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October 1st, 2005

DSM leaflet

PRONACO’S HISTORIC CONFERENCE

A SOCIALIST APPRAISAL

 

The DSM wholeheartedly welcomes the initiative of PRONACO leaders to hold this historic conference. Since Nigeria was undemocratically created by British imperialism in 1914, this will be the first time that a non-governmental conference of this nature is being held or allowed to hold to discuss/determine the key issues surrounding the existence of Nigeria as a corporate entity. However, going by the composition of PRONACO's membership and leadership, its socio-political outlook and modus operandi, we regret to assert, very little will come out of this confab either politically or materially to better the lots of the suffering masses across the country and especially those of the minority nationalities in the oil producing Niger Delta region.

 

OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGY

 

Despite the massive publicity which the PRONACO initiative has generated from inception, there is yet no clearly defined objectives which PRONACO leaders set out to achieve from its own confab. By name, the PRONACO platform is made up of organisations advocating the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference to redesign Nigeria. For almost two decades now, there has developed a cacophonic demand for a Sovereign National Conference. There is a central reason for this. The country, to start with, was created in an arbitrary manner, taking only into considerations the narrow, selfish interests of the British imperialism and that of the dominant native elites of the major nationalities and tribes in defining the geo-political powers and structures of what is now called Nigeria. All the constitutions made to form the basis of governance in pre-independence Nigeria were exclusively fashioned and adopted by the colonial authorities with the active support of the budding bourgeois nationalists. Sadly too, all the constitutions made in the post colonial era have only deepened this negative legacy of elitist arbitrariness. For instance, the current 1999 constitution was exclusively drafted by military apologists and subsequently imposed on the entire country by the Abubakar military junta.

 

Suffice to stress therefore, the most natural expectation of most people towards a conference being called by an organisation that called itself an umbrella body for all organisations advocating a Sovereign National Conference is a conference that will have unfettered powers to democratically deliberate on all issues surrounding the question of Nigeria. Should Nigeria be? If yes, how should it be governed? If not, how can a peaceful democratic separation be secured? Sadly however, the PRONACO leaders have failed and or neglected to articulate any coherent direction and objectives for its own confab. It should be said that this lack of clear set goals and objectives is primarily reflected in the faulty strategy which informed the decision to put a calendar date on the convocation of its own confab.

 

Primarily, the point should be stressed that a Sovereign National Conference is not a talk-shop, rather, it is an assembly of a rebelling and organised fighting people. When it is in session, all other political authorities, including the incumbent government if it is still in power will be subject to its authority. Simply put, the resolutions of a SNC will be the supreme law of the land while it lasts. As we in the DSM have stated before, a SNC of this character can only come about in two circumstances. One, it can come about if the mass struggles have become so strong to render the incumbent government impotent and in order to avoid total humiliation, then make necessary laws and provisions to allow the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference whose decisions shall be the prevailing laws of the day. Two, if, as a result of mass protests and struggles, an unpopular ruling government collapses and a new government is formed by mass opposition elements, then, a SNC which will have sovereign powers can then be convoked by those that have come to power as a result of political vacuum created by the collapsed government.

 

When x-rayed from these two parameters, it should be very clear that very little positive gains can be made by the masses on the basis of the PRONACO confab as presently packaged. Interestingly, a fierce internal debate on whether the confab must be flagged off on October 1st or not dominated the pre-conference period. Some of those who opposed the October 1 date rightly, in our view, argue that the convocation of a SNC is something largely dependent on struggles and balance of political forces between the rulers and the ruled and not a calendar matter. Unfortunately, most of the elements in PRONACO leadership give the impression that they are more concerned about holding a conference without bothering too much about what a conference of this nature is expected to achieve.

 

Most unfortunately too, these majority leadership exhibited total intolerance to the argument of the minority opposition and in fact, often times, labeled them as government agents sent to come and destroy PRONACO's activities.

 

PRE-OCCUPATION WITH NARROW, ELITIST ISSUES

 

The PRONACO leadership is an embodiment of contradiction. On the one hand, it claims to be representing the interest of the oppressed suffering masses. On the other hand however, most of its pronouncements and practical orientation are clearly elitist. Whenever leaders of PRONACO are asked what are their positions on key issues bothering on the welfare and living standard of the masses such as food and housing, health and education, affordable and functional social amenities, jobs opportunities, etc. their usual answer is that they will not like to pre-empt the decisions of the conference on these vital issues. Surprisingly however, this same reticence is usually absent when the topic bothers on elitist issues.

