Gani Fawehinmi (1938 – 2009): A Foremost Working Peoples’ Leader
First posted on September 11, 2009
The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) condoles with the family of Chief Gani Fawehinmi on the death of an outstanding working peoples’ leader and joins millions of working class people in Nigeria and internationally to celebrate his life and struggles. We reaffirm our dedication to the best of the ideals he lived and fought for. To us, the greatest honour to his memory is social transformation of society. We reiterate our call on the labour leadership to dedicate themselves to a political struggle aimed at wresting power from the thieving elites at all levels and institute a working peoples government that would commit resources of the society to the benefit of all and which is run on socialist programme. This special edition, which is dedicated to his memory, contains below a special interview with Segun Sango, the General Secretary of DSM on some of the ideals and politics of this inimitable fighter for emancipation of the oppressed. We also reproduce two articles: Gani at 70, and A Review of Gani’s Cardinal programme as NCP presidential candidate (a chapter in a November 2003 publication of the DSM). These articles are republished to highlight the political essence of Gani and also demonstrate his capacity to accommodate organizations and individuals with divergent opinions in the struggle for a better society. There are also in the edition some pro-working peoples quotations of Gani Fawehinmi.
Interview with Segun Sango
Socialist Democracy: Gani Fawehinmi, fondly called the Senior Advocate of the Masses by working class elements, died in the early hours of Saturday September 5, 2009. Since then, many elements across class divides have been making statements eulogizing Gani’s courage and commitment. As someone who politically collaborated with Gani for many years before his death, can you give a brief political portrait of the man popularly called Gani, for supporters and readers of the Socialist Democracy?
Segun Sango: First and foremost, it must be understood from the beginning that Gani was a multi-dimensional personality. Another Gani trait, which must be properly understood was his steadfast and thorough commitment to whatever he was doing, be it for family members, friends and associates, legal and political struggles. For these two reasons, it should not be surprising that Gani was being eulogized by many and different elements in society. The truth is that Gani positively impacted on a host of individuals and issues, be it legal or political. In this regard however, eulogies emanating from prominent members of the capitalist elites irrespective of their political parties must be treated with special caution by working class elements. In fact, many of the statements being credited to elements like Ibrahim Babangida, past or present governors, senators, etc, are purely hypocritical. Many of these elements in Gani’s lifetime subjected Gani to draconian repressions including numerous imprisonments in the sub-human dungeons called prisons in Nigeria. Even those of them, who did not have the opportunity of being in government to be able to repress Gani for what he stood for, studiously and steadfastly avoided collaboration with Gani to achieve the central purpose of using political power to abolish poverty. They were too busy struggling to acquire political power to be able to amass personal wealth at the expense of the ordinary masses just like those capitalist elite who effected endless political persecution of Gani under military rule and under the fake civilian government in the aftermath of the exit of military from power in 1999.
All said and done, the vast majority of ordinary Nigerians cherished and would continue to cherish the robust, prodigious, selfless but steadfast commitment and contributions of Chief Gani Fawehinmi to the struggle against oppression, exploitation and all forms of acts of man’s inhumanity to man. His political and legal struggles were so phenomena in scope and character. Unlike most bourgeois lawyers, Gani regarded law as an instrument for the protection of the weak against the mighty and specifically to ensure that those entrusted with governmental power and position of authorities in public institutions and private enterprises are strictly made to observe the laid down laws and regulations of the land. He equally, throughout his over five decades of legal and political activities, held tenaciously to the position that government administration and activities must be centrally directed towards the maximum protection of the welfare of the ordinary citizens. When he founded the National Conscience Party (NCP) in 1994, Gani vigorously argued and campaigned that the abolition of poverty must be the central policy of an NCP government.
Socialist Democracy: There are those who held and possibly still hold the opinion that a major political weakness of Gani was his alleged inability to work in a group or collective for the actualization of his political ideals, how would you react to this accusation?
