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Socialist Democracy May 2006


Socialist Democracy

May 2006


Officially and publicly, President Olusegun Obasanjo has not announced his intention to remain in power beyond May 2007, his terminal period as President under the military imposed 1999 constitution. Notwithstanding his ostrich game on this issue, all key economic and political features and manipulations going on under the regime clearly point only in one direction - his perpetuation in power beyond May, 2007.

When asked recently during a tour to the US if he still intends to remain as president after May 2007, Obasanjo pretentiously spoke from the two sides of his mouth. Firstly, he stated that he had no such plan "for now". Secondly, he praised the National Assembly to a high heaven for carrying out the review of the 1999 constitution in strict compliance with the constitution itself and its own in-house rules! The reason for this unusual praise, of course, is the proposed provision that a president can run for 3 terms of 4 years each.

Thus, if the constitution, by whatever means, is amended in this regard, then it is as certain as the day follows the night that Obasanjo will strive to remain in power beyond May 2007. In line with this projection, the national leadership of his conquered, mis-named Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently handed out a directive to PDP leaders to work to achieve what the media has dubbed "3rd term agenda", or face sanctions by the party. After lots of hide and seek game, his deputy, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, formally wrote to inform Obasanjo of his intention to run for president in the 2007 general elections and accordingly, asked the latter for his support. Promptly, Obasanjo replied him stating that it is the PDP's choice that will determine his support.

It should be stressed that this is not the statement of an impartial leader promising to support any candidate that may be picked by his party but rather, a cryptic message to Atiku that his request for support may be needless since he (Obasanjo) himself expects to use his conquered PDP machine in government, and the national and state Assemblies, to perpetuate his own presidency.

Side by side the gerrymandering and manipulations going on in the name of constitutional amendment, the regime has carried out a policy of zero-tolerance towards any group of persons agitating against a preposterous amendment of the constitution and or the continuation of Obasanjo as President after May 2007. While all such elements are being physically harassed, assaulted, detained and their meetings being forcibly dispersed, the pro-third term choristers singing the music earnestly desired by the powers that be are being feted on red carpets! All of these and other related factors have proved beyond any reasonable doubt that President Obasanjo ridding the vehicle of a conquered PDP machine and those of the corrupt elites in general will stop at 'nothing to perpetuate himself in power beyond May 2007.

This, we in the DSM strongly warn, will be nothing short of an absolute disaster for the vast majority of the working masses who have had their living conditions worsened in the past seven years of Obasanjo's presidency. It will mean an elongation and deepening of the ethno-religious strifes that have claimed tens of thousands of lives in the past seven years.

Of course, the few members of the ruling class clamouring for the continuation of Obasanjo's presidency beyond May 2007 say that the President has performed so wonderfully well that changing him as President will not be in the best interest of Nigeria and its people. As far as peoples' needs and the needs of the real sectors of the economy are concerned, this is an absolutely baseless claim.

On the one hand, the past seven years in Nigeria's history has been especially benevolent in terms of ever rising revenue profile, courtesy of the constant steady rise of crude oil prices internationally. Most tragically however, it is in this same period that the vast majority of the working people have been subjected to unprecedented withering attacks on their living standard in all aspects of life. Every major policy, economic or political, of the regime is anti-poor and or pro-rich.

For instance, the Obasanjo regime has virtually destroyed the education and health sectors. Side by side with the gross under-funding of public schools, governments across the country have actively encouraged development of private schools. As a result, the country today can boast of tens of thousands of private schools which, in most cases, are just profit ventures for their owners and for which reason are not affordable to the children of the vast majority of the working masses. Today, public schools, from primary to tertiary levels, are over crowded and managed mostly by disgruntled, under-remunerated personnel. Despite numerous private universities, the overwhelming majority of pupils seeking admission to university could not do so because the facilities in public ones are over-stretched and the private ones charge fees that can only be paid by looters or those in the service of looters one way or another. Worse still, the majority of elements in this category will never be able to get any job and thus will remain condemned to life of crimes, frauds, prostitution, etc.

With life span having climbed down to 49 and 52 years for men and women respectively, there is very little positive thing to be said about the health sector under Obasanjo's regime. Only those very rich or those close to the very rich are able to buy the best health treatment for themselves home and mostly abroad. Killed by years of gross under-funding, the so-called public schools and hospitals now charge outrageous high fees as much as those owned privately. Due to poor pay, and very often, lack of basic tools and facilities to work with, a huge percentage of skilled labour in these sectors have fled the country in search of better conditions of life.

