Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



By Michael Ogundele

From October 24 to October 25, 2015, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) held a special national meeting primarily attended by leading comrades and organizers at branches and in different areas of work. The objective was to better position the organization for the new challenges thrown up by the last general elections as well as the current capitalist economic crisis. Nigeria Perspective and World Relations were discussed on the first day while Building DSM was the agenda for the second day. Between the two days, about 40 comrades including an international visitor, Robert Bechert from the International Secretariat of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) to which the DSM is affiliated, attended the meeting.

The discussion on the Nigeria perspective which addressed the political and economic situation of the country was led by H.T Soweto. Buhari came into power on the crest of a mass illusion in the change and anti-corruption mantra of the APC, especially against the background of the failure of the PDP government. While nothing has really been achieved, this illusion has not however fundamentally waned. Truly, Buhari came to power at a period of a serious slump in the revenue which is worsened by a lack of fiscal buffer in term of foreign reserves and excess crude account (ECA) unlike what obtained in the 2007/2008 global economic crisis. But as Soweto stressed it is not only the Goodluck Jonathan-led government that should be blamed for frittering away the foreign reserve and ECA that could have provided for the rainy day but also all the state governors including the APC who shared the ECA together with federal government without nothing commensurate to show for it. However, this cannot be excuse for Buhari not to deliver on his electoral promises. The failure of Buhari to meet the expectation of the people will be as a result of the adherence of his government to the dictates of capitalism.

It is therefore not for workers and masses to show understanding for the ruling class’s crisis and agree to make sacrifices for their system. We must not allow being made to pay for the failure and corruption of the capitalist ruling elites cutting across of all the pro-establishment parties, viz. APC, PDP, APGA, etc. We hold that if the commanding heights of the economy like oil and gas, banking, etc are put under public ownership and democratic control; if contracts are handled by well-equipped work departments and not awarded to profit-first construction companies; if projects and spending are put under democratic control; if all political office holders and top functionaries of the government are placed on salary structure of civil servants, Nigeria has enough resources even despite the decline in revenue to provide for basic needs of the vast majority as well as infrastructural developments. But Buhari, because he leads a capitalist government cannot take this path, hence his inevitable failure to really fulfill his campaign promises in the face of slump in oil revenue. Buhari can only free little resources from his fabled anti-corruption fight because he cannot drastically reduce let alone eradicate corruption as it is inherent in the capitalist system. Indeed, capitalism is the mother of corruption. Besides, the character of the elements that constitute the coalition that produced Buhari means that he cannot genuinely fight corruption even if he is incorruptible as widely acclaimed.

Workers and masses have to prepare to fight against anti-poor policies which will be introduced inevitably by Buhari government. Already, the government has announced its support for a hike in electricity tariffs. This has to be fought as consumers must not be made to pay for darkness. Good enough consumers, both residential and industrial, have rejected the planned hike. The marginal increase in electricity supply witnessed in some communities across the country in the first two months of Bunari’s regime has proved to be a flash in the pan. Indeed, the fact that the short-lived increase in power generation to a little above 4000MW led to a marginal improvement in supply in a country of about 185 million shows that many households, communities and industries are not connected to national grid or in total darkness. Before the inception of this government, struggles had broken in many communities against poor supply and over billing. The members of DSM played important roles in some of these struggles. These community actions have to be sustained and deepened. We have to demand a regular supply and resist a tariff hike. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) must support these demands and help coordinate the various community struggles into a national action by declaring a day of action. Good enough, TUC has declared its objection to the tariff hike, but this must not be reduced to a mere press statement. Rather, the trade union centres must be prepared for a real struggle.

While Buhari government has not unfolded its austerity measures, these attacks have been already unleashed in many states. For instance, there has been attack on education in Oyo, Osun and Ekiti states. In Imo state, the parastatals have been outsourced. In Oyo and Osun, plans to cut workers’ salaries have been mooted. If this is introduced and successfully implemented other states will follow suit. This is against the background of the inability of many states to pay workers’ salaries. The so-called bailout, which is a burden on future finances of the affected states, has not fully solved the problem of unpaid salaries. The labour leadership and workers must fight against any planned cut in salaries. Indeed, they must demand full payment of all salary arrears and increase in the national minimum wage which is not only statutorily due for a review but has also been rendered untenable by inflation and devaluation of naira.

