely hated Obasanjo government. During his campaigns and since his assumption of power, Yar’Adua has always stated that his government is a government of continuity. Of course, given the circumstances of its birth, it is stretching credibility for Yar’Adua’s government to pretend to be something else. However, events and continued hostility to Obasanjo may later force him to try to appear “different”.
To start with, Yar’Adua is a leading member of the ruling PDP, the largest capitalist party whose central policy, since Obasanjo became president in May 1999, has been the wholesale conversion of public assets and resources into exclusive property of a few capitalist corporations and individuals under the guise of an economic “reform”. In fact, Yar’Adua was a two-term governor of Katsina State under Obasanjo’s presidency. Up till almost two weeks to the PDP’s so-called presidential primary, no one within or outside the PDP had inkling that Yar’Adua was a presidential candidate. His candidature was foisted on the PDP by Obasanjo and his backers who used every means, (mostly foul and undemocratic tactic(s) to force out of the race all the party’s known presidential aspirants, in order to pave way for the emergence of his anointed political son, Yar’Adua, as the PDP presidential candidate. At the end of the day, Yar’Adua’s emergence as president in the 2007 general elections was directly the outcome of the brazen electoral robbery and manipulations carried out by the INEC and the Obasanjo presidency. In fact, Yar’Adua’s “victory” as well as that of most PDP candidates were seriously denounced locally and internationally by the opposition parties, observers and the sundry as fraudulent and lacking credibility. Up till date, Yar’Adua’s victory, like that of many of his colleagues, is being seriously contested at the Elections Tribunals.
On the basis of the above outlined background, Yar’Adua should still normally be faced with outright mass movements seeking to uproot him and fellow electoral robbers from their usurped position of powers. This was one of the root causes for June’s massively supported general strike, notwithstanding the fact that officially, it was called over economic issues. However, far from this situation, there has emerged, as usual, a carefully orchestrated propaganda by bourgeois writers and ideologues, (who of course, would always promote any bourgeois government in power) selling the proposition that Yar’Adua is the best thing that could have happened to Nigeria. Just as these elements did in the early period of Obasanjo’s presidency, every action or inaction of President Yar’Adua is being lauded to high heaven as messianic! And very tragically too, prominent trade union leaders appear to have joined this inglorious bandwagon. From the position that the farce called 2007 general elections be cancelled and a new free and fair exercise be conducted, the NLC and TUC leaders now appear only too willing to collaborate with the Yar’Adua’s government, formed from the denounced elections!
To Adams Oshiomhole, the radical and immediate past president of the NLC, Yar’Adua is like a sheep providentially born by wolves! Thus, instead of coming up with a coherent economic and political programme of action on how to improve the living conditions of the masses, the labour movement, through its leaders, has only been helping to foster the illusion that Yar’Adua’s presidency is fundamentally different from Obasanjo’s and very falsely too, labour leaders have created impression that his economic, political programme and orientation as so far enunciated, show that Yar’Adua is the president that will fix Nigeria right!
As we write, the Yar’Adua government is just barely over 100 days in power. So, those that support or have hopes in the government can still legitimately argue that Yar’Adua’s stay in power is too short for any conclusive character analysis of his economic and political directions. Nonetheless, a careful and scientific analysis of the pronouncements, actions and or inactions of President Yar’Adua in his short time in power has unambiguously underlined the fact that government policies will essentially remain pro-rich, anti-poor and utterly corrupt. The Guardian, (a foremost pro-capitalist organ) in its editorial of September 5, 2007, hits the nail on the head when it wrote: “In 100 days after the Obasanjo administration, not much has changed in the behaviour of the political elite. Crass opportunism and sheer charlatanism have been witnessed by a hapless Nigerian public to a much worse degree.” So, where then lies the basis of the claim that Yar’Adua’s presidency is the best thing that have recently happened to Nigeria?
At the beginning, given the circumstances through which Yar’Adua emerged as president, even the dullest writers and or mischievous political analysts/observers had no any difficulty in concluding that Yar’Adua’s presidency will be nothing but a continuation of mass misery and stupendous corruption which largely dominated the Obasanjo era. Today however, the masses are being made to believe that the president, in fact, is a messiah who has only chosen to emerge from among the crooks! Reuben Abati, “The Guardian” Editorial Board’s Chairman, and a prodigious writer, made this submission in one of his columns published in September 2, 2007: “The President had campaigned on the platform of continuity. In 100 days, he has succeeded in showing that he is aware of the burdens of history sitting on his shoulders. He still talks about continuity but the greatest victim of his administration in the last 100 days has been the preceding government and former president Olusegun Obasanjo in particular. President Yar’Adua has already reversed some of the controversial decisions taken by that administration, with an instructive sub text: rejection and distancing”.
We therefore ask: What decisions and or policies have been implemented by President Yar’Adua to justify this kind of plaudit? To those whose concept of a better society does not go beyond the purview of the prevailing unjust capitalist disorder, there have been several measures taken to “prove” that President Yar’Adua is a man and not just an Obasanjo’s clone. In this respect, a so-called seven point agenda, which Yar’Adua mentioned in his inaugural speech is proclaimed as the last wisdom in political economy. Added to this, several of the actions taken by the president have been interpreted by many pseudo-analysts as an indication that Yar’Adua’s presidency represents a radical break with the self-serving policies of the Obasanjo’s era. It is therefore imperative that these policies and presidential directives, since assumption of power by Yar’Adua, be scientifically xrayed by the socialists so that working class and youths can draw appropriate political and organizational conclusions needed to really advance their struggle for a permanent decent life and genuine political freedom as against the permanent mass poverty and political repression which is their lot under the prevailing unjust order.
JUNE 2007 GENERAL STRIKE
Towards the tail end of its inglorious rule, the Obasanjo government took some decisions which many patently could see as nothing but deliberate steps taken to benefit cronies and inflict further hardship on the already over-burdened masses. Issues in this regard include the hike of fuel prices, the cheap sales of Kaduna and Port-Harcourt refineries, the suspension of the implementation of the 15% pay rise already approved for federal workers, etc.
Given the depth of mass anger and protests which greeted these policies and especially faced with a nationwide general strikes/protests, President Yar’Adua, who himself was embroiled with serious crises of political legitimacy, arising from his own emergence as President from brazenly rigged elections, had little choice other than to make very limited retreats on these controversial issues. However, when a critical analysis of his directive/decision in this regard is undertaken, it is very easy to see that President Yar’Adua’s response is no more than the usual self preservative, self-serving measure of bourgeois leaders. Take the concession given by the government on the fuel hike issue for instance. At the end of the day, government grants total reversal of the increments on diesel and kerosene. It reversed the additional 100% increment of the VAT. In addition, government also reduced by 50% the increment on petrol. And finally, government pledged not to increase the fuel prices for the next one year.
To many government apologists, these concessions and pledges collectively show that President Yar’Adua is a “listening” president. In reality however, there is nothing new in the particular and general methods used in tackling the issue of fuel hike, which was not borrowed word for word from the Obasanjo’s inglorious era, including relying on the Labour leaders not wishing to challenge the government. For instance, the pledge not to officially hike fuel prices for the next one year is a pledge to continue with the past policy of incessant fuel price hike without commensurate rise in masses’ purchasing power. Very tragically too, these “pledge” only provides official shield for the fact that kerosene and diesel, currently and openly sold above government official prices and also the fact that petrol itself is only being sold at official N70 per litre in major cities across the country. As a result of incessant power outage, virtually every factory relies on electricity generator runs on diesel which is consequently passed on the consumers. Thus, at the end of the day, the so-called concessions granted by the President in this respect added very little economic value to the overall economy and masses’ living conditions.
THE REVERSAL OF SALES OF THE KADUNA AND PORTHARCOURT REFINERIES
The suspension of the sales of the Kaduna and P/Harcourt refineries to Aliyu Dangote and Femi Otedola (two of the capitalist octopuses created through the mass scale looting of the treasury by the Obasanjo’s neo-liberal government) was hailed by many bourgeois ideologues and pseudo radical leftists as an indication that a Daniel has finally come to judgment. In reality, there is nothing new in this kind of measure. Sometime in 2002, 55% of NITEL, the nation’s telecommunication carrier, was sold to a company called International London Investment Limited (ILIL), for a sum of $1.3billion. To secure this sale, ILIL had to make a down payment of 10% of the cost price and was expected to pay the balance within a period of 8 days after the conclusion of the transaction in issue. However, either by design or accident, the company could not come forward with the balance until 9 days after the transaction was signed. Invoking the clause regarding period of payment, President Obasanjo promptly revoked the sale to ILIL. 5 years after this revocation, 75% of old NITEL, plus 75% of its new subsidiary (MTEL), was subsequently sold to Transcorp, a company where Obasanjo reportedly has the major shareholding, for the mere sum of $750million.
Thus from DSM experience, the revocation of sales of a particular public asset or institution for whatever reason is not necessarily beneficial or progressive, so long as the authorities are still committed to privatization policy, which President Yar’Adua has publicly announced as the economic credo of his administration. Therefore, in this respect, it is a matter of time before these public assets and several other juicy public properties are sold to same or other capitalist individuals and corporations and even possibly at lower prices.
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF 15% PAY RISE FOR FEDERAL WORKERS
Firstly, the point must be made that this is a mere implementation of a policy, which Yar’Adua’s predecessor in office already granted but unreasonably suspended. Even if this policy had been initiated by Yar’Adua government, on its own, it amounts to little or nothing in the prevailing socio-economic climate, for those who solely derive their incomes from fixed salaries with no access to large scale treasury looting. To further worsen matter, this marginal increment was implemented with the notion that government is at liberty to “right-seize” its workforce, an euphemism for mass retrenchment of workers. Meanwhile, it should be recalled that the obasanjo government increased wages by over 300% in its maiden period in office. As a result, many states government were put under pressure to effect significant increment in workers wages.
However, faced with the vicious anti-poor policies of incessant hike in fuel prices, commercialization and privatization of social needs like education, health care and combined with sustained mass retrenchment of workers in both public and private sectors, this sizable increment effected in workers’ wages became totally inadequate to guarantee the basic needs of the working masses and their dependants. Therefore, from the socialist point of view, wage increment can only be significantly beneficial to the working class living standards when taken side by side with the costs and access of the wage earners to decent houses, food, healthcare, jobs, functional and affordable infrastructures, etc. Thus, to call the implementation of 15% pay rise for federal workers only an outstanding achievement is a product of ignorance/self-deception.