Segun Sango: This is an absolutely false accusation. In fact, there exists numerous occasions and examples of when Gani had been involved in concrete practical efforts to, alongside other radical minded elements, participate in economic and political struggles to reshape Nigeria for the better. Specifically, members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) openly attest their political collaboration with Chief Gani Fawehinmi especially since the inception of NCP on October 1, 1994, till virtually the end of his active political period. Here, I would like to emphasise that this collaboration was always based on frank but fraternal support and criticism. It is on record that Gani never, even for once, requested members of the DSM to stop their independent publications and activities within and outside the NCP. This point is politically significant in the sense that it is usually the inglorious tradition and practices of pseudo Marxist and Stalinist elements to argue that if members of a revolutionary organisation like the DSM work within a larger working class organisations like the trade unions, students unions, Labour Party, etc, it is wrong and disruptive to make open and fraternal criticism of the policies and leadership of these mass working class organisations. For instance, Sylvester Ejiofor, the General Secretary of AUPCTRE, and other so-called left elements within the trade union movement and Labour Party leadership are presently engaged in desperate struggles to prevent all manners of change-seeking elements, especially members of the DSM, from becoming members of the Labour Party. This obviously, is a strategy being used to keep the Labour Party in its present weak shape, organisationally and politically with a view to ensure that the working class people are unable to proffer working class political alternatives against all the layers of capitalist elements including the self-styled progressives in the AC, ANPP, PPA, etc., come 2011 and beyond.
Of course, Gani’s critics could still argue that many atimes, when seemingly other radical elements collaborated with Gani, that Gani always and invariably usually quit such a collaborative platform. A usual and prominent recent example often cited in this respect was the resignation of Gani from the chairmanship position of JACON, a broad based radical opposition platform formed to fight the military towards the end of their stay in power. However, in discussion with some of us, his close political associates, Gani said he resigned his Chairmanship position of JACON when he realized that several prominent leaders of JACON were only ready to jostle for power based on an unprincipled acceptance of the Abubakar military junta’s transition programme. Here, it is suffice to stress that Gani’s political characterization of JACON’s many leaders was centrally correct, as this was later demonstrated by the then AD leaders’ (including late Pa Abraham Adesanya) staunch opposition to the democratization of party registration criteria in the National Assembly. The then AD, and now AC, leaders alongside the leaders of the PDP, APP, now ANPP, jointly passed an Electoral Act, which subsequently retained all the anti-democratic criteria for party registration prescribed by the ousted military government.
Against the background of an example cited above, Gani, over the years, developed a justifiable disdain for many so-called left and radical elements whom he always painfully felt were not honest and steadfast enough to the cause they are propagating. In his usual inimitable version, Gani ably defended himself against the accusation of individualism and an inability to work within the framework of a collective platform. Hear him: “I have not been the collective man because of half hearted involvement of people. When a man is not prepared to die for a cause, he can be swayed. Many of our radicals are more concerned about the glory that will attend the outcome of a cause. They are not prepared to commit their lives. The moment you find a man not prepared to throw in his life for a struggle, he can be swayed. Many of our radicals don’t want to throw in anything”.
In sharp contrast, the DSM members can attest to Gani’s abiding and unflinching support for those he perceived to be genuinely fighting a just cause. For instance, in the political struggles waged against members of the DSM by the right-wing leadership of elements like Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, Femi Falana, Tanko Yinusa, etc, that took over the national leadership of the NCP after Gani’s tenure. Gani, on several occasions in private and public discussions with party members espoused his support and solidarity with the embattled DSM members within the NCP. At the peak of this struggle, he granted an exclusive interview published in the March 30, 2007 edition of Vanguard newspaper, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the founding National Chairman of the party, had this to say on the overall conduct of the Obayuwana leadership: “Since I left the leadership of the party in 2004, the party has seriously gone down. I am not happy that Obayuwana (NCP national chairman) has been very inactive. It is tragic that the NCP has no candidate in Lagos now. In 2003, we virtually won the election in Lagos State but for the rigging of the PDP and AD. With hundreds of thousands of votes they said we were third. This time have you heard of any NCP candidate on the radio, on the television, anywhere, have you heard of NCP campaigning for gubernatorial election anywhere in Lagos State? We chose Lanre Arogundade who grew up with the party from the inception, an internationally and nationally recognized activist of tremendous integrity and respectability, a workhorse, a man of honour, to take the flag of NCP but Obayuwana and others worked against this man and brought an unknown person from the U.S. who is not even a member of the party…”
Suffice to stress, Gani’s support and endorsement of a DSM member as NCP candidate in the 2007 election was predicated on his long-standing political solidarity with the DSM as an organisation. At a political event, jointly organized by the DSM and UAD on June 28, 2006, Gani had among other things stated that there was no basis for poor masses to be suffering in a country that makes over N190 million daily from crude oil sales alone. While billions of dollars are being pumped out of the economy to pay odious and fictitious debts, majority of the people have no access to food, education, healthcare, employment, shelter etc. He lampooned the privatisation policy of the Obasanjo regime. “Okonjo Iweala will be talking of market forces. Where is the market and where are the forces?” Gani retorted.
