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President Yar'adua's Era: A new dawn for the masses?
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President Yar'adua's Era: A new dawn for the masses?


1 November 2007

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CHAPTER SIX

THE OPPOSITION

Sadly to note, there does not exist presently any viable opposition nor alternative being proffered by the entire labour movement to the well tried but failed perspective being offered by the Yar'Adua government. Scientifically speaking, there is, in fact, no any opposition being mounted against the policy options being presented by the Yar'Adua government. Of course, the two main ruling capitalist parties in opposition i.e. the ANPP and the AC would want to be called oppositionists. In reality, they are almost absolutely indistinguishable from the ruling PDP government. Take the ANPP for instance. It fully subscribes to privatization of public assets and all other neo-liberal mantra, which constitutes the credo of Yar'Adua PDP government. Its own publicly elected members in their own areas of control have been as corrupt as their counterparts in the PDP.

While it is true that the PDP used state machineries and resources at its disposal to rig the 2007 general elections in favour of its candidates across the country, the ANPP, to the extent of its own strength and control, equally used same methods to emerge "winners" within its own sphere of influence. As we write, the party's presidential candidate in the 2007 elections, General Mohammed Buhari, still has a pending petition against the election of President Yar'Adua in the Court of Appeal. Nonetheless, the entire party hierarchy has teemed up with the PDP to form what is called a Government of National Unity (GNU) after some of its leaders have been offered some ministerial portfolios with the prospect of getting further appointments. Today, what most ANPP chieftains and governors seek to do is to appear more loyal to President Yar'Adua than even original PDP members. The AC is the second major bourgeois opposition party. Like the PDP and ANPP, the party fully subscribes to capitalism and entire neo-liberal mantra. Just like the ANPP and PDP, only candidates favoured by the main party leaders were presented as candidates and the party equally resorted to wholesale misuse of public funds and large scale electoral manipulations for it to "win" Lagos State during the 2007 general elections. Due to present inability to reach a consensus within the party hierarchy on some issues, the party has not officially joined Yar'Adua's self-styled Government of National Unity.

However, beyond hollow and hypocritical releases frequently issued by National Publicity Secretary of AC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party's leadership and representative in government have not advocated or done anything that can make any reasonable person to decipher any difference between the party and the ruling PDP. In fact, one of the central leaders of AC, the former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu wrote an article which was published by the Guardian of September 23, 2007 on Yar'Adua's 100 days in office. It is a graphic confirmation of the fact that the masses cannot in any way rely on the AC to proffer any alternative to PDP's anti-poor, pro-rich agenda. We quote: "For those who can remember those days when Hell seemed to have moved house to Lagos; for those who can reminisce about those days of siege when Heavens seemed ready to fall; the last 100 days must be a hundred doses of relief for the jarred nerves of men and women already at the tail of sanity, unable to believe that what was going on before their very eyes could be initiated by a man elected to be the president of civil dispensation, not to talk of the President of a republican, democratic government". After listing the supposed laudable achievements of Yar'Adua, Tinubu concludes, "It is therefore in our collective interest to give the Yar'Adua administration more support so that it can garner more confidence to carry out its agenda of restitution and set our country once again, on the journey to a truly democratic Federal Republic of Nigeria".

Just like in the states controlled by the PDP and ANPP, Lagos State, which is being ruled by the AC, remains in the same pathetic/comatose social condition. Like in the PDP and ANPP controlled states, collapsed public schools system, healthcare system, ghetto housing conditions, bad roads, massive unemployment, corrupt politicians, constitute the permanent features of Lagos State. While Lai Mohammed was very vociferous in demanding that the Vice President, Jonathan Goodluck, should follow the example of Yar'Adua to declare his assets openly, no such demand was made on the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, to openly declare his own assets. So, the AC opposition is more of an opposition of "do what I say, never what I do".

Recently, the AC calls for a nationwide emergency action on the security situation. But just what does this "opposition" party propose as solutions to the problems of insecurity created by upsurge in violent crimes? Alhaji Lai Mohammed speaks: "In the short term, it may be necessary to seek the involvement of the military, by deploying soldiers on joint patrols with the Police in worst hit areas in order to check the activities of the robbers who have been emboldened by the fact that they are clearly better armed than the police… As a long term measure however, the government should empower the Police by updating their training weapons and other necessary equipment as well as boosting the morale of the rank and file through better salaries and allowances and improved general welfare….. The government should also embark on a mop-up of the excessive arms in circulation, most of them provided by evil politicians bent on getting power at all costs".

