TIME FOR A WORKING PEOPLES’ GOVERNMENT IS NOW!
TIME FOR A WORKING PEOPLES’ GOVERNMENT IS NOW!
Statement by the organisers of the political summit for a working peoples’ political alternative, United Action for Democracy (UAD) & Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), on June 28, 2006 at the Lagos Travel Inn, Ikeja.
NATURE OF THE CURRENT CRISIS
From the point of view of the ordinary working masses, including vast layers of the middle class elements, the almost seven years of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s led civil rule is nothing short of a nightmare, an absolute disaster, economically, politically and socially.
On the one hand, the country and the ruling regime have been especially favoured by virtual, constant high prices of crude oil (Nigeria’s main income), which in turn has brought huge unprecedented fortunes to the country’s coffers. Between June 1999 and now, this regime has officially earned over N20trillion from sales of crude oil alone.
Paradoxically however, the quantity and quality of life for the vast majority of Nigerians vis-Å•-vis the basic means of living have drastically plummeted within this same period. This, it must be stressed, is largely due to the unprecedented looting of public treasury by all layers of politicians across all levels of government. Of course, President Obasanjo daily shouts to high heavens about his administration’s crusade against corruption. In reality however, this false crusade only means that individual members of the thieving ruling class who temporarily fall out of line can be occasionally exposed to public ridicule and their crimes thereafter treated with kids gloves. Most of all the high government officials indicted of looting today walk the streets of Nigeria freely with no certainty that the case against them will ever be prosecuted. The only high profile looter so far prosecuted and convicted was the former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun who was convicted for having stolen over N17 billion of public money, aside from undisclosed and unjustly acquired properties and other assets worth tens of billion of naira. At the end of the day, the man was only sentenced to six months imprisonment. A phenomenon which has once again underlined the fact that big time corruption pays!
In the past, a significant portion of similar oil windfalls was used to develop certain vital social services like education, health care, etc. apart from key investments on infrastructures like water, electricity, roads, industries, etc, all which severally and collectively positively impacted on the living standard of the ordinary working masses.
In sharp contrast, the current Obasanjo’s so-called civilian government, acting under the dictates and or in concert with imperialism has completely jettisoned the idea of government using public/societal wealth/resources to better the lots of the masses. Instead, it has adopted an whole scale capitalist, neo-liberal strategy which simply insists that the profit motive decides everything. Everything, accordingly to this most reactionary capitalist school, must be left for the “market forces” to determine. In effect, a permanent bazaar society has crystallised with the few in corridors of power looting most of the resources and wealth being generated while the overwhelming majority were expected to provide houses, water, electricity, education, health care, etc, on their own, of course, strictly in accordance to the size of their pockets which is the only vocabulary understood and acceptable in the market jungle. Today, over 70% Nigerians are said to be living below poverty line. Life span for both male and female are put at 49 and 51 years respectively.
Just like under the military, the past six and a half years of Obasanjo’s civilian government have been characterised by rampant violations of working masses democratic and constitutional rights in all ramifications. Apart from the well known acts of genocide perpetrated by the regime against the defenceless masses in Odi and Zaki Biam in Bayelsa and Benue States respectively, the numerous, un-elected and unaccountable military forces and executive institutions like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have continued to subject many hapless working class elements to endless detention and tortures without trials, while cases of extra judicial killings have continued unabated, just like under the military. Right now, the unresolved nationality problem, which primarily arose from the arbitrary and undemocratic manner through which the country called Nigeria was created by British imperialism, is threatening to tear the country and its people apart. Most lamentably however, the Obasanjo regime has only continued with the well worn and counter-productive tactics (developed under colonialism and since perfected by the ruling elites from the major Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba nationalities in post independence era) of using military might to keep Nigeria one at all cost. Over 10,000 people have been killed in ethnic, religious and national conflicts in the country. With the growing agitations in several parts of Nigeria, particularly in Niger Delta, for self determination and the government’s self-serving agenda to militarily suppress these agitations, Nigeria and its working masses in the immediate, medium and long term basis face a nightmare of a horrendous magnitude. Only a democratic socialist government of the working masses committed to satisfaction of the needs of all and which for that reason will be prepared to treat all nationalities big or minor equally can peacefully hold this country together now and in the long run.
