Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Committee for a Workers' International
Newspaper of the DSM
TIME FOR WORKERS' PARTY IS NOW
By Emmanuel Adikwu
NLC President, Adams Oshiomhole's recent interview in the Vanguard newspaper of Friday April 21, 2006 reveals a lot about what is wrong with the present electoral system and why under the present capitalist political arrangement, it would be difficult for the masses to elect a leadership that would be responsive to their yearnings and aspirations.
Unfortunately, he still failed to draw the logical conclusion that there is the urgent and immediate necessity of forming a working class political party to simultaneously bid for power, mobilise against rigging while fighting against anti-working class policies like privatisation, commercialisation and liberalisation all of which have compounded the problems of un-employment, increases in prices and high cost of living.
In the said interview, for example, the NLC President says "The Nigerian elite has imposed on the country, a regime of rigging where only a small cult of people sits down somewhere and impose people on this country. The only role of the people is to either applaud or to watch with disbelief. With this practice of massive election rigging, whoever the elite says you are the candidate, he is as good as having won. If the Nigerian people through a transparent electoral system can say to themselves, we will decide who governs us, that will be democracy."
The historic duty and task that the labour leadership under Oshiomhole is abdicating from is precisely to stop the working class from being mere watchers of events that impact directly on their social, economic and political survival. Indeed, it is quite wrong to reduce democracy to the mere presence of a transparent electoral system which in the first instance is hard to come by under the rule of the imperialists and capitalists as we saw in the disputed America elections between Gorge Bush and Al Gore years back. Secondly, of what use is a transparent electoral system that only leads to the continued rule of the elite and the attendant pauperisation of the poor majority?
If Oshiomhole and his leadership were to be armed with the correct ideological and political understanding, it should have been clear that after series of general strikes against increases in fuel prices without fundamental concessions on the part of the ruling class, the time has, indeed, become over-ripe to pose the working class political alternative.
But it is never too late for the Labour leadership to do that which is ideologically and politically correct. It is easy now for the likes of the Governor of Yobe State, Buka Ibrahim, to boast that nobody could stop Obasanjo from making the third term. We can remind his likes that same Obasanjo's government has been repeatedly suspended in the mid-air by resounding general strikes of the workers and other oppressed masses. Through those actions, the working class had long spoken that Obasanjo's government didn't deserve a day longer in office.
But because those actions have not led to regime and system change, the poor and oppressed peoples of all tribes and nationalities continue to wallow in poverty and miserable living despite the millions and billions of dollar worth of profit made by the federal government in the past 7 years, but with nothing to show for it in terms of improved social and economic well being of the poor and oppressed workers, students, youth, peasant etc.
In terms of economic development; electricity supply, which is one of the most important incentives to industrialization, remains epileptic when supplied at all. Yet millions of dollars have gone to National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), now Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), supposedly for revitalising it.
With the implementation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) neo- liberal policies of privatisation, commercialisation, deregulation etc of public services, corporations, parastatals etc., by both the Obasanjo led PDP government at the federal and AD and ANPP at state levels, the woes of the poor and oppressed workers, peasants, youths, students etc. have increased astronomically to an unimaginable proportion in spite of the promised dividend of democracy by the present ruling elites across-board.
This is precisely why within the last 7 years of civil rule, workers anger and resistance have produced six successful general strikes led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO).
But experience over time has shown that general strikes without the strategy of taking power is not enough to get concession from the ruling class, hence, the need now to adopt far-reaching strategies and tactics ultimately geared towards wrestling political power from the capitalist wing in power, who in the absence of a working class alternative will be replaced by another wing of the same looters and oppressors.
MASS WORKERS PARTY
Now, with less than a year to the elections scheduled for 2007, it is imperative for pro-poor organizations and individuals to organise themselves in such a way as to build a broad left workers alternative party with the sole aim of wrestling political power from the exploiters to transform society. There should be no illusions that Obasanjo's rivals from within or without the ruling class can offer any better alternative for the working masses.
As a step in this direction, the resolve to wrestle political power must be built around struggles. Hence, the burning need for Labour and pro-labour groups to unite and collectively be involved in the day-to-day struggles of workers, students, traders, youth, pensioners, peasants etc., in communities and workplaces.
At all times, the leadership of the working class party must agitate and struggle with the poor and oppressed for improved socio-economic rights. This should be done with the aim to improve their lot and carry them along in the struggle to wrestle political power. This is the surest way to break the masses away from descent to apathy as a result of disenchantment with the system and politics in general. Such actions, if taken, are capable of rejuvenating and restoring the lost hope of the masses in their leaders and the struggle to improve and transform society. This is the needed tonic that can put the masses on their feet ahead of the 2007 elections. This mass workers party should be built as a fighting party with a view of what it will do beyond the 2007 elections. Such a party should concretely be involved in workers struggle; not just for election purposes but with the welfare and general well being of the masses on top of its agenda.
The labour leadership and poor working people should immediately commence mobilisation of rank and file workers to ensure that no matter how long it takes, the political power is ultimately wrestled from the anti- poor, pro-rich political parties whose sole aim is to milk-dry and strangulate the down-trodden masses.
NOT A DAY LONGER IN POWER
The point should be noted that the general Olusegun Obasanjo led government does not deserve to stay a day longer in power, let alone stay till 2007, not with the 'miserable wage' called minimum wage being paid to workers, the sale of government houses and properties at give away prices, the collapse of electric power supply, the perennial Niger Delta crisis, the ill motivated constitutional review as a preamble to an amendment aimed at perpetuating themselves in office beyond 2007 despite their colossal failure in all aspects of governance, the ill use of public funds, the use of forces of coercion against peaceful protesters, law abiding citizens and perceived political enemies, the enthronement of godfathers at all levels of politics in Nigeria, numerous lootings, inflated contracts disobedience to court orders etc., are more than enough reasons to immediately remove such opportunist politicians from power; as their programmes and policies are totally antithetical to the plight of the poor.
As a result of the enormous potential powers, which workers possess, the need for a workers party and leadership cannot be over-emphasized. Workers leaders and civil society groupings must therefore urgently initiate a conference where this proposal shall be debated and a process initiated to wrestle political power from the 'vagabonds in power' plunging Nigeria into the bottomless pit of unlimited poverty and misery.
However, a workers and poor peasants government need to be armed with a socialist programme geared towards transforming society via - the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy, that is the top 25 banks, oil energy and gas companies, sea, air, land and rail transports, etc., to be placed under the democratic control and management of workers, while the resources accruing from same will be used to plan the further development of industry, agriculture, education, health etc as a means of transforming society and improving the social and welfare conditions of the working masses.
The need to change this crisis ridden system called Capitalism is imperative if we seek a lasting solution to the present infinite rot, poverty unlimited, endemic diseases, ceaseless, senseless wars, social liquidations on humanity viz a viz the peace of the grave yard presently hunting and haunting humanity, senseless wastage of human and natural resources etc.