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Socialist Democracy November - December 2018


1 November 2018

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2019 GENERAL ELECTION: NEITHER APC NOR PDP!

Only Candidates standing on Pro-masses and Socialist Programmes can make a Difference

By H.T. Soweto

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Nigeria shall hold new general elections between February and March in the year 2019. This would be the sixth general elections since the dawn of the current civil rule in 1999. But more significant is that fact that it will be the first general election since the Buhari/Osinbajo All Progressive Congress (APC) swung into power nearly four years ago on the crest of mass dissatisfaction in the 16-year rule of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) leading to the defeat of an incumbent for the first time in Nigeria's political history.

Nearly four years down the line, most of the promises have been broken while resentment and anger have replaced hope and expectation. The main lines of our political writings shortly before and then after the 2015 elections have been confirmed, some with laboratory precision. Consequently, the approval rating of the president and the regime has fallen. According to a survey carried out by CLEEN foundation, Practical Sampling International and AfroBarometer to assess public perception of economic conditions, access to public services and government performance, 60% of Nigerians believed the country is going in the wrong direction (Guardian newspaper, 31 March 2018). The ruling APC which right from day one had suffered severe internal dissensions has now become even more divided and riven with crises. Rather than abate, this has deepened even after the party's primaries and convention from where candidates for the general elections were picked.

POLITICAL CRISES

On the one hand, the political crises gripping the ruling party has led to a situation whereby some its key members, including former PDP members who helped form the ruling party back then in 2014, have defected either to the PDP or other parties. As a result, the leadership of the National Assembly has fallen into the hands of the opposition PDP and it does not appear this can be reversed until the next elections.

On the other hand and closely related to this, there is a resurgence of the PDP which is now positioning to benefit from the anger building up in society as people continue to feel that not much has changed positively for them since the APC regime emerged. But because many would not see the PDP as an alternative to the ruling party, a new realignment of forces have equally taken place with a new front opened through the ADC, which enjoys former President Obasanjo's backing, as a sort of reserve force that could step in should the APC and PDP become too discredited to rule.

Certainly, a crisis of political representation has opened up again for capitalism in Nigeria. This is sharply expressed in the hostile attitude of US imperialism towards the Buhari regime and in a number of unflattering editorials of international media. For the US of course, the closeness of the regime to China is equally a factor in its hostile attitude. Meanwhile, just a few years ago Buhari was lauded and feted as the best thing to happen to the continent.

But the concerns of the ruling class and representatives of global capitalism is not about the suffering of the working masses. Rather they fear that Buhari and the APC may have become incapable of guaranteeing the sustainability of the capitalist system by virtue of their increasing loss of credibility due to opposition to the capitalist policies they are implementing. But this crisis of political representation is still in its first phase. Certainly, it is not yet on the scale and dimension of 2014 which propelled the dramatic emergence and rise of the APC in a move to effect partial change from above in order to prevent revolutionary change from below.

POVERTY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD

The political crises and the ongoing realignment of forces within the capitalist ruling elite are taking place in the context of stalled economic growth. When the regime came in, the economy was on the verge of collapse owing to the anti-poor economic policies and widespread looting carried out by the PDP regime for 16 years. But as we have pointed out in the past, it was possible as soon as the regime emerged to arrest the drift and prevent a collapse if revolutionary measures were taken.

"While we agree that the mismanagement of the economy under Jonathan government and the previous ones, coupled with the fall in crude oil price, affected the revenue due to the Buhari government, we maintain that by taking revolutionary steps in the economic, social and political structures of the country, this can easily be mitigated. For instance, a socialist government would have nationalized the oil and gas industry, banks, finance, the ports and other key sectors of the economy under public democratic control and management, declare a monopoly of foreign trade and begin the democratic plan of the economy to meet genuine needs of the mass majority instead of the profit of a few. Under this condition, the government would be able to boldly endeavour to restructure Nigeria's balance of trade which often times is in deficit by first and foremost laying the conditions for self-sufficiency in food production by creating and massively investing in large state farms and providing cheap, if not interest free, capital and free training for small farmer cooperatives across the country. This coupled with provision of modern equipment and machineries, and extension services, will provide millions of jobs, significantly reduce cost of foodstuff. Moreover, by embarking on refurbishing and expansion of state refineries and building massive storage and distribution facilities for fuel and gas across the country, the country would have been on the road to being self-sufficient in local production of fuel by now" (One Year of Buhari 'Change' Government: Life Getting Harder for Working People, Socialist Democracy July-August 2016 Edition)

