MASS ACTION FOR ELECTORAL REFORM, YES!
MASS ACTION FOR ELECTORAL REFORM, YES!
As 2011 general elections approach, the agitation for an electoral reform has been at the front burner of activities of Labour and civil society groups. Labour has also started embarking on mass action to drive home demand for electoral reform. We of the Democratic Socialist Movement welcome and support the struggle for enthronement of electoral process that will ensure that the people can truly and democratically choose their leaders.
It is however unfortunate that Labour’s campaigns for an electoral reform is strictly based on a demand for the total implementation of the Mohammed Uwais committee original recommendations submitted to President Yar’Adua! Truly, there are some radical measures in the report that can enhance quality of electoral process. But the original report of Uwais committee itself contains some undemocratic and reactionary recommendations. For instance, the Uwais Panel recommends that State Electoral Commissions be scrapped allegedly because of their arbitrary conducts and manipulations of elections under their jurisdictions. While this conclusion is correct in every essential respect, the same however applies to the centrally controlled INEC, which of course is why the issue of electoral reform comes up in the first instance.
As the DSM often argues, the primary reason every election is always rigged by government in power is because of the capitalist elites self-serving ambition to always be in a position to use a public resources for their own personal needs, especially in society where the ruling elite has run the economy aground such that makes it virtually impossible to engage in productive agriculture, manufacturing and commerce.
Also importantly, as Labour lead struggle for electoral reform it must not relegate to the backburner the central demand on economic policies and wellbeing of the working people. Labour leaders therefore must remain steadfast on the struggle for a new minimum wage of N52, 200 and against deregulation of downstream sector of oil industry which directly affect the living conditions of the working people. The ruling elite readily appropriate the common wealth of the country through jumbo pay for political office holders, fictitious and inflated contracts and brazen looting of treasury. Yet, they have refused to pay living wage for workers and continued to unleash anti-poor, neo-liberal attack on the living conditions of the working people.
As things stand today, the 2011 general elections will only plunge Nigeria into a deeper abyss of socio-economic and political disaster of an unimaginable proportion. With the PDP, ANPP, AC, APGA, PPA, etc being the major participants and contestants, the whole exercise would only produce calamitous consequences for the ordinary masses. All of these parties agree and operate an economic and political agenda, which frontally puts private profits above peoples’ needs and that of the economy. They would all be striving for political power to be able to continue to sell all public resources, in the name of privatization and deregulation, to themselves and their partners in crime.
Therefore, as much as it is desirable to have a credible electoral process, the Labour and pro-masses organizations must realize that without a working people political alternative contesting for political power the struggle for electoral reform will amount to creating a level playing ground for different sections of the thieving ruling elite.
The major lesson of struggle in form of general strike and mass protests led by the trade unions, in alliance with the radical members of /the civil society organisations in the last one decade against pro-rich, anti-poor policy of deregulation and privatisation of oil sector is the need to create an independent party of the oppressed working masses, which is prepared and capable of posing a working class alternative to the prevailing economic and political rot. Most Labour leaders in Nigeria have continued to advocate that government should play pivotal role in economic development and provision of essential social services such as education, housing, road networks, etc without having a coherent strategy of how to bring into power a government that will be prepared to implement such obviously radical programme.
With Labour, using its advantageous position, social weight and organizational spread across the country, to build a party which is radically opposed to privatization and deregulation, a party that is expressly committed to optimal utilization of the country’s resources to cater for the needs of all where no one will suffer from joblessness and hunger, in that situation, it would not be very difficult to shove aside all the politicians of the ruling capitalist parties come 2011. Here, the point needs to be stressed that the ruling parties’ ability to rig and manipulate elections can only be defeated by a consciously mobilized masses, which will make widespread use of money to bribe voters and official intimidation, by government in power, less effective to rig votes. And in the event, that the capitalist elite, recklessly go ahead to falsify the results, to declare themselves winners, then they would most certainly incur the rot of the masses who may then be forced to use mass actions including strikes and protests to reclaim mandates stolen from their candidates.
Today, there already exists Labour Party formed and registered by Nigeria Labour Congress. Unfortunately, Labour has abandoned the party for elements who are turning it to the second eleven of the thieving ruling elite and anti-poor politicians. We however believe if repositioned the party still has enormous potentials to become the genuine working people political alternative. Immediate steps have to be taken by labour leaders and trade unions to transform the Labour Party into a platform that daily fights for better living, improved economic and political conditions of the masses, and makes a bold political and organizational bid for power. Otherwise, the 2011 elections will most certainly be met with mass apathy and frustrations by the overwhelming majority of the Nigerian people. Suffice to stress, the absence of such a party that truly commands the support and loyalty of the people means absolutely that the elections would be won by the sections of the capitalist elite that control the state power and resources.
Therefore, immediate steps must be taken to reposition the Labour Party for participation in the coming 2011 elections. In this regard, effort must be made to practically build the Party at local, state and national levels. Labour leaders must step up their opposition to deregulation by clearly coming out with a programme of public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, including oil, banks and finance, under working class control and management. This will be able to guarantee material and financial resources to meet the basic needs of the overwhelming people, free of the usual corruption and bureaucratic bungling, which characterizes capitalist economy and that of the former Stalinist states such as the ex- Soviet Unions. As we of the DSM often argue, only a genuine government of the workers and the general poor can be interested and also possess the requisite material and political will and capacity to carry through the kind of economic policies and political arrangement needed to safeguard the working masses against the ever insatiable greed of the capitalists. A most crucial instrument needed to bring about this kind of government is a fighting and democratically run Labour Party.