Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

NCP: Mindless Destruction of a Good Objective

NCP: Mindless Destruction of a Good Objective

For generations, there has been a need in Nigeria for a working peoples’ party, a party different from the robber bands masquerading as political parties that would fight against the miseries inflicted by capitalism and for a socialist future. The NCP’s launch marked a step towards such a party. It attracted the support of many working people. For example, thousands attended the launch of the Lagos State NCP in March 1994. These were activists and people who wanted to struggle, who came because they wanted to come, not because they were paid to attend or expected to be fed for free. The NCP’s central slogan, “Abolition of Poverty”, was both an aim worth fighting for and also one which, in the opinion of socialists active in the NCP, put into question the whole capitalist system. But after a great start, the NCP’s national development stalled. This was made worse after the party’s 1992 registration as a whole series of accidental elements, often representing no-one but themselves, became members of the NCP’s NEC simply to satisfy INEC’s registration regulations. It was these elements who were used by the ruling elite to undermine the NCP, especially in Lagos State where the party had its strongest support amongst the working masses, youth and poor. In this special interview, Segun Sango, DSM’s General Secretary and Lagos Chair of NCP, from September 1998 till date narrated NCP’s grace to grass story.

SD: In March, the Lagos State chapter of the National Conscience Party (NCP) announced that it would not participate in the then pending 2007 general elections. Against the background of the fact that the party’s chapter came 3rd in Lagos State in the 2003 general elections, despite the massive riggings and manipulations carried out by the ruling AD and PDP, what informed the decision not to run candidates this time around?

Sango: First and foremost, we should like to stress that the decision of the Lagos state chapter of the NCP not to run candidates in the then pending 2007 general elections was a very painful but an unavoidable decision by all genuine members of the party. As you mentioned, we came third in the 2003 general elections in Lagos State, despite the massive riggings, manipulations, wholesale usage of looted public funds to directly buy voters, mostly perpetrated by the AD and PDP. In this regard, the point should also be stressed that the NCP, alongside several other newly registered parties only got a total, legal clearance in February 2003 to run candidates for the general elections fixed for April 19.

While canvassing voters for the said elections, the constant refrain of most working class elements then was to say that the NCP is the party of the future, having come very late into the electoral contest for the 2003 general elections. Quite naturally therefore, the expectation of many change-seeking elements was that the NCP, particularly in Lagos State, would have become politically and organizationally stronger come 2007 general elections, especially given the widespread anger of the working masses against the thieving self-serving capitalist politicians of the AD/AC, PDP, ANPP, etc. Unfortunately however, instead of the modest electoral successes recorded in the Lagos State chapter of the party, being seen as a good platform to strive to build the party nationally, the new right-wing national leadership of the party, headed by Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, regarded the Lagos success as a phenomenon, which must be destroyed at all cost.

In the wake of the massively rigged 2003 general elections, many rank and file members of the party became seriously disillusioned with the rigmarole, which usually characterises general elections in Nigeria. Quite naturally, intensive discussions on the best strategy and tactics to repositioning the party for future challenges started within rank and file members.

But instead of the open pro-active interventions on current political matters and issues primarily affecting the working masses, (as was primarily the case under the leadership of Chief Gani Fawehinmi (1994-2004), a vicious rightwing elements emerged, which tragically saw the duty of the party as the attainment of bureaucratic discipline and unity. The first thing did by these destructive rightwing elements was to suspend Adeyinka Olumide Fusika, a committed party builder and financier under the pretentious excuse that he made derogative remarks against Obayuwana who actually made a false claim at a NEC meeting. The real crime of Adeyinka was that as a DSM member, he would constitute a serious obstacle to the rightwing agenda to liquidate the party to appease the bourgeois.

Now looking back, it is crystal clear that the primary goal of the post Gani’s rightwing leadership was to liquidate the party in its most active chapters, under the leadership of DSM members.

The first salvo was fired against the Ogun State chapter of the party under the leadership of Adeola Soetan. Ostensibly for dragging internal party matters before the public and allegedly for making an unsubstantiated allegation of financial impropriety against a member of the NEC in person of Ogbeni Lanre Banjo, Adeola Soetan was put to trial by the NEC. Predictably, the then rightwing dominated NEC found Soetan “guilty” and consequently suspended him for three months from the party.

