2023 Elections: An Urgent Necessity for Pro-Working People Political Alternative
Only alternative based on a socialist progamme can rescue Nigeria and reconstruct its economy in the interest of workers and the masses
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has recently announced February 18, 2023 as the tentative date the next general election is scheduled to hold across the country. If held, it will be the seventh since the country returned to civil rule in the year 1999. However, the road to the election is already inundated with division within the ranks of the ruling elites and their leading political organizations – All Progressive Congress (APC) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
By Abbey Trotsky
One manifestation of the division rocking the rank of the ruling elites is the ongoing struggle for the soul of the two parties ahead of the 2023 general elections. In APC for instance, there has been a rift among different camps of the party over the legality of Governor Mala Buni, the Governor of Yobe state who is currently serving as the interim national chairman of the party following the inglorious removal of Adam Oshiomhole, a former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC), as the National Chairman of the party.
Also rocked with crisis is the People Democratic Party, PDP, the leading bourgeois opposition political party following the removal of Mr. Uche Secondus as the party National Chairman, through a federal high court judgment.
Again, the ongoing conflicts between Southern state governors and Northern governors over sundry issues such as cattle grazing, VAT and region to produce the next president, and also between the former and Buhari presidency over cattle grazing and VAT have further showed how sharply divided the capitalist ruling class and its competing elites have become at this present time.
The depth of the division among the ruling elites at this present time may further compound the crisis of the unresolved national question in Nigeria, especially if power is retained in the North or if Southeast does not produce the next president. However, the desperation of the PDP to return to power, something which seems a majority of the key members believe is possible only with a northern candidate, may reduce the tension among the capitalist political elite given that the PDP is the mainstream party in the Southeast. But in the APC, it appears there is a growing consensus for the presidency to return to the Southwest, though this not cast in stone yet. In any case, either of this likely direction of the APC and PDP may heighten the agitation for separation in the Southeast where already there is a feeling of marginalization in the region which has not produced a president or head of state, civilian or military, since the end of the civil war.
Moreover, an absence of agreement over the zoning of presidency may raise the tension that could put the country on the precipice including making a military coup a possibility. However, the question of the region which such a military leader comes from means that the military coup option may itself further compound the crisis, rather being a solution.
Unfortunately, the conflict among the ruling elites is not the only factor that could determine what happens in 2023. Were this to be the case, then Nigeria’s dilemma would be very much simpler. The reality is that other conflicts in society which the ruling elites have no full control over could even pose a bigger risk to the general elections than the intra-class conflict of the capitalist elite. These include the unresolved herders-farmers crisis, the separatist agitations especially in the South East as well as banditry, kidnapping, ethno-religious conflicts and other violent activities. In the South East for instance, a “civil war” scenario is already posed in the situation as anger grows amongst a section of the population. In fact, in recent times, the so-called “unknown gunmen” ravaging the region have begun to raise the slogan of “no elections in the South East, all we want is Biafra” as they go about maiming, killing and burning. Government offices and facilities like that of INEC, DSS, Police stations, residential buildings of state governors and prominent politicians have been attacked.
Given the scale of the crisis, there is every possibility that a state of emergency may be declared in some or all the states of the South East towards the 2023 general elections due to how much the local capitalist elite have lost power and authority. The fact that the Attorney General of the Federation, Malami, mentioned this in relation to the November 6 gubernatorial election in Anambra state shows this option is being discussed within the corridors of power. In 2015, the erstwhile Jonathan PDP regime had to postpone the 2015 general elections by a few weeks purportedly in order to push back Boko Haram and enable some of the affected states in the North East which had been nearly overrun by the insurgency to participate in the elections. However, Socialists must warn that should the Federal Government feel obligated to do the same in the South East, the outcome may be entirely different. Unlike Boko Haram, the armed separatist militants in the South East are mixed with the rural and urban populace and despite their brutal tactics of individual terrorism, the Biafran cause is something many South Easterners believe in or have sympathy for. Therefore, in the situation in the South East today, any serious military operation targeted at dealing with separatist agitators will inevitably lead to enormous killings and other injustices including indiscriminate arrest and incarceration which can cause massive national and international outrage.
But if the ruling class is able to secure some agreement and conduct the 2023 general elections, in the absence of a mass working peoples party, there is no prospect that the elections will usher in a government that will implement policies that will help to uplift the living standard of the Nigerian working people. Rather, there will be the continuation of the various anti-poor capitalist policies and philosophy of the successive pro-capitalist governments regardless of the political party affiliations, which are responsible for various socio-economic crises such as mass poverty and mass unemployment despite the huge human and material resources Nigeria is endowed with.
The limited hopes in 2015 that Buhari would at least achieve some development of the capitalist economy have not materialized. Despite the completion of a few projects the overall situation of the economy and masses has worsened. Therefore, except the ruinous system of capitalism is defeated and replaced with a viable socialist system, all the enormous human and natural resources at the disposal of Nigeria, given its neo-colonial character, will not translate into any meaningful development of the country and decent quality of life for the vast majority. By a socialist alternative we mean public ownership of all the commanding heights of the Nigeria economy like oil and gas, mines, banking, telecoms and big farming and agro-allied monopolies under a democratic control and management of the elected representatives of the working people. This is in order to mobilise adequate resources of the society and democratically plan their use for the needs of the vast majority as against the greed of a few as currently obtains.