Expectedly, rather than take any of the outlined measures, the Buhari regime did otherwise. Not surprising then, all pro-capitalist measures by the new regime to stave off the crises failed to prevent a recession for the simple reason that all of those effort amounted to trying to put off a raging harmattan fire by pouring spittle. The resultant situation was a further worsening of the situation. Although, due to the fillip provided by a new cycle of increasing crude oil prices as well as significant spending on capital expenditures and social programmes, Nigeria's economy eventually climbed out of recession after five quarters of negative growth, yet growth rates afterwards have been sluggish and nothing near the population growth. Latest IMF prediction of GDP growth rate is 1.9%. The strategy of the government was to spend itself out of the recession. This worked but only to create new contradictions with public debt ballooning to pre-2006 levels before the IMF debt buyback deal struck by the Obasanjo administration.

Now with a debt profile of $73.21 billion, Nigeria is reportedly spending as much as 50 percent of revenue on debt servicing. It goes without saying that the enormous public debt is potentially another source of economic instability in the not-too-distant future. This is aside other potential factors like a decline in crude oil price, disruption of oil production and bank failure. The collapse and subsequent takeover of Skye bank and the exit of two foreign banks, HSBC and UBS, could be an indication of a developing crisis in the banking and financial sectors.

While some construction projects, investment in agriculture and social investment programmes are going on across the country financed largely by loans (a sizeable portion of which is sourced from China), this has had very little implications for income and living standards mainly because of the contract system which means that multinational construction giants are the real gainers. In the same vein, despite reported investment in agriculture, food prices are still some of the major drivers of inflation. Already, the size of the poorest poor is ballooning at an alarming rate with Brooking Institution saying an average of six persons drop into the ranks of the extremely poor every minute. Nigeria has now overtaken India as the poverty capital of the world with 86.9 million of its over 200 million population categorized as extremely poor. That figure is the size of several European countries put together.

Against this background of multidimensional poverty and collapse of public infrastructures as well as education and health care, the puny efforts of the government is no more than a drop in an ocean. It would take more than half-measures but a bold pro-masses programme to take the wealth off the one percent and run Nigeria's economy collectively under a socialist plan to arrest the rapid drift of Nigeria, nay the most populous country on the African continent will descend into an economic and political Armageddon. Unfortunately, no member of the ruling elite either in power or seeking political office in the next elections is capable of such a programme.

PDP AND ATIKU

Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP, as Vice president to President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007, was part of the regime that laid the foundation for the current crisis. As head of the regime's privatization agenda, Atiku oversaw the sale at rock bottom prices of key national assets most of which now lay in ruins after they had been ransacked by their private owners.

That such a deplorable figure is being presented by the PDP as an alternative to president Buhari shows just how much the PDP continue to remain a corrupt and pro-rich party devoted to the capitalist and imperialist agenda to keep the working masses in a permanent state of misery. This is why all working class and class-conscious youth have to look beyond the familiar parties like PDP and APC to vote in the next elections.

WHAT ALTERNATIVES ARE ON OFFER?

A key characteristic of the period is the emergence of a host of political parties. There are now 91 registered political parties and at least 60 presidential candidates. This is an unprecedented political development that in some ways demonstrates a burning popular desire to find an alternative different from the dominant PDP and APC. At the same time, several sections of the ruling elite are exploiting this desire for 'something different" and for "new faces" by utilizing fronts to register new political parties which they could defect to once their ambition is threatened in any of the dominant parties.

For instance, the former Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, defected to a new party curiously named Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) as soon as his desire to run as presidential candidate of the better known Labour Party (LP) faced steep obstacles. The ADC and also ADP are and have equally played similar roles especially in the Osun State gubernatorial elections. In fact, except for the resurgence the PDP is currently having, the ADC formed by loyalists of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was already being primed to play the role of the leading opposition party to challenge the ruling APC in the 2019 general elections.

What this means ultimately is that it is not enough to seek to replace one dominant party with any new political party or candidate, the question of ideas and programmes are very important if we do not want to repeat the debacle of the Buhari/Osinbajo administration. The ADC and ADP are in many respect minor capitalist parties whose ambition is simply to gain power and implement the very same anti-poor policies.

THE YOUTH PHENOMENON

However, a development that cannot be ignored is the perception amongst many young people who feel that younger persons in power will perform better than the recycled old and corrupt politicians. The African Action Congress (AAC) and its presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore who was a former student leader and now publisher of the well-known Sahara Reporters is one of the candidates that identify with the youth trend and feelings. Of all the new presidential candidates, Sowore is unarguably the most prominent especially among young people seeking an alternative. His campaign which rests on the youth population aims to challenge 'gerontocracy' in the leadership of the country.