RULE OF LAW
This is one issue on which many bourgeois writers/cheer leaders have been praising President Yar’Adua to a high heaven. And here, many examples of President Yar’Adua’s “commitment” to rule of law as opposed to President Obasanjo’s supposedly militaristic presidency are readily recited for all those that care to listen. Few days after Yar’Adua assumed office, the Supreme Court nullified the purported election of Andy Uba as the governor of the Anambra State on the basis of the reasoning that Governor Peter Obi had not exhausted his constitutional tenure as Governor under the 1999 constitution, by the time of the 2007 Governorship election. Pronto, President Yar’Adua was said to have ordered that the Supreme Court order be implemented by the Inspector General of Police.
Arising from the 2003 massively rigged elections, many candidates who lost out filed petitions challenging the conducts at the various tribunals set up for that purpose. John Adah, a Federal High Court Judge who served in the Cross River State Electoral Panel, was dismissed by the National Judicial Council after being exposed for having collected tens of millions of naira from one of the litigants with a view to subvert justice. This man thereafter went to court to challenge his dismissal, not on the ground that he did not collect the alleged bribe but that he was not given “fair trial” before his dismissal. On the basis of bourgeois concept of fair trial, the dismissal of a proven crook was reversed. Again, President Yar’Adua instructed his Attorney General to effect the reinstatement of this fellow. During the inglorious era of President Obasanjo, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) acquired notoriety for a disposition of an institution that is above the law. All the constitutional provisions that prescribed how suspects should be apprehended and treated were often routinely disobeyed and disregarded. Then came President Yar’Adua, a consummate advocate of rule of law! The EFCC overnight suddenly began to behave as a civilized institution.
Unlike its previous attitude of detaining suspects indefinitely without trial, big time suspected treasury looters were being invited instead of being arrested and promptly released on bail within the constitutionally stipulated time. Expectedly, many liberal analysts have gone bunker praising President Yar’Adua so-called commitment to rule of law.
However, a critical evaluation of the instances where President Yar’Adua has openly demonstrated his own brand of rule of law clearly shows that his efforts at the end of the day will only reinforce the prevailing rule of capitalist fraud that dominates the society. Under President Yar’Adua’s rule of law era, governors that looted their state treasuries dry can be rest assured that no harsh treatment will ever be meted to them. Even in the unusual situation where they were tried and convicted like Alameisieagha, the removed governor of Bayelsa State, who got sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for looting money meant for the welfare of people but do not have to enter prison yard for single day. Towards the tail end of Obasanjo era, the EFCC voluntarily informed the whole world that over 31 governors of the 36 states of the country have various cases of corruption alleged against them. Under President Yar’Adua’s rule of law milieu, only 3 of this number have so far been charged and promptly released on bail, to continue to bestride the country like invincible conquerors.
The arbitrary delay by Osun state judiciary in connivance with the state government to grant bail to 3 detained student leaders of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) (Akinola Saburi, President Students’ Union; Olatunde Dairo, PRO Students’ Union and Taiwo Hassan, National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign) graphically shows government attitude to human right and rule of law when youth and working class activists are fighting for their interest. These activists were in forefront of struggle of OAU students for democratic rights and improved learning and living condition on campus but were incarcerated on trump up charges including conspiracy to murder, attempted murder etc. However, when the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh was recently exposed to have spent N628 million in just about 60 days in office allegedly for the “renovation” of the official quarters of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker respectively, President Yar’Adua, in his maiden media broadcast promptly offered an olive branch to the embattled Speaker, of course, in the name of the rule of law! The President speaks: “I assure you that the federal administration had zero tolerance for corruption but the due process for rule of law must be followed”. He cautioned Nigerians against rushing into judgment “over the pages of newspapers in the media without waiting to give the accused the chance for fair hearing. This is what we have to do in this country. This administration has zero tolerance for corruption and absolute respect for the rule of law. We must follow the rule of law in whatever we do. We can not summarily rush to judgments”. He added the following clincher: “It is an allegation which the House, when they come back on Tuesday will investigate. It was a contract, which was originated, executed by the House of Representatives following its own rules and regulations. And I understand it was awarded by the Tenders Board, which the Speaker chaired”.
The riddle here is this, why did President Yar’Adua go into detailed and factual testimony on an issue that is yet to be investigated? The plain truth is that President Yar’Adua’s rule of law only applies to big time looters. Even then, neither Yar’Adua nor the official Panel even commented on the main issue – the absolutely scandalous use of N628 million to increase the luxury which the House Speaker lives. It does not extend to hundreds and thousands of small scale looters, fraudsters and other common criminals and many Nigerians that up till today still languish in detentions without trials in the EFCC offices, police stations and commands across the country.
PUBLIC DECLARATION OF ASSETS
Immediately he was sworn into office, President Yar’Adua made an open declaration of his assets. He had similarly done so while serving as governor of Katsina State. In a polity saturated with wholesome corruption, President Yar’Adua’s decision in this respect has been cited as an example of a president that would operate zero tolerance for corruption. Partly to follow Yar’Adua’s example and partly due to pressure of some public commentators, including the National Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Vice President and a few of the governors have since made open declaration of their assets. Here, there is a naÄve belief that corruption will at least be drastically reduced if top public officers are made to declare their assets before assuming powers and after leaving office, openly. However, as nice as this idea is, the current exercise, as has been conducted so far, clearly shows that nothing much positive could be achieved either in fighting corruption not to talk of it having positive effect on the living standard of the ordinary citizen.
In a country where public officials are known to have unlawfully looted tens and hundreds of billions of naira, the fact of an ex-two-term governor declaring a total assets that is worth less than N1billion certainly portrays President Yar’Adua in some positive light. In fact, going by the president explanation, a large portion of this sum was inherited from his late father and senior brother, late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, both of whom incidentally were top government officials in their era. In a country where almost 70% of its citizens are living below poverty line, the system which makes it possible for an individual like the modest President Yar’Adua, to personally (excluding that of his relation and children) own assets worth hundreds of millions of naira needs to be seriously re-examined in order to be able to meet the needs and aspirations of the masses.
In any event, public declaration of assets as have been so far demonstrated, shows that it is not only modest multimillionaire like President Yar’Adua that can make political points out of such exercise. For instance, some of the few governors that have openly declared their assets have done so in billions of naira. For such elements, it would be difficult at the end of the day to pin them down with an offence of treasury looting once they claim that whatever money they then owned is derived from their publicly declared wealth. In fact, there is a joke in town that top politicians would not mind to make false declarations of none existing assets in anticipation of money to be looted while in office!
This terminology, “due process”, did not originally emanate with Yar’Adua’s presidency. Indeed, it is a concept borrowed by President Obasanjo government from imperialist institutions like the World Bank, IMF, etc. However, it is President Yar’Adua that has given this idea more domestic popularity in his short stay in power. For a long period to come, Obasanjo government will be remembered for its crooked subversion of all elementary rules and decorum in governance. Thus, realizing that this is one of the major reasons why that government was roundedly hated by most Nigerians, President Yar’Adua has cleverly adopted the posture of someone who would like things to be done in accordance with laid down rules. In this respect, the president has given a directive that all incomes generated by the federal government should henceforth be paid into the Federation Account as provided for by the 1999 constitution. For most part of his inglorious 8 years in power, President Obasanjo was operating an illegal Account, called Excess Crude Oil Account, outside the purview of National Assembly or any other authority, except himself.
Similarly, President Yar’Adua has equally ordered that the upfront deductions being made from allocations due to local councils ostensibly for the purpose of building a health care centre in each of the 774 councils across the country be stopped forthwith. According to him, these deductions are against the provisions of the constitution and principle of federalism. Also in the spirit of due process, President Yar’Adua has ordered the revocation of the sales of some choice government properties sold by President Obasanjo to his cronies, particularly those done in his last days in power. Different reasons have been given for these revocations. Some were revoked because they were allegedly not originally included in government houses meant for sales. Some were allegedly revoked because their occupation by private citizens compromised the security of Aso Rock enclave. Quite understandably, these actions have been presented as brilliant examples of the fact that a just president has come to power.
In reality however, severally and collectively, these actions, on their own, will not reduce corruption by an inch and or bring better living conditions for the masses. The directive that all money realized by Nigeria be paid into the Federation Account as opposed to the overtly crooked policy implemented by Obasanjo when he created a so-called excess crude oil account, parallel to Federation Account, on its own, is good. However, the very policy of privatization of state assets and resources ultimately means that the largest chunk of these resources will end up being stolen by top government officials and their capitalist contractors irrespective of the due process followed in collection and disbursement of these resources.
Recently, when the scandal broke out that a whopping sum of N628 million was spent allegedly to renovate the official residences of House of Representatives Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively, President Yar’Adua’s only concern was on whether due process was followed before the expenditure was approved. Therefore, transparency is not only about paying money into Federation Account, it is majorly about equitable utilization of money so collected, to improve the well-being of the majority as opposed to the prevailing unjust neo-liberal order where the overwhelming majority are perpetually rendered poor for the price of producing a few stinkingly rich individuals and capitalist corporations.
Yes, we concede that the up-front deduction from local council funds for whatever purpose is illegal under the 1999 constitution. But what does the president intend to do on the issue of the proposed health care centres for which deductions have been effected for quite sometime in the past? According to the president, less than 20% of the funds so deducted have actually been invested on the purpose for which the funds were made. So, we ask: Who is or are in possession of the funds so deducted? The president may have correctly revoked the sales of some choice houses to erstwhile cronies of Obasanjo, however, for as long as the principle of monetization and privatization remain the cardinal principle of governance, it is a matter of time before these same properties and others are sold to some other looters and the privileged individuals, even at far cheaper prices and conditionalities..
THE ELECTORAL REFORM
The 2007 general elections through which Yar’Adua emerged as president has been denounced by both domestic and international observers as the worst in the history of election in Nigeria and throughout the world. Thus, faced with the legitimacy crisis associated with a fraudulent election, which produced him, President Yar’Adua, right from his inaugural speech has been making promises to undertake a comprehensive reform of electoral system. Recently, a handpicked committee of about 20 persons was set up by the President to undertake the review of the electoral law in such a way as to enhance credible and acceptable elections in the future. For his gesture in this respect, encomiums have been poured on him by many elements including those perceived to be radical and or are opposed to the PDP and the emergence of Yar’Adua as President.
