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31 March 2011
The run-up to the 2011 general elections has been characterized by violence amongst the major pro-capitalist political parties engaged in bitter struggle for political power. This has led to several deaths and destruction of properties. These "do or die" struggles mirror the desperation of the establishment political parties to either remain in power or to assume power considering the fact that political power in Nigeria is an avenue for self-enrichment at the expense of public resources.
On Tuesday 22 2011 the bloody clash between supporters of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Akwa Ibom, south-south Nigeria, led to the death of about 12 people and burning and destruction of property worth billions of Naira (including about 500 brand new tricycles and 200 cars). Pockets of violence have been recorded in Gombe, Plateau, Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Bayelsa, Ondo, Edo, Lagos etc. In certain areas, party supporters have been kidnapped and attacked during and after campaigns. Sponsored political thugs carry out attacks unhindered while the police look the other way. Like in previous general elections and by-elections, the police have acted like a cover for these brutal attacks! The attacks we have witnessed may just be dress rehearsal of what is to happen during the election. In some states like Oyo, the government has refused opposition candidates the use of public facilities for campaigns. Apart from organized debates, the media has been largely at the service of the ruling parties in power and for candidates (most of whom are corrupt) who can afford the huge expense associated with it. Like in all bourgeois democracies, electoral process has been highly monetized to give undue advantage to the rich and their capitalist backers.
A keen analysis of the campaigns of all the major right wing parties shows that the electioneering campaigns have become more expensive than the previous elections, with most of the funds coming from public purse and others contributions from those who benefitted from all forms of neo-liberal programs both at the state and at the federal level. The major contenders are PDP, CPC, ACN and ANPP. PDP is the ruling party at the centre and in 28 states across the federation, it readily dips it hands in public purse to run most of its campaigns, while ACN that controls 4 states including Lagos state, is not in any way different. The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) being led by former military president, Muhammadu Buhari, who is publicly seen as not corrupt, with more political clout in the north is not a party that is built differently from the PDP, ACN and others.
Parties carry out top-down policies like substitution of candidates by party top leaders without recourse to party members. In Lagos for example, the ACN never had any party primary, those who emerged as candidates are those who are closest allies of Bola Tinubu, while in PDP both at the federal level and states had primaries that were manipulated in favour of the anointed candidates. The National Chairman of ACN, Bisi Akande, a man who failed woefully as former governor of Osun State, openly defended the brazen imposition of candidates on the party by the party leaders as the best form of democracy being practiced in some advanced countries. So, since these parties are not built on programmes that will rally support amongst the working masses; they don't inspire popular participation and that explains why the parties are dictatorially controlled and financed by the rich and through funds looted from public treasury.
Apart from the campaigns, those who watched the governorship and presidential debates could not see any real difference amongst the candidates. No candidate in Lagos state for instance put forward an alternative to the vicious attacks of the Babatunde Fashola-led administration. Some of the candidates dished out empty promises of free education at all levels without showing how it will be funded. This is not different from the presidential debates so far. The ANPP candidate called for increment of electricity tariff by 400% in order to attract the "needed funds to grow the sector" from private investors from abroad. This position was not challenged by other presidential candidates. On most issues, CAN candidate Ribadu had given a fluid position- to him the fight against corruption will resolve everything. This is the same Ribadu that carried out selective prosecution of corrupt leaders when he was the EFCC Chairman. For instance, he prosecuted those who had fallen out favour with Obasanjo and shielded his allies, twice the alleged corrupt practices of Iyabo Obasanjo came to his desk without taking any action; he also shielded Bode George from prosecution. Ribadu who previously said that Bola Tinubu was corrupt has now eaten his words having become a political godson of the latter.
No doubt, the general election will be cheerless. However, there are layers of Nigerians who will vote based on ethnicity and religion and some because they want those at the helm of affairs to leave office. The 2011 general election will definitely come and go without a political party for the masses. The Labour Party, initially formed by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has since been abandoned by the trade unions and has been hijacked by rightwing elements both at the national and states level. So, on the basis of anti-poor neo-capitalist programme subscribed to by all the political parties, whoever that comes to power will not make any fundamental difference in the lives of the working masses, the state of infrastructure will continue to decay, corruption will be on the increase and more vicious attacks will be unleashed on the living conditions of the working people.
The only hope of rescuing the masses from this vicious cycle is to begin the process of building a mass based working class party committed to struggle to defend working people and for the use of all resources to meet the needs of all. This will entail the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy and placing them under the democratic control of workers and the communities as a means to free resources to be channeled towards massive reconstruction of basic infrastructures. It is time for the trade unions and pro-masses organization to call a conference of the labour movement to kick start the process to building a genuine mass based party of the working people.