After a thorough analysis of Nigerian economy and ever-plummeting standards of living of the poor masses, Gani Fawehinmi, asserted that the only alternative to pervasive rot that has taken over the soul of the country is a form a socialist government. In his words, “we need a socialist party with socialist economic programme. If you form this, I will join. We don’t need power at all cost. We need power under a platform with socialist programme to fight the West… I am not happy by the way thing things are going”. On the NCP, he had said, “I must confess, I don’t know the economic programme of NCP today!”
Socialist Democracy: What would you consider as Gani’s major political thoughts and methods, which contemporary leaders and members of the oppressed working people must strive to uphold in order to facilitate a quick and permanent end to mass poverty and misery in the midst of super abundance?
Segun Sango: Above all, Gani was a doer legally and politically. Gani, throughout his legal and political career demonstrated in clear terms the importance of positive action in pursuance of a cause. If Gani believed an action was legally wrong, he would do everything possible to secure legal redress. Gani never believed in private grumbles in the face of oppression or injustice. Hence, he was always and thoroughly vocal with respect to all issues he handled. For the working class people and members of the DSM in particular, Gani’s activities to crystallise a working class economic and political alternative distinct from the elitist, selfish and self-centred capitalist system, which only caters for a tiny minority, represents his most important political legacy.
Therefore, the best way to preserve the good memory of Gani would be to accelerate the process for the crystallisation of a purely working class and people oriented political platform with a clear-cut anti-neo liberal, anti-capitalist policies and for an express pro-masses ideology. This, as the DSM often debated, with Gani in his lifetime, will be the most scientific and realistic way through which mass poverty can be abolished as fervently desired by Gani in his lifetime.
Some of Gani’s Pro-working people quotations
On Oshiomhole’s contest for Edo State Governor as against the call for him to vie for presidency: “How could a man who has brought us out to fight against global economic slavery of Obasanjo denigrating himself to become just an Edo State Governor. I do not understand why a leader of the Nigerian people will be fighting for sectional interest instead of standing on the side of the entire working people of Nigeria to fight. He will achieve nothing if he becomes Edo State Governor other than meetings upon meetings, motion without movement” (DSM and UAD Political Summit June 28, 2006).
Arguing for Socialist Party and Socialist Programme: “we need a socialist party with socialist economic programme. If you form this, I will join. We don’t need power at all cost. We need power under a platform with socialist programme to fight the West. This party can be formed and recognised by Nigeria constitution within two months. I am not happy by the way things are going” (DSM and UAD Political Summit June 28, 2006).
“If I become the leader, I will declare a socialist ideology, give free education, free medical services. A man who arrives the hospital sick and is not given medication will fight it out with those in charge.” (Gani’s Book of Quotations Vol. 1 compiled by Richard Akinnola)
“How can one practice law without relating it to politics? Law is the end product of the activities of a nation politically and socio-economically, law is not in isolation. Anyone who practices law without relating it to politics, sociology and economics is a fool. I don’t want to be a fool. I embrace socialism”. (Gani’s Book of Quotations Vol. 1 compiled by Richard Akinnola)
“A system that has worsened the plight of workers must not be embraced by the workers. For once, the workers should take a new direction socio-economically opposed to the present direction which has led them to the abyss of discomfort.” (Gani’s Book of Quotations Vol. 1 compiled by Richard Akinnola).
“I think the radicals should interact more, especially through a central forum. Those in labour circles, students union, legal circle and journalism (etc.) should come together. What the government has been able to do in this country is an indictment of the radicals.” (Gani’s Book of Quotations Vol. 1 compiled by Richard Akinnola).
