DRAWING THE APPROPRIATE LESSONS
By Lanre Arogundade, Member, National Executive Council, DSM
Quite remarkably, a lot of congratulatory messages by different sections of the political elite, including many of the defeated candidates, have been flying in the direction of Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State since the election of February 6, 2010. At the same time INEC has engaged in self-patting on the back, awarding itself a pass mark and claiming that things generally went well when in reality they didn’t.
It is important for working class elements across the country to see through this ruse, understand the basis for it and draw the appropriate lessons, for in the final analysis, the political destiny of the oppressed masses lies in their own hands through the building of a genuine political alternative in the form of a mass based working class political party.
The NLC’s February 8 statement on this election makes some pertinent observations but, unfortunately, draws back from making all the necessary conclusions from this experience. But it makes a key point, namely that what the NLC calls the “relative success” of this Anambra election by no means ensures that 2011 will not be “a worse disaster greater than what was experienced in 2007”. However, while demanding the removal of Iwu from the INEC leadership, the NLC praises Goodluck’s “act of sportsmanship” in rapidly accepting the Anambra result.
To begin with, it is worth reiterating that most things actually went wrong with the elections, the most significant of which was the extreme low turn-out of voters. In a State with a population of 4 million according to the 2006 census, only about 1.8 million would-be voters were said to have been registered. In the end only about 300, 000 reportedly voted and Peter Obi was declared Governor with less than 100, 000 votes.
As noted by some election monitoring groups, many voters could not even find their names on the register. Under pressure by those aggrieved, INEC even did the unusual by allowing some to vote using any form of identification. At least, that was how, the governorship candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Mrs. Ekwunife voted. Meanwhile, voting in most places started late while there were instances of snatching and stuffing of ballot boxes despite the presence of no less than 26, 000 policemen, 40 units of anti-riot police and hundreds of soldiers deployed for the elections. They simply looked the other way while the atrocities were being perpetrated since their real purpose is to crush any resistance by the people.
But INEC’s usual flaws notwithstanding, a crucial factor in the voters’ low turn-out is that the people did not see much at stake, hence the generally apathy.
Anambra has seen many bloody battles for control of state power. After ten years of civil rule and enormous resources there is glaring poverty and underdevelopment. The battles have therefore in the main been about who controls the loot as against who genuinely wants to bail the people out of social and economic dire straits.
Yet, on the basis of a program of public ownership of key sectors of the State’s economy, the democratic management and allocation of the resources and massive public works in education, health, housing etc, by a working class government that links the liberation of Anambra with that of the rest of the country, it is actually possible to lift the people out of poverty.
Here is a state that is abundantly endowed with one of the largest deposits of oil and natural gas, not just in Nigeria but in the world, not to mention other minerals like bauxite and ceramic. Its soil is perfectly suitable for agriculture being 100 percent cultivable. All these resources are largely untapped and so life is that of the jungle – the most brutish and the nasty survive.
In this jungle, successive civilian rulers since 1999 have nothing to show for the billions of dollars they have collected from oil proceeds. Yet when it is election time, the bourgeois parties delude themselves that they can easily win the ordinary people over with promises of better life tomorrow once they are elected. Having lived to see such promises jettisoned with impunity, the masses know better.
The masses also know better that the promises that are usually fulfilled are those that further enrich the rich and make the poor poorer. Like the privatization, commercialization, deregulation partnership between the governments and the so-called private that have seen oil prices rise sharply from N65 per litter to about N100 per litter, industry wind-down and job losses (it is un-officially reckoned that for every five motorcyclist – locally called Okada – rider in Lagos three are either former employees, serving policemen and youths in school). Added to these are higher costs of education, health care, transportation, rents and construction.
The Yar ‘Adua health debacle actually reflects a cynical side of the ruling capitalist class that shows how ruthlessly self-serving they could be. In this regard they could sink billions of dollars to prop up a dying person while denying same to re-build the collapsed health sector so that the poorer masses can have access to the best of care irrespective of their status and have modern technological facilities that can aid better diagnosis of illnesses. The difficulty in managing the health of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, for a long time a close political associate of the DSM, was partly attributed to a ‘wrong’ diagnosis in the country.
The question should then be asked: Why didn’t the Labour Party (LP) perform better and in fact win the election in Anambra when ordinarily it ought to have been embraced by the working masses? The answer is simple: capitalist politicians like Andy Uba, a close ally of the notorious Olusegun Obasanjo who dashed to the LP after losing out in the PDP, cannot inspire much in the masses. Neither can a LP that does not pose a socialist alternative of working class democratic ownership and management of the commanding heights of the economy to the capitalist pocket driven privatization.
On the other hand, a Labour Party that is armed with the correct programs and perspectives that break out of the orbit of the market or free enterprise to seek solution to the socio-economic problems in public ownership and working class democratic management will, if it seriously campaigns, serve as a poll of attraction to the ordinary working class elements. Furthermore such mass mobilisations would be the answer to poll rigging and the way to ensure truly free and fair elections.
The duty of the socialist under this type of dispensation is to persist in working with the workers especially in the unions, intervening in their struggles and patiently explaining why there is a linkage between their daily economical problems and the need for a political solution through a workers and farmers’ government whose members subscribe to such core socialist principles of:
- Not earning more than the average wage of the workers or professionals they represent
- Donating the extra to the labour movement
- Partaking regular party activities, and
- Being subject to recall if the need arises
Programs like the above were put forward by members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and their allies, during the period of the organization’s stay in the National Conscience Party (NCP). In Lagos where the DSM constituted the dominant fighting force in the NCP, the Party came third in all elections in the state in 2003, while its Senatorial candidate for Lagos-West, who campaigned on the basis of working class socialist programmes, got 77,000 votes to come third.
The reality that working class elements must contend with is a capitalist government that denies the mass of the people the basic necessities of life cannot be expected to guarantee free and fair elections that will lead to its overthrow. Yet the revolutionary task of the moment for working class activists, trade unionists, socialists, youths and students, the un-employed etc is precisely that of regime and system change.