Commenting on this electoral reform panel recently, the immediate past President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Adams Oshiomhole had in the ThisDay of September 11, 2007 made the following submission: “We should pray for Yar’Adua to use the electoral reform committee to remove the shame that we cannot conduct a credible and internationally-accepted election. The electoral committee has eminent Nigerians who have what it takes to make the difference and would not be answerable to the presidency. I believe that the president made the right judgment in opting not to include politiciansâ€¦..The qualities of the members of the electoral reform committee especially that of the chairman Justice Uwais, the representatives of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Nigeria Bar association (NBA), two organizations that were extremely critical of Yar’Adua election, was an indication that the president has the political will to confront Nigeria problemsâ€¦â€¦â€¦.I think we should give Yar’Adua all the support he needs. It is not unusual in history that people who are beneficiary of a wrong system can also provide the leadership for the overthrow of that system.”
Coming from a prominent working class leader, the above quoted statement is an unmitigated political disaster. Pointedly, it should be stressed from the beginning that the brazen electoral robbery executed by the PDP, AC and the ANPP (where they also had some governmental control) in the name of 2007 general elections was not in any sense the product of any defect in the existing Electoral Act. The primary reason why that elections and the previous ones were always highly manipulated and rigged was the direct result of the fact those in power have always used their positions to loot instead of using the state resources to develop the economy and better the lots of the masses. Therefore, unable to win votes on their own merit, they have always resorted to a “do or die” tactics to procure victory at all cost. There is no single provision in the 2006 Electoral Act which could be used as a basis for the unheard of frauds and manipulations perpetrated by INEC and the ruling elites to give “victories” to those declared as winners of the farce called 2007 general elections.
Therefore, as long as the present capitalist arrangement which gives legitimate rights to a few individuals and corporations to convert to their own exclusive properties, assets and resources which otherwise should be used to better the life of all, is in operation, there can never be a real free and fair election, no matter how progressive the electoral law may be.
Besides, the setting up of the electoral panel should not be seen as something spectacular by conscious working class elements and youths. In fact, the President action in this respect has merely confirmed the fact that Nigerian masses are still firmly held under an era of governmental motion without movement. For the past 21 years, particularly since the era of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida military dictatorship, bourgeois governments seemed to have perfected the idea of setting up unelected political commissions with a deliberate intention of diverting attention of the poor working people from crucial issues and or to deceive them. Thus, Babangida set up what was called the political debate on future of Nigeria headed by Prof. Cookey. The Cookey commission, as the body was widely known, traversed all sections of the country collating views on the system that Nigerians wanted. At the end of the day, the commission found and reported that majority of Nigerians preferred a socialist system to the “dog eat dog” capitalist system presently in operation. Without giving a second thought to the colossal time and resources invested on this exercise, Gen Babangida threw out the entire proceedings and the outcome of the commissions under the false pretense that his regime would not like to impose an ideology on Nigerians! When the late General Sanni Abacha in turn, through military usurped power and subsequently faced a serious political crisis of legitimacy, he decided to set up a highly undemocratic body called Constitutional Conference. A significant proportion of Abacha’s constitutional conference members were outrightly handpicked while the rest were purportedly elected through dubious elections which in reality was resoundingly boycotted by the vast majority of people across the country.
Today, nobody hears or says anything about Abacha so-called Constitutional Conference. Faced with mounting agitation for the convocation of a democratically elected Sovereign National Conference (SNC) that would have power to draw up a new constitution for Nigeria, former President Obasanjo sometimes in 2005 decided to set up what was popularly known as National Political Confab to draw up a comprehensive agenda to redesign Nigeria. The confab, whose members were entirely handpicked, was launched with fanfare. Apart from being lodged in the most expensive hotel in Nigeria, huge public funds were subsequently expended by the confab members to traverse the various zones in the country. At the end of the day, nothing positive comes out of the whole futile exercise. Against this background, the point therefore has to be stressed by socialists and working class activists that nothing positive would come out of Yar’Adua’s own handpicked panel. At best, the panel members, particularly its officers, will attract some momentary publicity in the bourgeois media during the assignment and especially when submitting their reports to the president. Thereafter, their own reports will be consigned to the dustbin of history where it really belongs.
THE SEVEN POINT AGENDA
In order to give the impression of a serious minded administration, President Yar’Adua has come up with what is known as the seven point agenda for the country. This includes energy, security of lives and properties, land reforms, human capital development, wealth creation, poverty alleviation, transportation and infrastructural development. According to official propaganda, the implementation of this 7-point agenda will catapult Nigeria to become one of the 20 biggest economies by the year 2020. On paper, this seven point agenda individually and collectively appears to have captured the essential features of the problems troubling Nigeria. Take energy for instance. According to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), goods and services produced in Nigeria are 33%costlier than other countries where stable electricity supply is available. This is not to mention the fact that the absence of steady electricity supply has factually turned the country into a dumping ground for all sort of electricity generator sets with its incalculable cost in form of environmental pollution, both now and in the long run.
Again, the issue of security is one issue that can not be over emphasized. Today, life has become so cheap in Nigeria. People are routinely killed and nothing happens. High profile murders occur all the time, but the perpetrators are never found. Throughout the 8 years of President Obasanjo government, Nigeria was especially fortunate to have earned tens of billions of dollars due to a steady rise in the price of crude oil internationally. Sadly however, at the end of the day, the country’s basic infrastructures like roads, communications and necessary social institutions like the health and education sectors were left in a very, very deplorable condition. And unlike the previous oil boom of the mid/late 1970s when the country made significant fortunes from oil sales and a significant portion of this was actually invested to develop the real sector of the economy, a situation which generated certain level of employment, â€“ the neo-liberal mantra of Obasanjo’s era only worsened the living conditions of the vast majority of the people through prohibitive costs of living and outright mass retrenchment of workers. Therefore, the best realistic way to stem the alarming growths of crimes, prostitution and other social vices is through massive implementation of policies that will create jobs to mop up mass unemployment, guarantee decent housing, health care and education for all. Any other approach will only ultimately lead to greater strife for the entire society.
There can be no serious talk of human capital development without standard health care services and quality education guaranteed for the vast majority of the working masses. Sadly however, the religious favour with which the Yar’Adua government embraces neo-liberal policies means that these vital sectors necessary for the development of Nigeria’s human capital will continue to suffer from lack of sufficient investments. In contemporary Nigeria, average life span for male and female is put at 49 years and 51 years respectively. This calamitous situation is largely a reflection of the worse than stone age conditions of the available medical services. The available health care facilities are grossly inadequate, ill-equipped with an highly under motivated workforce. “Not long ago, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) released a shocking report which showed that Nigeria was one of the countries with the worst maternal mortality rates in the world. The other countries in this category include Angola, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Sierra Leone.According to the report, one out of 18 mothers in Nigeria has a life-time chance of dying from pregnancy complications compared to one in 2,400 in Europe. In Nigeria, about 45,000 women die in childbirth every year, with a ratio of 1,500 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is the third highest estimated number of maternal deaths in the world, after India with 11,000 per annum and Ethiopia with 46,000 maternal deaths per annum. Without doubt, urgent and drastic action is needed to reverse this ugly trend. Women in the reproductive age group ought not to face the risk of untimely and avoidable death in the course of giving birth.” (The Guardian Editorial, September 27, 2007).
Recently, experts on education in a seminar revealed that Nigeria is presently having the highest number of illiterates in the world. According to the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Director and Country Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Abhimanyu Singh, “There are about 60 million adults in Nigeria, 85% of them under the age of 35 years can neither read nor write”. (See also The Guardian, September 27, 2007). So, we ask, beyond rhetoric, what precisely will Yar’Adua’s seven-point agenda do to halt the chronic decay that has virtually destroyed the health care and education sectors in today’s Nigeria? Does this mean that the capitalist elite in power at central and state levels will now commit adequate public funds for the development and expansion of health care and education services? Quite contrary, governments at central and state levels have, at the same time, continued to implement policies which will only worsen things for the masses, in this respect. Samples: “Last week, about 400 health workers of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, mostly staff from the kitchen, laundry, stores, cleaning and security departments received letters to proceed on a four-day pre-retirement training programme organized by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). The programme was a prerequisite to disengage the services of certain category of staff from public service as part of the public sector reforms of the federal government”. (Sunday Independent September 2, 2007).
Recently, the PDP controlled Osun State Government announced the establishment of a new university. 90,000 hapless working class youths, seeking to have university education applied with N5,000 each for an admission into what is supposed to be a public school. After pocketing a neat N450million through this exercise, the school offered admission to only 5,000 applicants. And then the big shocker! Each successful candidate is to pay a minimum of N152,000 and N350,000 respectively, depending on whether he/she is studying art or a science course!
Against this background, Yar’Adua’s seven point agenda as being articulated appears very apt. But can government really deliver on this? Our answer is capital NO. This is because President Yar’Adua, like his predecessor in office, has already expressed his commitment towards the continuation of the neo-liberal reform agenda. Within this concept, we can say, without any fear of contradiction, that these outlined laudable objectives will remain mere pipe dreams.
HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT
Take for instance the issue of human capital development. This basically will call forth a massive programme of investment in health care, education, job creation, etc. But precisely, this will be the last thing to be seriously done within the framework of neo-liberal economic policy which the regime and its imperialist mentors and backers are committed to. The development of other infrastructural facilities including the provision of stable electricity and water supply are clearly desirable. But again, this will require massive injection of public funds, a phenomenon which is totally out of tune in the prevailing neo-liberal orchestra. Even if massive funds are allocated to some of these sectors, most of these will only end up being creamed off by corrupt politicians and their capitalist contractors.
Wealth creation sounds very nice. But what, precisely, does this mean? Today, Nigeria realizes hundreds of millions of dollars daily from sales of crude oil alone. But according to the World Bank, only 1% Nigerians are presently creaming off 80% of this wealth. So, how would mere creation of additional wealth benefit the millions of pauperized Nigerians? Plainly put, Yar’Adua’s telling the working class and the poor not to expect adequate funding of necessary social services. This is because when the bourgeois begins to talk of wealth creation, the issue of adequate spending on public utilities and services is not on the agenda.
That poverty alleviation is one of the much touted Yar’Adua’s seven-point agenda clearly shows that the working masses cannot really expect significant improvement in their living standard under the present dispensation. Like all other Yar’Adua’s policies, this particular policy was inherited from his predecessor, ex-president Obasanjo. According to “Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary”, the word “alleviation” means making something “less severe” or “to ease” something. Thus, this policy abinitio, has taken the prevailing widespread poverty for granted – the only challenge remains how to “ease” it or make it “less severe”! Well, whatever it is worth, it would be a welcome relief to “ease” or make “less severe” the prevailing excruciating poverty which presently dominates the country. Unfortunately however, the adoption and implementation of series of programmes by the central and state governments in the past eight years or so have totally failed to produce any significant improvement in the living standard of the people. By the late 90s, 55% of Nigerians were said to be living below poverty level, but after eight years under Obasanjo government and hundreds of billions purportedly spent on diverse “poverty alleviation” programmes, over 70% Nigerians now live below poverty level! Quite alright, huge sums of money were usually allocated by both governments and international donors to “alleviate” poverty, but most often, top government officials and their capitalist contractors usually steal the largest portion of this sum , thus leaving only a pittance which invariably always got distributed only to close loyalists and supporters of the ruling parties. Therefore, the only real way to tackle the problem of mass poverty is for government to totally utilise the country’s resources to better the lots of everybody and not just of a few as is the norm under the prevailing capitalist dispensation. Unless it is done, Yar’Adua’s own “poverty alleviation” programme would not achieve any better success than that achieved by his inglorious predecessor in office in this respect.
