Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Newspaper of the DSM
Between 12th April, 2003 to 3rd May, 2003, Nigerians will go to the poll to elect the country's president, governors for the 36 states and members of the National Assembly and the 36 state houses of assembly in the first general election to be conducted since the military wing of the ruling class handed over power to their civilian counterparts on 29th May, 1999.
The general elections are expected to be followed later in the year by elections into local government councils across the country.
We in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) call on the working masses and youth to vote en mass in these elections for the National Conscience Party (NCP) led by the renown lawyer and fighter for human rights, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who is also the party's presidential candidate.
For over a decade, the Nigerian working people and youth had struggled against military dictatorship and for return to civil rule. Thousands of working class people and labour, youth and pro-democracy activists were subject to arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, torture and killing for fighting for an end to military rule.
Millions of Nigerians had supported the struggle against the military in the expectation that an end to military rule will bring about an end to mass poverty, declining living standards, huge unemployment, massive corruption and wanton violations of democratic rights which characterised military dictatorship. It was hoped that civil rule would result in improved living conditions, availability of jobs, a reduction in crimes and corruption and respect for democratic rights.
But four years into civil rule, these expectations and hope of the masses have remained largely unfulfilled. Economically, politically and socially, the country has either remained stagnant or the situation has become worse. Take the economy as an example. Even an IMF report, published on 2nd January 2003 revealed that most sectors of the Nigerian economy have been in decline in recent years. The manufacturing sector remains in a state of comatose. Problems of fuel shortage and electric power cuts, which Obasanjo regime often boast, falsely, to have successfully resolved are now back again in the open.
The living standards of the working masses have also been further wrecked by the policies of privatisation of public assets, commercialisation of social services, retrenchment of workers and other anti-poor neo-liberal capitalist economic policies. In Lagos and Osun states being ruled by the Alliance for Democracy (AD), not less than 15,000 and 10,000 civil servants respectively have been sacked since 1999. In many states, Anambra for example, civil servants and pensioners are being owed several months in salary arrears.
Obasanjo's much-publicised anti-corruption crusade exists in reality on paper. Corruption has not only remained, it has in fact become more sophisticated with elected public officials earning millions of naira annually under various disguises while the masses live in abject poverty.
Politically, the capitalist ruling class has proved once again that they are inherently incapable of uniting the different sections of the country together. In the past four years, not less than 10,000 people have reportedly been killed in ethnic and religious conflicts.
The main cause of these ethnic and religious conflict is the failure of the ruling class to solve the basic economic and social problems, including huge youth unemployment, as well as the use of ethnicity and religion by the various factions of the elite for their own selfish ends.
Last but not the least is the rising wave of political violence, including assassination of political opponents across the country, the most recent being the killing of Marshall Harry, a prominent leader of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) who decamped from the ruling PDP. Of greater significance, however, was the recent violent attack on the NCP presidential campaign entourage in Ekiti State by suspected agents of the ruling party in the state, the AD, as a result of which an NCP supporter was injured and hospitalised. It shows the readiness of the ruling elite to use violence to stop the NCP and any other political movement that they perceive as a threat to their wealth and power. All these, and the reported cases of printing of millions of fake ballot papers, show the desperation of the various individuals and factions within the ruling class to grab power at all cost so as to be in the most vantage position to loot the treasury and steal the country's wealth.
Altogether, the worsening economic situation, ethnic and religious crises, political violence and likely election rigging are creating increasing mass disaffection against the civilian ruling elite, a situation which may lead to another military coup at a stage. In a nutshell, the first four years of civil rule has proved once again that the civilian capitalist elite, like their military colleagues, are inherently incapable of guaranteeing economic prosperity and political stability. If the PDP, AD, ANPP, NDP, UNPP or any of the capitalist parties are elected or re-elected into office at either national, state or local government level, it would outrightly mean the continuation of mass poverty and misery for the working people.
A WORKING PEOPLE'S ALTERNATIVE NEEDED
To put an end to this unending cycle of poverty and misery, the labour movement and the working masses need to build, as a matter of urgency, an independent working people socio-political alternative which will be completely different in programme and method from those of the capitalist parties. To achieve this crucial and urgent goal requires the organisation of a mass movement of the oppressed masses to fight against all capitalist attacks on the working masses, and build a working people's political party which will organise the masses to struggle to take power from the present capitalist vampires and reorganise society in the interest of the vast majority.
