DSM holds public symposium on elections and declares critical support for Sowore
Calls for a mass working people party with socialist programme and preparation for class struggle after election
By Gideon Adeyeni
On Saturday February 18, 2023, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) held a public symposium in Lagos under the theme “2023 General Elections: Any Hope for the Working People and Youth?”. The event was attended by over a hundred participants from the DSM, the African Action Congress (AAC) Lagos, National Conscience Party (NCP) Lagos, other left organizations, as well as community people (who have been fighting for affordable electricity among others) and individual change seeking elements.
Speakers at the symposium which was chaired by Adeola Soetan include Omoyele Sowore, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC); Femi Falana (SAN), Chair ASCAB; Olumide-Fusika (SAN), a leading member of Democratic Socialist Movement, DSM; Abiodun Aremu, Secretary, Joint Action Front, JAF; Abiodun Bamigboye, Acting National Chairman Socialist Party of Nigeria, SPN; and Kehinde Adeoye, Chair, Campaign for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), Lagos State chapter, among others.
Speaking at the event on the imperative of providing critical support for Sowore, Comrade Olumide-Fusika declared that Sowore is the presidential candidate that approximates most closely with the interest of the suffering masses and youths. He however noted that there remained a serious work to be done in educating the masses on the need for, and how to seek out at the polls, political alternatives that represent their genuine interests. He also decried the sentiment shared by some on the left who feel that the best is to go for a seemingly more popular candidate than the one with lesser popularity and prospects but who represents radical ideas, programmes and policies.
He further emphasized how radical social transformation always requires painstaking work of movement building. He recalled that the way some left groups seem not to be enthused by the Sowore movement today is not too different from a similar attitude to the campaign of Gani Fawehinmi when he contested as the NCP presidential candidate in the year 2003.
Fusika observed that the Obi’s movement which has galvanized a good number of Nigerian people is an expression of the people’s desperation for change. This, he said, further indicates the potential of mobilizing for socialist revolution in Nigeria if we “raise the banner of our movement high enough”. He submitted by saying that “from our analysis, the programmes proposed by Sowore, with all its weaknesses, is the closest to what we would want to put up as our programmes for an election as this”.
Adeola Soetan, while noting Sowore’s consistent record of sacrificing for the struggle to liberate Nigeria’s suffering masses over the past decades, informed the gathering that Sowore is the next presidential candidate he will be voting for after voting Gani Fawehinmi in 2003. He noted that election periods such as this, for socialists, provide an opportunity to achieve three things: one, propagate socialist ideas, recruit cadres to our ranks, and to win or lose at the polls. Unfavorable election outcomes, therefore, do not imply loss for the movement, at least one or both of the first two goals listed would have been achieved even if the third is not. Soetan did not end his speech without stating satirically that the country’s current crises showed that it is too late for the presidential candidate of the ruling party to begin to distance himself from the current failed APC government being led by Buhari, having been part of its failed policies and draconian character over the past years.
Kehinde Adeoye lamented the deteriorating socio-economic situation and particularly the strangulation of the economy, as well as growing extra-judicial killings. He concluded by noting that there is no other registered party participating in 2023 election with programmes and ideas similar to that of Gani’s NCP other than Sowore’s AAC, and thus Sowore’s candidacy is worthy of the support of all human rights defenders.
In his remarks, Abiodun Aremu (Aremson) began by noting that it is relieving to an extent to have a candidate like Omoyele Sowore on the ballot. Our demographic reality, in which young people constitute a greater bulk of the population, for Aremson, underscores an important role the youth can play, under leadership of working class and their organizations, in the revolutionary transformation of the society.
Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye (Abbey Trotsky) posited that none of the three presidential candidates who appear to enjoy popularity realistically presents hope for the working masses. He however charged the participants at the event to not lose sight of the ray of hope in the midst of seeming hopelessness, which is what Omoyele Sowore symbolizes in the present election cycle. He noted the significant improvement and left-ward shift in the programmes of the AAC, being the only party that has declared itself as anti-imperialist and socialist.
Speaking further, Abbey noted the declaration by Sowore to make education free and accessible to children of poor including the reversal of the absurdity packaged as privatization specifically in the power sector. However, he stated that a mere reversal of privatisation of the power sector is grossly inadequate to reverse the current rots bedeviling the sector. Therefore, in order to avert the debacle of old NEPA or PHCN, he argued that such a re-nationalised power sector must be put under democratic control of workers and consumers.
Abbey also noted Sowore’s position on the national question which recognizes the right to self determination. However, he stressed that only a workers’ government run on a socialist programme which includes nationalisation of the commanding height of economy under the control of the working people can guarantee the implementation of the positive demands in Sowore’s programmes.
While concluding, Abbey stated that the above background partly form the basis for the DSM’s critical support for Sowore, despite the fact that his manifesto is not a fully rounded socialist programme. This with the hope that the support will open up a wider opportunity for a conversation over socialism as well as effort towards the formation of mass based working people political party with a socialist programme.
In his address, Femi Falana commended Sowore’s consistent commitment to fighting for the liberation of the Nigerian masses. He used the opportunity to condemn the unjust persecution of Sowore from 2019 until recently when he was allowed to leave Abuja. He also exposed the insincerity of the government claiming that the cashless and naira redesign policies would stop politicians (many of whom own major shares or deposits in banks) from buying votes, especially as the disbursement of the new notes is shrouded in secrecy. For Falana, the dominant capitalist parties represent nothing but cluelessness and deception, and the people must reject them for this very reason.
Omoyele Sowore, who expressed deep appreciation to DSM for organising the symposium, described the clinging of the presidential ticket of the Labour Party by Peter Obi as an outcome of the deliberate attempt by the ruling elite, defending the deadening status quo, to create confusion among a good segment of the young people who participated in the “EndSARS rebellion”. He emphasized that the people are really agitated as a result of the many anti-poor policies of Buhari’s government, and the people are already taking initiative themselves, symbolizing the need for radicals and left elements to hasten and mobilize the people for change.
There were contributions from the audience. Two women involved in separate community struggles over the exploitation of consumers by electricity companies spoke. They both appreciated the need to link the demands over electricity to the quest for a pro-working people political alternative.
Francis Nwapa, a member of the DSM and another contributor, who is a member of AAC and a trade unionist with electricity workers union, stressed the need for a party like AAC to consistently orientate towards working class and their organizations.
However, a member of AAC in his contribution stated that party members usually participate in trade union and community struggles.
The meeting concluded with the call on other left organizations and genuinely change seeking people to give similar support and mobilize votes for Sowore.
Beyond the general elections, the participants at the symposium were urged to prepare for tumultuous class struggles that may break out given the crisis the country is currently in and to build opposition to the what Atiku, Tinubu or Obi could do if one of them emerges president given the anti-poor, neo-liberal capitalist policies which they have openly declared to impose.
The statement on why the DSM declares critical support for Omoyele Sowore has been can be found here.
As a result of the current shortage of naira notes, only seven copies of Socialist Democracy, the paper of the DSM were sold. However, over 80 copies of the pamphlet with the DSM statement on critical support for Sowore were circulated.