Under a system where money and monetisation rule supreme, any talk of land reform will only produce a situation where only those who have big, mostly stolen wealth, will have real and adequate access to land. In the 70s, when the world bourgeois still largely favoured the idea of using state investments to safeguard its collective class interest, the Nigerian ruling class, under the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo (1976 – 1979) promulgated what was called a Land Use Decree (now Land Use Act). Under this Act, the ownership of all lands in the country is theoretically vested in the government. Through this law, government acquired vast lands across the country. The idea was that if government has control over land, then it would be easier for potential investors to acquire land instead of going through the endless tangles while striving to acquire same under communal and families authorities. At the end of the day, the whole policy turned to be a strategy through which a few had undue access over vast lands through their control of state apparatus.
However, in today’s neo-liberal milieu, the equation is the exact opposite. Lands and properties which were hitherto acquired in the name of the society have now been marked down for sharing by the thieving capitalist elites. Now, the new song is that the Land Use Act has suddenly become anachronistic. It has to be reformed! Land owners must have right to dispose off their lands in whatever way they think best. In pursuance of this self-serving agenda, the Lagos State government, for instance, under former Governor Tinubu had perfected a perfidious strategy of instigating and backing those whose lands were previously acquired (notwithstanding the fact that they were fully compensated then) to begin to make forcible incursions and trespass into the same land with a view to urge government to release such lands. Through this iniquitous approach, lands which hitherto belonged to the public have been returned back to their previous owners, of course, with large proportion of this becoming properties of those currently in power. Therefore, in the given situation, any talk of Land reform can only legalize the prevailing situation where Lands belong to the highest bidder. Therefore, contrary to what government’s town criers will want the masses to believe, Yar’Adua’s so-called 7-point agenda is neither original nor new. As a matter of fact, before the wholesale adoption of the neo liberal policies which reached a crescendo, under Obasanjo’s presidency, all of the items listed in this so-called 7-point agenda had long ago been better articulated in what used to be called National Development Plans. The only difference being that there was a certain level of sincere intention on a part of the ruling class then to actually use part of the public resources to fund these objectives but for the inherent corruption of capitalism which actually created a situation where money meant for development was actually looted by government officials. Today, under the prevailing neo-liberal milieu, where the reigning philosophy is that government must not expend public resources on the economy and well-being of the masses, Yar’Adua’s seven point agenda will at the end of the day turn out a ruse.
THE NIGER DELTA
Arguably, the crisis in the Niger Delta constitutes the greatest threat to the self-serving rule of the capitalist elite nationally and the interest of imperialism internationally. As of today, the region, through revenues from crude oil, accounts for 95% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings. However, due to the combination of a skewed political arrangement left by British colonialism, the post independence subordination of the people of this region to the rule and domination of the capitalist elite of the three Nigeria’s major nationalities (the Hausa-Fulani, the Yorubas and the Ibos) and the especially rapacious, greedy and reckless exploitation of the regions oil resources by multi-national oil companies in active collaboration with the successive capitalist governments of Nigeria, the region has pathetically remained one of the poorest and environmentally most devastated parts of the world. For ages, governments after governments have made unfulfilled promises to effect adequate development of the region as well as elevating the living standard of its people. This, it must be stressed, was the primary reason, which brought about the development and growth of militia groups claiming to fight for social justice and self-determination few years back across the region. In the past one or two years, the activities of these militia groups have developed to such a proportion that an unhindered reckless exploitation of the region’s oil resources (the mainstay of Nigeria’s corporate entity and stupendous profits for multi-national corporations) could no longer be guaranteed without resolving, one way or the other, what is generally called the Niger Delta crisis.
Quite naturally, both the Nigeria capitalist state and the multinational corporations feeding fat at the expense of the region and its perpetually impoverished people are seriously apprehensive of this development and as such would be prepared to take any step that can, at least, pacify the region in order to guarantee the continuous exploitation of the region’s resources for their own self-serving ends. President Obasanjo, Yar’Adua’s predecessor, used all weapons in his armoury to no avail in resolving this crisis. Apart from his much touted 7-point agenda x-rayed above, the resolution of the Niger Delta crisis has been one of the constant issues being raised by Yar’Adua, as his main agenda.
Towards this end, he has pledged to convoke a “stakeholders conference” on the Niger Delta issue. In addition, he has released on bail, through an obvious political arrangement, Asari Dokubo, one of the main militia leaders, charged with treason and who was refused bail throughout Obasanjo’s era. In his first one hour television and radio interview on September 2, 2007, President Yar’Adua disclosed that his government has now adopted the master plan of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which “ifâ€¦â€¦implemented fullyâ€¦â€¦â€¦will greatly transform the region”. He speaks further: “We have also worked out a programme of action to set up a framework for solving militancy in the region. One of the issues is the total suspension of all kidnappings for a certain period and for government to move in with issues of development. We are at a stage of setting up a joint implementation strategy. In the next two weeks, we would have a joint communiquÃ© spelling out the steps to be taken. We are still discussing”.
Bluntly put, nothing much will be achieved on the basis of the above outlined perspective. Over the years, and before the creation of the present NDDC, the concept of using a specially created capitalist agency to address the socio-political issues confronting the Niger Delta region has proved a colossal failure. And the reason for this is not far fetched. One, those that get appointed to such agencies were usually political acolytes who invariably were always appointed on the basis of their loyalty and disposition to the powers that be. Two, the few projects that these agencies often undertake were usually done through capitalist contract system, which invariably means that project prices are usually inflated beyond reasonable proportion. At the end of the day, these capitalist agencies have only turned out to be no more than publicity stunts for Nigeria successive capitalist governments, while their appointors carry on with large scale looting of the country’s treasury. Therefore, ensconced as it is, within the framework of neo-liberal capitalist ideology, Yar’Adua’s own Niger Delta “master plan” will fair no better than those of his predecessors.
Yes, for a temporary period, Yar’Adua government reach out to the leaders of the known and main militia groups, could stem the tide of kidnappings, hostage-takings, oil pipe vandalisation and oil bunkering. However, it must be stated that the Niger Delta crisis has, on its own, developed to an epidemic proportion such that an agreement or pacification of a set of militia leaders and armed groups could only have a temporary effect. The current situation in Niger Delta can be likened to the social menace called armed robbery. For thousands of times, the police and security agencies have claimed to have broken the backbone of armed robbery. However, the problem has persisted, threatening the security of the entire society with greater menace and brutality.
Of course, like a true capitalist government, the present Yar’Adua regime has simultaneously continued with the highly expensive and brutal militaristic actions all aimed at forcibly pacifying the restive Niger Delta militia. Towards the end of his days in office, former President Obasanjo, according to the former Vice-President Abubakar Atiku, approved a sum of $2billion for arms to fight the growing insurgency of the Niger Delta militants and people. To underscore the security hysteria associated with Niger Delta, Yar’Adua, in his maiden budget proposal to the National assembly muddled up Niger Delta and security as an item and voted the largest allocation to the appropration bill.So, while President Yar’Adua continues to openly give the impression that his regime is ready to right the wrongs in the Niger Delta, a major part of government strategy remains the usage of superior fire arms to overwhelm the Deltan masses not to positively address their plights. Here, the point should be stressed that this militaristic approach also represents the view point of imperialism on this matter. This is why the capitalist West had helped to create what is called Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy (GGESS). Not even prepared to take any chances, the US has unilaterally formed what is called African Command (AFRICOM) and has almost secured Yar’Adua’s government consent to host same. Of course, to massage the insincere national egos of the African bourgeoisie, John Negroponte, the US Deputy Secretary of State recently stated that “AFRICOM’S goal is to help African countries maintain security. Any notion of the US wanting to further militarize Africa is absolutely false”.
Working class activists and youths must not be deceived by this blatant false pledge. The greatest destabilizing factor troubling Africa remains the horrendous mass poverty which dominates the continent in the midst of inexhaustible materials and human resources. meanwhile, best way to tackle this problem is to stop forthwith the mindless plundering of African resources by imperialism and its utterly corrupt local allies so that the continent’s abundant resources can be really utilized for the benefit of all African people as opposed to the prevailing order where only a tiny capitalist exploiters and looters hold sway. Sadly to note however, this would be the last thing to expect the local capitalists and their imperialist backers to do. On the contrary, they should be expected to continue to pay priority attention to the expansion of the activities of Military Joint Task Force, Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy, AFRICOM, etc. Their primary aim yesterday and today remains how to continue to exploit unhindered the oil resources and the people of Niger Delta through force of arms. Justifying the imperialist military build up in the Niger Delta and Africa, Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi, former Minister of Defence in The Guardian of January 9, 2007, had made the following statement: “The recent presence of some foreign powers in the Gulf of Guinea, as disturbing as it may be, has been occasioned by the incapacity of our armed forces to secure and adequately police the territory. Given the strategic importance of oil and gas deposits available, it weighted against the unsteady supplies from the Middle East. It is in the vital interests of the foreign powers to dominate the Gulf of Guinea at all costs, necessitating their military build-up in the area”.
Therefore, a lasting resolution of the Niger Delta crisis, as well as the social political crisis ravaging the entire Nigeria is something that goes beyond the purview of capitalism and particularly, that of a capitalist government which is based on a brazen electoral fraud as that of President Yar’Adua.
Sadly to note, there does not exist presently any viable opposition nor alternative being proffered by the entire labour movement to the well tried but failed perspective being offered by the Yar’Adua government. Scientifically speaking, there is, in fact, no any opposition being mounted against the policy options being presented by the Yar’Adua government. Of course, the two main ruling capitalist parties in opposition i.e. the ANPP and the AC would want to be called oppositionists. In reality, they are almost absolutely indistinguishable from the ruling PDP government. Take the ANPP for instance. It fully subscribes to privatization of public assets and all other neo-liberal mantra, which constitutes the credo of Yar’Adua PDP government. Its own publicly elected members in their own areas of control have been as corrupt as their counterparts in the PDP.