 

Very often, the public is bombarded with well-worn bourgeois reformist slogans of "true federalism", "fiscal federalism", "rotational presidency", etc. But in practical reality, these are mere formula developed by the ruling class over a period of time to minimize their intra-class rivalries and competition. In a polity dominated by permanent mass poverty and in the absence of a viable mass working people's political platform posing a credible alternative way out of the rot, there will always be tendency on the part of certain layers of the masses hoping that if principal political and economic leaders come from their own nationalities, state or local governments, things can become better for themselves. But as our contemporary historical experience has abundantly demonstrated, the fact that the president, prime minister, governors, ministers, commissioners, local council chairpersons, etc come from a particular part of the country has little or nothing to do with the conditions of living of the masses of any particular area of the country as a whole. The same logic applies to the demand for "fiscal federalism", "revenue derivation policy". In this respect, it should be bluntly stated that an improved living standard for the masses of any nationality or geographical entity is not automatically dependent on the percentage of revenue voted for that nationality or geographical entity.

 

Despite huge sums currently being earned by the federal and state governments across the country in the past six years, there has been little or no positive improvement in the living standard of the masses. Capitalism, particularly its prevailing neo-liberal version, does not reckon with economic prosperity and good governance in terms of the well-being of the people and the collective economy. Rather, it measures its "successes" in terms of how many billionaires are made, no matter the degree of misery in the land.

 

As if to underline the fact that PRONACO leaders do not have any fundamentally different perspectives on how to take Nigeria forward from those offered by the ruinous ruling elite, its leaders had invited several prominent members of the capitalist class including President Obasanjo and his Vice, Atiku, to partake in its confab. To say the least, this singular conduct shows that the PRONACO leadership does either not understand or refuse to understand that the clamoured changes expected from a Sovereign National Conference can only be achieved through the political neutralisation of the prevailing ruling class forces, not their appeasement. Of course, a ready defence for the leadership approach in this respect can be attributed to the desire by PRONACO to be seen as fair to all and sundry. Expectedly, those operating on this line of thought would be ready to assure us all that this would in no way negatively tamper with the resolutions that will come out of PRONACO's confab. In other words, notwithstanding the invitation and possible presence of members of the ruling elite at PRONACO's confab, resolutions coming out of the conference at the end of the day should be expected to be as radical as possible. But this possibility then raises the question: How does the PRONACO intend to implement its decisions?

 

At the last Assembly meeting of PRONACO which held in Port Harcourt on September 17, 2005, argument was proffered that PRONACO's conference decisions will form the basis of interactions and relations with politicians before and during the 2007 elections. This line of thought was further reinforced by statement credited to Chief Anthony Enahoro, PRONACO's Chairman in The Comet of Thursday September 29, 2005. Reporting a news conference organised by PRONACO in Lagos, the above-cited paper quoted Enahoro as saying that the conference will only proffer options for solving Nigeria's problem and that PRONACO is not engulfed in power politics. Bluntly put, all these clearly confirmed our worse premonitions all along that all what the PRONACO leaders had in mind is just the organisation of a talk-shop, and not a Sovereign National Conference with powers to radically change the political and material conditions of the masses of the different nationalities that make up the country. Of course, we concede that any talk-shop that is organised on how to better the lots of the masses, politically and economically any day will be a welcome prospect for the suffering masses. In that case, right from the beginning, it will be made clear that the whole purpose is designed to achieve necessary theoretical clarity on the aspiration and struggles of the masses for better life. But when a mere talk-shop organised and dominated by sections of the ruling elites is misrepresented as the last hope for the masses to get out of a historic political and economic bondage, then it becomes another thing entirely.

 

THE CONFAB IN SESSION

 

This confab is holding against the background of the peculiar historical conjectures. The capitalist ruling elites on the one hand had shown beyond any reasonable doubt their utter incapacity to take Nigeria and Nigerians forward. In all ramifications, these ruling elites have failed the country and its people. Against the background of massive and extensive natural and human resources, the country's economy and social infrastructures are engulfed in a state of utter decay and stagnation. On the basis of stupendous incomes and abundant natural and human resources, the vast majority of the working people continue to live in permanent abject poverty and oppression. Times without number on the other hand, the working masses have expressed through mass protests and general strikes their total rejection of the prevailing socio-economic and political conditions. From the 90s up till today, each time a fighting leadership has been presented, it has always met with stupendous response and sacrifices on the part of the people.

 

Currently, mass rallies and protests have taken place in several cities within the country on the basis of the clarion call by the labour and civil society coalition (LASCO) against incessant fuel price hike and bad governance in general. There is therefore no doubt about the readiness and eagerness of the working masses to embrace and actively participate within any economic and political platforms actually committed to their struggle for emancipation from exploitation and oppression. Sadly however, the vast majority of sections of the working masses which have been fighting for better Nigeria in the past period and currently, are not participating in this conference because PRONACO leadership disposition on all vital social political and economic issues affecting the masses had never featured or featured prominently within PRONACO's comments and conducts. Whether the PRONACO leadership accepts this reality or not, the absence of these vital forces of change at this confab has abinitio, robbed it of the necessary vital resources needed to achieve any significant benefit for the masses. As things stand, the conference will only be dominated by the Grade B Team of the same ruinous bourgeois class, from within Afenifere, Movement for National Reformation (MNR), Ohanese, etc which the masses' struggle, in the first instance is against. Of course, to provide the necessary "peoples flavour", there are also many disparate nationalist groups and NGOs in attendance, most of which for all practical purposes and intents, represent nobody beyond themselves.

