Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Working Class Should Lead A Fight Back


2007 Elections Farce:

Working Class Should Lead A Fight Back

The farce called 2007 general elections climaxed with what was supposed to be Presidential and National Assembly elections of Saturday April 21, 2007. According to official results, Umar Musa Yar’Adua, the ruling PDP’s presidential candidate scored 70% of the total votes.

To millions of Nigerians, these so-called elections are simply the latest electoral robbery perpetrated by a gang of looters, who are both running and ruining the country. This election theft was prepared long in advance starting with the fixing of the Voters’ Register followed by INEC’s pro-Obasanjo interventions in many registered parties.

Despite the above both President Obasanjo and INEC’s Chairman, Professor Maurice Iwu, have been full of self-congratulations on a job well done. Very sanctimonious and pretentious, President Obasanjo said that the elections “could not have been said to have been perfect”, but nonetheless, argued that Nigerians should consider “this experience as a necessary step to take in our journey as a people towards consolidating our democracy”. In his usual rascally fashion, Prof. Iwu has garrulously awarded 80% marks to the INEC, which he heads for its conducts on the 2007 general elections.

In reality however, the 2007 general elections, both in preparations and conducts, will go down in history as the most brazen electoral farce ever organized in Nigeria. In many parts of Nigeria no elections ever took place, while in the few places where practical voting was permitted the results announced were totally different from what actually obtained. This was in addition to the widespread cases of ballot thefts at gunpoint, mostly by PDP hired thugs. As we write, over 400 supporters of the Action Congress (AC) governorship candidate, Rauf Aregbesola, have been put into detention without bail over spurious but petty offences. Similar repressive measure has been massively used in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and in many other states where PDP rule was seriously challenged by the opposition parties and candidates. Up till date, no less than 200 persons have been reportedly killed by security agents and political thugs across the country so that the PDP can retain power by hook and crook.

Even pro-imperialist institutions and NGOs that will normally paper over the failures of capitalist client state like Nigeria, were totally astounded with what passed for elections in Nigeria. The European Union for instance described the elections as “a fraud” and “a charade”. Max van den Berg, the EU’s Chief Observer said the electoral process “cannot be considered to have been credible”. Sean McCormack, a US State Department spokesman added: “These were flawed elections and in some cases deeply flawed elections”. The International Republican Institute, an NGO run by the US Republican Party, an extremely right wing party, drew this scathing conclusion: “Nigeria’s election process, which we recognize is still continuing and thus far incomplete, falls below the standards which Nigeria itself has set in previous elections and also falls below international standards witnessed by IRI and members of this delegation throughout the world”.

The biggest local monitoring group called Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) which had 10,000 observers across the country, actually called for outright cancellation of the purported elections because according to the body, “voting was either delayed for hours or did not occur at all in many areas”. The country’s two central labour organs, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU), commonly based associations, religious bodies, processionals etc severally and collectively have all condemned the 2007 general elections as unprecedented monumental fraud. Like the TMG, most of these organisations have demanded the total cancellation of the entire exercise while calling for fresh elections to be held by a new INEC, preferably by a post President Obasanjo’s government.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The DSM fully supports the demand for cancellation of the expensive farce called 2007 general elections. It equally supports the call for new elections with a genuine Voters Register and, most importantly, the creation of a working peoples’ platform that could offer a socialist alternative to the robber capitalist gangs.

However, the issue is much more complex than what a mere cancellation and re-run can address. To start with, the generic opportunism of capitalist politicians means that even this formalistic step may never come to pass. Those of them in states like Abia, Lagos, Borno, Bauchi, where opposition parties were declared winners, would not be prepared to make the needed sacrifice even while they may be crying to high heaven that the PDP robbed them of victories in other states. Among those whose mandate were literally robbed would abound elements who would not mind to give political backing to those who robbed them once their self-serving, material ends can be met. Even those of them that may be prepared to back the call for cancellation will be doing so on the basis of the military imposed 1999 constitution which leaves the composition of INEC at national and state levels under the whims and caprices of an incumbent government. Of course, this simply means that the electoral body expected to conduct a fresh elections will mostly be composed in the same undemocratic manner through which Prof. Maurice Iwu and his gang of electoral manipulators were chosen.

Therefore, the mere call for dissolution of INEC has presently constituted does not, in any significant sense, represent a way forward vis-Å•-vis the democratic rights of the working masses. It is for this reason that the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) strongly advocates that the working masses should fight for an immediate convocation of a democratically elected Sovereign National Conference (SNC), which will assume full political power to produce a truly democratic constitution as well as conduct a free and fair democratic elections in place of the charade conducted on April 14 and 21, 2007 respectively.

Quite legitimately, no reasonable person can expect the convocation of an SNC as stated above with the Obasanjo government remaining in power. We consequently reiterate our age-long demand that the working masses should, through mass struggles, chase out the extremely anti-poor and corrupt government, headed by President Obasanjo.