Blinded by its neo-liberal mantra, Lai Mohammed and the AC could not realize that it is the very anti-poor socio-economic measures being implemented by the successive capitalist governments that have been responsible for the unprecedented mass misery which has been forcing many of our youths to take to violent crimes, as the only means of surviving. Thus, instead of calling for the implementation of programmes and measures that would substantially mop up unemployment, make quality healthcare and education affordable and decent accommodation available for the vast majority of the working people, this self styled progressive party (AC) has only resorted to well worn militaristic but futile measure to fight social crime.

PRO-CAPITALIST LABOUR LEADERSHIP

However, the most tragic feature of Nigeria's contemporary political situation is the political and ideological bankruptcy and opportunism being daily manifested by top labour leaders towards the ruling capitalist government across the country and their anti-poor policies. Unlike the two main capitalist parties outlined above, which do not really have a genuine mass base, the trade union movement could boast of the overwhelming backing and support of the vast majority of Nigerian working people and youths. For about 8 times within a period of 7 years, the working masses have embarked on nationwide general strike/mass protests against the pro-rich, anti-poor, neo-liberal policies of Obasanjo and Yar'Adua governments. Sadly however, most of the main labour and other pro-masses' organizations have failed to draw the necessary conclusion that this general strikes and mass protests constitute concrete proof that the working masses are prepared to struggle for a fundamental brake with capitalism.

Instead of proffering a coherent working class socialist alternative to the capitalist measures and policies often put forward by the various capitalist government, the main trade union leaders from the era of Adams Oshiomhole to the current era of Abdul Waheed Omar, have perfected an utopian perspective of wishing to realize the basic needs and aspirations of the working masses within the frame work of capitalism. No matter the tenor and colour of their speeches and conducts, the top leaders of the labour movement have assumed the incongruous position of seeking to have a "responsive" capitalist government that would be willing to enter into a "strategic partnership" with labour. This is why Adams Oshiomhole praised to a high heaven the inclusion of a few labour leaders as members of President Yar'Adua's talk shop called Electoral Reform Committee.

As noted before, the 15% pay rise granted in the wake of June 2007 general strikes/mass protests was only made applicable to federal workers. Thus, workers at the state level and in the private sector were left to their own devices. While a few states have reportedly agreed to implement or have implemented this pay rise, others have either ignored it or stoutly refused to implement it. For instance, workers of the Oyo State Government have been on strike intermittently for weeks, demanding the implementation of a N9,400 minimum wage across board. In the course of the struggle, Omar, the current NLC president visited the state with a view to resolving the dispute. In his address to the striking workers, he had, among other things stated: "We are not at war with the state government because the state is ours. One thing I know is that workers are the engine room of government. …… I am sure no government will allow its engine to run down. There is need to lubricate it sufficiently to keep it running".

And herein lies the real danger. The top leadership of the trade union movement is saturated through and through with a collaborationist, pro-capitalist orientation and spirit. Just imagine! The working masses are not at war with the state because the state is ours. Socialists say capital no to this view-point because it is philosophically and practically false. The Nigerian state is built upon the foundation left by British colonial rule and is run in the interest of the ruling elite. While the workers are compelled to use all their power to fight for poverty wage in the name of minimum wage, legislators and top political executive officers at central and state levels will earn tens of millions of naira annually as salary and allowances. Meanwhile, the poverty wages being fought for by workers does not, in the least, take into account the cost of food, healthcare, education, housing, transportation, telecommunication and other basic needs of the vast majority of the workers and their dependants.

It is equally false to argue that no government will allow the working masses to go down or suffer. On the contrary, most of the successive capitalist governments have been only able to prove their mettle by destroying the working class and the poor for the sake of the undue privilege of a few. Therefore, it is pointless preaching to the capitalist class to continue to sufficiently cater for the interest of the working class so as to protect its own interest because the only and best way it can continue to protect their own interest is to deny the working class and the poor sufficient means to leave a decent life. Only a government formed by the working people and primarily committed to protection of the working masses interest can be interested in pursuing policies and programmes which can really "lubricate" the interest of the masses sufficiently.

Consequently, the point has to be stressed that the prevailing sense of despondency, helplessness, perplexity and confusion felt by the vast majority of the working people towards the Yar'Adua government, which ordinarily should not have been tolerated for a day is the direct result of a lack of a principled opposition being offered by the main bourgeois parties and the top labour leaders towards the government of the day.