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22 May 2003

2003 ELECTIONS:

The Lessons And The Way Forward For The Working Masses

Report of 17 May DSM symposium held in Lagos

 

An impressive number of 56 people (including three journalists) turned up at a symposium (public meeting) organised by the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) at the International Press Centre (IPC), Ogba, Lagos on Saturday, 17 May, 2003.

The symposium was the first in the series of public programmes which the DSM is planning to organise in various areas. They are targeted principally at labour and NCP activists and aimed at assisting activists and DSM members in drawing a proper political and organisational balance sheet of the recent elections held in the country.

The topic of the symposium was 2003 Elections: The Lessons and the Way Forward for the Working People and three comrades namely Lanre Arogundade (an NCP senatorial candidate in the election, Niyi Adewumi (NCP candidate for Federal House of Representatives) and Segun Sango (DSM general secretary and Lagos state NCP chairman) spoke from the platform.

Among those who attended were two new student members from University of Lagos and Lagos State University who promised to work towards establishing DSM branches in their schools.

NCP AND THE ELECTION RESULTS

The seemingly poor performance of the NCP and the re-election of the big capitalist parties has understandably led to a mood of disappointment and activists in particular. Doubts are being raised by some NCP activists on whether it is possible to change society and whether the masses can ever capture political power through the ballot box due to the vote buying, rigging and manipulations often resort to by the capitalist elite on the one hand and the pervasive poverty and ignorance among the downtrodden masses which make them susceptible to the elites manipulations.

While speakers at the symposium acknowledged that there were widespread rigging and violence by the major parties during the elections and many of the declared figures are sheer fabrications, they explained that this was not main reason for the relatively small number of votes which the NCP received. The principal reason is that the NCP as a political party has not yet got sufficient influence and roots among the working masses and in most working class and rural communities that would have enable it to win the elections. In several local government and wards, especially outside Lagos State, the party is yet to establish any structure.

The very short time (four months) between NCP registration by the electoral commission (INEC) and the time of the elections, the shortage of necessary manpower and finance were also identified by speakers as factors which negatively affected NCP’s performance.

Against this background and in view of the widespread use of money to bribe voters by the major parties, the votes which the NCP got in some areas are in fact quite significant politically. In the Lagos West senatorial district, DSM member Lanre Arogundade won 77,000 or 9% of the votes while Niyi received 14% of the votes in Ifako-Ijaye federal constituency.

In the Lagos state house of assembly election, Akele, DSM member and the trade union leader who was victimised and sacked by the Lagos State government, received 15% of the votes in the Agege 02 constituency. In Lagos state, and in nearly the entire south-western part of the country, the NCP came third while it succeeded in winning a seat in the Ekiti state house of assembly.

Participants at the symposia agreed that the challenge before the party membership is to build it as a fighting grass root mass party with presence in every ward, street and home through systematic campaigning on issues affecting the working masses. Only the building of such a formidable presence can ensure victory for the party and the masses and neutralise the effects of vote buying and check rigging by the main capitalist parties.

The main speakers also emphasised the need for the NCP to embrace a full socialist programme without which it would be incapable of implementing its 10-care programme and fulfil the yearnings of the working masses.

PARTY FOR SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

The perspectives for Party for Social Democracy (PSD), the political party floated by a section of the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), also came up during the discussion. It was generally agreed that with the treacherous role of the current NLC leadership, their capitulation to the capitalist governments at federal and state levels and their refusal to fight for workers interests, it is extremely doubtful whether the PSD can command mass following in the coming years. But as we have often explained, in the unlikely event that PSD assumes a mass character and attracts change-seeking workers and youth, socialists will have to orientate towards it. We would also advocate collaboration between the two parties on concrete programmes for fighting for the interests of the masses.

BUILDING THE DSM

Lastly, most of the participants spoke on the need to give priority to the building of DSM. This is important not just for the vital task of building the forces for socialist change but also in developing the NCP itself. Experience has shown that in most cases it is in those areas where DSM members are active in NCP that the most virile sections of the party exist. The outstanding roles of our members have even on many occasions been acknowledged by non-DSM members in the party leadership.

This would not have been possible if efforts have not been concentrated in past years in building a revolutionary socialist organisation which emphasise correct political education and training of its members and organisational discipline.

In the same way for the coming period, there is no alternative to building the DSM. Therefore at all levels of the organisation, we must develop the tradition of regular political discussion to politically prepare ourselves for the storming events that will unfold in the coming period in Nigeria and internationally. We must equally put recruitment of new members as a topmost priority and ensure that the new recruits are consolidated and integrated into the organisation. There is also need for a greater financial consciousness among the membership, the need to raise money among members and from the working masses for the activities of the DSM.

As an immediate task, all DSM branches should now organise meetings and public programmes to draw lessons of the election and to bring into the DSM the contacts we made during the election campaign and other conscious, change-seeking elements.

A sum of N700 cash (US$5.4) and N450 (US$3.5) in pledges were raised as struggle fund.

FRIDAY FOLUSO

DSM National Secretariat