Also discussed at the meeting was the unresolved national question that has bred the seemingly intractable Boko Haram insurgency, the conflict between cattle herdsmen and farmers and now the recent agitation for Biafra. The spate of bombings and killings by the Boko Haram insurgents have been intensified since Buhari set a December deadline for the defeat of Boko Haram by the military. From all indications, meeting this deadline will be a mirage. Socialists have argued for setting up of democratically run, non-sectarian self-defence committees in communities, markets and parks as a way of confronting the menace of Boko Haram. However, it should be stressed that it is the failure of the government to provide education, jobs and other basic needs that have created material conditions and fertile grounds for the easy recruitment of youths and children by Boko Haram insurgents.

The unresolved national questions are used by the rival factions of the ruling elite to line behind themselves the masses of their ethnic extraction whenever they feel marginalized in the sharing of the national cake. This seems to be the case with Biafra agitation which was recently heightened after the ruling elite of Igbo extraction felt not accommodated in the kitchen cabinet of Buhari government. While socialists are not advocating separation, we recognize the right to self determination up to the extent of succession so far it is the democratic resolve of the people of the area. However, given the character of the ruling elite of Igbo extraction that will assume the power if Biafra becomes a reality, there will be no fundamental relief for ordinary Igbo masses under a new country on the basis of capitalism. Therefore, the major task of the working people of South East Nigeria is to link up with their counterparts in other regions for a united struggle against capitalism and thieving ruling elite irrespective of tribes and religions.

By the end of the year, Buhari government is expected to come up with 2016 Budget proposal that will reveal the extent to which it wants to burden the working people with problem caused by the thieving capitalist ruling elite including of the APC extraction. Unfortunately, it does not seem the labour leadership is ready to fight the current regime having shared illusion in it and indeed even promoted it. It is the task of socialists and working class activists to prepare the rank and file workers and other sections of the working people for a fight back while also mounting pressure on labour to provide the leadership. It is also possible for struggles to spontaneously break out in the face of attacks, socialists have to prepare to intervene in such struggles with the objective of giving it a direction.

The meeting noted that as a capitalist government, Buhari regime will not be able to fully deliver on its promises especially in the face of slump in oil revenue and will indeed attempt to make the working masses to pay for the crisis of capitalism. This will further raise the question of a genuine political alternative of the working people as more and more people become disillusioned with the Buhari government.

The Labour Party (LP) has proved not to be different in any way from either PDP or APC. The claim of the NLC to have taken over the LP with setting up of a caretaker committee on the strength of having its certificate of registration handed over to it by the estranged former chair of the party is a deliberate attempt to deceive workers and activists. As far as the law and INEC are concerned, there is only one LP and it is led by Abdul Salaam. Indeed, INEC has written last September to the NLC to this effect, and it appears that the NLC has not replied. The fact is that the current leadership of labour is not interested in reclaiming the Labour Party as they do not seem to believe in a working people political alternative. Indeed, from all indications even in an unlikely situation that they legally take over the leadership of the party, they would put it in the service of the APC. A real reclaiming of the Labour Party would involve rapidly building an active mass base that can purge it of opportunists, careerists, give it a fully democratic character, de-monitise its elections and build a campaigning party with real roots in workplaces and communities. Unfortunately this is not the programme of the NLC leaders.

Therefore today, socialists and working class activists have to link the demand for a mass working people political alternative with a struggle for building of a radical and democratic trade unionism with a fighting leadership driven by a pro-working class political and economic program. While this agitation continues, the members of DSM have resolved to continue to build the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) as a striking example of a working people party. The party will be built as a party of struggles which identifies with the daily struggles of the working people in communities, workplaces and schools. It will also be an electoral platform with which to reach out to working masses with socialist alternative during elections. All this is with the objective of winning the combative layers of the working masses and youth to revolutionary ideas. The SPN is at present in court against INEC to enforce its registration after the electoral body refused to register it despite fulfilling all the constitutional requirements for its registration. The meeting reaffirmed the resolve to employ all legal and political means to ensure the registration of the party.

Find below the resolution on Nigeria adopted at the meeting.