However, realizing that the suspension of Soetan and Sina Onifade, the Secretary, from the Ogun State exco of the party did not give the rightwing leaders control of the Ogun State party, the NEC therefore decided to dissolve the entire exco. Of course, recognizing the absurdity of dissolving an entire exco, because of the “guilt” of 2 officers, the NEC had to base its undemocratic and unconstitutional decision on the basis of a non-existing fact that “two parallel excos” of the NCP exist in Ogun State!

Against the background of the fact that the Ogun State chapter of the NCP, under Soetan’s leadership, was one of the most active sections of the party nationally and within the southwest zone of the party, the Lagos State chapter of the party (which was copied the letter announcing the dissolution of the Ogun State exco) sharply criticized the NEC decision in this respect by stating that its decision was more like an act of “UNDERTAKERS”, instead of being builders of the party.

Simultaneously, while the new rightwing NEC was demolishing the party in Ogun State, it commenced a process through which the party can be liquidated in Lagos State, arguably, its most active and successful chapter. This, the rightwing dominated NEC sought to do through a flagrant violation of the party’s constitution vis-Å•-vis the convocation and composition of the party’s national congress. Under the NCP constitution, the delegates to national congress, the supreme organ of the party, must be composed by NEC members, state chairpersons and secretaries plus additional delegates chosen on the basis of the numerical strength of each state of the party. However, recognising the fact that the Lagos State chapter has the largest registered membership, the rightwing leadership then resolved to give every state two delegates each under the guise of equality of states!

In reality, the idea was to overwhelm the party congress with fake delegates from many states where the party did not exist or have any worthwhile active existence. Fortunately at this stage, a combination of factors helped the Lagos State led opposition to defeat this right wing plot. However, after the Gani quit as the national chairman of the party, the new rightwing leadership headed by Obayuwana became more morbid with its design to kill the party in its most active chapters.

In this regard, three notable acts of this rightwing leadership should be mentioned. Firstly, Segun Sango, Chairperson of the party in Lagos State, Waheed Lawal, the Osun State Chairperson of the party, together with some prominent party leaders from Lagos and Oyo States were expelled and or suspended indefinitely. Two, in sharp contrast to the inspiring example provided by the founding national chairman, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who ran as the party’s presidential candidate in 2003, the Obayuwana leadership deceptively first secured the party’s mandate to run for the presidency, only later for the leadership to sell the same mandate to General Mohammed Buhari, the presidential candidate of the ANPP, arguably the most conscious reactionary sections of the Nigeria’s capitalist class.

Still unable to subdue the opposition of the Lagos State chapter to its rightwing orientation, the NEC eventually organized an out rightly unconstitutionally gathering called “unity congress” on January 13, 2007 through which a new state executive council was “elected” to replace the Segun Sango led exco, whose tenure in actual fact, runs till September 2007. By the time of this purported state congress, the Lagos State NCP had held a special congress on December 16, 2006 wherein it had elected the governorship and other candidates for the 2007 general elections.

Thereafter, realizing that this joke of a state congress would not prevent Sango led exco from running candidates in the pending elections, the Obayuwana leadership, in a most unprincipled, undemocratic, unconstitutional and reckless manner, substituted the name of Lanre Arogundade, the party’s elected governorship candidate and a DSM member (who scored over 77,000 votes as Lagos West Senatorial candidate in the 2003 elections) with a non-party member called Christopher Obafunwa, who was and is till based in United State of America.

Prior to this time, the rightwing leadership had engaged the Lagos chapter of the party in a needless continuous war of attrition such that the chapter, which contested 97.5% of the elective post in Lagos State in 2003 could only raise 33% of candidates in 2007 elections. Against the background of the undemocratic and unconstitutional substitution of Arogundade’s candidature, the entire party leadership and members in Lagos State, with the full support of Chief Gani Fawehinmi, decided in protest, to withdraw all its other candidates from the then pending elections. Sadly to note, the consequence of this withdrawal has been quite devastating for the fortune of the party in Lagos State. In 2003 elections, the party’s governorship candidate scored over 150,000 votes. In the 2007 elections, the rightwing-imposed candidate scored only 850 votes!

