Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



Participants Call For Working Peoples Political Alternative

On Tuesday 12 June 2007, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and United Action for Democracy (UAD) held a symposium with the theme: “2007 General Elections: Lessons Which The Working Masses and Pro-Working Masses Organization Must Draw”. The venue was the banquet hall of the Lagos Travel Inn, Ikeja Lagos State. Holding at a period when the masses are still groaning from the pangs of the massively rigged April elections and after a two-day protest declared by LASCO to condemn the electoral fraud, the theme of the symposium could not have been more appropriate.

The aim was to use the occasion of the remembrance of June 12 to draw useful lessons on the current class struggle in Nigeria. June 12 is a commemoration of June 12, 1993 general elections, widely acclaimed to have been won by Chief MKO Abiola (a bourgeois candidate on the platform of Social Democratic Party-SDP) but which was unilaterally annulled by the Babangida military regime. Compared with the electoral sham of April elections, the June 12 elections is still the freest and fairest election in the whole history of Nigeria despite that it was organized by a rabidly dictatorial and sit-tight military regime! From 1993 onwards, a series of mass resistance by workers, students and youth broke out which finally forced out the military in 1998.

Although, several pro-democracy groups and bourgeois opposition parties also marked the day with symposia, the attendance at the DSM/UAD symposium was impressive. About 200 people composed mainly of youths were in attendance. The speakers included Segun Sango (General Secretary, DSM), Abiodun Aremu (Convener UAD), Emma Ezeazu (Alliance for Credible Elections), Rauf Aregbesola (Action Congress governorship candidate in Osun State) and his running mate Princess Grace Titi Laoye-Tomori, Ngozi Nmaodi, Muhammed El-Lawal (General Secretary Trade Union Congress-TUC), Sylvester Odion (Centre for Demilitarization and Constitutionalism-CENCOD) and Yinka Odumakin (Representing Jimi Agbaje, governorship candidate of Democratic Peoples’ Alliance in Lagos State).

Declaring open the symposia, the duo of Abiodun Aremu and Segun Sango argued that the basic lesson to be drawn from the June 12 struggle that ousted military dictatorship is that where the leadership of the working masses fails to build a fighting political platform to articulate the programs of the masses, the end result will be totally unfavorable to the class interest of the working masses. The example of the democratic transition of 1999 where the masses played the role of spectator although they were the forces that fought for the enthronement of democracy is instructive here. Arguing further, Segun Sango maintained that a certain similarity could be seen in the current struggle for the cancellation of the April 2007 electoral farce. Equally that the challenge today, if we are not going to have such repetition of history, to all activists, progressives and socialists is to work towards the building of fighting working people’s party that will lead the struggle for democratic and economic aspirations of the working people while also contesting elections with working class candidates and socialist programs.

However, the most interesting part of the symposia came when the guest speakers were to respond and discuss on the background laid by Segun Sango and Abiodun Aremu. Most of the speakers including Rauf Aregbesola are from left backgrounds before joining the fray of bourgeois politics. Their (including former NLC president Adams Oshiomhole who contested for Edo State governorship on the platform of Action Congress) justification for their actions has been that there are several routes to workers’ power and that participating in politics on bourgeois platform does not mean abandoning of socialism or opportunism but entrism. Also that a workers’ party will be so weak and incapable of winning because bourgeois elections are all about money and bribing of votes.

In their submissions however, Segun Sango and Abiodun Aremu openly condemned such positions as opportunism and a betrayal of the working masses and raised the genuine ideas of scientific socialism. More so that a labour party exists, the contest of somebody like Adams Oshiomhole on labour party platform would have attracted change-seeking masses into the fold of the party. On the question of whether a workers’ party could win elections, Segun Sango pointed out the example of National Conscience Party (NCP) where Lanre Arogundade polled over 77, 000 votes (despite massive rigging and bribing of voters) in the Lagos State west Senatorial district elections in 2003 as a bold rebuttal.

The unsuccessful attempt of Rauf Aregbesola and others who veered into the bourgeois formations to justify their actions unearthed the classical debate among socialists on which road the working masses should take to power. For the predominantly young activists in attendance, this was a good opportunity to learn the genuine ideas of socialism and the method of class struggle against modern day revisionism. This debate had acquired certain significance at the end of the military rule in 1998 when the question of participating in the military transition program was raised. Apart from the DSM and few other socialists, many had since then taken the alleged peaceful parliamentary road to socialism. The symposium, however, offered an opportunity to evaluate what progress the proponents of the parliamentary road and those of the revolutionary road have made. While the latter represented largely by the DSM have since then built ranks, expanded in influence among workers and youths, inspired monumental seven NLC-led general strikes and popularized to an advance stage the need for a workers party and socialism, the former have been totally lost in the maelstrom of bourgeois politics becoming more neo-liberal than the capitalist wherever and whenever they held political positions. The symposium finally called on labour and mass organization leaders to facilitate the formation of a mass working peoples party that could wrest power from the thieving ruling elite.