Great Nigerian Working People!
Speech of Comrade Segun Sango, the Protem National Chairperson of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) on the occasion of the founding convention of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) held on Saturday 16 November 2013 in Lagos
Great Nigerian Working People!
FOR A DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST WORKERS’ AND POOR PEOPLE’S GOVERNMENT
I am very delighted to welcome you on this historic occasion of the founding convention of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN). We are here today to elect the National Executive Council (NEC) and to adopt the draft Manifesto and Constitution of the party. This is a great progress we have made since the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) publicly proclaimed the initiative of workers and socialist activists to work towards the registration of a political platform that truly stands for economic and political needs of the working masses and the poor in general, on May 1st 2012.
Since last year, we have traversed the length and breadth of this country in an effort to locate change-seeking elements to join us in building this great party. Even though this constraint was imposed on us by the pro-rich and not sufficiently democratic provisions of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria, yet I must say the journey has been very revealing and rewarding for us.
Indeed I am impressed by the number of people that answered our clarion call. It shows that contrary to the propaganda of the capitalists and their agents that a workers and poor peoples’ party is not possible because people by their nature can only stand for any principle in exchange for material benefit, there are a lot of Nigerians who genuinely desire change in this country and are willing to fight for that change. Assembled in this room are some of these Nigerians who have agreed with us about the urgent necessity of building a political party that represents workers and ordinary people.
NIGERIA ON THE BRINK
Comrades you will recall that in May, 1999, the Nigerian civilian elite politicians took power from their military counterparts after fifteen years of struggle by the Nigerian working masses against military dictatorship. There was high hope by the masses that civil rule would bring an end to mass poverty, worsening living conditions, mass unemployment, suppression of democratic rights, massive corruption, and insecurity of lives and property which characterised military rule.
14 years after, the high expectations of millions of Nigerians for real positive change in their lives have been shattered by the politicians of PDP, APC, LP and other elite politicians in the other capitalist parties. Not only has there been no substantial improvement in the lives of the working masses, in some respect the situation has become worse. Tens of millions of Nigerians still live without access to good food, housing, roads, water, electricity, education and healthcare. Thousands of workers have been retrenched from their jobs. Despite Nigeria’s abundant wealth, over 112 million Nigerians out of a population of about 170 million are too poor to afford the basic standard of living of good shelter, nutritious food and good quality education.
The anti-poor policies of privatisation of public assets, commercialization of education, health, housing and other social services, and retrenchment of workers have made more and more Nigerians poorer and the rich minority richer. Corruption among the elite has not only remained, it has become more sophisticated. Political office holders earn millions of naira in salaries, allowances and privileges while workers and pensioners get poverty wages which are not even paid as at when due.
Nigeria has become one of the most unequal societies in the world, with the richest 20% of Nigerians getting 55.7% of the country’s total income while the poorest 20% are left to struggle for just 4.4%. Currently Nigeria faces gargantuan problems in all areas of socio-economic and political endeavours. The nation’s economy has further nosedived under the President Jonathan government, lower than any other time since 1999. In every area you look at the only conclusion you will come to is that the President Goodluck Jonathan government has failed resoundingly.
Mind you, when we say the government has failed, it is not an isolated opinion. Indeed this is the opinion of the mass majority of Nigerians. According to an opinion poll of the Leadership newspaper “81% of Nigerians assessed government’s performance in managing the economy as very bad and fairly bad; but only 19% assessed the government’s performance as very well and fairly well. 85% of Nigerians think the present government has performed very badly in improving the living standard of the poor while only 15% think the government is doing very well in improving the living standard of the poor”. (March 26, 2013).
Just look at the condition of electricity, road infrastructures, education and health sector! Nigeria’s population of over 170 million people and the country’s large industrial concerns share a mere 4,000 megawatts of electricity. South Africa which roughly has a third of Nigeria’s population produces 45,000 megawatts! The roads have become congested and degraded with transport costs, times and accident rates all increasing over time. Only 23% Nigeria road networks are paved. Under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement for road construction supported by both the PDP and APC, road infrastructure in Nigeria will remain in this sorry condition.