While it is true that the PDP used state machineries and resources at its disposal to rig the 2007 general elections in favour of its candidates across the country, the ANPP, to the extent of its own strength and control, equally used same methods to emerge “winners” within its own sphere of influence. As we write, the party’s presidential candidate in the 2007 elections, General Mohammed Buhari, still has a pending petition against the election of President Yar’Adua in the Court of Appeal. Nonetheless, the entire party hierarchy has teemed up with the PDP to form what is called a Government of National Unity (GNU) after some of its leaders have been offered some ministerial portfolios with the prospect of getting further appointments. Today, what most ANPP chieftains and governors seek to do is to appear more loyal to President Yar’Adua than even original PDP members. The AC is the second major bourgeois opposition party. Like the PDP and ANPP, the party fully subscribes to capitalism and entire neo-liberal mantra. Just like the ANPP and PDP, only candidates favoured by the main party leaders were presented as candidates and the party equally resorted to wholesale misuse of public funds and large scale electoral manipulations for it to “win” Lagos State during the 2007 general elections. Due to present inability to reach a consensus within the party hierarchy on some issues, the party has not officially joined Yar’Adua’s self-styled Government of National Unity.
However, beyond hollow and hypocritical releases frequently issued by National Publicity Secretary of AC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party’s leadership and representative in government have not advocated or done anything that can make any reasonable person to decipher any difference between the party and the ruling PDP. In fact, one of the central leaders of AC, the former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu wrote an article which was published by the Guardian of September 23, 2007 on Yar’Adua’s 100 days in office. It is a graphic confirmation of the fact that the masses cannot in any way rely on the AC to proffer any alternative to PDP’s anti-poor, pro-rich agenda. We quote: “For those who can remember those days when Hell seemed to have moved house to Lagos; for those who can reminisce about those days of siege when Heavens seemed ready to fall; the last 100 days must be a hundred doses of relief for the jarred nerves of men and women already at the tail of sanity, unable to believe that what was going on before their very eyes could be initiated by a man elected to be the president of civil dispensation, not to talk of the President of a republican, democratic government”. After listing the supposed laudable achievements of Yar’Adua, Tinubu concludes, “It is therefore in our collective interest to give the Yar’Adua administration more support so that it can garner more confidence to carry out its agenda of restitution and set our country once again, on the journey to a truly democratic Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Just like in the states controlled by the PDP and ANPP, Lagos State, which is being ruled by the AC, remains in the same pathetic/comatose social condition. Like in the PDP and ANPP controlled states, collapsed public schools system, healthcare system, ghetto housing conditions, bad roads, massive unemployment, corrupt politicians, constitute the permanent features of Lagos State. While Lai Mohammed was very vociferous in demanding that the Vice President, Jonathan Goodluck, should follow the example of Yar’Adua to declare his assets openly, no such demand was made on the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, to openly declare his own assets. So, the AC opposition is more of an opposition of “do what I say, never what I do”.
Recently, the AC calls for a nationwide emergency action on the security situation. But just what does this “opposition” party propose as solutions to the problems of insecurity created by upsurge in violent crimes? Alhaji Lai Mohammed speaks: “In the short term, it may be necessary to seek the involvement of the military, by deploying soldiers on joint patrols with the Police in worst hit areas in order to check the activities of the robbers who have been emboldened by the fact that they are clearly better armed than the policeâ€¦ As a long term measure however, the government should empower the Police by updating their training weapons and other necessary equipment as well as boosting the morale of the rank and file through better salaries and allowances and improved general welfareâ€¦.. The government should also embark on a mop-up of the excessive arms in circulation, most of them provided by evil politicians bent on getting power at all costs”.
Blinded by its neo-liberal mantra, Lai Mohammed and the AC could not realize that it is the very anti-poor socio-economic measures being implemented by the successive capitalist governments that have been responsible for the unprecedented mass misery which has been forcing many of our youths to take to violent crimes, as the only means of surviving. Thus, instead of calling for the implementation of programmes and measures that would substantially mop up unemployment, make quality healthcare and education affordable and decent accommodation available for the vast majority of the working people, this self styled progressive party (AC) has only resorted to well worn militaristic but futile measure to fight social crime.
PRO-CAPITALIST LABOUR LEADERSHIP
However, the most tragic feature of Nigeria’s contemporary political situation is the political and ideological bankruptcy and opportunism being daily manifested by top labour leaders towards the ruling capitalist government across the country and their anti-poor policies. Unlike the two main capitalist parties outlined above, which do not really have a genuine mass base, the trade union movement could boast of the overwhelming backing and support of the vast majority of Nigerian working people and youths. For about 8 times within a period of 7 years, the working masses have embarked on nationwide general strike/mass protests against the pro-rich, anti-poor, neo-liberal policies of Obasanjo and Yar’Adua governments. Sadly however, most of the main labour and other pro-masses’ organizations have failed to draw the necessary conclusion that this general strikes and mass protests constitute concrete proof that the working masses are prepared to struggle for a fundamental brake with capitalism.
Instead of proffering a coherent working class socialist alternative to the capitalist measures and policies often put forward by the various capitalist government, the main trade union leaders from the era of Adams Oshiomhole to the current era of Abdul Waheed Omar, have perfected an utopian perspective of wishing to realize the basic needs and aspirations of the working masses within the frame work of capitalism. No matter the tenor and colour of their speeches and conducts, the top leaders of the labour movement have assumed the incongruous position of seeking to have a “responsive” capitalist government that would be willing to enter into a “strategic partnership” with labour. This is why Adams Oshiomhole praised to a high heaven the inclusion of a few labour leaders as members of President Yar’Adua’s talk shop called Electoral Reform Committee.
As noted before, the 15% pay rise granted in the wake of June 2007 general strikes/mass protests was only made applicable to federal workers. Thus, workers at the state level and in the private sector were left to their own devices. While a few states have reportedly agreed to implement or have implemented this pay rise, others have either ignored it or stoutly refused to implement it. For instance, workers of the Oyo State Government have been on strike intermittently for weeks, demanding the implementation of a N9,400 minimum wage across board. In the course of the struggle, Omar, the current NLC president visited the state with a view to resolving the dispute. In his address to the striking workers, he had, among other things stated: “We are not at war with the state government because the state is ours. One thing I know is that workers are the engine room of government. â€¦â€¦ I am sure no government will allow its engine to run down. There is need to lubricate it sufficiently to keep it running”.
And herein lies the real danger. The top leadership of the trade union movement is saturated through and through with a collaborationist, pro-capitalist orientation and spirit. Just imagine! The working masses are not at war with the state because the state is ours. Socialists say capital no to this view-point because it is philosophically and practically false. The Nigerian state is built upon the foundation left by British colonial rule and is run in the interest of the ruling elite. While the workers are compelled to use all their power to fight for poverty wage in the name of minimum wage, legislators and top political executive officers at central and state levels will earn tens of millions of naira annually as salary and allowances. Meanwhile, the poverty wages being fought for by workers does not, in the least, take into account the cost of food, healthcare, education, housing, transportation, telecommunication and other basic needs of the vast majority of the workers and their dependants.
It is equally false to argue that no government will allow the working masses to go down or suffer. On the contrary, most of the successive capitalist governments have been only able to prove their mettle by destroying the working class and the poor for the sake of the undue privilege of a few. Therefore, it is pointless preaching to the capitalist class to continue to sufficiently cater for the interest of the working class so as to protect its own interest because the only and best way it can continue to protect their own interest is to deny the working class and the poor sufficient means to leave a decent life. Only a government formed by the working people and primarily committed to protection of the working masses interest can be interested in pursuing policies and programmes which can really “lubricate” the interest of the masses sufficiently.
Consequently, the point has to be stressed that the prevailing sense of despondency, helplessness, perplexity and confusion felt by the vast majority of the working people towards the Yar’Adua government, which ordinarily should not have been tolerated for a day is the direct result of a lack of a principled opposition being offered by the main bourgeois parties and the top labour leaders towards the government of the day.
THE WAY FORWARD
As we in the DSM often argue, none of the basic problems confronting the working masses across Nigeria and in the Niger Delta region can be resolved on the basis of the prevailing unjust neo-colonial capitalist arrangement.
One, the self-serving profit interest of the main imperialist countries of the USA, Japan, Europe and now China, will never permit sufficient development of the national and human resources of the country to such a level that can guarantee the well being of the people. Two, the local capitalist elites would always implement policies to guarantee their own opulent and privileged existence rather than teaming up with the working masses to confront imperialism. Only a workers’ and poor peasants’ government, based on a socialist foundation could carry out the necessary social and political agenda that can effectively put an end to the rule of capitalist exploiters and political usurpers. And as we have always explained, this would require a complete rejection of the present capitalist approach of handing over major public assets and resources of nature to private capitalist individuals and corporations.
In order to provide and guarantee all the basic needs of life to all, the commanding heights of the economy, including finance and all natural resources, will have to be placed under public ownership with the democratic control and management of the working people themselves. This is necessary for two main purposes. One, all capitalist governments always express desire to provide the basic needs of life, but they always conclude that there are no enough resources to give decent accommodation, education, healthcare, job, etc, to all. Yet, it is in the same capitalist society that we find a few individuals and corporations that own personal wealth that could conveniently guarantee decent life for millions and billions of people. So, by putting the commanding heights and all major resources of the society under collective ownership, the society can therefore be put in a position where it can really and creatively utilize available human and natural resources to provide for all, instead of perpetuating an unjust situation where a few individuals keep a vast majority in perpetual misery and political bondage just for their own prestige and self-serving ends.
However, borrowing from the experience of the collapse of the economies of the former deformed workers states such as USSR, East Germany, etc, as well as the experience of publicly owned companies under past capitalist governments, it is absolutely necessary that workers democratically exercise maximum control and management over a publicly owned economy and companies. Otherwise, such publicly owned institutions will, sooner than later, be run aground through bureaucratic mismanagement and serial acts of corruption.
SOCIALIST LABOUR URGENTLY NEEDED
Suffice to stress, only a labour movement and leadership imbued with the principle and spirit of social transformation and socialist revolution could build the necessary working class political party, only which can have sufficient motive and support of the entire working masses to carry out the kind of revolutionary option outlined above. Of course, there is presently in existence a registered party called Labour Party. As a matter of fact, the party was floated by and has since been under the leadership of some trade unionists. Nevertheless, the party, both in outlook and conduct, is a far cry from what a truly independent working class political party should be. In the period before the 2007 election, Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past president of the NLC, whom most working class elements had expected to run on the platform of Labour Party with a view to begin to develop an independent political party of the masses, chose at the last minute, to run on the platform of the AC, one of the capitalist political parties. Paradoxically, some prominent capitalist politicians like Femi Pedro in Lagos State and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko in Ondo State, who could not secure the governorship tickets of the AC and the PDP in Lagos and in Ondo States respectively, were able to buy their way to contest on the platform of the Labour Party.
