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Election 2019


14 February 2019

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2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS:

NO WAY FORWARD FOR NIGERIA WITH BUHARI OR ATIKU

FOR THE FORMATION OF UNITED PLATFORM OF WORKING MASSES, YOUTH AND THE POOR TO END SUFFERING AND UNDERVELOPMENT BY CAPITALISM

By Aj. Dagga Tolar

As Nigerians head to 2019 general polls beginning with presidential and national assembly election on February 16, what is certain is that whoever wins between the two leading bourgeois candidates, Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressive Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), cannot take the country out of the woods, which these two bourgeois parties and their forebears and surrogates have put the country into.

Buhari won the 2015 general election on the slogan of 'Change' with which the APC was able to hoodwink the working masses, following the general disillusion with the PDP's 16-year rule exemplified by monumental failure, cronyism, and pervasive corruption. However, the socialists organised around the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) warned that no fundamental changes in forms of improvement in the lives of the working masses would take place on the basis capitalist system irrespective of which bourgeois party or politician come to power. We hate the fact that events have proved us correct because this has come at a very huge cost to the living conditions of the working masses, who have had to endure more sufferings than they could ever have imagined.

Buhari's Scorecard

Buhari campaigned in 2015 on the three-prong programme of economics, security and fighting corruption. In all the three areas, he and the government he leads, has failed. Many economic indices have posted some of their worst records in history. Unemployment rate has reached a record high. Inflation, while it has slowed down, remains in doubt digits so far in the current term. For the first time in 25years, the country fell in to recession that lasted five quarters; though not the main making of the Buhari government, but exacerbated by its policies. The growth that followed the exit from the recession has remained fragile and sluggish as it is fuelled by oil, whose prices are volatile. The year 2018 ended with annual growth of 1.93% which is still weak.

The response of Buhari government to the economic crisis only worsened the living conditions of the working masses. Worthy of note is the fact that the economic crisis was triggered by the slump in oil prices which was worsened by the absence of fiscal buffers following the pillage of the economy by the PDP's government. The twin policies of increase in fuel price and devaluation of naira introduced by Buhari government from the crest of its then popularity have not only worsened the living conditions of the working masses and the poor but also threw the economy to the tailspin. There was also increasing borrowing ostensibly to jumpstart the economy but which has heightened debt burden and whose servicing is close to the entire capital allocation.

On security, while Boko Haram terrorists have not retaken many of the territories lost to assault of the military at early part of Buhari regime, they have regained the strength. There have been audacious attacks on the military bases leaving many soldiers and civilians dead and displaced. According to some reports, local and international, some towns and communities have been taken over by Boko Haram factions, while tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced. According to a senator from Borno State, most parts of Borno and Yobe States are impassable. Besides, despite the so-called technical defeat announced by Buhari government, Boko Haram were able to easily abduct school girls in Dapchi Yobe while the government was still negotiating the release of more of Chibok girls kidnapped under the Jonathan government in Borno. Worse still, the conditions of the IDPs and IDP Camps remain terrible, while soldiers are complaining of terrible living conditions, a situation that is reminiscent of the horrible days of Jonathan presidency.

There was also a worsening security situation following the renewed Biafra agitation and highhanded response of Buhari government. The herder-farmer conflicts which though predated Buhari administration got to a head with tit-for-tat cycles of killings. This was worsened and politicized by the body language and comments of the Buhari government including President Buhari and his defence minister as well as conducts of elements like Governor Ortom of Benue who was out to exploit the crisis to cover up his monumental failure. The banditry in Zamfara, Kaduna and Sokoto has sent many Nigerians to an early grave while the government seems helpless and clueless.

The anti-corruption fight which has seen a number of former government functionaries including top military officers being arrested and arraigned in courts is largely selective as the opposition figures seem to be the main target. The anti-corruption fight has not succeeded to deter corrupt practices across the country, and specifically within the Buhari government and the APC. For instance, it took publicly outcry before the former Secretary to Government of Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal was suspended for the fund meant for the welfare of internally displaced victims of Boko Haram. He has just been arraigned a few days to the presidential election apparently to create an impression of sincere fight against corruption. Besides, many Nigerians are become less enamoured by the so-called anti-corruption fight as it has not translated into an improvement in their conditions. Rather, things are getting worse.

