Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Peter Obi: Atiku Abubakar’s ex-running mate no friend of Labour

Labour Party Remains a Trashcan of APC and PDP Rejects!

We Call for Building of a Genuine Mass Working People’s Party on a Socialist Programme!

We of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) are not surprised by the emergence of Peter Obi as the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party given the history and character of the party that has long been a trashcan of the rejects from the leading anti-poor parties like PDP, APC, APGA, ACN, etc. The bourgeois politicians who have in the past used the party after having lost out in the PDP or APC, but later dumped it, include Femi Pedro, Ayodele Fayose, Andy Uba, Ifeanyi Ubah, Joshua Dariye, Alao Akala, Olusegun Mimiko, etc.  Obi may also dump the party after the 2023 general election if he does not win.

At every election since 2007, the party electoral tickets are usually put on sale like a commodity for moneybag politicians looking for a party for the actualization of their self-serving ambition.  For instance, currently, apart from Obi, the gubernatorial candidate of the party in Osun state is Yusuf Lasun, former Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives who lost out in the primary of APC while other anti-worker politicians including the past national chairman of APGA have also picked up different tickets of the party.

The fact is that by the end of the selection exercise of its candidates the electoral list of the Labour Party  will not be fundamentally distinguishable from that of the APC and PDP. So, if it is not Obi, another moneybag politician would have bought the presidential ticket of the party or the party endorses APC Presidential candidate Bola Tinubu or Abubakar Atiku of the PDP, something that is not yet ruled out. In 2011 and 2015 elections the Labour Party endorsed President Jonathan of the PDP as its candidate.

However, we frown at the uncritical endorsement of Peter Obi as a member or the presidential candidate of the Labour Party by the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC) which, together with Trade Union Congress (TUC), had promised to reclaim the party and reposition it towards the interest of the Nigerian workers and the poor.

Obi’s anti-Labour and anti-poor record in Anambra

No doubt there is a growing illusion in Obi among some sections of the populace as a result of his touted prudent management of resources when he was the governor of Anambra State as well as a relatively non-extravagant lifestyle when compared with other capitalist politicians of his status. However, a point which cannot be ignored is that as the governor of Anambra State, he was unashamedly anti-worker. For instance, on his watch, state hospitals were shut down for thirteen months due to his stubborn refusal to meet the demands of the striking doctors (Vanguard February 28, 2012). For the same reason, the state university was closed down for more than six months (Vanguard January 18, 2011). The workers of the state water corporation had to secure a court order to force Obi’s successor, Obiano, to pay salaries and entitlements he had them for eight years (Vanguard July 18, 2014). Some of the workers were said to have died without salary, gratuity or pension. Also following a 2011 strike embarked upon by the state workers to demand the implementation of the legal minimum wage, Obi threatened to sack all Anambra state workers engaged since 2003, reviewed the appointment of non-indigenes and placed embargo on the employment into the state services (Guardian September 20, 2011)

The record above clearly proves that Obi as a right-wing, neo-liberal capitalist politician is not likely to genuinely subscribe to the NLC’s Charter of Demands, something the NLC claimed to be a condition for supporting any candidate in the 2023 elections. For reason of winning the backing of the labour centres and by extension workers’ vote, he may falsely endorse the ‘Charter of Demands’ but the reality is that he is likely to renounce it if he ever emerges as President except a serious struggle develops against his regime. This is because he is at heart an anti-worker politician who defends the pro-rich capitalist system which is the root of the crises plaguing Nigeria as a neo-colonial economy. For instance, Obi objects to the inclusion of labour matters, including the minimum wage, as an item on the exclusive legislative list. To him, they should not be universal and centrally determined but rather separately by various state governments and the federal government (Vanguard January 3, 2019). In other words, contrary to the cardinal position of the NLC and TUC, Obi is opposed to the principle of national minimum wage. This explains why he allowed public hospitals and university as well as court rooms to shut down for many months.

Moreover, beyond the documented tendency of Obi to be anti-worker, he is inveterately committed to the same neo-liberal capitalist philosophy and programme which largely accounts for the monumental failure of both PDP and APC governments since the return to civil rule in 1999 despite the colossal human and material resources of the country. We recall that while Obi was the Anambra state governor, he also doubled as an Economic Adviser to President Jonathan whose government earned historically the highest oil and gas revenue but created a serious mess, as a result of its economic agenda in addition to its egregious corruption, something which has been worsened by the Buhari government.

More recently it cannot be ignored that at the last 2019 presidential election Obi was the running mate of Atiku Abubakar whose signature role as the Vice President under Obasanjo government was criminal sales of public assets to cronies as well as corrupt self-enrichment. Indeed the Obasanjo government, which Atiku served, by its ruinous economic policies sped up deindustrialization of the country with collapse and relocation of many industries that used to provide mass jobs. There is no really any political or principled disagreement between Obi and Atiku. Obi indeed venerated Atiku as his leader in his congratulatory message following the victory of the latter in PDP’s primary. So, it is not really credible that he transformed himself into a genuine friend of labour.