As I speak, Nigeria is the only major oil exporting country that does not have sufficient and functional infrastructure to produce the fuel and gas it needs, and as such appropriate close to one trillion naira annually for importation of petroleum products! Allegedly to end this sheer system madness all the ruling capitalist political parties have accepted to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) fervently being canvassed by multinational oil corporations and their local partners. When this happens, the present limited control which Nigeria has over its oil and gas wealth will be completely transferred to international oil barons and local capitalist backers. This, the masses are being told is the best way to guarantee petroleum products.
The ruling class, despite all bragging about diversification, are bereft of any solution, even medium term, to diversify Nigeria’s economy away from oil nor can they reconcile their reliance on oil rents and royalties with the need to industrialize the economy. While there is much fuss about telecoms sector, the reality is that the sector has yielded no fundamental solution to unemployment. While there is of course rise in phone lines from less than 500, 000 15 years ago to as much as 110 million mobile lines as at first quarter 2013, this is not the full picture. Majority of line holders, as a result of terrible telecom services, have two or more active lines, implying less than half the population are connected. Worse still, the telecom industry, despite having earned more than a trillion naira in the last ten years, still contribute an insignificant percentage to employment generation. Majority of so-called telecom sector employments consist of people who sell recharge cards â€“ many of them educated â€“ but surviving from hand to mouth.
Perhaps the most serious aspect of Nigeria’s problems is the poor and hopeless condition of the youth. Today unemployment has become a permanent feature of the life of our youth despite alleged impressive economic growth. The latest, July 2013, population estimate is that Nigeria has 175.5 million inhabitants. Of these 76.8 million (43.8%) are under 14 years old. When you add the 33.6 million 15 to 24 year olds, 63.1% of Nigeria’s current population is under 25 years old. But capitalism cannot offer these youth a real future. Presently the public Universities and Polytechnics have been shut for months due to strike actions of academic staff to demand the honouring of agreements signed with them by the Federal Government. But due to the fact that the capitalist ruling elite do not have their children in public higher institutions in Nigeria, the government does not care whether schools are shut for a year or whether lecturers have the adequate facilities to do their job.
At this juncture, permit me to ask party members to stand up for a minute silence in the memory of Prof. Festus Iyayi, a former president of ASUU, who died in a motor accident on the way to Kano to attend ASUU NEC meeting to review the over four months strike by the union to achieve better public universities funding and improved conditions of service for the lecturers. Unless this anti-poor capitalist government is urgently replaced by a working masses government, there is a real danger facing Nigeria. Tens of millions of youth without a job or future is a time-bomb waiting to explode. Already no-one can doubt that one of the factors in Boko Haram’s growth is the desperate economic and social situation in the north-east.
Under the prevailing PDP government and or under the unlikely APC government, the economic conditions of Nigeria and the living conditions of the vast majority of its people could only be expected to nose dive. Only a socialist government of the workers and poor that is committed to public ownership of the main means of production and natural resources including Banks and Finance Institutions and steadfastly committed to working class democracy can utilize Nigeria’s abundant human an natural resources for the benefit of all and not just the capitalist few rich, which dominate the economy and society nationally and internationally.
THE NATIONAL QUESTION
Besides the debilitating economic crisis, politically, Nigeria faces ferocious ethno-religious conflict across the country. Presently, agitations by armed groups in Niger Delta for “Resource Control” or self-determination seem to have considerably gone down. However, to sustain the present truce, tens of billions of naira are being paid to militia leaders and their supporters under an amnesty package implemented since the time of late president Musa Yar’Adua. Notwithstanding, Nigeria is currently losing, an estimated revenue of about N6 billion monthly due to crude oil theft allegedly being perpetrated by members and supporters of the Niger Delta militia groups. In the neighbouring South-East region, cacophonic agitation by MOSOB for a Biafra Republic has been raging for several years with lots of killings perpetrated by the state forces striving to forcibly quell this movement.
However, all the aforementioned events appear as a child’s play, when placed side by side with the raging Boko Haram insurgency in North East since 2009. Up till date, an estimated 5,000 persons have lost their lives to the murderous armed campaigns by the Boko Haram insurgents, who have been repeatedly demanding that part or the whole country become an Islamic state, and the state security forces allegedly striving to forcibly suppress the insurgents. Currently, government has imposed a full state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, in the quest to forcibly bring the Boko Haram menace to an end. So far, this has only had little effect on the murderous campaigns of the insurgents, while hundreds are still being frequently killed by Boko Haram and the state security forces in the states under state of emergency.