“There is too much congenital injustice, demonic oppression, ruthless dictatorship and agonizing poverty in this country today. Until these destructive vices of governance are uprooted from this country, continuous imprisonment or even threats of assassination will not deter me from the peoples cause”. (Gani’s Book of Quotations Vol. 1 compiled by Richard Akinnola).
We reproduce below the article written by two members of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Segun Sango and Lanre Arogundade, and posted on the DSM website on April 24 2008 to mark the 70th Birthday of Gani Fawehinmi. It was also published in four national Nigerian newspapers, the Guardian, Vanguard, Nation and Sun, on Sunday, April 20, 2008. Though written more than a year ago, the tribute is still much relevant to the celebration of the life and struggle of the quintessential working peoples’ leader. It is a tribute that highlights the political essence of a man whose life was dedicated to struggle for a better society.
GANI @ 70: Celebrating an Inimitable Fighter for the Masses
As a consistent and courageous fighter for the masses whose activism span a vast terrain, there can be no shortage of deserved praises and salutations for Gani on this momentous occasion of his 70th birthday. This especially so, as Gani has managed to reach this milestone despite his failing health, the blame of which however rests squarely on the shoulders of Nigerian military dictators and their civilian collaborators who inflicted deep injuries on his health through numerous incarcerations in dungeons, called prisons, across the country.
In more senses than one, Gani is actually a story already told and there is simply no aspect of his renowned activism that would not fill volumes ever since he chose to put his legal services at the disposal of the poor and the oppressed beginning with the Obeya case in 1969. The later, it should be recalled, was a poor driver, whose wife was snatched by the Secretary to the military government of the then Benue/Plateau state; and then to rob salt into injury, was illegally detained. Gani would have none of such injustice. He picked the gauntlet, instituted legal action on behalf of Obeya and won.
Obeya’s case invariably turned out to be the tip of the iceberg in the anti-oppression armoury of the gadfly. Hence today, Gani is celebrated as a most authentic Senior Advocate of the Masses (as captured in the title conferred on him by the students of the then University of Ife, Ile-Ife), a foremost human rights crusader (indeed winner of the 1993 Bruno Kreisky human rights prize); an unsurpassed pro-poor legal luminary; a prolific publisher of law books (his Nigerian Weekly Law Reports remains an indispensable companion of lawyers and judges); a compassionate humanist; a pro-masses radical politician (as evidenced in the formation of the National Conscience Party) and many more.
In deciding to write this political tribute, our take however, is that Gani’s should not simply be a mere story told or repeated, but an inspirational lesson learnt especially by the working class, the youths, the un-employed, the women and all other oppressed layers of the society. In this sense, the occasion of his 70th birthday needs to be used to highlight the essence of the political life of a man, whose consistency, courage, genuineness of purpose and political sagacity set him poles apart from pseudo-radicals, class collaborators and side on-lookers who the Nigerian bourgeois press have the proclivity of celebrating as heroes of democracy.
If we harp so much on the imperative of situating Gani’s role in the struggle for democracy within the proper historical context, it is also because we hope it would enrich the on-going debate among change seeking elements on the way forward in the aftermath of the massively rigged 2007 elections, the continued imposition of anti-working class policies like privatization of the commanding heights of the economy and commercialization of health and education and the bizarre looting of the nation’s treasury. Arising from the debate is the question of fighting these injustices, not just as a pro-democracy or civil society exercise but by taking up the challenge of building a real working class alternative political platform.
In the above context therefore, a cursory examination of Gani’s activism would reveal that the over-all thrust of his fight against both military and civilian dictatorships was that they represented fundamental aberrations that should not only be rejected and fought, but replaced with a pro-peoples alternative.
The story of his battles against injustice is of course of legendary stuff as few more examples will suffice: facing the bayonets and providing free legal services for leaders and members of the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) during the anti-education-commercialization Ali-Must-Go struggle in 1978; heading an Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) administrative probe panel over the police killing of four students of the University of Ife in 1981; pursuit of justice over the murder of Dele Giwa through parcel bomb on October 19, 1986 a major outcome of which is the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the right of private prosecution and hosting of an alternative to the anti-poor Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) conference in his chambers that was however disrupted and eventually led to his detention in Gashua prison in the far North by the Babangida military regime.