Meanwhile, most of the trade union activists within the Labour Party (whether of the left or right wing trend) are elements, who often personally and through the trade unions under their influence and control, argue that they are not opposed to privatization in principle. Their objection to privatization therefore is usually anchored on the “severance benefits” of workers being retrenched and a few times on the issue of who is buying the privatized assets or the manner in which public assets are being sold to private interest. Quite logically therefore, working class activists and elements could not hope to rely on the kind of existing Labour Party to struggle for a government that can effectively guarantee basic needs of life for the working class against the rapacious rule of the thieving capitalists. Towards this end, a conscious and energetic campaign to create a truly revolutionary working peoples party would be a major task before socialists and working class activists in the immediate and possibly long term period to come.
However, the virtual political and organizational degeneration of the post Gani Fawehinmi NCP national leadership in the rightwing, pro-capitalist direction â€“ a phenomenon, which has practically and totally denied most conscious layers of the masses a political platform of expression – makes it imperative for socialists at this point in time to undertake a comprehensive political survey of the Labour Party phenomenon. From the conduct and speeches of most contemporary labour leaders, there is not yet a hint of the recognition on necessity of building and strengthening the Labour Party or an independent working peoples’ party in general.
Nonetheless, in the tumultuous events and battles that lie ahead of the working masses as they strive to escape perpetual poverty and political bondage, the necessity/realization that the masses need their own party to fight the capitalist exploiters and political robbers may make the question of the Labour Party more relevant than it seems at the moment. For the overwhelming majority of Nigerians, “Labour” today means the trade unions, organisations that have enormous support and authority in the masses’ eyes, as the recent general strikes have shown. The connection between “labour” – trade unions- gives the Labour Party potential that it may be able to build upon. Even labour leaders that presently appear indifferent to this issue may find themselves pulled by event to strive to build a kind of Labour Party, although in which way and for how long is open to question.
THE IMMEDIATE PERIOD AHEAD
The prospect for the economic well-being of the vast majority of the working masses and poor, under President Yar’Adua looks very bleak and worrisome, especially within the framework of the neo-liberal economic philosophy being championed by his government. As we have repeatedly underlined in several of DSM publications, the past 8 years or so have been especially fortunate for Nigeria in terms of steady high price of crude oil. As we are about to go to press, oil for the first time, is being sold for over $90 per barrel. As a major oil producing country, this phenomenon has fetched Nigeria billions of dollars as revenue from crude oil sales.
Sadly to note however, the intrinsically greedy character of capitalism, especially its neo-liberal face, has practically meant that very little of the wealth being generated is committed to the development of the real economy and the living standard of the people. Of course, it is quite easy to note that a little portion of this wealth has trickled down to a minority layer of the working populace. Today, this is reflected in a growing number of middle class elements that could afford to ride good cars, live in decent homes plus being able to give relatively quality education and healthcare to members of their immediate families. Even then, the point must be made that the living conditions of today’s middle class remains a far cry from that of the middle class produced by the oil boom of the late 70s and early 80s. Today’s middle class elements are in a position where they are virtually responsible for everything. The roads to most of their homes are perpetually in bad shapes. They do not have the same level of jobs security which their counterparts in the 70s and 80s had.
Again, the relative prosperity of the early 70s and 80s offered better prospects for elements from the lower classes who had the right education and skills to get good jobs that can support a relatively decent good living with far less financial indeptness as compared with what obtains today. In sharp contrast, today’s prosperity is only for a very tiny minority of the populace, as mass retrenchment and massive unemployment remain the dominant features of the society. Manufacturing has continued its decline and very worrisome to note, the infrastructural base and facilities of the present “prosperity” is the weakest that any society can have. Roads are mostly bad and very inadequate. There is virtual absence of alternative transportation system and affordable quality health services. But worst of all, government’s commitment to neo-liberal policies means that these vital sectors will continue to suffer undue neglects and underfundings.
We therefore pose the question: If in the period of relative boom which presently prevails (courtesy of huge revenues from crude oil sales) the vast majority of the working masses and basic infrastructures needed for economic well-being and the overall development of the society suffer from deliberate neglects and underfundings, what then would be the situation that the masses will face, if due to developments within the international economic relations, the prices of oil take a sharp plunge? Without pretending to be prophets, we wish to say that the capitalist elites, would, in that kind of situation, stop at nothing to preserve their own opulent life styles and privileges.
Suffice to stress, this will only propel them to impose policies which will only further worsen the prevailing plight of the masses. Therefore, it is imperative for working class activists and the labour movement in general to draw up a comprehensive programme of actions that would make it possible for the emergence of a working peoples government, which will effectively utilise the human and natural resources of the society to take care of the interest of all, as opposed to that of a few, which is the norm under the prevailing capitalist system, to come to power. Under the prevailing dispensation, the vast majority of the working people and poor will only experience further attacks on their living standards instead of experiencing any real opportunity for upward mobility in terms of access to good jobs, functional infrastructures, decent healthcare and education services.
Unfortunately, precisely because the usurpers government of President Yar’Adua does not face any principled opposition from the main capitalist parties (ANPP, AC, APGA, etc) as well as a focused and well defined alternatives from labour and mass organisations leaders in general, the prevailing economic barrenness and the grave yard social peace which presently envelopes the masses may remain longer than necessary. Nonetheless, real material progress and genuine peace will continue to elude the vast majority of the working masses precisely because the greedy and insatiable capitalist gangsters who brought Yar’Adua to power would always block any policy or programme that has any potential to better the lot of the masses.
As we go to press, the verdicts of most of the Elections Tribunals, including the one hearing the petitions against the “election” of President Yar’Adua are still being awaited. As of today, the Elections Tribunals have nullified the “election” of 5 PDP governors thus fueling the expectation in certain quarters that the “election” of President Yar’Adua himself may still suffer similar fate. Suffice to stress, all the governorship “victories” that have so far been nullified were absolutely based on technical argument about the failure of INEC or PDP to strictly follow to the letters, certain relevant rules and regulations! When the argument shifts to a much more complex issue of proving an act of electoral fraud, the rulings of these Elections Tribunals can be expected to be less straight-forward and logical. However, even if in the unlikely event that President Yar’Adua’s “election” and that of many other state governors are nullified, the subsequent elections to be conducted and or those that may be declared winners cannot be expected to produce something radically different from the farce called 2007 general elections, most especially, if organised labour fails or refuses to proffer a viable pro-masses political challenge to the various layers of the locusts capitalist looters that would once again be all out to capture power at all cost.
To start with, all those whose “elections” have been nullified or those whose “elections” may yet be nullified by the Tribunals would still be allowed to continue to occupy their stolen mandates pending the time a supposed new elections would be conducted. In other words, the beneficiaries of these admittedly stolen mandates would, in the name of “rule of law” and “political stability” be allowed to remain in offices to continue to use state apparatuses and resources to fight their opponents in any so-called new elections that may be called. Head or tail, it is the masses interests that would remain unprotected in a contest exclusively dominated by the different set of exploiters, looters and political usurpers. Many understandably hailed the Supreme Court for nullifying the purported elections of the governors so far removed from office for not been supposed to be governors in the first instance. However, the declaration of elements that were never directly voted for by the people as governors has only succeeded in replacing on form of arbitrariness with another.
In the given situation, only turbulent social political turmoil lies ahead of the working masses. But notwithstanding the present difficulties created by lack of a focused and determined leadership, the Yar’Adua government will still face stiff resistance and rebuff from the vast majority of the working masses the more it becomes clearer that the Yar’Adua era is just “same of the same”, a continuation of mass misery and political repression. And here precisely lies the challenge. From our historical experience, the capitalist ruling class will never willingly give up their opulent living standard and their self-serving ego just for the interest of the masses. This is why the masses, in different ways, will be compelled to fight back individually and collectively.
Today, the main layers of the capitalist class are pretending to be committed to democracy, notwithstanding the fact that this so-called democratic dispensation is, in certain respects, much more militarised than what obtained under past military regimes. Thus, if the working masses failed to utilise several opportunities that will present themselves, in the coming period, to take political power and reconstruct society in the interest of the majority, then faced with constant economic and political crisis, the majority of the capitalist class nationally and internationally may yet be tempted to once again resort to open military dictatorship under the excuse of creating “political stability” needed for real development. Of course, far from being a way out for the masses, an outright military rule on the basis of the prevailing worldwide neo-liberal milieu will only bring forth unprecedented socio-political calamities on the working people, including a sharpening of the national question which may sharply threatens the continued existence of Nigeria as a corporate entity. Therefore, the immediate creation and development of a class conscious and viable pan-Nigeria working masses party to replace the current unjust order with a democratic socialist system remains the primary task facing working class and socialist activists.
POLITICAL ORIENTAITON FOR LABOUR IN THE POST 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS
Nigeria’s 2007 general election has been roundly and justifiably condemned as the most farcical exercise ever conducted in Nigeria and internationally in the name of elections. The entire exercise was dominated by brazen, large scale financial and electoral manipulation by the ruling parties across the country. Such was the depth and scale of riggings which characterised the so-called elections that even the imperialist backers of Nigeria’s neo-colonial capitalist elites temporarily withheld open fraternisation with Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was declared president from these highly rigged elections.
Quite naturally, this massive riggings prompted many people, including domestic and international observers to call for the cancellation and a re-run of the entire exercise. While we in the DSM had equally called for the cancellation of the entire exercise, we did this within the framework of a perspective of the labouring masses building their own formidable political party to represent their own interests. In fact, because of the absence of such a party, in the period before the elections, we had made the following statements:
“Most regrettably however, as things stand today, it is these same set of gangsters in the PDP, ANPP and AD/AC who have been ruining the country and its people, at all levels of government, for the past eight years, that will emerge “winners” of the forthcoming general elections. We in the DSM foresaw this looming disaster and in order to forestall it, we had several times advocated that the main trade union and civil society leaders should convoke a special conference of the trade unions, poor masses, students, youths, market women, etc, with a view to provide a viable political platform for the effective representation of the masses interests both during the 2007 general elections and always.