The fact is that on the basis of capitalism, which by its internal logic breeds corruption, no fight against corruption will be sincere and genuinely beneficial to the masses. Nonetheless, socialists support any fight against corruption and the culprits, whether the opposition figures or ruling party stalwarts, must be made to face justice including forfeiting the proceeds of the crime and spending years behind the bar. However, it is worth nothing that many of those who pillaged the country's economy under the PDP and in the then opposition parties are now organized under the APC and APC governments across the country. Indeed, the leading elements in the Atiku campaigns, including Atiku himself and Bukola Saraki, were months ago, members of the APC, while some leading members of the Buhari campaign including el Rufai, Rotimi Amaechi, Ganduje, etc. are former leading members of the PDP.

On education and health care Buhari government of "change" continued the underfunding of the sectors that directly affect the working masses as it obtained in the sixteen years of the PDP. In spite of the glaring failure of the private 'investors', the Buhari government has also maintained the privatisation of electricity sector that was done by the PDP. Electricity tariffs have been hiked by at least 100 percent under the Buhari government.

Atiku's Plan

How does Atiku, the main bourgeois challenger of Buhari, whose campaign theme is "Get Nigeria Working Again", plan do things differently?

Atiku and the PDP believe that Buhari government is not implementing neo-liberal capitalist programmes deeply and thorough enough. This is what they mean by the incompetence of Buhari which is held as the reason for the failure of his government. So Atiku has promised if elected to sell the national oil company and deregulate the oil industry. He has promised to float Naira which in reality means an unfettered devaluation of the currency.

In other words, it is the same policies that worsened the economic crisis under Buhari government that Atiku is promising to deepen in order to turn around the economy of Nigeria and "Get Nigeria Working Again"! Besides, it was because Nigeria did not work in 16 years of the PDP that they were voted out of power in 2015. And, Nigeria did not work because of neo-liberal capitalist policies which led to closure of factories, job losses, rising mass poverty despite oil boom and its attendant economic growth, huge infrastructure deficiency, etc. The same ruinous neo-liberal capitalist programme constitutes the kernel of Atiku's plan to Get Nigeria Working Again.

On corruption, Atiku, with a serious baggage of allegation of grand corruption and looting has promised to grant amnesty to looters instead of making them to face justice. He cited example of Turkey which according to him "gave amnesty and all the money abroad came back. The government said that if you bring the money, there is not even taxation."

So he has assured the ruling class of a tax free regime on the loots of the country.

The fact that Atiku can win this presidential election despite the public perception of his being corrupt and his audacious remarks such as "enrich my friends" and "grant looters amnesty "as campaign promises is a serious indictment on Buhari who rode to power on the basis anti-corruption fight.

Continued Attacks

By and large, the fact however remains that whether with a re-elected Buhari or an elected Atiku, given the obvious fact that nor will make a break with capitalism, they will be left with no other choice, given all of the gloomy state of the economy and the logic of capitalism than go on an onslaught against the working masses.

And Buhari, if re-elected, will not enjoy any period of honeymoon like he did the last time around, and the working masses, will be all muscle ready to struggle, both for the payment of whatever figure is agreed on for the new minimum wage and resist all manners of attacks, including the possibility of another fuel pump price increase or some other measures to further worsen standard of living of the masses. Nor will Atiku be given a life line; all of the previous sixteen years misrule and anti-poor people policies of the PDP at the helms of affair will come up to haunt the presidency.

What is therefore certain is that the working masses will not fold their arms. The series of strike actions in the education, health and the judicial sector in recent times are indications of the growing consciousness of the working masses. The disappointment expressed by workers over the call off of the strike for a new minimum wage is a demonstration of the readiness to come into the arena of struggle against the ruling elites for an improved living condition. This may serve as enough pressure to force the labour leaders to provide the necessary leadership for the struggles that will break out or the working masses may independently seek another outlet to express their displeasure and misgivings against the ruling elites.

It is clear that interesting times are ahead of the working masses, and we can best prepare for the times ahead, by strengthening the forces of Marxism to offer leadership and programme to aid the struggle of the working masses against the voracious attack of capitalism.