However, from our own point of view, Gani’s role in spearheading the formation of the NCP in 1994 constitutes his yet most outstanding contributions to the struggle of the ordinary working masses for a permanent decent living and polity.
Firstly, the formation of the NCP was an unprecedented radical phenomenon in the history of political parties in Nigeria. At the time in issue, the military junta as usual, had banned all political parties and all forms of political activities. All the professional politicians who presently hold sway across the country had gone underground, unable to challenge the military’s ban on politics. Even the so-called progressives organized within and around the SDP, the party whose presidential candidate, Chief Moshood Abiola won the June 12 presidential elections had shown their utter incapacity to take on the military over the unjustifiable annulment of the June 12 presidential election.
In fact, most of the members of the party in the South-West, at the beginning were elements who felt let down by the passive resistance/collaboration with the military forces by most leaders of the SDP, the self styled progressives.
But the NCP’s greatness went beyond the prodigious personal courage of its leader, Gani, who was prepared to stake everything, including his wealth and health. From the beginning, the NCP was expressly meant to be a party of the oppressed, the exploited and the cheated. Hence its motto: “Abolition of Poverty”. That was why NCP under Gani led series of mass protests against the Abacha military junta.
In this respect, the struggle against the military also brought out another good side of Gani. Ever before the formation of the NCP, the general media image of Gani was that he couldn’t work with anybody else. However, his active role in the formation and leadership of the Joint Action Committee on Nigeria (JACON) represented a crushing refutation of this decidedly prejudicial portrait. Gani led the formation of the NCP because he came to the conclusion that none of the sections of the professional capitalist class across the country, including the so-called progressives in the West, could measure up economically and politically to the needs and aspirations of the masses. Yet, he combined in JACON with the leadership of AFENIFERE, NADECO, etc, to fight military atrocities.
Of course, as someone who characteristically does not suffer fools gladly, Gani unceremoniously resigned his chairmanship of JACON when he realised that most of JACON leaders and their fellow travellers in the so-called civil society were prepared to participate, in the most unprincipled manner, in the Abubakar junta’s transition programme. That Gani’s judgment was right in this regard was to be subsequently confirmed by the despicable role played in the National Assembly by the elected representatives of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), the off-shoot of AFENIFERE, NADECO, etc. Together with the out rightly pro-military and rightwing elements within the All Peoples Party (APP), now ANPP and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the AD legislators passed an Electoral Act specifically to deny official recognition to the NCP and other pro-masses parties to function as political parties. It took titanic legal battles fought by Gani and supplemented by mass protests by NCP activists before the Supreme Court eventually gave nod to the NCP to run candidates in elections.
Looking back, despite and in spite of time and financial constraints, the NCP ran a glorious campaign and equally got promising results where it was organized and active. Despite the massive frauds and manipulations, which characterized the 2003 general elections, the party’s presidential candidate in the person of Gani came fifth, while in Lagos State, the party’s governorship candidate came third. In fact, many change-seekers used to urge NCP activists to persevere, as they believed the party was a party of the future.
Unfortunately however, by the time of 2007 general elections, the NCP had virtually ceased to be of any political reckoning. Two factors were responsible for this deplorable turn of fortune for the NCP. One, some of its best leaders including Gani himself decided to take a back stage in the building of the party largely because they felt too disappointed with the sheer fraud and brigandage exhibited by the ruling class under the guise of conducting elections. There was also the frustration felt as a result of the perception that the suffering masses did not do enough to defend their interest against the rapacity of the ruling class.
Suffice to note, the practical exit of persons like Gani from NCP enabled an ambitious rightwing clique to gain supremacy of the party leadership at the national level. In place of genuinely committed radical elements building the party at grass-root level which was the main feature of NCP under Gani’s leadership, a new rightwing leadership consolidated their hold on power through conscious promotion and elevation of careerists who are totally incapable of building the party at grass-root level. For most of the years when Gani served as the NCP chairman, the party had no stable income in the form of INEC subvention. Today however, despite regular annual grants from INEC, the party has become organisationally and politically weaker. In 2003, the party’s governorship candidate in Lagos State scored over 150,000 votes whereas in 2007, the party imposed a candidate in Lagos State who only scored a shameful 580 votes.