Overall, the major macro economic policies of the regime also boldly exhibit similar anti-poor, pro-rich, pro-imperialist characteristics. The deregulation and incessant increase in prices of oil products have only succeeded in destroying most businesses (small and big) due to high costs of production and at the same time, reducing the purchasing power of the populace as a result of the concomitant inflationary feature of this neo-liberal policy. Only the oil cartels raking billions of dollars via importation of oil products could really be said to be profiting from this pro-imperialist measure.

Under the guise of privatisation and commercialisation, the collective wealth and resources of the society are being shared out to a few capitalist corporations and individuals within and outside the country. More provocatively, these privatised assets are being sold cheaply and most often, with money looted from the public treasuries. Banks re-capitalisation has brought only massive retrenchment in the banking sector with little or no prospect of this policy ever having any positive effect on the real sector of the economy which is still mired in deep seated under development of necessary infrastructures such as electricity, water, transportation, communications, etc.

The scheming by President Obasanjo to perpetuate himself in power beyond May 2007 has now clearly revealed the motive behind the regime's debt exit policy for what it is a servile, pro-imperialist, anti-growth, anti-poor policy. Many were astounded that the president of an economically sick country like Nigeria would hand over $12.5 billion cash to an over-pampered, over-paid imperialist banks and countries. Even, within the purview of capitalist logic, this is nothing short of an economic madness. Ordinarily, reasonable people would have expected such money to be used to develop the ailing economy and better the lots of the masses while working out a long-term favourable agreement to pay any debt necessary to be paid.

However, for their self-serving interest to remain in power against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Nigerians, President Obasanjo and his economic team have decided to appease imperialism at the expense of their own people. As we write now, an additional sum of $5.5billion would be handed over to these same imperialist sharks in the next few days. The motive should be very clear to all working class elements. By showing a readiness to please imperialism at all costs, Obasanjo hopes to get the support of the so-called international community in his morbid schemes to perpetuate himself in power. Similarly, his anti-corruption crusade is fundamentally a ruse calculated to embarrass only those not willing to satisfy his whims and caprices.

To start with, the polity under Obasanjo is the most corrupt. This is largely due to two related factors. One, the huge income being derived from oil export and two, the abdication of all commitment towards social spending, have left the government with huge unprecedented revenue. Quite naturally, most of these resources only end up in the private pockets of capitalist corporations and individuals. Yet, only a few that get in the wrong book of the President ever get threatened by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and where they bother to prosecute at all, the culprits always get away with a mere slap in the wrist. For instance, the former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, who was found guilty of having stolen over N17billion, apart from accumulation of other properties worth billions of naira, only received a six-month jail term in a country where a man convicted of having stolen a cow had his right hand amputated!

Therefore, it will be an unlimited disaster for the working masses if President Obasanjo and his gang of pro-imperialists looters are allowed to remain in power, even up to May 2007, not to talk of beyond. We, accordingly urge the working masses to rise, not only to remove this anti-poor regime from power, but also very importantly, strive to bring a workers and poor peasants government to replace the current regime of locusts. To achieve this, the working masses must not give any political support to any section of the capitalist politicians across the board. Of course, we condemn and will always condemn all forms of undemocratic attacks on the people including prominent capitalist politicians like Atiku and members of the MDD, ACD, etc. Nevertheless, we must never forget for a second that these people have no disagreement on the overall corrupt anti-poor policies of the Obasanjo regime but only on the individuals that should be the principal beneficiaries. The governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, for instance, is supposedly anti-3rd term, yet, his government has been run in the same fashion as the Obasanjo's central government in the past seven years.

Right now, the most prominent arrowhead of anti-third term agenda is no other person than Obasanjo's vice, Abubakar Atiku. Because of his ambition to replace Obasanjo as President come 2007, he has come under attacks from pro-Obasanjo elements. The Adamawa state chapter of PDP, his home state has purportedly suspended him from the party for his open declaration against the continuation of Obasanjo's presidency beyond May 2007. Prominent members of the PDP have asked him to resign his post as Vice President. He has been booed in Lagos by rent-a-crowd pro-Obasanjo elements. Meetings between himself and other prominent capitalist politicians have been forcibly broken up by the police under the control of President Obasanjo. For these and other related factors, Atiku's media profile as "a democrat" has obviously received a boost. But just how does Atiku himself perceive the regime of president Obasanjo who he hopes to succeed?