Rising Apathy

From the scorecards of Buhari's APC government as well as the record and plan of the PDP and Atiku, neither of the parties earn credible status to assume power. If anything the working masses, with the right leadership, would have had no need to wait for the general elections to secure real change. A mass movement on the streets and general strike as it obtained in January 2012 will no doubt have brought the question of power directly on the agenda. Unfortunately, it is not accidental that the labour leaders who cannot defend the economic interest of the working masses such as on minimum wage and casualization have also refused to lead the process of formation of a mass working people party that galvanises all strata of the working people and the poor to take over power from the anti-poor capitalist elites at all levels.

Meanwhile, the failure of Buhari government with its attendant huge disappointment in Buhari by the masses as well as the fact the alternative of Atiku is neither inspiring nor desirable will further worsen the voters' apathy. This is especially among the electorate who now in reality see no difference between all of the sections of the thieving ruling elites. Rather, they see a bunch of gangs who see power only from the point of view of lining their pockets as oppose to meeting the needs of the masses. This is largely the thinking that influences the section of the electorate who will only vote in exchange for some cash, since once elected the politicians will not remember them again, making it a "cash for hand, vote for ballot" situation. Many others, possibly like in 2015 a majority of registered voters, will simply not vote.

Sowore

However, in the absence of a mass working people party a good number of the electorate, especially among young elements, have been attracted to the candidature of Omoyele Sowore of AAC. These are elements who have demonstrated progressive consciousness of seeking radical alternative to the APC and PDP which are main establishment parties.

There are also some layers of middle class voters who would have boycotted the polls but put their hope in younger and fresh faces like Sowore, as well as presidential candidates like Fela Durotoye (Alliance for New Nigeria) and Kingsley Moghalu (Young Progressive Party). Of all the candidates that rose on the crest of the mood for youthful president, Sowore stands out as the only one with history of activism against the establishment and struggle against ills of the society. He is seen by many young elements as somebody who can deal a vicious blow to the old thieving ruling elite who have ruined the country. So as a result he is seen as having the capacity to end the sufferings of the masses.

Sowore presents himself with his track record of activism as a student leaser, a human right activist and a media practitioner as someone supposedly distinctly different, a friend and fighter for the interest of the poor and oppressed. He promises to be tougher on corruption than Buhari whose failure, according to Sowore, is a consequence of his "complete capitulation … to corruption and corrupt influences". He holds that the Nigeria crisis "is a crisis in leadership".

So Sowore does not see the iniquitous capitalism as the root of mass suffering in the midst of plenty in Nigeria but corruption and bad leadership. Therefore, his programme is essentially pro-capitalist like that of Buhari save for some radical promises like payment of N100,000 minimum wage. However this is not possible to seriously implement this on the basis of capitalism and, as he is not prepared to confront capitalism, Sowore has spoken of paying for a N100,000 minimum by retrenchment. Sowore presents himself only as a little to the left of Buhari. Most of his programmes and manifestoes only seem to want to 'improve' on Buhari's policies and plans.

But good intentions or promises of reforms are not enough, without the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with a socialist plan including public ownership and democratic management of commanding heights of economy, the reforms so put forward if ever attained cannot be sustained. As much as we welcome the idea of elements like Sowore, who is campaigning with his activism credential coupled with support this has ignited among politically conscious people, we however oppose the neo-liberal and pro-capitalist programmes contained in his manifesto. The unclear nature of even the most populist and radical programmes of Sowore and AAC has drawn different elements into the party, many of whom are only using Sowore stature to seek votes.

It is not likely that Sowore will win the presidential election but his campaign has been able to mobilise a good number of change seeking elements with his anti-establishment invective and radical promises. Therefore, the potential of a movement around him cannot be dismissed, if he consistently continues to organize and intervene in struggles after the elections.

We call for a united front of left parties, organisations and activists as well as fighting trade unions to build a movement not only resist various capitalist attacks on the working masses, but the possibility of a united political platform of the working people, with which to organize to take political power and ultimately overthrow capitalism.