To the class of exploiters and oppressors as well as their lackeys, the failure to build NCP as a formidable party of the masses would be seen as a personal tragedy for Gani. However, this would be nothing but an absolutely false conclusion. This is because it is the general failure to build a genuine masses party that has landed us in today’s no win situation dominated by the ruling and opposition parties that are not distinguishable in any positive sense whatsoever.
While many acclaimed political pundits continue to give the false impression that something good could come out of the ruling PDP, ANPP, AC, etc., Gani had long ago, with the formation of NCP, arrived at a much superior conclusion that a distinctly pro-masses party and government are needed to bail Nigeria out of its vicious economic and political circles. Even while obviously disappointed with the turn of events within the NCP, Gani has essentially maintained faith with the concept of an all Nigerian working peoples’ party. This was why he gave active support to all the general strikes and mass protests called by the organised Labour unions and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) against Obasanjo’s neo-liberal policies. And it was for this same reason that he made personate calls on Adams Oshiomhole, the former NLC President to run for the presidency so that he can provide a political rallying point for the oppressed masses in order to give a viable ideological resistance to all sections of the capitalist class. For Gani, the issue was not whether it was easier to win the governorship of Edo State than the presidency but rather the necessity of crystallising a distinct untainted banner to rally the working masses against their eternal exploiters and oppressors. However, whichever side of the argument one finds himself or herself on this debate, the blunt truth remains that without a genuine working peoples government coming to power, Nigeria shall unfortunately continue to reel under the misrule of one set of locusts or another parading themselves as leaders. There can be no greater lesson to learn from decades of Gan”s political activism.
We reproduce below an article culled from the Chapter Six “A working class solution needed” of the 2003 DSM Nigerian perspective publication: “Nigeria’s Crisis – Time for System Change” (November 2003). It is a critique of the cardinal programme of Gani Fawenhimi as the presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP). We republish the article to graphically illustrate the freedom granted by NCP under Gani’s leadership to groups and individuals to critique the programme and policies of the party. This is against tradition of most organizations that do not accommodate independent opinions and activities as well as fraternal criticism in their folds.
A Working Class Solution Needed
Right now, the closest thing to a pan-Nigerian working peoples party is the NCP. During the April/May, 2003 general elections, NCP had the most comprehensive anti-capitalist policies of all the left parties. The party’s national chairman and presidential candidate, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, is one political leader that enjoys considerable degree of sympathy, amongst the masses, across the country, as a poor people’s defender and fighter against corruption and general abuse of power. Thus despite coming so late and with little or no resources into electoral contests, against the background of massive official riggings and manipulations, the party easily emerged as debated, the most popular of the newly registered parties. Very often during the campaign and thereafter, NCP activists were told that their party is a party of the future.
There is therefore the possibility of building the NCP as a viable pan-Nigerian working peoples’ party. But this is not automatic. There are enormous challenges which have to be met before this desirable goal can be attained. Presently, the NCP does not have the national and organisational spread of the labour movement. And given the indispensable role which the working class has been playing and which it will still have to play in the unfolding struggles against imperialist/capitalist exploitations and oppressions, the NCP leadership at all levels must begin to consciously build the party amongst and around workers and mass organisations at all levels across the country.
It should be emphasized, however, that success in this regard can only be achieved if the party is built not merely as an electoral machine. The party must be built as a platform of struggle for workers and all the exploited and oppressed masses across the country, in or out of office, during or after elections. It must be built as a party that constantly fights for all economic and political rights of the masses including the right to self-determination. The party has to be built as a working masses weapon to conduct daily struggles for better wages, better and affordable social needs and services, full employment, full democratic and political freedoms, etc., for individuals and associations within society.
If the party is built as a mere electoral machine, that is if the party only functions or attempts to function only at election times, then it can never sufficiently muster enough support amongst the masses needed to defeat the always rich and powerful capitalist parties and candidates at election times. The party, in its constant focus and daily activities, must always show that it is unreservedly committed to the economic and political emancipation of the masses. Only a party that conducts itself in this manner can at election times command the mass following and support of the masses across the nationalities and country, similar to those experienced during the three general strikes/protests that were called and led by the Oshiomhole led NLC when the PDP central government increased fuel prices. During the last elections, the NCP presidential candidate, Chief Gani amongst other things pledged to implement the following programmes:
“Reduction in cost of funds, i.e. Reduction in bank lending rates from the current rate of 32% to a single digit interest rate with a view to promoting economic activities and make Nigerians active participants in the economic growth of the country. Within the first 3 months of NCP’s Federal Government, interest rate will not exceed 9%. There will also be a 3-year moratorium on loans to enterprises employing 2000 workers and above. Such loans will be guaranteed by Government.
