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Socialist Democracy


24 June 2011

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18 years After June 12: What lessons for the working masses today

By Alfred Adegoke, from the June 2011 Osun state Special edition of Socialist Democracy

No thanks to the Babangida/Abacha military juntas which some 18 years ago annulled the June 12 1993 presidential elections results won by the business mogul, Chief M.K.O Abiola who later died in the Abdul Salami Abubakar military detention in 1998, June 12 has become an important date in Nigeria's political history. The experience of that era is usually referred to as the June 12 struggle (which actually spanned over 5 years) which today still remains a watershed in political discourse 18 years after.

This edition of Osun state special Socialist Democracy considers it necessary to identify the lessons of that struggle, particularly for Osun State where for almost 4 years, the people were engaged in getting rid of an illegitimate PDP regime. The eventual victory of Mr. Rauf Aregbesola poses the relevance of slogan of our organization. We had called for the actualization of both mandates (June 12 and Aregbesola's) while maintaining that any government that emerged from both Abiola (in 1993) - a pro-west businessman - and Aregbesola (in 2007) - a staunch member of the pro-capitalist ACN - cannot fundamentally improve the lots of the masses both in the short and long term bases. We openly opposed the slogan of unity government because it is just a means of legitimizing a government committed to the interest of the capitalists.

Between June 12 and May 29

Just like every election in Nigeria which usually witness apathy from the electorate, only 14 million Nigerians participated in the elections due to the most undemocratic processes leading to June 12, 1993 elections (vis-à-vis arbitrary banning of parties and politicians, government control of political parties' programmes and ideologies, etc). But for about six years, the struggle for the actualization of June 12 mandate raged on in tumultuous movements waged by the same masses who were passive to the actual elections. In fact, between June 12, 1993 and May 1999 was a period of revolutionary character wherein the mass of the working class, youths and community people were engaged in repeated tumultuous struggles to end decades of military rule in Nigeria. Many of the current politicians, especially from the opposition party, have continued to claim heroes of these struggles, even when they were the ones that ditched the masses aspirations.

It should be recalled that on June 7, 1998, the inglorious dictator, Sani Abacha died in Aso Rock while MKO Abiola was alive in detention. The coalition of civil society and politicians at that time organized under the Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON) had continued to demand for the immediate and unconditional release of MKO Abiola. However, this was not to be because the politicians (later organized under the AD, PDP, APP and other parties later on) betrayed the struggle with focus on how to have their parties registered for a kangaroo election, so that they can take over the political economy of their respective areas of control to the detriment of principles of freedom, human rights, democracy and national development. This was done in open conspiracy of American/western imperialism, which at the end led to the murder of the Chief M.K.O Abiola in detention under questionable circumstances, in order to midwife an undemocratic and unjust transition programme. This is clearly exemplified by the undemocratically fashioned 1999 constitution, a document which was not based on the will of the people but an imposition by the coup plotters who ordinarily should be on trial for heinous crimes including massive looting of the nation's treasury.

It will therefore not be far-fetched to say that the May 29 is a day to nail the genuine aspirations of ordinary Nigerians. In the real sense, all political parties of 1999 vis-à-vis AD, PDP and APP, and their subsequent splinter parties and politicians are part of the conspiracy despite pretension by some of them to pose as genuine defender of June 12 mandate and democracy.

We must make abundantly clear that we do not have any iota of illusion that a liberal capitalist regime under an MKO Abiola, himself a pro-western capitalist, could make any fundamental difference as far as the exploitative capitalist system is preserved and kept intact. In the same way we today do not have illusion in the capitalist government of Mr. Rauf Aregbesola/ACN in transforming Osun State in the interest of the majority of working and poor people. Hence, an Abiola-led federal government, if it had come to power then, could not have been relied upon to go the whole hog in implementing pro-poor and pro-masses' programmes in spite of the illusions which many poor people, as a result of many years of economic subjugation had in the possibility of an Abiola (who was seen as a philanthropist) presidency to transform Nigeria in an Asian Tiger model.

Socialists have always argued that there is more than enough to go round if the abundant human and material resources with which this world is blessed are properly harnessed to provide good standard of living – education, health, food, housing, etc. However, this is not so because of the unjust arrangement whereby the commanding heights of the economy are allocated by politicians and military men unto themselves, families and cronies under the political economy of the capitalist system. It therefore will not be possible on a sustainable scale to bring about fundamental transformation on a revolutionary scale that can rapidly uplift the lots of workers, farmers, youths and ordinary citizens.

We have seen how in 2008, the world capitalist economic system collapsed into the recession of the advanced capitalist countries of US, Europe and Japan with its ripple effects in every part of the world. This has reinforced socialist argument that while recognizing freedom and democracy, the commanding heights of the economy should not be owned by few individuals but rather collectively owned under the democratic control and management of the working people organized from the grassroots to the national level and with international working class solidarity as the basis of guaranteeing the welfare of the people on a permanent basis.

Unity Government

We, as an organization, have always been critical of a unity government or a government of national unity. While we called for the release of the acclaimed winner of the June 12 presidential elections at that time, we made it abundantly clear that we did not support the government of national unity but rather Abiola should form his own government and end military rule. Unlike the June 12, which evaporated upon the demise of its acclaimed winner, the mandate of Governor Aregbesola was recovered through a tortuous pact to justice involving struggles and legal work. This now gives an opportunity for the mass of the working people to be cleared of the illusion on what a pro-capitalist government can achieve. This lesson is important as a crucial element for the awakening of class consciousness. Left to us, working masses, students, youths and oppressed people must build their organizations to fight against any anti-poor policies of the government.

In the state today, nothing is happening: education is still comatose; health sector is in crisis as health workers are fighting the governments over non-implementation of the new salary structures while the health infrastructures, especially at the primary level are in their pitiable situations. The so-called OYES has turned graduates into gardeners while various facets of the economy are crying for manpower. These situations are not anomaly but a product of the fact that pro-capitalist politicians cannot move the society forward no matter their grandstanding. Thus, in the coming period, the working people must find courage in the massive June 12 struggles. More than this, we must learn from the mistakes of June 12, which is the need for the working people and youths not to place their hopes on pro-capitalist parties and politicians, but build their own unions and political party that will stand for a clear cut socialist program.