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Election 2011


31 March 2011

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Working People and 2011 Elections

By Kola Ibrahim

The political challenges before the working and poor people are more vital today than ever before. The capitalist political class has severally and collectively plundered the huge resources of the nation at the gross expense of the poor working people. For the past 12 years of civil rule, workers have repeatedly fought tooth and nail to gain a better living, but every demand of workers in this regard is met with stiff opposition from the capitalist ruling class at all levels.

Yet, despite unprecedented monetary resources that had accrued to the nation's purse since 1999, nothing fundamental has improved in the living standards of an average Nigerian, while infrastructure remains deplorable. Hundreds of billions of naira that have been allegedly sunk into road construction, power generation, funding education, etc. have, in reality, found their routes to the private accounts of moneybag politicians and businessmen. For instance, the $27 billion in the nation's excess crude account has been spent by all the tiers of government, but with nothing to show for it. The Niger Delta elites that cry of marginalization can hardly account for hundreds of billions accruing to that area's States' coffers. If at all they undertake any tangible project, they are mostly elitist, which are unsustainable, with no link with the economic or social future of the common man. Despite plethora of anti-graft agencies (EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau, Special Anti-Fraud Unit, the Judiciary, etc), pervasive corruption still remains the way of life of politicians and big business. Aside all this is the continued attacks on the working and poor people with the anti-poor policies of deregulation and privatization.

Nigerian workers and oppressed have waged several battles against various attacks on their living conditions; but the more they fight a policy, the more anti-poor policies launched against them. Hence, the question then arises of why workers will allow looters, anti-poor politicians and bankrupt public officers to get to power in the first place. Nigerian workers, with their social, organizational and numerical strength, can change the political landscape in the interest of the poor people if their mass organizations (trade unions and their leaderships) are prepared to build a working class political platform that will challenge the bankrupt capitalist political class. Events have shown that when Nigerian workers and the poor enter the arena of struggle or politics, the atmosphere definitely changes. This is clearly shown by the power of the general strikes organized by workers, when even the busiest roads are turned into football pitches. This shows the popularity and the strength Nigerian workers enjoy amongst the wide layers of the oppressed; if only this is turned into a vital asset to unseat anti-poor capitalist politicians and the system they represent.

However now, as a result of the absence of a working class political party, various sections of the capitalist politicians, who have been sidelined from centre of resource control, coupled with some big business funded NGO's, have turned the elections into an opportunity to pose as alternative. In practical sense, there is fundamentally no difference between the ruling PDP and the opposition parties. Take Lagos State for instance, where the opposition ACN is in control; the public education is in shambles with overcrowded classrooms and lack of facilities for quality education while there are just about 1,000 medical doctors in the government employment in a state with population of about 15million people. Most roads are still in their deplorable conditions. The so-called Mega-city project of Fashola has meant destruction of livelihood of several poor artisans and petty traders, without alternative means of survival. The ACN party itself is controlled by a few moneybags.

This brings us to the question of the Labour Party, which was founded by the trade union leaders in 2003. This Party, as its name suggests, is supposed to be the party of the working and poor people. But the trade union leadership, aside handing the party over to some bankrupt, fraudulent and indeed ideologically barren traditional politicians, has refused to mobilize the forces of workers to build the party as a genuine working class political platform, with clearly different economic and social programme. This has made the party attractive to many moneybag politicians, who have failed to achieve their goals in other corrupt political parties. The implication of this is that the Labour Party has gradually lost its potential pristine outlook, even before it is fully unraveled with the national leadership of the Party openly requesting N2 billion from a presidential candidate while completely monetising the party's tickets from the ward level to the national level. And at the end of it all, it has handed over the Party to the ruling party with its fraudulent support for Goodluck Jonathan. The same Labour leadership that fails to build the Labour Party is conveniently but tragically having 'strategic partnership' with government that is attacking the welfare interests of workers and the poor people.