“Industrial production, enhance employment of labour and purchasing power of the masses, a social security system, which includes payment of a minimum living wage, unemployment benefit, care of the disabled, pensioners and the aged pursuant to S.16(2)(d) of the 1999 Constitution, shall be established.
“Stability in economic planning. The naira exchange rate against other foreign currencies shall be pegged and shall not exceed 10 Naira to 1 US Dollar.
“Re-nationalisation of privatised enterprises in the commanding sectors of the economy and for social services to the masses of our people while encouraging competitive private sector participation pursuant to Sections 16(1) and 16(2) of the Constitution.
“Active protection of local industries through prevention of unfair trade practices militating against the growth of local enterprises, including indiscriminate dumping of foreign goods.
“Abolition of corruption in public office. Towards this end, corrupt past political leaders and key public office holders from January 15, 1966 to May 2003, shall be investigated and punished as a deterrent measure, pursuant to S.15(5) of the 1999 Constitution. The loot recovered will fund part of the NCP 10-Care programme.”
Undoubtedly, the above-enumerated programme is a radical departure from the open, neo-liberal policies of privatisation, deregulation and commercialisation being propagated and implemented by all the capitalist parties. However, there is no way this programme can be successfully implemented within the framework of capitalism, especially its neo-colonial variety in Nigeria, and in an era of deepening imperialist rapacious dominance of the global capitalist economy.
In addition, it falls short of a socialist programme. A socialist economic agenda will not only pledge to re-nationalise privatised enterprises in the commanding heights of the economy and social services, it will unreservedly advocate the nationalisation of the entire commanding heights of the economy including banks, insurance, financial institutions, etc. And against the background at the debacle that caused the collapse of the nationalised but bureaucratically controlled economies of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, etc., and against the background of monumental corruption and mismanagement which characterises public enterprises in Nigeria’s history, a genuine socialist policy of nationalisation today will be made with the concomitant demand for total working class control and management of the nationalised enterprises and economy.
Notwithstanding these caveats, the above stated six-point NCP programme is sufficient enough to bring the beast out of the global capitalist forces. Any government within the framework of capitalist economic network that attempts to carry out this kind of radical measures will not only face the risks of economic sabotage but also the risks of being removed from power by force, if necessary by the capitalists nationally and internationally!
The only successful way to fight imperialism and capitalism is to adopt comprehensive anti-capitalist, socialist economic and political measures. Suffice to note, only a workers and poor peasants government, which consciously cultivates and receives the active support and solidarity of the broad-layers of the world working masses can successfully implement anti-capitalist, socialist measures within the prevailing global capitalist order in a dependent capitalist country like Nigeria.
Therefore, any attempt by an NCP government that operates within overall capitalist order to implement these kind of radical programmes aimed at improving the living standard of the working masses will come against stiff and ceaseless opposition of the capitalist forces, nationally and internationally. Such a government will be confronted with a stark choice remain within the confines of capitalism and by so doing betray the interests of the masses, or in order to uphold the interest of the masses adopt a full rounded socialist perspectives. The latter is the only correct beneficial option for the working masses. This is the option members of the DSM have been advocating since NCP was founded. This is the option that the DSM members will pursue in the coming period, with respect to the NCP or any other similar mass body.
Presently, despite all overwhelming advantages on its side, the Oshiomhole led NLC has refused to take overt steps to form or join the building of a genuine pan-Nigerian working peoples party ready to fight to capture political power from capitalist elites in order to install a truly working peoples government. If however, tomorrow, under the impacts of greater socio-economic convulsions, there emerged a trade unions-created or backed mass party, members of the DSM will be in the forefront of those that would be urging co-operation, collaboration and merger where possible between such a party and the NCP in the overall interests of the working masses.