At the same time, we urge the masses not to succumb to the undemocratic contraption called Interim National Government (ING) composed of handpicked bourgeois or petty bourgeois elements regardless of their stated or claimed pedigree and reputation. Instead, the DSM calls for the organized working class bodies and professionals, through elected representatives in every relevant government institution, to immediately take direct control of things into their own hands and collectively elect regional and national political leadership to function until a genuinely democratically elected national body can meet. This is a more democratic practice as opposed to the practice seen in military coups where the plotters simply instruct Permanent Secretaries or most senior officials to take charge of the running of their ministries pending the time when new political leaders are appointed to replace those removed through military coup.

Finally, it is imperative for the masses and leaders of mass organisations to recognize that a political power is a means to an end, not an end in itself. That the reason the various sections of the capitalist class spend billions of naira, to kill, to maim and to manipulate elections, etc just to come to or remain in power at all cost is because of the huge material gains and prestige which power confers on its holders. Quite naturally, power gotten through this kind of unbridled fraud and violence will invariably always produce anti-masses and corrupt government.

Weakness of Main Opposition Parties

But despite this widespread mass hatred for the PDP, the main bourgeois opposition parties like the ANPP and the AD/AC have totally failed to provide an enviable alternative that the masses can enthusiastically embrace. These parties have the same main anti-poor, corrupt aspirations and tendencies just like the PDP. These bourgeois opposition parties owe their “victories” in some cases largely to the account of being the ruling governments in these states and as such, have enough stolen public funds to match the PDP bribery for bribery and thuggery for thuggery! It has very little to do with the fact that parties like AC won in Lagos State because it is seen as a “progressive party”. For instance, only about 1.4 million Lagosians voted on April 14, 2007 governorship election out of 4.2 million registered voters! Therefore, a successful struggle to fight perennial electoral manipulations can never be based on what parties like the ANPP, AC, APGA, PPA, etc want or would not want.

Millions of Nigerians instinctively understand this and this is a key reason why generally there were no large scale mass mobilizations to defeat the election rigging. It would have been completely different if there had been a radical, pro-labour force competing in this election, then millions would have been prepared to fight for a party offering real alternative to this rotten system. Therefore, in fighting the current electoral robbery by the PDP government, we urge the organized labour and the working masses in its entirety to draw up a set of demands and programme of action that go beyond the narrow limit which the self-serving interest of the bourgeois opposition leaders will permit.

As the DSM often stated, the primary aim of this struggle must be the conscious strive to forge an independent working peoples political platform, which will primarily strife to win political power with a view to utilize Nigeria’s super abundant natural and human resources to cater for the needs of all as opposed to the prevailing situation where a few are stupendously rich at the expense of permanent mass misery and political repression of the vast majority. This is the only realistic way to bring to an end the vicious circle of a highly corrupt and unpopular government, using stolen funds and state apparatus of coercion to remain in power at all cost. In other words, as long as politics remains the exclusive game played by different sections of the thieving capitalist ruling class, election will always remain a do or die affair amongst the elite.

What is to be Done?

DSM therefore reiterates the demand that the NLC, TUC, LASCO, etc, to name a DAY OR DAYS OF ACTION with peaceful mass protests, rallies, industrial strikes, etc, across the country as the next step. The goal must be set right from the beginning to mobilize to defend democratic rights, organize genuinely democratic dispensation that ends the rule by all usurpers at all levels of governance. The mass actions we are calling for are not the type that would be cancelled simply because the powers that be have granted one paltry concession or the other. The kind of mass action being called for has to, of necessity, include all basic demands pertaining to decent living conditions and real democratic rights for the general masses that can only be permanently secured by a workers’ and peasants’ government beginning the socialist transformation of Nigeria.

Labour must not allow itself to be hamstrung by the reactionary argument of non-partisanship. In Nigeria’s contemporary history, when top labour leaders argue for non-partisanship, this is equally no more than a dubious stance to cover up the fact that they are already in the pay roll of the government in power. In the given situation, we in the DSM urge the labour movement to adopt the most militant mass action to fight the latest electoral robbery. Failure in this respect will only deepen the current rate at which leaders loot public treasury and resources. As Obasanjo administration has shown in the last eight years, a government that emerged on the basis of fraudulent self-help, and not out of the legitimate mandate of the people usually contemptuously and brazenly disregards the yearnings and aspirations of workers and poor masses.

Gladly, the NLC and TUC themselves have openly rejected the rigged and manipulated elections; but this proclamation must be matched with coherent political actions. Labour must never subscribe to argument, which only advocates election petition tribunals for the aggrieved politicians to seek redress. This struggle is not primarily in support of interests of particular political parties or individuals, not even Adams Oshiomhole who was barefacedly robbed in Edo State, but a step towards entrenching genuine, pro-masses democratic culture in the country. It should be recalled the struggle against military absolutism that brought about the current civil rule was not won from the courtroom but on the streets. It is on the same streets the democratic rights of people could be best protected and expanded.