Unfortunately, save for generally correct criticism of the status quo, there is not much Sowore is concretely offering in terms of economic programmes. He has talked of paying a N100, 000 minimum wage a progressive programme that all genuine change-seeking people cannot but support. However, Socialists point out that to really achieve such requires a programme to take the wealth off the one percent and enthrone a socialist transformation of society.

However, because of the echo his campaign is likely to get from a youthful population already disillusioned in either of the dominant parties, Socialists and genuine working class activists cannot simply ignore this development. Rather, our attitude would be to approach those who are gravitating towards this campaign with class analyses based on socialist ideas with the understanding that they are doing so because they desire a change in the way the country is being run. We would argue that only with a Socialist programme can lasting change be made. Arming them with the understanding that real transformation goes beyond electing a "youth" as president would be vital in preparing the working class and young people for the next stage of the class struggle which shall open in the aftermath of the 2019 general elections whichever of the dominant capitalist political parties win.

VOTE SPN

Against the above background, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) boldly calls on workers, students, youth, traders, artisans and all those who are fed up with the status quo to utilize the coming election as an opportunity to demonstrate our opposition to mass poverty in the midst of plenty and imposition of anti-poor policies that the past four-years of the Buhari/Osinbajo APC regime has meant for vast majority of the population.

In demonstrating this opposition, all workers, youth and oppressed people who do not want to repeat the mistake of putting into power the same ruling class elements who have always impoverished us need to vote against all anti-poor candidates that would be presented by the ruling APC and the opposition PDP and their satellites like the ADC, ADP, SDP etc. A vote for either APC, PDP or any of the other anti-poor parties would only commit us to another four years of mass poverty in the midst of plenty.

Unlike previous general elections which were dominated by establishment and pro-capitalist parties and politicians (with the exception of 2003 when the National Conscience Party, then under the leadership and influence of the inimitable Chief Gani Fawehinmi as well as radicals and socialists especially those from the ranks of the DSM, contested on a ten-care programme), a socialist alternative exists in this elections mainly represented by the registration of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) early in the year and its decisions to present candidates for some elective positions in the coming elections.

Unfortunately the SPN is unable, given its present strength to present candidates for all elective positions most significantly that of the President. This is because the labour movement and many elements in the left have so far resisted the pressure to boldly take the opportunity of the emergence of a distinct socialist party to build a mass political alternative. However, the few positions the party is contesting provides an opportunity to begin to build a rallying force against the pro-capitalist and anti-poor status quo. Therefore, every change-seeking person need to rally behind the SPN and its candidates using the election to cast protest vote against all the anti-poor policies imposed on us and all the pro-rich parties and candidates that stands for these criminal policies.

We must however be clear that a vote for SPN or any other anti-establishment candidate in the 2019 general elections, even if they win, would not mean an automatic end to the crises of mass misery unless the working class, youth and oppressed masses themselves are mobilised to struggle to rid themselves of the inequitable capitalist system. Certainly, one or two Socialists and radical candidates winning political office next year could take the class struggle in Nigeria to a whole new level as the working people and youth can then utilize such positions to both challenge the anti-poor policies of the APC and PDP, spread the ideas of socialism and also demonstrate the possibility of running society in a different way. However, even this would only be achievable by using such political office to build a mass movement to resist anti-poor attacks and a mass workers political party to take power all across the length and breadth of the country.

Therefore, as we go into the general elections, all SPN members and supporters must realize that, even though winning is very vital, our aim goes beyond simply winning political offices. Our real objective is to use the campaign period to spread socialist ideas and mobilize the working and toiling masses around a programme to take political power and run society along socialist lines. This therefore means that whatever happens in the elections, whether our candidates win or not, our attitude would be to consider everyone who votes for us, no matter how few or much they maybe, as people who consciously voted for us because they are fed up with the status quo and want something different. We would therefore seek out these people in the aftermath of the elections with a view to organize them to now begin to take action to fight for those programmes.

The reality is that major class confrontation and mass struggle awaits in the aftermath of the 2019 general elections. The electoral campaign must therefore serve as a school of revolutionary politics to prepare for these mighty battles by helping the advanced layers of the working masses and youth understand the tasks which are posed, wean them off illusions of changing society bit by bit, pose to them the real programmes and methods with which Nigeria can be transformed, expose their real class enemies and ultimately arm them with socialist ideas and especially the understanding that Nigeria's immense wealth is enough to cater for all of us if collectively owned and democratically managed.

For a comprehensive report and analysis of Osun Election visit DSM website to read: OSUN GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION: RULING PARTY WAS REJECTED OVER ANTI-POOR POLICIES. (http://www.socialistnigeria.org/page.php?article=3703)