FOR A MASS PARTY OF WORKERS, YOUTH AND THE POOR MASSES NOW
To achieve this kind of socialist transformation will require a mass party of workers, youths and downtrodden on a socialist program through which the entire members of the working people irrespective of ethnic and religious backgrounds will be mobilized and organized in a mass movement and struggles against various capitalist attacks and ultimately to wrest political power from the capitalist ruling elites and immediately commence the process of reconstructing the society, on a socialist basis, in the overall interest of the working people and poor.
Also importantly, the existence of such a mass party of working people will prevent any possible degeneration of socioeconomic crises and the national question into a civil war. The only ray of hope that the 2023 election will usher in a government that would implement policies that will be in the interest of the working people is if a mass working people’s party on a socialist program exists to participate in the elections.
Following the #EndSARS protest a section of young people came to a conclusion that a youth party is needed on the basis that Nigeria is facing the current socio-economic crises because of the old age of political leaders. This is erroneous. It is the capitalist program and philosophy of the successive governments that is primarily responsible for the inability of the huge human and material resources of Nigeria to be used for the benefit of the vast majority including the youth. In any case, the fact is that since the independence till date the country has had young people occupying very important positions including Head of State, Senate President, Speaker of House of Representatives, Governors, members of legislative houses at all levels, etc without being different from the general run of the failures.
So while young people, who are part of the key human resources of Nigeria, must be active politically but this has to be on the basis of clear ideas and programmes and not simply on the basis of age. Besides, youth party means other important layers of the oppressed masses including the working class are left out of the process to change Nigeria. This is fated to fail. Therefore, the genuine change seeking youth should be actively involved in any campaign or efforts for the formation and building of a mass political alternative that brings together workers, radical youth and the poor masses and armed with a socialist program.
PARTY PROGRAMME AND ORGANISATION
The Democratic Socialist Movement, DSM, welcomes all genuine efforts and initiatives including the Peoples’ Alternative Political Movement (TPAP-M) to build such a mass party. But as earlier pointed, such a party will have to be a fighting platform that identifies with the daily struggles of workers, youth and the oppressed, and stand on a firm socialist programme to be able to use the resources of the country for the benefit of the vast majority if it forms government. This does not mean that DSM will not and support an attempt to form a new mass party for workers and downtrodden even if it does not have a clear socialist programme at the beginning.
Nevertheless, our attitude towards such a possible development will be to argue and campaign within it to adopt a clear cut socialist programme against a possible ideological debacle of trying to reform capitalism which is inherent with the danger of being submissive to the pressure to water down the programme of the party so that it does not challenge the essence of capitalism. We will always insist that it is possible for such a party to earn its historical and legitimate place at the head of workers and the poor masses with a socialist programme if it is ready to campaign among the masses for its acceptance.
The party should seek to encompass all the active and living social forces in class struggle. These include Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC), individual trade unions, workers activists, pro-masses organisations, socialist groups, radical youth and students movement, left political parties like the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), National Conscience Party (NCP) and Omoyele Sowore led African Action Congress (AAC), community associations, artisans and farmers/peasants groups.
Given the expected composition of the party, the most suitable form of organization is a confederal arrangement. By this it means that every political organization and group that constitute the party will be allowed to freely canvass their idea and raise criticism within the party both through their own press and party press as long as those idea are not to undermine the aims and objectives of the party. The membership of the party should be by individual registration and individuals with affiliation to a political organization must be allowed to openly indicate so. This will prevent the existence of an undeclared group.
Again the funding of the party should always be derived from the subscription paid by members and other contributions like struggle funds and donations from trade unions, pro-masses organisations, members and the public. This mean that the party must distance itself from the unhealthy culture of using the sales of nomination forms to raise money to fund its activities or programmes. This will ensure that workers and ordinary people, which the party aims to organize, can aspire to take leadership position or become party candidates. Therefore, leadership positions will not only be opened or limited to opportunists and careerists including members of the capitalist class and rejects from the main capitalist parties who are usually desperate to use their ill gotten money to hijack any party with potential to gain popularity among the downtrodden for their self-serving ends just as in the case of the Labour Party.
To prevent corruption, and careerism party leadership at all levels must be by election and paid officials as well as public officers from the party must not collect more than the average wage of a workers in addition to incidental and necessary expenses and they must be subject to a recall. This will also provide for active internal party life and regular check on the party leadership and its elected officials.
It is important to state that before such a party will win mass acceptance and enthusiastic support among mass of the working people, it must be ready to always identify and active in all of the struggle of workers in workplaces and other layers of the working people in the communities including students’ struggles on campuses. This also implies that the party must always mobilise the working masses against all forms of anti-people policies like hike in electricity tariff, petrol price hike, obnoxious taxes, attacks on jobs and public education among others
At present the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) is the only left political party with a clear socialist programme in Nigeria and also with a legal existence. Although, SPN was initially deregistered fraudulently and undemocratically by the INEC following the 2019 general elections, along with other parties, it later won the INEC at the Court of Appeal in a declarative judgment which declares its deregistration by INEC illegal and unconstitutional hence, orders for its re-enlistment as one of the registered political parties in the country. The INEC has challenged this court order at the Supreme Court which had the first sitting on the matter on October 28, 2021 and later adjourned to November 15, 2021.
If the party gets a favourable judgment as we hope for, we of the DSM recommend the party to the Nigerian left and trade unions to adopt with a view of building it into a mass workers party. As far as we are concerned in DSM this is better than reinventing the wheel of trying to register a new party. However, whether or not this call is embraced or the party loses at the Supreme Court, we of the DSM shall continue to be committed to the goal of collectively building with other genuine forces a mass working peoples’ party on a firm socialist programme.