 

Also at the conference are some nationalist groups which, to one extent or another, have some noticeable presence and authority within their areas of activities. Some of the organisations from within the Niger Delta area fall within this category. But this category is so few that ultimately, the confab deliberations and decisions will be mostly dominated and made by self-serving elements who lack any social basis and clear-cut agenda for the masses.

 

RESOURCE CONTROL: WHAT IT MEANS

 

Among other things, the Obasanjo's own confab stalemated on what percentage of the revenues from oil resources should be paid to different sections of the ruling elite. The ruling elite from the Niger Delta region spare-headed the demand for 50% of the taxes being currently paid by the foreign oil multinational cooperation and cartels to the central government. Their counterparts from the other parts of the country, that is, from the major nationalities and from non-oil producing areas were only ready to concede 17%. Unfortunately, this intra-ruling elite's squabble was presented as struggle over resource control. Therefore, will PRONACO fight for real resource control by the working people or will it simply adopt the false bourgeois approach of substituting the fight over oil tax being paid by the multinational corporations to the different sections of the elite as being synonymous with resource control?

 

It should be stressed that genuine resource control means that the working people are exercising actual control and management over the exploration, processing and sales of oil products and above all, that these resources are commonly owned and placed under workers democratic control and management under a workers and poor peasant government. But even if all what PRONACO is prepared to do is to advocate an increase in percentage of oil revenue to the oil producing states, how does it intend to implement this against the well-known self-serving but virulent opposition of the ruling elite from the non-oil producing nationalities?

 

WAY FORWARD

 

PRONACO is no doubt faced with a historic dilemma. On the one hand, it professes that it wants radical changes in the political conditions of the masses and of course, through that, changes in their material conditions. On the other hand however, it is pitted against an unrepentant defenders of the status quo who are mostly beneficiaries of the prevailing unjust economic situation and the prevailing lopsided political arrangement and which for these reasons hold tenaciously to the position that there is no need for any radical changes in the scheme of things. Therefore, to make any appreciable improvement politically and economically by the masses, the prevailing ruling elites will have to be dislodged from power. But to mobilise a kind of powerful political movement that will be capable of removing these well-entrenched ruling elites from power, PRONACO will require a programme and strategy capable of mobilizing the overwhelming majority of the working masses behind its own agenda.

 

Contrary to the current disposition of the PRONACO leaders that they are not interested in political power, a conscious conclusion has to be drawn theoretically and practically that no meaningful political and economic improvement can come the way of the masses without first of all dislodging from political power the self-serving ruling elite. Two, to achieve this end, there is the necessity to draw a comprehensive and coherent economic and political policies reflecting the needs and aspirations of the working masses; a programme diametrically opposed to and independent of the prevailing capitalist neo-liberal policies with its privatisation and commercialisation dogmas

 

As we in the DSM often state, only a socialist government of workers and poor peasants can implement this kind of aforementioned policies. Without this kind of revolutionary transformation, the prevailing social economic crisis of joblessness, mass poverty, crimes, drug trafficking and fake drug businesses, prostitution, intra and inter ethnic cum religious crisis, etc will continue to dominate the features of Nigerian society.

 

Therefore, to take a preliminary step to arrest this avoidable but inevitable calamity, we once again call on PRONACO leaders together with LASCO leaders and all other pro-masses organisations and elements to, as a matter of urgency, immediately convoke a conference of all organisations within PRONACO and LASCO and others that are one way or the other represent sections of the masses with a view to form a mass political platform of the oppressed masses. The overall goal of this political formation, (using methods of mass propaganda, agitations, rallies, protests, stay-at-homes, industrial strikes, and all forms of legal and democratic means,) while intervening in the daily economic and political issues affecting the masses in the immediate, medium and long term periods, will be directed towards the central goal of capturing the political power with a view to deliberately implement policies in the interests of the working masses and poor.

 

2007

 

Presently, both at the central and state levels, the ruling parties, (PDP, ANPP and AD) because of their pervasive corruption and anti-poor policies, are roundly detested by the working masses across the country. However, if by the 2007 general elections no mass, viable political platform of the oppressed masses exists to wrestle power from them, one way or the other, they and or their clones will crookedly retain power.

 

As things stand, there is bound to be mass apathy towards these parties and politics in general. Of course, this will not discourage the capitalist parties from awarding millions of fake votes for their candidates where they are in control of material and state apparatuses. However, if all the elements in PRONACO, LASCO, etc can come together on a political platform with a central aim of instituting a government of the working people in place of the current one which apparently only exists for the tiny class of the rich and thieving elements, then a genuine mass enthusiastic participation of the masses in the coming elections can be guaranteed. If this approach is taken, we are confident that ultimately, the confab outcome and 2007 general elections will one way or the other strengthen the struggle of the masses against perennial suffering in the midst of plenty. If not, their agony will be prolonged till an indefinite period.