The often brutal, and undemocratic, methods of the security forces only serve to help recruit more to Boko Haram. The recent killing of the innocent homeless people, mostly artisans, who were squatting at an uncompleted building in Abuja by the operatives of the SSS under the guise of fighting Boko Haram shows that the security operatives are as blood-sucking as Boko haram insurgents.
Military strikes will not fundamentally end the Boko Haram menace nor prevent resurgence of terrorism and violence elsewhere like the Niger Delta, Plateau State and other flashpoints of ethno-religious crisis in Nigeria. The first thing to recognise is that the incident of ethno-religious crises is caused by the unjust and undemocratic manner in which the entity called Nigeria was formed by the British Colonialists. Under this arrangement, nations previously not dominated by any other and expressing no desire to coexist together under one roof, were by virtue of the administrative convenience of the ruling British colonial masters yoked together under one authority. This undemocratic situation now coupled with the exploitative capitalist system handed over to Nigeria’s ruling elites at independence are the root causes of ethnic and religious crises.
We should not deceive ourselves. No member of the corrupt ruling elite whether of the PDP or APC has any serious and reliable solution to the ethno-religious crises threatening to tear Nigeria apart. Our party, the SPN, supports the call for a truly democratic Sovereign National Conference (SNC) and not the toothless National dialogue being organised by President Jonathan. However we believe that only a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) dominated by the elected representatives of the working masses and oppressed strata and which offers opportunity for the re-discussion of Nigeria and the struggle for a socialist transformation of society can begin to create the basis for an end to ethno-religious tension and crises.
While today socialists stand for a united socialist Nigeria, we also respect the desire and aspiration of ethnic nationalities to separate and form their own independent nations if they so wish. In line with this, the SPN recognises the right to self-determination up to and including secession if that is the democratic wish of people of a given nation or group of nations in Nigeria. If our party comes to power, we shall grant this right to every nationality. However as Socialists, we cannot shy away from frankly telling the masses that simply breaking Nigeria into whatever number of independent units will not primarily address the problem of mass poverty which is primarily caused by the global capitalist system. Socialists must warn the working masses that it is possible to have a Nigeria broken into several independent national or geographical components and yet still have widespread poverty in these respective entities/republics/empires unless they also break with capitalism. But separation would not be the end of the national question. Hardly any area is ethnically homogeneous. Within “minority” areas there are minorities. Fear of being a minority in an Igbo dominated state was one reason why many Ogonis supported the Federal government during the civil war. Therefore as well as supporting the right of self-determination Socialists also defend the rights of minorities and those who might suddenly become “foreigners” in the land they live in.
Equally the SPN stands for the complete separation of the State from religion. This is why we have always advocated against state religion which involves inclusion of religion as an identity in almost all areas of our national life up to the practise where governments use public money to build churches and mosques and to pay or subsidize pilgrimages to Mecca, Rome and Jerusalem.
However the ultimate solution to ethno-religious crises is the replacement of neo-colonial capitalism which is the source of mass poverty and insecurity, with a democratic socialist system only which can ensure that the basic needs and aspirations of the working masses and youths of Nigeria are met irrespective of ethnic or religious persuasion. This is why we have to build the SPN to take political power and begin to run Nigeria in the interest of the mass majority.
WHY WE NEED A PARTY OF THE WORKING MASSES
Comrades! So widespread is the level of mass dissatisfaction that if given a clear political alternative the working masses across the country will demand an immediate end to the prevailing mass misery in the midst of stupendous abundance. Unfortunately most leaders of the organizations of the working masses and youths have totally failed to proffer the necessary alternative. They are in fact scared to struggle. This is unlike the Nigerian working people. Since 2000 there have been eight massive general strikes, plus another three called off at the last moment. All the strikes, particularly the last one in January 2012, were massively supported and posed the question of ‘who runs the country?’ However, the current labour leaders are not willing to challenge the ruling class and so call off the strikes as soon as they can.
