Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



Free And Fair Elections Are Meaningless Without A Fighting Mass Working Class Labour Party

By Ayo Ademiluyi

Towards the upcoming 2011 general elections, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) believes that the appointment of Attahiru Jega would perhaps ensure free and fair elections. In a communiqué issued, while welcoming the appointment of Prof. Attahiru Jega as the Chairman of INEC, the leadership of the Congress correctly added that, “it does not automatically guarantee credible elections in the face of mounting determination of some anti-democratic elements among the political elite determined to frustrate a free and fair electoral process.” Hence, it resolved to meet with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to explore ways of partnership that would checkmate antics of the political elite.

Therefore, it could be said that Labour’s support for an Attahiru Jega is critical in that it was able to correctly acknowledge that in ensuring genuine elections it would take more than the effort of a yeoman. However, faltering in its conclusion, the Labour leadership still considers the recommendations of the Uwais Panel, popularly called “electoral reforms”, as the panacea to the recurrent electoral rigging.

The NLC said it had resolved to press for the full implementation of the Justice Uwais committee report on electoral reforms, to mitigate any offensives from the enemies of democracy, because the Congress “is convinced that therein lays a lasting solution to our electoral malady.” Unfortunately there can be no doubt that this is a misplaced confidence.

The Yar’Adua/Jonathan government has dismissed the report of Muhammed Uwais Panel arguing that some of its recommendations run contrary to the provision of the Constitution. They brush over the fact that the present Constitution was undemocratically drawn up by the military and not decided by any democratically elected body. Even when the constitution was amended, the main recommendations including one that provides that the INEC chairman must not be appointed by the President were not considered. This shows that the government that set up the panel does not believe in it in the first instance. The government just used the panel as a façade to feign commitment to electoral reform in order to douse the uproar that visited the mass rigging of the 2007 elections.

However, it is too simplistic to hinge the conduct a credible election on the issue of who appoints the Chairman of the electoral body. Uwais for instance recommended the Judicial Council for the right of appointment as if anything that emanates from the body is fraud-proof. It is no news that there are judges who are brazenly corrupt. The examples of electoral tribunals headed by judges whose verdicts suggest outright miscarriage or commercialization of justice are numerous.

Labour and other pro-masses’ organizations must understand that the main reason for rigging is the concentration of the collective resources of society, especially oil and gas revenues, in the hands of the few occupying political offices and they would go the whole hog to retain or gain hold on political power. What can secure the interests of the millions of working people and stop the so-called “anti-democratic elements in the ruling elite” is for Labour and other pro-masses’ organizations to build a working peoples’ political alternative that will stand creditable candidates and utilize mass means of struggle to ensure free elections and its electoral victory.

The leadership of NLC has also maintained that it would do all within its power in partnership with INEC to avert the imminent danger by partnering to mobilize and enlighten Nigerians for free and fair elections in 2011. In a similar vein, The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has also vowed to resist rigging at the next general election.

While Labour has the right to enlighten the citizens, the leadership must ask itself for whom is it educating Nigerians? Is Labour educating Nigerians to vote anti-poor capitalist parties and self-serving, visionless politicians? Mind you, the masses are not unaware of the negatives of rigging. But rigging has never been a mass movement, but in most cases acts of mobilized thugs by politicians, banking on the passivity of the masses who are disillusioned from the political and electoral processes as a result of absence of genuine fighting, working class political party. Therefore, while it is desirable to resist rigging and have credible elections, it can only benefit workers and poor masses if there is a working class political party that is capable of defeating the thieving ruling elitee and their parties, at the polls.

Hence, as both NLC and TUC are campaigning for credible election, they should be committed to building of the Labour Party as a fighting working peoples’ political platform run on a socialist programme in order to defeat anti-poor neo-liberal programme and commit public resources to the basic needs of all and the infrastructural provision for socio-economic development. Such a party can combine fighting tactics – general strikes, sit-in, and protests – to secure its mandate won in any electoral contest. Sadly, with the character of the Labour Party at present, it now appears almost certain that it cannot represent the interest of workers, youths and poor masses at the next general elections and neither can it inspire mass appeal to protect votes and mandates. This is why, no matter the result in 2011, working people will have to take to the road of struggle outside the parliaments if real change in their interests is going to take place.