Osun Governorship Election: A Socialist Review
* For a Mass Working People’s Political Alternative on a Socialist Programme
By Kola Ibrahim
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) has taken cognisance of the governorship election in Osun State, which was held on Saturday, 16th July, 2022. The election saw the defeat of the incumbent governor, Gboyega Oyetola and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), with the bourgeois opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Ademola Adeleke emerging victorious in 17 local governments with 403,371 votes. Oyetola got a total of 375,027 and won in 13 local governments. The votes between the two candidates constitute about 98 percent of the total votes cast put at 823,124, which represent 42.16 percent of the 1.95 million registered voters. While the number of registered voters and number of collected voter’s cards (at 1.52 million) were the highest since 2003, voters’ turnout in the 2022 election represents the lowest rate since 2003. However, on a national average, the turnout in Osun election seems to be relatively better. Barring any change especially due to legal challenge by a disgruntled faction within PDP and from the APC, Adeleke is expected to be sworn-in as governor by 27 November, 2022, having received certificate of return from INEC.
Why Oyetola failed
For us in the DSM, the defeat of Oyetola reflects the general dissatisfaction with the ruling APC party both at state and national level, and Osun State voters were determined to punish the party and the Oyetola government for the malfeasance that has defined the government in the past four years. In the past four years, the living conditions of the majority of the citizens have plummeted as a result of the terrible neo-liberal capitalist policies doled out by the APC government at the national level together with the global crisis of capitalism with devastating effects. Prices of goods are sky-rocketing daily, while incomes are at best stagnant. Social services like education and healthcare are perhaps in their worst state ever, with university students currently at home for five months running.
At the state level, the story is not different. Aside salary payment, there is very little Oyetola government could point to as the basis for the existence of the government. All basic indices of modernity are in terrible conditions. Social services like education and healthcare are in a poor state. Most of facilities in public schools are in decrepit conditions with government neither reversing these conditions or improving them. There is huge shortfall of teachers and non-teaching staff. As at the last count, over 12,000 teachers have reportedly retired from teaching service in the last twelve years, but the governments (both Aregbesola and Oyetola) would not do the needful to employ adequate number of teachers. While Aregbesola government used building of few mega-schools to siphon public funds to private pockets, more than 90 percent of schools were left in dilapidated and poorly staffed conditions. Oyetola government’s plan to employ three thousand teachers became an opportunity for exploitation for poor job seekers as the government extorted three thousand naira from over 30,000 applicants. At the end of the exercise, the government only employed 500 teachers. In the twelve years of ACN/APC in Osun State, no single infrastructural project was undertaken by the government in all the tertiary institutions in the state. Worse still, the institutions are poorly staffed and charge high fees beyond the capacity of many working-class families.
In the health sector, the story is not different as most state hospitals are in terrible state. In the whole state, there are less than 400 government-employed doctors to an estimated population of over 4.7 million. In most of the hospitals, grown lawns have taken over. The so-called renovation of primary health centres funded by the World Bank reportedly became a conduit pipe for fund diversion as most of the health centres are poorly maintained. All roads linking the state’s major towns are in terrible conditions. The so-called road project of the government, aside being piecemeal are also poorly done. The less than 500-meter Ola-Iya flyover, which was the flagship project of the government has become an economic albatross to the state as the state is billed to be servicing the over N2.7 billion borrowed to finance it. Many of the road projects left abandoned and uncompleted by the Aregbesola government upon which tens of billions have been paid, have remained abandoned under Oyetola government. To add insult to injury, the Oyetola government gave out over N11 billion paid by the federal government for federal road projects undertaken by the state government, to contractors who have abandoned these projects even after collecting more than 70 percent of the contract sums under Aregbesola government. Yet, the state government was complaining of lack of funds to undertake projects, but the funds available were used to compensate those who looted project funds.
Arguably the worst undoing of the Oyetola government is the poor treatment of retirees and workers in the state. While the state government applauds itself for paying full salaries and pensions, the reality is that workers and retirees are facing serious challenges. Aside the fact that Oyetola government did not seriously implement the N30,000 minimum wage, as the highest the workers got was around N4,000, the backlog of salaries, pensions and gratuities have been left unattended to. Currently, the state government owes workers and retirees on government payroll over 30-month arrears of salaries and pensions. Also, retirees under the contributory pension scheme have been living from hand to mouth, while some of them have become destitute as a result of unpaid pension arrears by the government since 2016. The government, especially under Aregbesola government not only refused to pay its part of pension contributions to retirees’ pension accounts, a criminal act on its own, the government also went ahead to dip its hands into retirees’ deductions.