This position of the labour leaders is not accidental; most trade unions leaders do no longer depend on check off dues of ordinary workers for the running of the unions. In fact, trade union organizations no longer have independent view points on how to run the economy and society. Present day trade union leaders slavishly support a private sector driven agenda being propagated by the capitalist strategists. Despite massive unemployment and poor wages, trade union leaders are not proffering a strategy that can ensure that enough jobs are created; nor fight for decent working conditions for the lucky few that have jobs. Meanwhile most trade union leaders now have access to frequent international travels and lavish estacodes being paid for by capitalist government and their international trade union agencies and organizations.
This is also the reason why the labour leaders have refused to build the Labour Party (LP) as a genuine working class political party. They have abandoned it to corrupt politicians to make use of for their selfish ambition to win elections and loot resources. The LP today is nothing but the second-eleven of pro-rich capitalist political parties. The LP does not represent or defend workers interests.
As 2015 general elections inch closer, there are no visible signs that the trade union leaders are committed to reclaiming the Labour Party, which they themselves formed, from elements who run the party ideologically and organizationally like just another capitalist party. Instead, their last murmuring in this respect is to go out and look for “Labour Friendly” candidates to come and run under the Labour Party’s platform! Meanwhile without a political party of their own, the fate of the working masses will continue to be decided by either the PDP or the APC both of which are not different from the other. This is why we took the decision in May 2012 to launch the campaign for registration of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN).
As things stand today, the APC does not have any virtue or policy that can endear it to the vast majority of Nigerians genuinely desiring positive change in their economic, social and living conditions. In this situation the “winners” of the 2015 general elections should be expected to be determined by politicians that can deploy more state powers of manipulation, coercion and most especially money power. There must be no illusion in the newly registered All Progressives Congress (APC) which is a merger of ACN, ANPP and CPC. Their record in office shows they are all anti-poor. For instance, the model of APC is the Fashola/ACN government in Lagos which has waged fierce war against the poor and working people in the state. For instance, university education has been taken out of the reach of students of the poor and working class parents in the state while different sections of the working people like okada (commercial motorcycle) operators and petty traders have been ruthlessly deprived of their means of livelihood.
This is why the working people need a political party of their own to wrest power from the anti-poor politicians irrespective of political parties and replace the iniquitous private profit driven capitalist agenda with socialist program. This means that we need in power the government of the working people that would commit the resources of the society to the provision of functional education, health care, decent housing, decent jobs, infrastructure, etc. In order to mobilize adequate resources to achieve this, the commanding heights of the economy must be put under public ownership with democratic management and control of the working people, while the public officers who are subject to recall must receive the average salary of civil servants.
I call on rank and file workers, the poor masses and youths to embrace the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and build it into a formidable political alternative that can win political power and ensure that Nigeria’s abundant human and natural resources are properly harnessed and developed to meet the needs of all as against the prevailing capitalist arrangement that perpetuate mass misery in the midst of stupendous abundance.
Nigeria is endowed with huge natural and human resources capable of guaranteeing adequate food, decent housing, and full employment with living wages, affordable and good quality education and healthcare, functional and adequate socio-economic infrastructure such as electricity, rails, waterways and road transportation including standard educational institutions and hospitals for all. Why then are most Nigerians, particularly the working masses poor, and are getting poorer? The main reason is that the economic wealth and resources of society are in the hands of a minority class of the rich few. Government’s political and economic policies and decisions are based on satisfying the profit motive of this class rather than provision of the basic needs of workers, peasant farmers, students, traders, artisans, professionals and the masses in general.
The mass sack of workers, the decay in the health and educational systems, the escalating costs of food and transportation, the neglect of the rural farming and peasant poor as well as the collapse of public infrastructure only reflect a basic fact: that the wealth produced by the working class majority is appropriated for personal use by the corrupt ruling capitalist class (the club of millionaires).
The task of reversing the above trend requires a mass oriented programme whose ultimate purpose is to uplift the living and working standards of the working people, the studying conditions of the students and to create equal opportunities and access to social services and public utilities for the able-bodied and the physically challenged as well as the majority and the minority groups. This is the kind of programme being offered by the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), a political party dedicated to the task of abolishing poverty, unequal opportunities and corruption in the Nigerian society. The SPN is a platform for change seeking individuals who are genuinely worried that the working masses suffer untold hardship in the midst of abundant natural and human resources.