SPN

The registration of the Socialist Party of Nigeria will mean that there is clear socialist alternative on offer on the ballot box, even if though the party is only contesting 20 posts of the total 1504 posts in the general elections. These include elections into positions of governor in Oyo state, house of assembly seats in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Cross Rivers as well as two local government chairman positions and councillors in Abuja.

The contests have offered us opportunity to strengthen the forces of Marxism by putting a clear socialist programme before the working masses, recruit new members and build new cadres. More importantly is that it will become a point of reference that can serve as an additional boost and inspiration for the building a mass workers party. An issue that will come to the fore as the working masses are forced into the arena of struggle to resist further capitalist attacks that will no sooner be launched by the ruling elites is the need for a working people party on socialist program which only SPN presently represent.

Post-Election Violence

Given the fiery rhetoric of various principal operatives of APC and the PDP there may be a serious post-election violence. For instance, the PDP has created the impression that the APC can only win the election by massive rigging. The western imperialists (US, Britain and EU) seem to have accepted this proposition given the tone of their two coordinated statements first after former President Olusegun Obasanjo's comments on the subject and, later, following the sack of the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN).

However, it should be stressed that it is both the APC and PDP that would rig election and manipulate results wherever they have capacity or control. It is instructive that Obasanjo, who organized the worst election in history of Nigeria in 2007 to sustain the PDP in power, was the one who raised the alarm of the alleged plan of the APC to rig the election. The internal crisis within the APC as seen in Ogun, Imo, Rivers and Zamfara, may also generate further violence in the elections.

Moreover, in an event of just a marginal, or disputed, victory of the APC, the PDP would reject the results, something which could trigger a tit-for-tat cycle of violence. This is especially that the PDP may claim no trust in judiciary following the sack of the CJN. This may resonate with the western imperialism who have also insinuated that the sack of CJN is not unconnected to the calculation of the judicial resolution of election dispute.

It is apparent that many of the western imperialists who supported Buhari ahead of 2015 election are currently backing Atiku. This may not be unconnected to a struggle for sphere of influence as well as international trade dispute between the Western powers and China, who are playing more a visible role in Nigeria's economy under Buhari government.

In response some senior members of APC and Buhari government, especially Kaduna State Governor El-Rufai, have attempted to whip up nationalist sentiment in defence of the sovereignty of Nigeria from western interference in the internal politics of the country. Indeed, El-Rufai insinuated that the interference could degenerate into military intervention and threatened that foreign soldiers would leave the country in bodybags. Some APC operatives have also suggested the PDP with the support of the US is working towards a Venezuela-like standoff in Nigeria.

Though it is difficult to rule out anything from the US given the unstable, eccentric character of who is the President of the country - Donald Trump, military intervention in Nigeria is not likely. But a diplomatic tension between the US and Nigeria cannot be ruled out especially given the condescending tone of the comments on the election by the US's ambassador to Nigeria.

Truly, the sack of the CJN suggests that the Buhari government is not confident of having a fair victory at the polls. Besides, we cannot rule out of the desperation of the ruling APC to win the election by all means or trying to instigate violence if defeated in order to remain in power.

This is not unprecedented as the recent report of an investigation by the Premium Times alleged (Premium Times, February 11, 2019). According to the report the then Chief of Army Staff who was sympathetic to President Jonathan gave order to his field commanders in Borno, where the last result of the election was being expected in Abuja, to instigate violence that was expected to spread to other parts of the country and thereby forced the stoppage of the release of election results. But, the field commanders reportedly refused to carry out the order. However, in the full glare of live TV cameras, the official agent of President Jonathan disrupted the release of the results for many hours when it was clear that the PDP would lose the election.

This has posed the question of the possibility of a military intervention or a coup trailing the post-election violence. However, while a military coup is not a certainty at present the fact the self-serving, thriving ruling elite especially organized between the APC and PDP could put Nigeria on the precipice of a coup or serious electoral violence has made it imperative for the working masses to no longer allow themselves reduced to mere spectators. They need to and can organise themselves as a formidable force that is capable of not only resisting any military coup but also but also build on such a movement to take over political power from any section of the capitalist ruling elite, overthrow capitalism and commence the socialist transformation of society.