In fact, many pro-capitalist parties, having seen the enormous strength that a Labour Party can pull in the coming period have romanced the party with an idea of electoral collaboration or Mega-party project. This is unfortunate as the Labour Party itself had huge potential to become a Mega-party, if built on the basis of boldly campaigning for the interests of working people and the poor while arguing for a fundamental, socialist, change in Nigeria. But to do this the Labour Party would need to be completely rebuilt. A summit of labour movement, pro-labour organizations (especially in LASCO), students' movement, socialist movements, etc, could chart out how to implement the task of building a viable, democratic politically strong Labour Party. The bankrupt collapse of the existing Labour Party politically and ideologically has, in the 2011 elections, denied the working people and youth a political platform to chase away the bankrupt capitalist political class. There is the urgent need for the working masses to build their mass organizations such as workers' unions, students' movement, youth and community movements, etc as a counterweight against the likely governments' onslaught after the elections, something most politicians are keeping quiet about before the voting. Working class people and youth who want to struggle for a better life must start to demand and campaign for democratic, rank-and-file controlled, bottom-to-top fighting unions. Given the inaction and policies of most of the present Labour leaders it is a matter of urgency that a movement is built to demand a working people's party as a political platform of the working people and youth that mobilises the forces of the oppressed in Nigeria to demand a revolutionary government of the working people.

We need to build a workers' party that will be completely different in its form of party organization and workings. We need a workers' party that will be democratically controlled and funded by rank-and-file members through genuine internal democracy. This can only make sense when workers, youth, students, artisans, peasants, unemployed, etc join such a party en mass. This can be achieved easily if the central labour unions (NLC and TUC) and other trade unions mobilize their members to the party.

More importantly, in order for such a party to truly stand as strong alternative to the anti-worker, anti-poor capitalist political parties, including those claiming to be in the opposition, it needs to stand for economic and political policies that will be different from other parties. These include that:

1. The party must stand against all anti-poor policies of privatization of public enterprise and utilities, commercialization of social services like education, health and roads, deregulation of oil industry, retrenchment and casualisation of workers, among others.

2. On the contrary, the party must stand for re-nationalization of all privatized public enterprises and utilities; massively develop them and put all public enterprises and utilities under the democratic control and management of workers, community (where they operate) and consumers, as a deterrent against mismanagement of these enterprises by big bureaucrats. This means that manager and officials of the enterprises, corporation and utility firms will come from the democratic decisions of workers and communities and will be subject to recall if found incapable or unworthy. Furthermore, the party will stand for the country's resources to be used to massive fund and develop social services like free and quality education at all levels, free health services, massive and integrated road construction, massive public and cheap housing programme, among others. With this millions of youth will be gainfully employed while the economy will be expanded.

3. The party must adopt a working class and democratic means of running the party. This means that the party officials, either within the party or in government will earn an average salary of a skilled worker with genuine expenses and donate the rest of salary and allowance to party and labour and mass movements, and will be subject to recall if found going against the party principle and manifestoes. Furthermore, a public office holder under the working people's party platform will publish his or her assets to the public regularly.

4. The party from the grassroots to the national level will serve as a platform of struggle for workers, youth, students and the oppressed people, against all anti-poor policies of government. This means that a working peoples' party at all levels, includiing local government, state and national, will agitate against and lead struggles over lack of infrastructures, joblessness, and mismanagement of funds at local level.

5. The party must be built in workplaces, schools, villages and communities.

It is this kind of programme that can make a genuine working peoples' party becomes the real alternative for the majority of Nigerians who are living in abject penury, despite enormous wealth. This is the only way to build movement against rigging of election, because a genuine mass party of workers and poor people can hardly be rigged out. The reason rigging is prevalent today is because workers and poor people have been ostracized from political role.

Socialists will play an important part in developing and deepening the above highlighted political steps and other strategies of building a viable working people political alternative. Hence, we call on workers and youths to join the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and actively support the demands on NLC, TUC and working class activists to move towards building a mass-based working peoples' party by mobilizing workers, peasants, artisans, okada riders, petty traders, youth and students. We must collectively ensure that such a party is not handed over to moneybag politicians. This is the only way to prevent anti-poor politicians from ruling us again.