Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

DSM Condemns N30 Million Labour Party Guber Nomination Fee in Edo

Shows LP is a Party Dominated by the Rich

We Reiterate Our Call on Trade Unions to Rebuild the Party as a Genuine Working Peoples Political Alternative

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) condemns the decision of the Labour Party to charge an outrageous sum of N30 million as its nomination fee for the governorship election in Edo State. This shows that the party is not yet prepared to rebuild and reposition as a working people’s party but to remain as a party for moneybags and well-connected. For many years the leadership of the party have been consistently made up of political merchants who see the electoral tickets as merchandise only available on cash and carry basis.

The current leadership of the party are not different. They are characteristically brazen and unapologetic about their resolve to put up the ticket for the highest bidders. For instance, its National Publicity Secretary Obiora Ifoh was credited to have said, “any person who cannot afford the fee does not have the capacity to run for the governorship election” (This Day, January 25). The chairman of the party Julius Aburi added, “we believe that candidates who are not able to afford our nomination fee may not be able to conclude the process of election” (Guardian, January 31).

In other words, to the party leadership the most important condition required to become a candidate of the party is having an enormous war chest not only to pay N30 million to the party but also several millions of naira to run the campaign. Also sadly, according to Aburi the party leadership arrived at the N30 million nomination fee, which he said is “about the cheapest among political parties”, because of the “philosophy of being a party for the downtrodden”. This is a paradox and an insult to the sensibility of the downtrodden. The statements of these LP leaders show contempt for working people and the poor. Do they think that only those with money, or the backing of a godfather, should stand in elections? No worker in a party, which is supposed to be a party of the working-class people, can afford the nomination fee. The implication of this is that an ordinary working-class person cannot vie for the governorship ticket of the Labour Party let alone becoming a candidate.

The practice of charging nomination fee, let alone a very outrageous fee, as a condition to stand as a candidate in party or public elections is alien to the tradition of a workers’ party or genuine left parties. For instance, in the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), formed by the DSM and others, as well as the National Conscience Party (NCP) under the late Gani Fawehinmi all nomination forms were obtained free of charge.

Unfortunately, selling tickets to the highest bidders has been the practice of the Labour Party in Nigeria since it began to participate in elections in 2007. The result is that the party is a trash can of rejects but moneybags who cannot win the tickets from APC or PDP.

The argument by the party leadership that running an election is expensive and that “the majority of members of political parties don’t pay dues” as the basis for charging the fee is not tenable for a party that is supposed to be party of the working-class people. The affairs of such a party, including participation in elections should be financed from members’ subscription, grants from trade unions, donations from public officials elected on the platform of the party, donations from the public and sympathizers, etc. If there is any truth at all to the excuse the party leadership has adduced for charging exorbitant nomination fee, it is only to the extent that it shows that the Labour Party is not built with a view of attracting genuine and committed due-paying members but as a business enterprise looking for anybody who can buy its tickets. Besides, it is difficult for a party that is being built as the second-eleven of pro-capitalist political parties to win both political and financial support of ordinary people.

For instance, the LP does not intervene in the daily struggles of working people and youth but since 2007 has been supporting different sections of the capitalist elite with their ruinous anti-poor neo-liberal program even in the violation of its official limited social democratic reform program. Also importantly, the Labour Party whose elected representatives in the National Assembly and different State Houses of Assembly, along with counterparts in the APC and PDP, criminally enjoy an opulent lifestyle financed with the public resources in the face of a worsening economy cannot elicit genuine support from the working masses. To make matters, the LP representatives in the National Assembly have not spoken against any of the anti-poor and neo-liberal policies of the Tinubu administration. In fact, some of them like Amobi Ogah, representing Isuikwuato-Umunneochi Federal Constituency in Abia State, promptly pledged support for President Tinubu upon taking their seats in the House of Representatives. “I never knew this man is so prepared to serve this country”, Ogah told newsmen after a meeting with President Tinubu adding that “the party is not the issue” while pledging to work with the President.

The Labour Party was formed by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) leadership but since its inception there has never been a serious effort to orientate it towards workers and ordinary people. Unfortunately, even the current leadership of the NLC headed by Joe Ajaero has not fulfilled the promise to rebuild the party as a genuine party of workers. Also sadly, the NLC leadership does not seem to see anything wrong in the nomination fee and elitist character of the leadership of the party and those trade union leaders active in the LP do not seem to have ever challenged the charging system.

Therefore, we reiterate our call on the leaderships of the NLC, and also the Trade Union Congress, TUC, to convene a special conference that includes trade unions, socialist and left organisations, left coalitions like JAF and LP leaders as a step towards the rebuilding of the party as a true party of the working people. We hold that such a conference should agree that for the party to become a genuine working people’s party, it must be based on a fighting working people’s programme and its affairs run democratically. This means that its officers, party candidates and public representatives must not subscribe to neo-liberal capitalist programmes which attack conditions of the working people, youth and the poor. Indeed, we will argue at the conference for a socialist programme that includes nationalisation of commanding heights of the economy under democratic management and control by working people.

The conference should also agree that the party must not preserve its ticket for money bags but make it possible for an average worker or any ordinary person who is willing to also vie for positions. This means that the ticket must be free and the party conducts credible primary election to choose its candidates. Also importantly, it must be agreed that elected and public officers must receive average salary of skilled workers, in addition to incidental allowances, and donate the rest of their official pay to the party and working people and youth struggles. It is also imperative that there must be democratic accountability and transparency in the management of finances of the party.

We of the DSM are committed to join any effort and initiative for building a mass working people’s party whether by the transformation of the current Labour Party into a true party of workers, youth and the poor for the socialist transformation of the Nigeria state and its economy or participate in genuine steps to form such a party by those willing to undertake such a task. This would include the options of launching a new party or fighting for the re-registration of the SPN with a view of building it as a mass working people party. Whichever road is taken the task remains that working people need their own corruption free party which fights capitalism and for a socialist future

Peluola Adewale

National Organising Secretary, DSM