Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)

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17 November 2003

AMUWO-ODOFIN BYE-ELECTION:

A VOTE OF NO-CONFIDENCE ON THE RULING PARTIES

Babatunde Oluajo (a.k.a Sankara), a leading member of DSM and the candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP), came third in the bye-election into the vacant seat of the Amuwo-Odofin II constituency in the Lagos State House of Assembly which took place on the 8th November 2003. He scored 832 votes. This election had originally been scheduled for November 1st, but was postponed when the authorities realised that only the NCP had submitted nomination papers on time.

 

Going by the official results announced by the Lagos State office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which conducted the election, the Alliance for Democracy (AD), the ruling party in the state, won the seat with 8,710 votes, while the PDP, the party controlling the federal government, came second with 5,157 votes. The ANPP, the official opposition party at the federal level, was next to NCP with 160 votes while another capitalist party, APGA, came fifth with 46 votes. Each of the remaining 25 parties got between 0 and 26 votes.

 

For two main reasons, the result of the bye-election is an indictment of the current civil rule and the ruling capitalist parties in the country. Firstly and most significantly, the turnout in the election was extremely low. Only 15,515 voters (11.8%) bothered to come out and vote out of a total of 131,141 registered voters in the constituency, at least by official records. This huge mass apathy is a product of the widespread mood of disappointment and disillusionment among the populace caused by the failure of the governments both at the state and national level to improve living standards since the advent of civil rule in 1999.

 

Worse still is the fact that since the April/May 2003 general elections in which the AD and PDP were purportedly re-elected in Lagos State and at the federal level respectively, their governments have launched a new wave of attacks on the conditions of the working masses.

 

Fuel prices have been hiked twice by the President Obasanjo PDP federal government since the general elections and the regime has also deregulated the petroleum products market which means oil companies are now totally free to fix prices and make as much profit as they want. Petrol, which sold officially at N22 per litre at the time of the general elections, now sells for a minimum of N40.50 per litre. As a result of this anti-poor measure, prices of nearly all goods and services have gone up dramatically. Suffering and hardship faced by the masses have increased while living standards have nosedived further.

 

The AD Lagos state government has also embarked on a programme of demolition of shops and markets in which mostly ordinary working people eke out a living, under the guise of cleaning up the environment, without providing any alternative. Against this background, most people felt there was no point coming out to vote again.

 

Secondly, just like during the general elections, the bye-election also witnessed a lot of rigging and manipulation by the AD and PDP. In many polling booths, especially where the NCP did not have polling agents, more votes were criminally added to the actual numbers of votes scored by these parties. There were also multiple and under-age voting in several polling booths, also organized by them. Without any scruples, money was fragrantly used to buy votes. In some polling booths in the waterside areas of the constituency, NCP agents were chased away and threatened with death by drowning by AD and PDP supporters and thugs.

 

Therefore, the numbers of votes attributed to these two parties by INEC completely exaggerated the amount of support they both have among the electorate.

 

The NCP was the only party that organized any mass campaign before the day of the election, going from door to door to explain the party’s programme and canvass for support. While the party canvassers in many cases succeeded in convincing people that the NCP is different in its programme, policies and methods from the other, elite parties, this was most often after a long explanation due the general prevailing mood of disillusionment.

 

The details of the result of the election also showed that the NCP was able to check or minimize riggings only in those areas where the party has groups of active and reliable members. The key to the development of the party therefore is to build active, grass root structures in the communities, neighbourhoods and streets.

 

This can only be possible if the party leadership and activists recognize that it has to be built as a mass, fighting party mobilising the working people and fighting for their right to decent living and working conditions on a daily basis, and as a platform for the revolutionary transformation of society. The party cannot compete successfully with the elite parties if it seen and built as a machine that will only be activated during election periods. But if it built as a mass party of struggle and a vehicle for social change, with a democratic, socialist programme, the NCP will, over time, distinguish itself from the rotten capitalist parties and enjoy active support of the majority of the working masses.