PROSPECT FOR CHANGE
The above painted gory picture is widely known and bitterly felt by the masses on a daily basis. What, however, is most worrisome is the fact that this nightmare will not end unless the current self-serving elements in power are removed and replaced by a democratic government of the working people and the rural poor whose central goal will be the abolition of poverty by using the resources of society for the welfare of all. Precisely here lie the challenges before the working people and its leaders. Going by the way and manner through which the current ruling politicians acquired power from the military, taking a critical look at the monumental farce called 2003 general elections and making sober analysis of the overt and covert steps being taken by those in power at all levels across the country to ensure that only pro-rich, anti-poor elements continue to hold sway in power, then it is a forgone conclusion that the conduct and outcome of the 2007 general elections (if it holds at all) will be worse than those before it. How can this apparent catastrophe be avoided?
There is only one realistic way out of this looming disaster. And this is for a pro-working people’s government, with a conscious pro-masses policies totally different from the current pro-rich ones being implemented in coming to power.
The good news is that this is not as far fetched as it seems on the surface. For about seven times within a period of six years, the working masses and youth of this country have risen in general strikes and mass protests against this regime and its widely hated policies. All that is needed and which sadly is not being provided is a political leadership that is bold enough to draw the necessary conclusion that the masses through these struggles are demanding fundamental socio-political changes. Bluntly put, the masses want an immediate end to Obasanjo’s regime and at the same time prevent a situation where those committed to same anti-peoples agenda do not come to power after Obasanjo.
From this perspective, the political issue and task of the day cannot be validly limited to the narrow bourgeois idea that once Obasanjo is stopped from continuing in power as president after May 2007, all will be well. We all have to face the brutal fact that if those succeeding Obasanjo come from the same class of pro-rich anti-poor politicians, the masses nightmare will only deepen in the short and long run.
THE KEY TASKS
Therefore, the central task of the day is putting in action a strategy capable of rapidly building a powerful pan Nigeria working peoples political platform which can within a short period of time grow enough to give the thieving ruling class a serious run for power. This end we dare say is easily attainable if the following conditions are met and sustained:
1. There has to be clear understanding from the beginning that the kind of party being advocated is a party of struggle. A genuine democratic mass working peoples party will never have the kind of stolen resources being used by the capitalist politicians to manipulate electoral processes. Such a party can only come to power on the basis of massive and determined organised support of the working masses themselves. And it should be stressed that this will only happen if the masses are truly convinced that the party is fully prepared to protect their interests without any unprincipled compromise with any section of the ruling class across the country, irrespective of their nationalities and religions.
2. Presently, 1% Nigerians is said to be consuming 80% of all generated incomes. Consequently, a genuine pro-masses party must be prepared to wage a relentless struggle to reverse this unjust order and instead fight for a system whereby the main resources and wealth of the society are owned collectively and democratically used to cater for the needs of all and not just a few as under capitalism.
3. The kind of party needed must be a working peoples’ party in its membership, leadership and activities. Therefore, the party has to be run in a distinctly democratic manner, unlike all the big capitalist parties which are run in undemocratic, arbitrary manner by their self-imposed godfathers. A genuine peoples’ party will only truly flourish if its major decisions and activities flow from and reflect the real wishes and aspirations of its ordinary members and not just the whims and caprices of its leaders, no matter how sincere they profess to support masses cause. Such a party will aim to build support and structures in every part of the country.
4. . In its bid for power, electoral contests will definitely occupy a big feature of a truly working peoples party. However, right from its inception, both the leadership and membership have to face the blunt truth that the oppressors and beneficiaries of the prevailing inequities cannot be reasonably expected to voluntarily give up their undeserved privileges. In fact, they should be expected to put all possible obstacles, legally and illegally to obstruct the emergence of a genuine working peoples’ power. Therefore, the kind of party needed must at all times be prepared to combine mass actions, e.g. general strikes and protests, stay-at-homes, sit-ins, etc in the periods between elections and even on serious electoral disputes. Only this kind of approach can ensure that the ruling class will not be able to tamper with any result that gives victory to a working peoples party.
Certainly, there would be many other important points that have to be noted when discussing the issue of a new mass working peoples party. Even the above outlined points cold be seriously disputed as to whether it is the best way to propel the development of a genuine masses’ alternative to the prevailing economic and political rot. In either case however, no genuine pro-masses leaders will deny the necessity of having, first and foremost, a special conference of all pro-labour, pro-masses’ organisations and elements with a view to collectively work out a programme of political action aimed at wrestling political power from all self-serving politicians. In this regard, the point should be underlined that the above-stated preamble is only a perspective, in our view, of how the kind of party needed to struggle for the emancipation of the masses from the capitalist contrived permanent poverty and perpetual political oppression can be built and not a pre-condition for participation by the identified groups and individuals.
General Secretary, DSM
Note Please: Pursuant to the above views and analysis, the organisations, interest groups and individuals listed below, which, however, by no means exhaustive, are suggested to be invited to the maiden conference to chart way forward for the working peoples political alternative.