“But here, we would like to stress that this proposition was not just a theoretical possibility. Prior to the forthcoming elections, the working masses, across the country had staged 7 general strikes and mass protests against the Obasanjo government, over its widely hated anti-poor, neo-liberal policies. Suffice to stress, each of these strikes/protests, while they lasted, had shook the regime to its foundations, while governance and society in all essential aspects remained paralyzed. When President Obasanjo wanted to amend the constitution so that he can remain in power beyond May 2007, over 80% of the masses across the country vehemently opposed his dastardly idea.
“So, if the main trade union and civil society leaders who officially led the above stated general strikes/mass protests had taken bold steps to build a distinctly working masses party with an emphatic agenda aimed at eradicating mass misery in the midst of abundance, it should have been entirely possible to create a political platform of the masses which would have been strong enough to dislodge from power the eternally self-serving capitalist politicians, come the April 2007 general elections or at the least, build a political platform of the working masses that will strong enough to checkmate the ruling class from freely implementing anti-poor, socio-economic policies in the wake of the 2007 general elections. Very unfortunately, this approach of the DSM was either totally ignored or not acceptably to most labour and top civil society leaders. Instead, most labour and so-called human right leaders decided to seek solutions to masses problems within the existing capitalist parties”. (Socialist Democracy, March/April, 2007)
Here, the point should be stressed that the election was so massively rigged because it was purely a contest between the different layers of capitalist looters. Secondly, the very absence of a genuine political opposition from the labouring masses also underlines why the various sections of the ruling class in power across the country have been able to continue with their anti-poor policies of treasury looting. As we write, there are several elections petitions pending before various Tribunals, challenging the result of the farce called 2007 general elections. Within the framework of bourgeois rule of law, most of these petitions will end up being dismissed. Even in the most favourable situation where some of these petitions succeed, either by declaring the petitioners winners or by ordering new elections, in the absence of a formidable party representing the interest of the masses, the winners would most certainly be elements from the capitalist oppressors and looters. Therefore, just as before the elections, the greatest task before the working masses today remains the creation/development of an independent political party representing the real interest of the labouring masses.
Unfortunately however, the labour leaders across board appear to have learnt nothing positive from the tumultuous political experience of the recent period. Quite correctly, the NLC and TUC leaders at the time denounced the farce called 2007 general elections. They, in fact, went beyond denunciation and called for the cancellation and a re-run of the entire exercise.
But without offering any cogent reason, these leaders have shifted positions and they are now presently craving for a “strategic partnership” with the same politicians they had hitherto rightly accused of stealing power. Today, the NLC leaders have also accepted membership of a so-called Electoral Reform Committee, entirely handpicked by President Yar’Adua, ostensibly to lay a basis for credible elections in the future. Although the Labour Party (a party formed by some trade union activists) has been in existence since before both the 2003 and 2007 general elections, the main trade union leaders up till date have failed to come up with any coherent policy/any programme of action on how to make this party a major player in the political arena. Both in the 2003 and 2007 general elections, the trade union leaders did not make any significant effort to run candidates and asked those supporting the series of general strikes mentioned before to vote for them.
In the period before the 2007 elections, leaders of the Labour Party were telling the whole world that their party would not contest the general elections because their strategy was to bid for power from the grassroot level i.e. the local councils. However, this seemingly well calculated strategy proved to be false as the same leaders opened their doors for bourgeois politicians like Femi Pedro, Dr. Segun Mimiko, etc, who had failed to secure the governorship tickets of big parties like the AC, PDP, ANPP, to run on the party’s platform. Today, local council elections are knocking, yet nothing is being heard from the Labour Party. Thus, instead of developing an alternative working class platform, strong enough to wrestle power from capitalist looters, most labour leaders are busy pursuing the diversionary and futile politics of hoping to fight corruption and electoral robbery within the framework of capitalist politicking.
THE NCP EXPERIENCE
Although, they don’t normally express it openly, most labour leaders hold the opinion that it is not possible to build a formidable party of the working masses and poor. Two excuses are usually given as the reason why such a party cannot be successfully built and these are lack of sufficient funds and the legendary fraudulent electoral history of Nigeria’s ruling elites. However, the emergence of the National Conscience Party (NCP) and its performance in the 2003 general elections has clearly indicated that these two admittedly major obstacles can be surmounted under certain circumstances.
Suffice to note, the NCP was launched in October 1994, during the period of mass struggle against the annulment of June 12 1993 presidential elections won by MKO Abiola, by the widely known and respected social and human right activist Chief Gani Fawehinmi. Thus, based on Gani’s reputation as a defender of the masses and what is just in general, plus the open betrayal of all the layers of the capitalist politicians including the so-called progressives within the Social Democratic Party (SDP, the military sponsored party which presented Abiola as its presidential candidate), many change-seeking elements among the masses and the poor in general rallied round to build the NCP as an alternative political platform to all the bourgeois parties. To be sure, the party most of the time lacked necessary sufficient funds to conduct its affairs. This is no thanks to the fact that those who have sufficient means (including middle class elements) that could have provided material resources for the party studiously avoided it like a plague.
Just like the 2007 general elections, the 2003 general elections was largely manipulated financially and politically by the PDP, ANPP and the AD (the predecessor of today’s AC) in their respective areas of control, of course with the balance heavily tilted in favour of the PDP, which controlled the central government and majority of the states. But despite this gigantic obstacle, the NCP received hundreds of thousands of votes across the country. In Lagos State where members of the DSM were in the party leadership, the party came third overall in the elections after the AD/AC and PDP which operated a no hold bar over their spending in order to capture power at all costs.
Here, it should be mentioned that precisely because of its financial handicap and its limited political and organizational outreach, the party have to do without adequate polling agents and canvassers in most constituencies and polling booths. In the given situation only votes which the big ruling parties could not conveniently steal because of the uncompromising role of the NCP activists at local levels were eventually officially recorded for the party. However, such was the level of political enthusiasm which the NCP’s modest electoral successes elicited that many layers of the masses were looking forward for the party to become stronger by the time of 2007 general elections. Here, it is pertinent to recall that the NCP only finally secured clearance to field candidates for the April 2003 general elections in February 2003! So, quite naturally, the expectation was that the NCP was going to build on its modest achievement and this time around, with the benefit of having a four-year period to prepare for the 2007 general elections. Unfortunately however, the political fortune of the NCP in general started to decline in the aftermath of the 2003 general elections.
As was noted before, the 2003 general elections were massively rigged by the ruling capitalist parties in the same manner the 2007 general elections were rigged. This state of affairs naturally provoked different reactions in the country as regards the issue of free and fair elections and its implications for the acquisition of power in a constitutional democratic manner. The present political cul-de-sac in which the NCP has been pushed actually arose from the fall out of the 2003 general elections.
Soon three main groups reactions developed within the NCP leadership in reaction to the highly manipulated 2003 general elections.
The first group consists of exceptional party leaders and builders like Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, etc, who decided to take backstage in the building of NCP largely because they could not see how the masses can win against the bourgeois politicians who would always use looted public funds and their control of state apparatus to always manipulate every elections. This school of thought feels that given the level of suffering being undergone by the masses, coupled with Gani’s reputation as a man of the masses, the masses should have overwhelmingly voted NCP and/or resisted the electoral robbers that put themselves in power.
The second group was represented and led by the DSM members, especially through its leadership of the party in Lagos State. To this group, the achievement recorded by the party in the 2003 general elections, given all the obstacles faced by the party, was a no mean achievement. Instead of becoming despondent, this group urged that appropriate lessons be drawn from the entire exercise with a view to prepare for the 2007 general elections. Principally, this group stressed the importance and necessity of the party having good reputation among the masses. It explained that the relative favourable reception of the masses towards the NCP, despite the fact that it was registered very very late and had little or no money bags in its ranks, was largely based on the reputation and activities of the party’s then National Chairman, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who is seen by the wide layers of the masses as their defender. In addition, this group also stressed that while Gani’s good name could open political doors to the hearts of people that have become justifiably suspicious of anything to do with politics, the building of corresponding political structures and development of cadres committed to the emancipation of the working masses from capitalist induced poverty in all nooks and crannies of the country constitutes the only real framework through which mass support for a popular leader like Chief Gani Fawehinmi can be translated into political power.
In the activities before the 2003 general elections, NCP campaigns and particularly those in which Gani personally participated always received widespread support among the working masses and the poor in general. However, only areas where the party had structures controlled by committed activists was this political goodwill translated into any worthwhile electoral successes. Consequently, this second group had urged the party to prioritise its future activities on the development of a more coherent pro-people, anti-capitalist programmes as well as creation and spreading of real party structures to as many places as possible.
The third group, which eventually emerged dominant in the party leadership, is made up of those elements which drew an entirely incorrect conclusion from the whole political process. To this group, there is no bright future along the road of building the party as a mass radical/revolutionary entity. To this group, the modest electoral successes recorded by the party did not offer the prospect of future growth for the party but rather, has only provided the reason while the NCP should move closer to other bourgeois parties in opposition as the most viable way to dislodge the ruling PDP from power.
So, right from the beginning, the further development of the NCP political structure and profile was never in the priority list of this group. The right wing’s national strength in the party was based upon many of them being members of the NCP’s NEC only because of INEC’s requirement that representatives from two-thirds of the federal states must be in a registered party’s NEC. Most of right wing NEC members had no viable NCP structures in their states and consequently represented no one but themselves. With the benefit of hind-sight, this rightwing group headed by Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, the party’s current National Chairman, decided to rein in the party leadership in Lagos State in order to support the capitalist AD/AC ruling Lagos State. This was done under the guise of the AD/AC being described as progressive compare with PDP. When this opportunistic orientation was rejected by the DSM/Lagos NCP leadership, Obayuwana’s group finally and fully launched a ceaseless struggle to liquidate the party in Lagos State and the Southwest where the party has started to show real prospect for growth and development.
By the time of 2007 general elections, this rightwing leadership had succeeded in virtually snuffing out the light of activity in most states where the NCP used to exist. In Lagos State, it imposed a non-party member as the party’s governorship candidate to replace Lanre Arogundade, democratically chosen by the NCP Lagos State congress to run as its governorship candidate. In the highly rigged 2003 general elections, Lanre scored over 77,000 votes running as Lagos West Senatorial candidate for NCP. At the national level, this rightwing leadership in a treacherous manner, openly supported and called on people to vote for the ANPP presidential candidate, General Mohammed Buhari. Meanwhile, in the 2003 general elections, Chief Gani Fawehinmi scored over 160,000 votes, running as NCP presidential candidate, while the party’s governorship candidate in Lagos State in person of Lateef Abassi scored over 150,000 votes. Against this background, the DSM/Lagos NCP leadership decided, in protest, to withdraw it candidates for the 2007 general elections in Lagos State. And quite tellingly, the governorship candidate imposed by the rightwing NCP leadership only scored a miserable 580 votes. Taking this and many other conducts and damaging activities of this rightwing leadership into account, vis-Å•-vis the political integrity and future of the NCP, the DSM and the Lagos NCP decided to leave the party in July, 2007.