SD: If we may ask, what, if any, are the prospects that the party could be reorganized now after the elections in such a way that it can best serve the masses for whose primary interest the party was formed in the first instance?

Sango: Unfortunately, there are very little prospects that this can ever happen, at least, in the foreseeable future. This, primarily, is due to the fact that there exists an unbridgeable gulf between the aspirations and activities of the party under the leadership of Gani Fawehinmi compared with the current rightwing dispensation. Here, it is apposite to recall that the party was expressly formed to protect the economic and political interest of the masses. The first motive behind the formation of the party was the refusal of the military junta to actualize the June 12 presidential elections, won by MKO Abiola and which was widely seen as a decision to further prolong military rule against the economic and political interest of the poor working masses.

Here, it should be stressed, the party central motto, ‘Abolition of Poverty’, is seen as a direct attack on a major affliction being suffered by the overwhelming majority of the working masses. Thus and quite logically, the life and activities of the party were mainly dominated by struggles against military rule and all acts of injustice against the masses. In the post military era, the party’s activities from May 1999 February 2003 was mainly dominated by struggles to win legal right for the party to run candidates to contest political power in the country. This, it must be stressed, constitutes the political basis for the positive and widespread response of the masses towards the party in the run up to the 2003 elections.

In sharp contrast, apart from holding series of unproductive but very expensive (courtesy of INEC funds), NEC and National Coordinating Council meetings, mostly directed towards destruction of the party in its most active chapters, the Obayuwana leadership has little or nothing positive to show for almost its three years of control of the party at national level. Unlike the national exco members of Gani’s era, mostly made up of selfless and committed elements, most of the current NEC are made up of elements like Femi Falana, who joined the party after the successful struggle for its registration and mainly because they could not make ends meet in the bourgeois party like the AD, which they hitherto belonged. There is one major feature of the Obayuwana led NEC: most of its members do not have active chapters of the party from the state where they come from and or do not take active part in the activities of the party within the respective states where they are domiciled or officially operating from.

The Obayuwana led leadership is totally intolerant of the dissenting political opinions. This is why it insists on imposing national deputy chairpersons on zones in flagrant violation of the party constitution, which expects an NDC to be elected “from within” its zone. Another manifestation of this rightwing leadership is the practice of giving party funds to loyalists instead of a properly constituted party organ in so far as those loyalists are prepared to oblige every whim and caprice of the almighty national leadership! On top of all this, the Obayuwana rightwing led NEC has perfected the fraudulent art of procuring fake delegates to attend NCP national meetings in such a way that would give impression that the NCP has active presence in almost 36 states of the federation. This, it must be said, is being done to achieve a two in one related purpose. One, such fake state delegation is thereafter used as the basis to allocate funds, which invariably, of course, goes to those running the party. Two, this fake state delegation is also useful for the purpose of out voting overwhelmingly the genuine NCP members at national meetings. Within this context, it will be fool hardy to believe that a successful struggle can be waged at this point in time to reclaim the party from the stranglehold of the rightwing leadership.

SD: Are there others within the party beyond the Lagos State chapter, which you lead that subscribe or share your views in this respect?

Sango: Yes. There are several other elements apart from Lagos State chapter, who subscribe to the view points expressed above. Unfortunately, the rightwing leadership attitude and conducts have either frustrated many of these elements from being active within the party or have their party’s activities truncated through the imposition and promotion of favoured NEC lackeys to the detriment of the democratically elected party officers.