The internal crisis within the APC especially between the Aregbesola faction and Oyetola faction, contributed to the defeat of the APC. In the real sense, there is no fundamental difference between both factions. The root of the fight between them is the control of the party and the government. In fact, Oyetola, as the chief of staff to Aregbesola, was the brain behind many anti-worker anti-poor policies of the Aregbesola government, include the wicked half-salary and half-pension policy. Many of the anti-poor policies of the Aregbesola government were continued by Oyetola government. It is then not strange that Oyetola refused to probe the perfidy that characterised the Aregbesola government, which plunged the state into serious financial and economic mess. In addition to this is the horrible role of the Oyetola government during the EndSARS protest and the Covid-19 lockdown.
The anger against the APC and its government actually started in 2018 in which the same Adeleke of the PDP won against Oyetola/APC in the first round, only for the APC to unleash its violent rigging machine in the rerun election held in about seven wards across the state. The rerun saw brazen violence, rigging and vote buying by APC goons. While Oyetola was finally declared winner at the Supreme Court, the government did not enjoy popular support as a significant section of the population saw Oyetola’s mandate as a stolen mandate. It is therefore not surprising that many voters decided to punish Oyetola/APC for the sin of 2018. It is worth stating that the 2018 election was a protest vote against the Aregbesola/APC government that plunged the state into serious economic doldrums in its 8-year rule. Many voters then saw Oyetola as a continuation of the Aregbesola government.
Not so free election
The election, while being touted as a free and fair one had its fair share of manipulation especially as regards votes buying which were carried out by the two leading bourgeois parties, APC and PDP. Indeed, that the APC had to rely on vote buying, after spending billions of naira on campaign and buy out of politicians shows that the party and the Oyetola government had little confidence in their own so-called achievements. It is interesting to note that the same government had used lack of funds as basis to underfund social services like education and healthcare, and deny retirees of their entitlement. Yet, the same government had to use billions, ostensibly of public funds, to buy votes.
The PDP also was reported to have induced voters with money in order to win the election. While there were reports of some voters rejecting monetary inducement by APC, this did not mean that the PDP did not induce voters with money. Indeed, the governorship candidate, Ademola Adeleke, was reported during one of the campaign rallies, to have boasted that he would match APC money for money. This shows the limit of bourgeois opposition. This is not unexpected because Adeleke and the PDP have no serious programmes that are fundamentally different from that of the APC but have to exploit genuine anger of the people against the government, and bank on base sentiment and manipulation where possible, to win. All of these show that there is no fundamental difference between the two bourgeois parties in terms of politics and policies. It is worth noting that the 2018 election also saw a terrible vote buying from both parties.
Only a mass party of workers, youth and the oppressed could have genuinely mobilised and channelled mass anger of the people towards a genuine change from the capitalist rule of APC.
PDP: Not so popular
Ademola Adeleke won with a margin of 28,344 votes, about half of which came from the two Ede local governments where Adeleke hails from, and two local government in Osogbo. But the result of the elections is better understood when compared with 2018 results. In 2018, the APC, after massive rigging of the rerun election, had 255, 505 while the PDP had 255, 023 votes. However, when the votes of other opposition candidates, especially Iyiola Omisore of the SDP, who garnered over 120,000 votes, are added to the votes of the PDP, it means the margin of win of PDP in 2022 is very low, or better put, it means PDP lost more votes in 2022. This is because majority of the votes of Omisore in 2018 were protest votes which could have gone to the PDP if Omisore did not contest. However, in 2022, despite votes cast increasing from 769,495 in 2018 to 823,124 votes, the margin of win by Adeleke/PDP was only 28,344. This shows that Adeleke did not gain much from the absence of another strong candidate like Omisore in 2018.
This is not unexpected because Adeleke’s campaign did not incite any radical mood or reflect any serious programme to take the state out of the woods. He only relied on mass anger and quest of the population to punish Oyetola and the APC. This however does not mean that Oyetola had become more popular than 2018. Indeed, the popular base of the government, especially in Osogbo and Iwo have been eroded. For instance, in Osogbo, which used to be the base of the APC, the PDP won with a margin of about 10,000 votes in the two local governments. Also, Iwo, which used to be a traditional base of the APC, the ruling party only won with a very small margin of about 500 votes. The APC loss in Osogbo is historic and instructive given the fact that most of the government projects were concentrated in the state capital.