To reverse this trend and ensure that enough resources are available to implement a program of public works that can provide for the real needs of the overwhelming majority of the populace, the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) will stand for the public ownership of the key sectors of the economy and their democratic control and management by elected representatives of the working people. SPN believes that the solution to the problems facing the Nigerian society can only be found through the democratic participation of various strata of the society, particularly the teeming millions of the working masses, in the management of the affairs of society and the taking of decisions on issues which affect their lives.
If elected, the SPN shall ensure the prompt implementation of Chapter 11 (Two) of the constitution which lists all the fundamental duties of the State. In addition, we shall equally pursue the following:
(1) Quality and free public education at all levels and ensure the democratic running of the education sector by elected representatives of education workers, students and communities.
(2) Quality and free health care for all
(3) Massive public works programme to ensure the provision of affordable, decent and dignifying shelter for all and sundry. This will be achieved through the nationalisation of the private cement companies and big construction companies whose profit interest is the reason for the absurdity of tens of thousands of Nigerians having no home even though there is no shortage of construction materials like cement, sand and stone and most importantly human resources.
(4) Pursuit of a conscious policy of electricity provision for both industrial and domestic usage. Presently, electricity generation is insufficient and vast numbers of people especially in the suburbs and rural areas are not connected to electricity at all. Achieving the full electrification of Nigeria and maximum generation requires doing away with the private ownership of the sector. An SPN government will reverse the privatisation of the PHCN and instead place the electricity sector under the democratic control and management of the working people.
(5) Rejection of the contract system and the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement which the main capitalist political parties of the PDP and APC accept as the only path to development is fraudulent. Rather it is a means for siphoning of public funds into private pockets. An SPN government shall invest massively in road construction as a public works programme, not as a contract to business friends of politicians as is being done now. We shall also invest in sea, air and rail transportation in order to make movement of people and goods easy.
(6) Reversal of the massive neglect of Agriculture. An SPN government will be committed to achieving complete food sufficiency. Therefore an SPN government will invest massively in agricultural sector by organising state farms and also by supporting farmers with tools, fertiliser and cheap loans.
(7) Public ownership the commanding heights of the economy including the banks, oil sector, steel and construction industry etc and their placement under the democratic control and management of the working masses. This is important to ensure that our economy works for the mass majority not just a few. We reject the notion that only the private sector can drive development. We believe that a private sector led development will only benefit a few whereas a public sector-led development, especially if democratically controlled by the working class, will ensure the greatest happiness of all.
(8) The provision and protection of the democratic rights of the workers, youth and poor masses.
As you all know, in a few days’ time, Nigeria will be 100 years old. Today we are beginning a new chapter in the history of Nigeria; a chapter that will be dominated by the political struggle of the working masses to take power and begin to take control of the destiny of this Nation in the interest of the vast majority.
At the end of today we delegates seated here representing the working class, the youth and the poor masses of Nigeria would have done what many think impossible – the commencement of the building of a political party of the downtrodden working masses by electing a National Executive Committee (NEC). After today, we will be in a good position to submit an application for the registration of the party to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
For a long time, the capitalists and their apologists relying on the undemocratic and pro-rich provisions of the constitution and the Electoral Act which ensure that only looters and moneybag politicians can form political parties, have made it impossible for the working masses to have a true political representation. Truly the electoral act has been so contrived that it guarantees that the working masses will continue every four years to look on who to vote for among their oppressors.
However today and despite the huge difficulties, we are demonstrating that we can meet the constitutional provisions for the registration of a new political party as stipulated under the 1999 Constitution. In getting to where we are today, we have never sought or accepted a single donation from any moneybag politician or member of the capitalist ruling elite. Rather we have relied heavily on the financial donation from workers, youth, students, poor masses and our supporters across the country. This is how we shall continue to build the SPN. The SPN must continue to be a political party owned, controlled and funded by workers, poor masses and the youth. The ruling class or their representatives have no place in our party. Resting on the working and toiling masses, the SPN shall build a movement to liberate Nigeria from the oppressive capitalist elite ruining the country. We shall mobilise support for and intervene in the daily struggle of all the sections of the working people for improvement and against all forms of capitalist attacks. We will give solidarity to all workers and oppressed in Africa, and elsewhere in the world, and actively support their struggles for liberation from capitalism.
I wish all fruitful deliberation. Thank you very much