In an interview published in the March 30, 2007 in the Vanguard newspaper, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the founding national chairman of the party, had, among other things, made the following remarks on the current Obayuwana led rightwing leadership: “Since I left the leadership of the party in 2004, the party has seriously gone down. I am not happy that Obayuwana (NCP national chairman) has been very inactive. It is tragic that the NCP has no candidate in Lagos now. In 2003, we virtually won the election in Lagos State but for the rigging of the PDP and AD. With hundreds of thousands of votes they said we were third. This time have you heard of any NCP candidate on the radio, on the television, anywhere, have you heard of NCP campaigning for gubernatorial election anywhere in Lagos State? We chose Lanre Arogundade who grew up with the party from the inception, an internationally and nationally recognized activist of tremendous integrity and respectability, a workhorse, a man of honour, to take the flag of NCP but Obayuwana and others worked against this man and brought an unknown person from the U.S. who is not even a member of the party.…By the grace of God after this election we will do everything to bring the soul of the NCP back”.

Unfortunately however, the struggle to reclaim the party from the stranglehold of the current rightwing leadership and as articulated above by Chief Gani Fawehinmi has not been met with any significant success. In fact, the approaching local government elections had only further embolden this rightwing leadership who has, in fact, told party members that anyone wishing to run for local government elections must recognize its imposed puppet called Lagos excos or else forget their aspirations. Faced with this dead end option, the Lagos State chapter of the party at its State Coordinating Council meeting, held on July 21, 2007, decided to pull out en masse from the party. Here, we wish to stress that this painful decision was taken because most members have come to an unavoidable conclusion that the objectives for which the NCP was set up and which made them to join the party in the first instance could no longer be realized within the party as presently constituted and being run by Obayuwana rightwing cliques.

SD: Now that the Lagos State chapter has resolved to quit the party en masse, what next political line or step would be taken by those leaving the NCP?

Sango: In an ideal situation, those of us being forced to leave the NCP as a result of the policies and conducts of its rightwing leadership would have loved to collectively join or enter another large force striving to build new pro-masses’, working peoples political party. Unfortunately however, we could not, right now, pinpoint such a movement in Nigeria.

Yes, we are fully aware of the existence of the Labour Party as a registered body. But candidly speaking, no genuine change-seeking, working class elements, could characterize the present Labour Party as a genuine political organisation of the masses. The most prominent candidate of the party in 2007 elections (e.g. Segun Mimiko in Ondo, Femi Pedro in Lagos, etc) were mostly made up of capitalist politicians, who could not secure tickets to run from their own parties. The only way that the Labour leaders who currently support the Labour Party could start to make that party a pro-masses’ force would be by expelling all the elements like Mimiko, Pedro and appealing to working people to join. But this is unlikely to happen.

In fact, most prominent labour leaders today lack sufficient confidence and interest in building a genuine working peoples’ political platform. That is why Adams Oshiomhole, the former radical NLC President ran for the Edo State governorship seat on the platform of capitalist AC, dropping his original idea of being a Labour Party candidate. The basic lesson that must be learnt by working class and youth activists from the political crisis presently faced by the NCP and Labour Party is this: in this era of acute crisis facing capitalism globally and most especially in ex-colonies like Nigeria, a genuine pro-working masses mass party can only be built, sustained and become viable to an extent where it can wrestle power from the capitalist class, only if built on a socialist foundations and strategies. In this epoch, every attempt to build a mass working peoples party on the basis of reforming capitalism, instead of a conscious strive to overthrow this unjust system will always be confronted by the kind of fate that has befallen NCP, LP, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Zimbabwe, Chiluba’s Party in Zambia, etc.

Nonetheless, those of us leaving NCP in protest against the anti-masses rightwing orientation and strangulating bureaucratic conducts of the NCP national leadership are still irrevocably committed to the idea and programme of building a genuine pan-Nigeria working masses political party, committed to the struggle for the betterment of the poor in or out of political power. Towards this end, most of us have resolved to join and actively participate in a political platform called Campaign for the Formation of a Genuine Mass Working Peoples Party. In the immediate period ahead, we plan to organise series of political activities within trade unions, community and youth organisation primarily directed towards the crystalisation of a mass working peoples party through which all layers of pro-masses elements and organisations, including socialists, clamouring for a genuine socio-economic transformation of capitalist Nigeria can work together in a truly democratic manner to work, to end, once and for all, the rule of all layers of exploiters and oppressors.