More importantly, this election shows that the working masses were looking for an alternative but there was no a mass confidence in the PDP. Therefore, it suggests that if there had been a genuine mass working people political party with an alternative programme to that of the both APC and PDP, and history of struggles together with workers and the masses, it could have won the election.
Adeleke: Any hope?
While Adeleke has been declared the governor-elect by INEC, the reality is that he will be inheriting a state in a serious financial and economic mess. For instance, he will inherit a debt of over N170 billion aside backlogs of salaries and pensions. This is aside decayed infrastructure and social services in a decrepit state. Clearly, the capitalist policies which the PDP and the APC are committed to cannot resolve any of the economic impasse in the state. Also, philanthropy, which the Adeleke family has been brandishing, cannot solve any of the basic economic problems of the state. Indeed, the capitalist policies of the PDP will worsen an already terrible situation.
Aside this is the expected blind looting of the little resources of the state by the PDP. Given the PDP’s record of looting especially under Oyinlola administration, it will be clear that the politicians in the PDP will be salivating for the wealth of the state. This is more so that the party has been out of government for 12 years in the state and seven years nationally.
While Adeleke may enjoy some months of honeymoon and may be able to pull some stunts like payment of few months’ arrears of salaries and pensions, and probably conduct of local government election, the inability of the government to meet the high expectations of the people will actually affect the political authority of the party. This is worsened by the current political reality in the state. For instance, out of 27 seats in the state’s house of assembly, the PDP only controls three while the APC controls the remaining. Meanwhile, legislative elections will be held next year’s February. Therefore, the PDP will have to mobilise to win at least a simple majority of the seats in the next elections in order to avoid political stand-off.
Reclaim the labour movement
Whatever happens, it is obvious that the Adeleke/PDP government, based on its commitment to capitalist programmes cannot take the state out of the woods. In Osun State, the task ahead is enormous. As analysed earlier, the Adeleke/PDP government cannot resolve problems facing working people. Indeed, the workers will have to reclaim their unions and rebuild it as fighting platform against anti-poor policies of the government. It is obvious that the leadership of labour movement in the state is compromised, especially given its support for the ruling government. But it would not have mattered much if it supported the PDP because the two parties stand for the same anti-poor policies. However, it is terrible that the same leadership of the labour movement that has refused to organise any action in support of workers and retirees could mobilise for rally in support of Oyetola/APC. This shows the level of rottenness in the leadership of the labour movement in Osun State.
Revolutionary and Socialist Programme
Only a socialist programme premised on mobilization of the people and commitment of the wealth and resources of the state to the needs of the people can develop the state. For instance, a genuinely revolutionary government will stop the corrupt contract system by which billions of public funds are siphoned to private end. In its place, the government will develop the public works department or ministry of works, which is democratically controlled, with adequate equipment and manpower to undertake serious infrastructural projects like massive road construction, building of schools, housing, etc. Aside this saving billions that normally go into private pockets, it will also allow for a holistic, centrally-planned and coordinated development, as against the anarchistic and piecemeal development that is synonymous with capitalist contract system. It will also provide quality jobs for citizens.
Also a genuinely progressive government will end the humongous and outrageous salaries for political office holders and will stop serious haemorrhaging of state resources through for instance the fraudulent security votes, and handout to political sycophants. Furthermore, the government will recover all looted funds of the state by politicians and big business men of the previous government. In Osun State tens of billions of naira have been looted through such projects such as Opon Imo, Osun Airport projects, O’School and various road projects which have been abandoned but yet have been paid for. Through a democratic probe committee comprising representatives of workers, government, relevant professional groups, youth movements, etc., it can be possible to trace, discover and retrieve tens of billions of state funds looted, while those involved in the looting will be prosecuted. Furthermore, a genuine government will repudiate any obviously obnoxious debts which procurement cannot be justified.
In order to develop the state, aside embarking on massive infrastructural projects, which will be linked to provision of free and quality education at all levels and free healthcare at the point of use, a socialist government will also undertake serious state-run industrial projects such as modern agriculture through state farms, farm plantations, farm settlements and cooperatives, and agro-allied industries. Added to this will be massive recruitment of citizens to undertake these programmes, while workers will be placed on living wage tied to cost of living.
In order to sustain these programmes, a revolutionary government will democratise all levers of government by involving elected representatives of workers, youth, communities and relevant professional groups in decision making and implementation process. Also, given the fact that a revolutionary government cannot exist in isolation in Osun State, the government will mobilise the working people and youth across the country for fight for a revolutionary government across the country and especially at the national level. With the level of development in Osun State, it can be possible to show what can be achieved at the national level.
