Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

2011 Elections and the Quest for a Free and Fair Exercise

2011 Elections and the Quest for a Free and Fair Exercise

On Thursday 9th September, 2010, the Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos organised a rally in Lagos to sensitise all Nigerians on the need for mandate protection against vote rigging come the 2011 elections. It was the latest in the series of rallies that have been organized by different groups ahead of the general election.

The rally took off at St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Toyin Street, Ikeja at exactly 10.45pm after solidarity messages had been delivered by Abiodun Aremu, Co-secretary of Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), Rev. Fr. E.A. Fadele, Executive Director of JDPC, Mrs. Ngozi Nwere and other activists present.

The rally had in attendance about 2,500 people including market women, traders, artisans, Okada riders, actors, children, etc, who walked through Toyin Street, Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way, Kodesoh Street, Obafemi Awolowo Road and Allen Avenue, all in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos State. Dagga Tolar, a member of the NEC of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), addressed the rally and bystanders at one of the stoppages for speechmaking in the course of the march.

Amidst the singing of solidarity songs, dancing, and distribution of flyers, slogans like “don’t sell your vote”, “one man, one vote”, “2011: our votes must count”, “2011: we must defend our mandate”, were raised during the procession. The speeches made by the various speakers were centered on the need for the electorate to register as voters and defend their votes. The general mood of the rally was that of a strong desire for a system change which the people believe, falsely, could come through a free and fair election held under the prevailing pro-rich, anti-people capitalist system.

The reactions from the public was distinctly pessimistic as many were of the view that nothing good would come out of the 2011 elections and that it will be business as usual. At a motorcycle park along Bank Anthony way, the Okada riders expressed their disenchantment with the Raji Fashola-led Lagos State Government following its anti-poor policies. One of the riders, a middle-aged man had this to say: “We won’t vote for Fashola; he has kicked market women out of their shops and markets over his beautification programme and now he is facing us, he wants us off Lagos roads, how do we survive?” He continued: “We will vote but we already know that our votes will not count”. A young lady on the same park said: “If they can pay me, I will sell my vote; after all, I’m not enjoying the dividends of democracy”.

The Lagos government under the guise of building a mega city has continued to inflict hardship and unleash neo-liberal attacks on the poor in the state. It has continued to make available public properties for private profit at the expense of people with the so-called Private Public Programme (PPP) just like the ongoing Lekki-Epe road concessioning. Besides, despite the huge revenue from monthly allocation and multiple taxes, most roads and public schools in the state are in bad shape.

Ironically, the Raji Fashola government is considered about the most performing in the country at all levels. This shows that the Nigerian ruling elite is like a proverbial town of the blind, where one-eyed man is the king. This is not what Nigerian working people deserve.

It therefore brings up the question of the imperative of a working peoples’ party that will serve as an alternative platform for workers, farmers, artisans, market women and men and wrest power from the pro-capitalist and anti-poor parties presently in power at all levels. Such party will commit public resources for the benefit of all.

The Labour Party formed by the NLC has been hijacked by moneybags and political wheeler-dealers. Therefore, as presently constituted and orientated, it cannot serve the interest of the poor working people in the next general election. The trade unions have to reclaim the party or, in alliance with pro-masses’ oganisations and socialists, form a fighting working peoples’ party. This means with about four months to go to the 2011 elections, there may not be a party which represents the yearnings and aspirations of the working people at the poll. It is not however late for the trade union leadership to salvage the situation by earnestly beginning to reclaim the Labour Party or start the process of forming a genuine working peoples’ political alternative with a socialist programme. Even if the party does not do well at the elections because of time, it would offer alternative socio-economic programme against the prevailing anti-poor pro-capitalist agenda, and the solid foundation would have been laid for a genuine alternative.

It is significant and unprecedented that there have been series of rallies ahead of the general election. This is indicative of the desire of people to have a free and fair election. However, unfortunately all these rallies cannot translate anything fundamental for the masses. This is because the election will be an exclusive contest among different sections of the anti-poor political parties who are united with the same anti-poor neo-liberal capitalist programme.

The procession train was orginally scheduled to end at the Lagos State Governor’s office, Alausa-Ikeja, but could not end there due to the public holiday declared to celebrate the end of the Muslim fasting. The rally was brought to an end at exactly 2.15pm at the take-off point. Four DSM members participated in the rally and 101 copies of the current edition of the Socialist Democracy (SD) were sold.

Report by Keye Ewebiyi