Atiku, in his letter to President Obasanjo on his intention to contest 2007 presidential election said, "when as president, you led us out of the 'years of the locust' in 1999, we inherited a country in deep economic crisis owing to decades of excessive, direct state involvement in all spheres of economic activity, corruption, inefficiency and unsustainable debt profile …… spite of these enormous challenge, we have, under your exemplary, inspiring, patriotic and courageous leadership, made tremendous progress in moving the nation towards a private sector-led economy, improved infrastructure and security"- Punch newspaper of April 19, 2006

Therefore, under no circumstances should the working masses give political support to opposition elements like Atiku, Bola Tinubu, General Ibrahim Babangida, General Mohammed Buhari, Brigadier Buba Marwa, Jimeta, etc.

Of course, those who see power not as a means to an end but as an end in itself will regard this position as ultra radical. But giving political support to these self-serving elements is another surest way to prolong the suffering of the working masses in the midst of plenty.

For us in the DSM, this is not what the people want nor what they have been fighting for. According to a recent opinion poll by The Punch, 85% Nigerians across the country are opposed to the continuation of president Obasanjo in power beyond May 2007. Prior to the Punch opinion poll, the working people, led by the Labour Movement and certain sections of the civil society organisations, have gone on seven general strikes and mass protests demanding an end to Obasanjo's anti-poor policies. There is, therefore, no way for labour and civil society leaders to argue for anything short of total regime and system change.

To this proposition, some elements from even within the radical sections of the civil society organisations have argued that the masses will not respond same way they have responded to Labour's call for general strikes and mass protests. This cannot necessarily be the case. If a mass working peoples' party, with clear cut proposals on how to better the lot of the masses, develops and shows the necessary determination to fight till the end emerges, it will certainly receive overwhelming support of the working masses across the country, even much more than those that supported the previous calls for general strikes and mass protests. Even on a limited scale, we in the DSM can buttress this assertion with our experience within the NCP in Lagos in the 2003 infamous general elections. Despite the huge sums of money spent by both the AD and the PDP plus their use of political and state powers, the NCP candidates, particularly in areas where the DSM members stood, made tremendous impact which gave these two bourgeois formations real frights!

Therefore, a mass democratic party built on the collective strength of the entire working class people in the cities and rural areas across the country would certainly have stronger appeals among the masses if it has truly pro-masses' policies and founded on class struggle approach which combines electoral struggles with other forms of mass struggles, e.g. industrial strikes, mass protests, etc in and outside office.

Even if such a party will not win political power come 2007, it will be far more rewarding in the short and long run to begin to create such a party instead of investing political confidence in elements who because of their own dirty deeds may not even be able to take political power from the much hated incumbent and even if they so do will only, all over again, begin to implement same anti-people policies. If a capitalist government, no matter what its political colour is, is in power after 2007, working people will be faced with struggling against the inevitable attacks it will make. In these circumstances, a mass working peoples' party could rapidly build support if it had a clear policy of opposing the attacks of the ruling class and imperialism.

Here, we should like to warn that advocating pragmatic support for any section of the capitalist ruling class will only bring disaster to the entire working masses. At best, this approach will only make a few disillusioned radicals to get elected into the parliament like Nduka Irabor and or be made Commissioners like Rauf Aregbesola and Oronto Douglas in Lagos and Bayelsa states respectively. Beyond these elements that may be able to solve their own personal poverty problem, the vast majority will still be left in the lurch as the 1% capitalist class which presently consumes 80% of all generated revenues strives to sustain or even deepen the gap between the rich and the poor in the name of privatisation, deregulation, right sizing, etc

We consequently, once again, call for the immediate convocation of a special conference of labour, working class youths, students, market women associations, poor peasants, etc to strategize on how to create a genuine working peoples' political alternative. The current open and sharp disagreement among leading members of the Obasanjo regime should be used as an opportunity to independently raise the economic and political demands of the working people. It must not be betrayed into giving whatever political support for any section of the capitalist thieving class.



Socialist Democracy May 2006