In any case, on the basis of his economic philosophy especially at a period of revenue crisis, burgeoning national debt and global capitalist crisis, Obi if elected, may not be able to demonstrate his so-called frugal management of resources let alone fulfil all his electoral promises. Indeed his ‘frugal’ management may be the banner under which he unleashes serious pro-capitalist attacks including austerity measures on the working people and youth.

In addition, his alleged frugal management of resources, austere lifestyle and incorruptibility does really not add up when put to close scrutiny. For instance, there are allegations that he invested Anambra state funds in companies and businesses where either his family or himself had interest. Also Obi was indicted in the Pandora papers, which were leaked last year by Premium Times and a consortium of 600 journalists from 150 new organisations across the world, of circumventing the provisions of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act by stashing wealth in offshore companies in order to avoid paying taxes. Each time he has been confronted with these and other allegations, Obi often claims ignorance of the law or opportunistically appeal to public opinion by reeling out specious figures of his performance in office without answering the allegations.

With right-wing careerist politicians as candidates the Labour Party offers no real alternative

Therefore, against this backdrop, while many of the ordinary people who support Obi are genuinely looking for a better deal and a break from the current rot, it is wrong for the labour leadership to in any way nourish or deepen such an illusion by lining working people behind Obi. It is deceptive for the NLC, in its June 9 statement, to present the Labour Party with Obi and other right-wing politicians as the standard bearers as “a voice for the re-start of a genuine journey of national development” and to call a party that charged N30million naira for nomination form “the political vehicle of the downtrodden”. The labour leadership have not learnt from the failure of Buhari whom they also gave a tactical support in 2015 as partly demonstrated by his attendance at the Delegates’ Conference of NLC held few weeks to the presidential election. The implication is that the labour leadership instead of building the LP as a mass, democratically run political alternative platform and rallying point for workers, radical youth and oppressed masses on a pro-working people programme are instead preparing the mass of working people and change-seeking youth to be used as voting fodder by a member of the capitalist elite pretending to be a messiah and then suffer another betrayal.

However, we are not surprised by the NLC’s endorsement or turning a blind eye to the recent wave of right wing anti-poor opportunist politicians joining the LP from APC, PDP and APGA by the leadership of NLC and TUC. This is because many current labour leaders do not have an alternative economic programme to neo-liberal capitalist agenda promoted by these characters, including Peter Obi, and also the fact that some labour leaders run as aspirants or candidates of the APC. This also explains why the recent leaderships of Labour are not fundamentally opposed to capitalist policies of privatisation and deregulation which, together with naira devaluation, worsen the devastating effects of the global crisis of capitalism on the quality of life of ordinary Nigerians. This underscores why activists have to link the campaign for a mass working people’s party with the need for fighting trade unionism with a socialist leadership.

The main task of the labour movement towards the 2023 election and beyond should not be to just seek political power but to also importantly put forward an alternative working people programme which is opposed to the prevailing capitalist economic programme with a view of gaining mass appeal, build a mass movement on it and prepare for struggles to come before and after the elections. Unfortunately the Labour Party as currently constituted and oriented, especially with corrupt electoral tickets merchants in the leadership and its pro-capitalist flagbearers, is not a platform for such a task.

Workers and poor need a partly that really is theirs

So while it is not ruled out that the Labour Party can be reclaimed with a view of rebuilding it as a genuine working people political alternative, it is clear that such is not possible until after 2023 elections. From experience, majority of the ticket buyers and their momentary crowds, including possibly Obi if he loses the election, will abandon the party leaving largely its merchant leadership to contend with. To be a working peoples’ real champion the party has to cease from being a dumpsite of anti-poor capitalist moneybag politicians but one through which ordinary working class elements and socialists can stand in elections. Such a party can only be built as a platform of struggle that daily intervenes in the plight of working people in communities and workplaces and mobilise mass resistance against all anti-poor capitalist policies. However, nothing is sacrosanct about the current Labour Party, as it does not have a workers’ base, if it is impossible to reclaim it. Bringing on the lessons learnt from the debacle of the current Labour Party, the labour movement including trade unions, the People’s Alternative Political Movement (TPAP-M) and Joint Action Front can begin to build a new mass working people’s party on a socialist programme that consistently fights against every anti-poor capitalist policy and fight for political power.

Given the current economic crisis that will likely worsen as well as their pro-rich philosophies, whoever wins the 2023 election between Tinubu, Atiku and Obi will be unable to prevent the crisis hitting hard and will themselves unleash attacks on working people and youth including hike in fuel prices, tax increase, school fees hike, etc. Therefore, we call on NLC, TUC, trade unions and pro-masses organisations to organise a series of mass resistance against the current economic hardship and prepare the working masses and youth against attacks and tumultuous struggle that may break out after 2023 elections.

Peluola Adewale

DSM Organising Secretary