2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS: OSHIOMHOLE DECLARES FOR LABOUR PARTY
2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS: OSHIOMHOLE DECLARES FOR LABOUR PARTY
In the presence of an over 5,000 expectant crowd, mostly made up of workers, students, women, youths and the poor in general, the outgoing President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, on Wednesday September 6, 2006 in Benin, publicly presented himself and his manifesto seeking to be elected as Governor of Edo State under Labour Party banner come the 2007 general elections.
Prior to his official Benin declaration, there had been several conflicting media reports and controversies on which party he would be seeking election. Initially, the story was that he would run on the platform of All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). At another stage, it was that he would be running on a Labour Party (LP) /ANPP joint ticket.
At all material times, preceding Oshiomhole’s official declaration to run for the Edo State Governorship, we in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), alongside several other pro-labour organisations and activists, had expressed the demand that Adams should prioritise the building of a distinctly pan-Nigeria working people’s party involving the Labour Party, LASCO, National Conscience Party, DSM, UAD and other similar forces. Such a party, if it adopted a fighting programme, could start to effectively protect the interest of the exploited and oppressed majority against the endless and rapacious rule of the capitalist politicians and their foreign imperialist mentors and collaborators. Adams, as NLC President, has played a central role in the series of general strikes and mass protests against some of the anti-poor, pro-rich, neo-liberal policies of the Obasanjo government in the past 7 years. This is why in the DSM we have also been part of the pro-labour elements demanding that Oshiomhole should run as a presidential candidate in 2007 so as to provide a rallying point across the country for all layers of the working masses seeking a clean break from the prevailing self-serving capitalist dispensation and its ruinous governance.
However, notwithstanding the above stated differences with Adams on his Edo Gubernatorial ambition and his contradictory political dispositions, we in the DSM wholeheartedly welcome Adams eventual decision to run under the platform of Labour Party (LP). We, in particular, welcome his commitment “to foster people-centred” governance in Edo State “under a government of a Labour Party in alliance with other progressive parties”.
Therefore, for us, the central task remains how to build the Labour Party into a real, winning party of the working masses. At the event, the national chairperson of the Labour Party and his Edo state counterpart were introduced and spoke. Unfortunately however, neither of this duo outlined any programme/strategy on how to build support for the party amongst the masses across the country or even in Edo state. Beyond Adams candidature, there was total lack of any hint or understanding of the necessity to put forward genuine labour, pro-masses’ candidates for all other elective posts. This is necessary both to provide real basis for Adams victory at the poll and also to ensure that he is able to govern without the certain opposition and sabotage of capitalist politicians if, for instance, they control the State Assembly and the local councils. If he truth must be said, this monumental complacency dooms, abinitio, the chances of Adams wining the poll and if in the unlikely event that he wins, then, it is as sure as the day that he will be encircled majorly by the mortal political enemies of the working masses and consequently, would be unable to make any meaningful difference to the living standard of the working masses.
In order to avert this obvious political disaster, we suggest the immediate convocation of a conference of all trade unionists, market women, students, the unemployed, pro-labour /masses bodies like NCP, UAD, DSM etc with a view to map out concrete political and organisational measures aimed at building the Labour party nationally and particularly in Edo state where it has proclaimed a governorship candidate.
On our part, we in the DSM pledge to support the Labour Party candidates even if we do not have full agreement with them, so long as they are genuine fighting elements and not involved in rotten deals with capitalist parties and politicians. The victory of such elements would be a step forward in building the movement, but at the same time the DSM will continue to argue why socialist policy is necessary.
Clearly, Adams has presented a number of concrete radical measures in his manifesto. The manifesto for instance talks of re-inventing “the public school system”. Towards this, Oshiomhole has promised that his government “will restore, renovate and refurbish at least, two secondary Schools and two primary schools in each local government area within one year of our stewardshipâ€¦ The overall restoration agenda will include provision for adequate staffing and motivation for teaching and non-teaching staff”. At the tertiary level, Adams manifesto promises “enhanced funding of our higher institutionsâ€¦ we will also improve the working condition of academic and non-academic staff and make their remuneration more competitive”. The manifesto equally pledges infrastructural restoration with respect to “roads”, “water” and “power”.
On healthcare, the manifesto states, “We recognize that the major problem in the area of health is affordable access and poor facilities. We are determined to confront this challenge”. On combating crime, the manifesto says “We regard crime as largely a by-product of poverty, unemployment, social neglect and alienationâ€¦.In combating crime, the starting point is to ensure that the people have jobs that enable them to earn a living productively. This is why our emphasis will be on creating employment through investments in public works, use of labour-based technology and promotion of direct labour where possible”.
As it is often stated, pervasive corruption in governance is one major factor responsible for failure of governance to impact positively on the living standard of the working masses. To fight this cankerworm, Adams has promised to unapologetically and constantly “combat corruption and financial crimes, instil a culture of due process and transparency in government transactions and uphold fiscal responsibility”.
There can be no doubt that a substantial and sustained implementation of the above outlined programmes and policies would bring a considerable positive improvement in the living standard of many working class elements and poor in general.
However, the prospect that this can ever happen has already been doomed by the Adams overt endorsement of Obasanjo’s government anti-people, pro-capitalist economic strategy. His manifesto states “we have no problem acknowledging that since the dawn of democracy in 1999, there have been bold and imaginative reform measures to arrest the drift â€¦ some of the reform measures represent real progress that the nation needs to build upon irrespective of the party in power”.
To say the least, this is a very calamitous position coming from a candidate expected to spearhead the masses’ opposition and socio-economic alternative to the elitist, anti-masses economic reform programmes of the current ruling capitalist parties across the country.