This relatively lengthy narration of the NCP experience has been given in order to highlight certain basic political points:
(1) The NCP experience has clearly shown that a genuine pro-masses’ mass party can be successfully built around genuine radical/revolutionary programme and leadership, notwithstanding the great obstacles which a lack of sufficient fund by the masses as well as ruling class misuse of political power and state institutions would always present. In other words, if the NCP which lacked labour’s reputation and outreach among the working masses and youths could make the kind of impact it made in the 2003 general elections, then, a trade union organised and backed political platform, if built on a coherent working class programme and methods, would by far achieve much more successes.
(2) The NCP experience has equally shown that the masses can never be taken for granted. When the party was seen to be carrying out mass activities to better the lot of the masses, politically and economically, it received an encouraging and warm response from the masses. However, when its new rightwing leadership decided to use NCP credibility to reinforce the same bourgeois forces against which the party was formed in the first instance, it received a very humiliating result in the 2007 general elections. What this of course shows is that a working masses party will only continue to enjoy mass support when it stays committed to masses interest and not by seeking an opportunistic and an impossible “strategic partnership” with masses exploiters and oppressors.
(3) We wish to underline the point that the political demise of the NCP as a party through which the masses can struggle for a fundamental change from the prevailing capitalist misery and oppression has actually compounded the present political situation for the entire working masses. It has made the current situation much more worse than the pre-2007 general elections. In the 2003 general elections hundreds of thousands of working class elements and youth, who had become politically conscious enough to recognise the fact that the PDP, ANPP, AD/AC, etc, represent the different sides of the exploiters and looters class, voted for NCP. The mindless destruction of the NCP by the rightwing elements in the period before the 2007 general elections robbed these layers and millions of others, the choice of a credible alternative. Plainly put therefore, the working masses are politically worse off today than in the recent years.
THE CAMPAIGN FOR A GENUINE MASS WORKING PEOPLES’ PARTY
Once again the point must be stressed that the DSM members and others did not feel happy to quit the NCP, a party which they had laboured to build since its inception in 1994 as a political platform of the oppressed. However, as painful as this decision was, it was considered as the best logical decision to take in the given circumstances. Nonetheless, the issue of what next political step would be taken by those quitting the NCP became a major issue during the political discussions which preceded this decision. This was also was the major issue raised by the media practitioners that came to cover the public announcement of the pull out. Then, we had raised the perspective of building a campaign for a genuine Mass Working Peoples’ Party. As we explained, this was based on the fact that none of the existing political parties fully represent our ideas of what a genuine party of the masses should be.
Meanwhile, it is pertinent to, at this stage, recall the fact that the DSM, right from its founding conference in 1987, had always called for the formation of a mass Labour Party, especially one which is built on a socialist foundations. Now a Labour Party exists as a registered organisation that can run candidates in elections, but it is not a campaigning organisation. As a matter of fact, the Labour Party itself has done little or nothing before and since we quit the NCP that could easily make it attractive to change-seeking working class elements and youth as the party to join. Again, this fact has further underlined the political correctness of the decision to launch the campaign for a genuine Mass Working Peoples’ Party. Yes, there exists a Labour Party formed and led by trade union activists, who in fact have led many tumultuous general strikes and mass protests. But these strikes and struggles were not given the necessary political orientation particularly because labour leaders have refused to lead struggles with the perspective of the masses capturing political power with a view to implement policies that would best served their own interests. One result of this is that the Labour Party, for all practical purposes and intents, has remained an empty political shell.
Faced with this situation, the perspective of a campaign for a genuine Mass Working Peoples Party retains all its validity, even up till the present moment. However, this on its own, would not fully fill the political vacuum created in the wake of the NCP’s liquidation by the rightwing elements as well as the virtual dormancy of the Labour Party. Hundreds of thousands of working class people, who already have become politically more mature beyond the politics of bourgeois deception being practiced by the AD/AC, ANP, etc, have now become politically disenfranchised with the virtual collapse of the NCP and being faced with a Labour Party that totally lacks any coherent programme of activity. If the campaign for a genuine mass working peoples’ party gathers sufficient tempo and momentum, some of these elements will be able to play a frontal role in the struggle to create such a party. However for most of these layers and millions of other working class people seeking a way out of the perpetual misrule of the capitalist politicians, the idea of a campaign body like the one being raised will sound nice but at the same time, will be seen as an inadequate political response needed to dislodge capitalist parties from power.
Already sections of the advanced layers, including some labour leaders, are asking whether we should not take a decision to join the Labour Party, notwithstanding its identified political limitations. Arguments have been canvassed in this respect that the campaign for a genuine mass working peoples’ party can be better canvassed within the Labour Party rather than outside of it. It has been further argued that the efforts that will be used in trying to build a new working peoples’ party be concentrated in the struggle to build the Labour Party as a genuine party of the labouring masses and youths. We therefore pose the question: What prospects exist for the transformation of the Labour Party in this direction?
PERSPECTIVE FOR THE LABOUR PARTY
Despite current cheerless political profile of the Labour Party, we in the DSM at this stage wish to urge the advanced layers of the working class, including all those forced to quit the NCP as a result of the rightwing degeneration of that party, to immediately join the Labour Party with a view to building it as a truly working class party.
Yes, we concede that this proposition can be faulted for several reasons. One, despite the mass revulsion, which the vast majority of the working masses have towards the ruling/thieving capitalist parties, the Labour Party leadership has woefully failed to proffer an alternative political programme of action that could harness the masses rejection of these odious parties behind its own political organization. Both in its pronouncements and conducts, the vast majority of labour leaders within the Labour Party and the trade unions have so far failed to come forward with a concrete programme of action directed towards turning the party into a viable political platform that can challenge the thieving capitalist elite for political power. Due to the legendary pro-capitalist outlook of most labour leaders, there is in fact a strong feeling that the top trade union and labour party leaders would never consciously take steps to build the Labour Party as a true political platform of the working masses. In fact, there is an equal deep feeling that most of the current crop of labour leaders would viciously fight anybody struggling to build the Labour Party as a mass fighting political platform of the oppressed.
Frankly speaking therefore, the proposal, urging socialists and all advance layers of the working class movement to move into the Labour Party with a view to build it as a genuine mass working peoples party may not seem attractive to longstanding activists. But we believe that, at this moment, this can provides a concrete starting point for the campaign for a genuine mass working peoples’ party. Socialists in the Labour Party would concretely propose steps both to build the Party and give it a socialist programme that can answer the needs of working people.
Of course, the question could be raised as to why we had not made this proposal since the formation of the Labour Party? To this poser, a straight and short answer is that there existed in the NCP a better political platform which then held far more political attraction to working class elements in general and the advance layer of activists in particular. Therefore, if the NCP had not lost its political orientation which made it popular among the masses, there would have been no sense in asking socialists and labour activists to move en-mass to Labour Party in the manner being recommended.
Now we are in a new situation where the NCP’s collapse and the enormous national respect and following that “Labour” , meaning fundamentally the trade unions, has opened the way to the possibility that the Labour Party could become a focal point of attraction for change seeking elements, especially in the runup to future elections.
Thus, the proposal that socialists and labour activists should now move en-masse into the Labour Party with a view to transform it into a fighting platform is based on the analysis of the way in which the class struggle may develop in the coming period. Because of its largely pro-capitalist outlook, most labour leaders can never be expected to consciously take steps to build the Labour Party into a viable anti-capitalist, fighting party of the oppressed. No, this will never be the case. In fact, their conscious craving for a “strategic partnership” with the ruling capitalist government also means that very little principled and purposeful defensive struggles for an improved living standard can be expected from these elements. However, despite and in spite of the short sighted policies being pursued by labour leaders, the coming period will nonetheless be a period of storming class struggles. Presently, because the thieving capitalist class is not facing any serious principled resistance by the working class movement, President Yar’Adua, who was brazenly and openly rigged into power is being deceptively presented as the person that would solve Nigeria’s intractable socio-economic crisis.
However, sooner than later, the vast majority of people will rapidly draw the conclusion that President Yar’Adua’s dispensation is just a mere continuation of the relentless exploitation and oppression in the midst of plenty of the masses. When this happens, there would develop a renewed mood of anger and struggle. In that kind of situation, there is bound to be both conscious and unconscious efforts by the working masses to extend their struggles to political arena through instinctive strive to put in power a government that is genuinely committed to guarantee their own interest. On their part, most labour leaders, as a result of the certain fierce hostility of the masses towards all the capitalist parties, may not be able to maintain their present open romance and collaboration with bourgeois politicians. In that kind of situation, there is bound to be some half-hearted measures on their part to develop the Labour Party just so to put themselves in a position to arrest masses radicalization from going beyond bourgeois reformism.
Therefore if the socialists and the advance layers of working masses today move into the Labour Party and properly rooted themselves within the party’s rank and file and the masses in general, then there will be bright prospects of making serious political gains from such ensuing mass radicalization. Such activity would not simply be within the present very small Labour party membership but simultaneously be amongst the broad working masses and youth. In this sense there would be no contradiction between being in the Labour Party and the campaign for a genuine Mass Working Peoples’ Party. Socialists would be arguing both for the need for such a party and for the Labour Party to become the fighting mass socialist party Nigeria needs.
At the same time being already active within the Labour Party would put socialists in an advantageous position to combat the certain reactionary influence and pressure which pro-capitalist labour leaders inevitably would bring to bear on the labour movement. Socialists, while not hiding their policies, would work alongside non-socialists who seriously wish to build a mass, active Labour Party. Socialists will argue for the Labour Party to be a democratic party involving all change seeking elements within the trade unions and LASCO. We will also warn against those labour leaders who would seek to use a growing Labour Party simply as a bargaining chip to secure deals with capitalist politicians.
Currently Edo and Ondo States are an exception as far as the Labour Party is concerned with considerable mass support existing for its defeated governorship candidates. In Edo Adams Oshiomhole is fundamentally seen as a radical labour leader, notwithstanding the fact that he ran under the capitalist AC. In Ondo Olusegun Mimiko who, unable to secure the PDP’s ticket, ran on Labour Party’s platform and is seen by significant layers of the masses there as far being a better politician than Olusegun Agagu, the PDP’s incumbent governor,