THE FAILURE OF LABOUR LEADERSHIP
Sadly, the leaders of the trade union movement and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), both past and present, have failed to provide the necessary leadership to build such a movement. They have refused to consistently defend workers against commercialisation, privatisation, retrenchment, and other anti-poor capitalist policies of the ruling class. But most crucially, they have failed to present a political challenge to the capitalist elite in the form of an alternative working people's political platform. Yes, the Party for Social Democracy (PSD) was recently formed by some trade union leaders. But so far the party has existed mainly in the minds of its leaders. It has not organised any mass activity or campaign on the numerous national issues or matters affecting the working masses. It has not established any known structure among workers and the masses in general. In reality, the position of the Adams Oshiomhole leadership of the NLC is to tacitly support the re-election of the Obasanjo PDP government.
It is against this background that we in the DSM are calling on the working masses - workers, the youth, poor farmers, artisans, market traders, etc- to vote en mass for the NCP in these elections. More importantly, the working people need to go further and build the party as a grassroot, mass-based and democratic party fighting uncompromisingly, whether it is elected into office or not, for the interests of the workers, peasants, youth and the urban and rural poor in general, and which will lead a mass movement to end capitalist misrule and for the socialist transformation of society.
Though it does not have a socialist programme and orientation, in terms of mass support the NCP is the political party that presently has the greatest potential to mobilise and organise the masses to defend their rights and capture political power. The party's popularity among the downtrodden masses is as a result of its role during the struggle against military dictatorship and its defence of the interests of the masses. A great asset for the party also has been the record of its national chairman and presidential candidate, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who has a reputation as an uncompromising defender of the rights of the masses and fighter against dictatorship and corruption. Unlike the capitalist parties, the NCP opposes privatisation and commercialisation, retrenchment of workers, and stands for the provision of free education and medical care, full employment, welfare benefits for the unemployed, among other welfare programmes. The party's Ten-Care Programme if successfully implemented by an NCP government will eradicate poverty and misery from the lives of millions of people.
BUILD MASS-BASED, DEMOCRATIC AND SOCIALIST NCP
But in order for it to fully realise its potential, implement its Ten-Care programme when elected into office and live up to the expectation of the masses, there is a need for the NCP and its members, activists and leaders to embrace socialist programmes and policies.
As we in the DSM have always explained, the huge human and material resources with which Nigeria is endowed are more than enough to provide decent living for all. What makes this impossible and condemns the working masses to endless poverty and misery is the capitalist economic, social and political system, the so-called market economy, in which the economy and society are run for profits for a few capitalists and multinational corporations rather than satisfaction of the genuine needs of overwhelming majority of the society. As a result, it turns a few into millionaires and billionaires while condemning hundreds of millions of people into a life of poverty and destitution. Under this system, the wealth of Nigeria is concentrated in the hands of very few super-rich elite. According to the IMF report earlier mentioned, the richest 20% of Nigerians are getting 55.7% of the country's total income while the poorest 20% receive only a meagre 4.4%.
Thus to have the necessary resources with which to implement the Ten-Care programme and other pro-masses policies, the NCP will have to stand for the public ownership of the commanding sectors of the Nigerian economy like petroleum, mineral resources, big industries and banks to be managed and controlled democratically by the working people. It must stand for the society to collectively own and the working people in the cities and villages to democratically control the country's wealth that is presently owned, monopolised and controlled by a super-rich minority of local and multi-national capitalists. Democratic management and control by the working masses is essential in order to ensure that public enterprises are not mismanaged and used to serve private ends as it is the case under capitalism and as it happened in the former Stalinist states of the defunct Soviet Union, Eastern and Europe.
In other words, in order to abolish mass poverty, and eradicate hunger, diseases, unemployment, crimes, and ethnic and religious conflicts which it causes, an NCP government must be a workers' and poor peasants' government based on a democratic, socialist and anti-capitalist programme.
The NCP must also right from now begin to educate and organise the masses to be prepared at all times to struggle to defend their votes and to defeat opposition to the implementation of NCP pro-masses programme which is certain to come from the rich capitalist elite and imperialism. As a matter of urgency, it must begin to organise the defence of its meetings, rallies, offices and officials from likely physical attacks by agents of the pro-capitalist parties and groups. It is only by adopting and implementing the programme, policies and methods explained above that the NCP will live up to the expectations of the downtrodden working masses.