SPN shut out
None of the parties in the election stands for any of these programmes. Only the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) stands for these programmes. We defended these programmes in 2018 when we contested for governorship seat. However, we were shut out by the rigging machine of the main bourgeois parties and the anti-democratic policies of the INEC. Worse still, by 2022, the INEC, with the backing of the Supreme Court and the capitalist ruling class, has undemocratically de-registered the SPN, because they know it is the only party that has bold socialist programmes that can mobilise the working and poor people for a genuine political change.
Where to go from here
Immediately, the working people, youth and the poor people in Osun State must put forth their demands, from both the Oyetola government and the incoming Adeleke government. Such demands an emergency plan of action, should include:
- Payment of the arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities
- Full implementation of N30,000 minimum wage across the board
- Adequate funding of education, healthcare and end reversal of commercialization of education, especially at the tertiary level. Government must make commitment to reverse the infrastructural decay and staff deficit in all public schools.
- Expansion of affordable and quality water supply to towns and communities across the state. Government must invest in adequate water treatment plants and extend supply networks across the state.
- Completion of all abandoned road projects and expansion of road networks across the state. The local government should be democratised and allowed to undertake local road construction, under public control and supervision by representatives of communities, workers, youth and relevant professional groups.
- Provision of decent jobs to teeming youth population in the state. By expanding educational and health facilities, infrastructures, etc., especially through public works department/ministry of works, it is possible to provide decent jobs for thousands of citizens.
However, the grave crisis facing Nigerian underscores the need to build a mass party of the working people, the poor and the youth, with clear socialist and revolutionary programmes. The labour movement, with its social power and class interest has the capacity to lead the formation of such a party. Unfortunately, the leadership of the labour movement across the country has turned itself into political carpet-bagger of the ruling capitalist parties and government. This is clearly reflected in the Osun State election where the leadership of the two labour centres, NLC and TUC, alongside some unions, openly supported the incumbent government and went ahead to organise rally in support of the government. These are the same labour leaders who have refused to lift a finger in defence of workers’ and retirees’ demands. This is also coming at a time when the national leadership of the NLC had directed its state chapters and leadership to mobilise into the Labour Party, which was initially founded by the labour movement.
Indeed, the conduct of the leadership of labour movement in Osun State shows the level of unseriousness and lack of interest of labour leadership in reclaiming Labour Party as a party of the working people. Indeed, the same national leadership that wants workers to join Labour Party is supporting APC candidates in Kebbi and Niger States. Even the Labour Party as presently constituted is only a vehicle for rejects in the main bourgeois parties of APC and PDP to pursue their self-serving ambition. For instance, its governorship candidate, Lasun Yussuff is a former member of APC who lost out in the APC primary and was gifted the Labour Party governorship ticket, after paying some millions. Indeed, the presidential candidate of the party, Peter Obi, only recently left the PDP when it was clear he would not secure the presidential ticket of party. He was a member of the Jonathan government’s economic team and former vice presidential candidate of Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 elections, and defended the party’s neo-liberal capitalist programme.
While Peter Obi’s candidacy has incited interests of young people looking for change. In the absence of a genuine party of the working people, his so-called ascetic lifestyle has incited interests in him. But beyond this, he has nothing fundamental to offer differently from the PDP and APC. Moreover, his stay in Labour Party is only for political exigency. If he loses, he would go back to his political base and will use the political capital acquired to seek for position in the PDP. If he wins, he will simply collapse the Labour Party into PDP or APC, given that the Labour Party has no political structure including adequate members in the parliaments or state governments.
Therefore, the task ahead is enormous for the working people and youth. We need a party of working people that fights for our demands. Unfortunately the NLC and TUC neither supported the SPN or took their own steps to build a new workers’ party. Instead they worked to “reclaim” the Labour Party, but this “reclaiming” did not go as far as opposing former PDP (or APC) leaders jumping into the party and rapidly capturing nominations. This is a recipe for disaster. In order to rebuild Labour Party as a party of the working people, the party needs to be built as a fighting party against all anti-poor policies of the ruling parties across the country. The party will need to serve as a bulwark of resistance of working people and youth against all anti-poor capitalist policies of the ruling parties. More importantly, the party needs to have socialist and revolutionary programmes that will make it unattractive to bourgeois politicians. In order to achieve this, working people and youth need to take over the party leadership. Without this, the working people and youth in search of genuine change must join forces with socialists and activists fighting to build a new mass party of the working people.