First and foremost, the point should be stressed that the prevailing mass poverty in the midst of super abundance is the direct consequence of the pro-rich, neo-liberal, central policy of the government which posits that collective wealth and resources of society must not be used for the benefit of all but rather only a few in the name of privatisation and deregulation. Suffice to stress therefore, any adherence/adulation of this so-called reform programme will only end up compounding the very problems which Adams limited radical programme promises to tackle.
Even if Adams does not expressly endorse Obasanjo’s capitalist reform programme as he has done in his manifesto, his unwillingness to frontally oppose capitalism and in its place consciously put forward a democratic, socialist option ultimately means that very little of his outlined radical measures could ever be implemented let alone sustained.
For instance, the strive to develop and expand public school system will immediately run into stiff opposition of private proprietors and school owners who presently are profiting from the destruction of the public school system. Equally, there is no realistic way to instil a culture of “due process and transparency” in governance within the framework of capitalist relations.
For instance, privatisation which officially legitimises a process through which collectively owned enterprises and resources are being converted into private property of a few individual and capitalist corporations is, in itself, the mother of all corruption. Therefore, squabbling over “due process” on the issue of which individuals and corporations benefit most from our collective heritage in the name of privatisation is tantamount to treating rashes while preserving leprosy.
We, of course, wholeheartedly support massive public investment on peoples’ needs like food, housing, education, healthcare, social amenities like water and electricity, job opportunities, etc. We will at all time back any specific measure taken against identified corrupt public officials and others. However, there are two conditions which are needed to sustain any such gains and, most importantly, guarantee their benefits for all, at all times.
Firstly, there is the need for a strict democratic control and management of all public investment by the working masses themselves so as to prevent the public invested fund from being looted by government officials and their capitalist contractors/collaborators and also to guarantee efficient running of these public investments from the characteristic mismanagement and inefficiency of an unaccountable bureaucracy.
Secondly, under the prevailing capitalist dispensation, the larger proportion of all societal wealth and resources within each individual state and the country as a whole is controlled by a few capitalist individuals and corporations, both national and multinational. Therefore, in order to sustain a programme of massive public investment in all areas of peoples’ needs, there will be the necessity for a pro-working masses’ government to take under common ownership the commanding height of the economy and resources of nature so as to be in a position to democratically plan and guarantee the interest of all as against capitalism which is only able to meet the needs of a very few.
In contemporary Nigeria, this bluntly requires a complete opposition to privatisation as a central strategy of a social development. It demands an unequivocal pledge to re-nationalise under working peoples’ democratic control and management all public assets and resources already privatised. This, of course, centrally places on the agenda of the necessity to build the Labour Party across the country and not just in Edo State.
No doubt, the relative large attendance at the public launch of Adams candidature shows a good potential that the Labour Party can be rapidly developed within the state. However, this will only materialise if concise, conscious and consistent efforts are made to create basis for political and organizational support for the party in every nook and cranny of the state. This process will definitely require some money. We nevertheless hasten to state that the kind of money required cannot be in the same scope as those required for an elitist politics which often involves huge financial appeasement of political god-fathers, jobbers and traditional rulers.
Given his pedigree, if Adams and Labour Party come up with concrete and scientific proposals on how to better the lot of the masses and at the same time make direct appeal to working class activists and youth to build the party in their own areas so as to ensure that no anti-peoples politicians can win or rig elections, then, the victory of the Labour Party in particular and Adams gubernatorial ambition will be a forgone conclusion come 2007. Unfortunately, this kind of orientation and mentality has been, so far, completely absent within Labour Party nationally and in Edo State. What thus prevails now seems to be the naÄve feeling that Adams personal popularity and pedigree as a pro-masses’ leader will be enough to see him home and dry. This is a grossly mistaken assumption.
Yes, we reiterate, with the right programme and commitment, Adams popularity and pedigree could be used to, within a short period of time, build state wide, grassroot support for Labour Party and his candidature. But as the reality of politics catches up with Adams and Labour Party, it will be revealed that quite a large layer of the elite including those in the media are intrinsically opposed to his “people-centred” idea .of governance. In this kind of situation, the party and Adams can only guarantee a truly free and fair election in the face of huge financial inducement and official manipulations by the establishment politicians and INEC if it enjoys widespread and determined grass roots support.
Business as Usual?
Presently, all top government officials at executive, legislative, judiciary, security levels earn fabulous incomes and allowances much more than the average wage of the people they claim to represent, and this is before we even begin to mention their large scale systematic looting. There is, therefore, no way by which a pro-working masses’ government at the state and central level can retain this undue privilege and at the same time be truly committed to better life for all. This, therefore, certainly raises the necessity of labour and pro-labour representatives in government pledging not to earn no more than the average wage of the people in society.
Suffice to stress, without this kind of frontal and bold assault on undue privileges, it will be impossible for even a government formed by a labour party or any other pro-labour party to make a significant improvement in the living standard of the majority.
We wish to state from the onset that a Labour Party, as a fighting political platform of the working people, can only be successfully built on the basis of a democratic socialist vision and perspectives and as a truly democratic party involving all genuine pro-labour and pro-poor forces. This means a party that is consciously and constantly committed to fight on day to day basis on all economic and political issues of the working masses. More importantly, such party should consciously regards this struggle as part of the overall struggle to remove political power from the hands of the capitalist exploiters as opposed to one which strives “to foster good governance” under capitalism!
Without this kind of orientation, the working class enthusiasm and sense of expectancy demonstrated at the formal launch of the Edo State chapter of Labour Party and Adams governorship candidature will be nothing but a flash in the pan. However, if the above outlined critique and suggestions are properly taken into consideration by the Labour Party, then Adams Edo Governorship voyage may mark the beginning of a genuine concerted working class political alternative to the universal rot represented by all shades of capitalist parties and politicians.