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11 July 2018
The 2nd National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) held on Saturday, 23 June 2018. 14 NEC members and about 50 other party members including the state leaders, who were observers, from across the country gathered at the venue (International Press Centre, Ogba. Lagos) to discuss the building of the party and what role it could play in the 2019 general elections.
This was the first NEC meeting of the party since its certificate of registration was finally issued to it by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in January 2018. The party had fought a hard battle, legally and politically, for over three years by organizing mass protests across the country and international solidarity to compel INEC to register it. Expectedly the mood was enthusiastic. A video documentary of this campaign shown at the meeting further helped to drive home the significance by reminding everyone of the legacy of struggle upon which the SPN is built.
The meeting was divided into two parts – the first which was the opening session was opened to the public, including trade unionists and supporters of the party, as well as the media. The second part was a closed session for delegates and observers alone. Unfortunately the heavy rainfall which went on throughout that day meant very few guests and media could turn up. These are Jaiye Gaskia of the Take Back Nigeria movement (TBN) and Segun Che of Amilca Cabral Ideological School (ACIS). The secretary of the Joint Action Front (JAF), Abiodun Aremu, sent an apology.
But the opening session went on successfully nevertheless. Comrade Dagga Tolar, DSM acting general secretary and NEC member of the SPN, led the discussion on "2019 general elections and the quest for a working class political alternative". This helped to set the tone for the entire NEC with several members coming out to talk about how the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC government has failed in all ramifications. Unfortunately most of the current leaders of the labour movement have capitulated and this capitulation will go way further with the election of former labour leader Adams Oshiomhole as the national Chairman of the ruling party at the APC convention held on the same day as the SPN NEC. The meeting resolved that the SPN can serve as a pole of attraction to all those who have drawn conclusions that this government has failed and are searching for a way out. But while building the SPN, we also must equally intensify the campaign for a mass workers' political alternative.
To begin the closed session, which had two representatives of INEC in attendance, the national secretary of the party, comrade Chinedu Bosah, announced to the meeting the health challenges the inaugural National Chairperson, comrade Segun Sango, was facing and why he is unable to play an active role anymore. The meeting paid tribute to the role of comrade Segun Sango in the founding of the party and his services to the struggle of the working class in Nigeria and internationally. A motion was therefore moved for the election of a new acting national chairperson. At the end of the election, comrade Abiodun Bamigboye, a leading DSM member who is also Deputy National Chairperson Southwest of the party, emerged as the Acting National Chairperson of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN).
Holding at a period of great political turmoil and yearning for genuine alternative, the NEC meeting took up the task of drawing a balance sheet of the strength and weakness of the party and what role the party can play in the coming general elections. Clearly, the registration of the party had given a fillip to party activities with new people joining and new chapters opening at ward, LGA and states. This also reflects the mood in society where many have given up on the ruling party, the PDP and the entire capitalist political establishment and are looking for alternatives.
Of course the situation is not the same everywhere. In some areas in the North and the South East, much has not been done yet to take advantage of the opportunities to build a political alternative. This is despite the fact that a number of people had openly expressed interest in the party. The meeting tried to encourage leaders of the party in the North to redouble their effort. Of course given the insurgency and insecurity, the situation in that region is every difficult. But just like campaigns on social issues like crazy billing etc. is helping the party to build in many communities including in Abuja, the SPN can organize activities around the issues of herdsmen and farmers crises, the book harm insurgency as a way to present the programme of the party to people who are looking for a way out of these problems.
But in other places, like the South West and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where members are actively building the party through regular circulation of party leaflets, meetings, intervention in struggles and press campaign on issues affecting the people, the growth even though still small has been encouraging.
In Oyo state for instance the SPN, even though very small in terms of actual membership, is rapidly building a profile as the only real opposition party in the state. The party fielded candidates in the last May's Local Government elections in the state with comrade Abiodun Bamigboye (Abbey Trotsky) and comrade Ayodeji Adigun standing for chairman and Vice Chairman at Ibadan South West LGA but the state electoral body which initially had screened them as qualified turned round at the last minute to refuse to issue them nomination forms even though the party's logo still appeared in the ballot.
This maneuvering of the state electoral body reflects the panic within the establishment given the kind of campaign the party ran. Despite this, the party was able to win over hundred contacts during the campaign and is now making effort to organize them into the party. Despite that the party only fielding candidates in one Local government, the campaign has helped to build a state-wide profile for the party and in the media. At the moment, the party is campaigning against demolition of an abattoir and the state government usurpation of the constitutional functions of the LGA. This campaigning has elicited a response from the state government which shows how much our party though small is hitting hard at the corrupt political establishment. This is a brilliant example of an electoral and campaigning party that all members must emulate in building the party across the country.
While we have seen people flocking to the banner of the party looking for alternative, we have also seen some capitalist politicians or their agents trying to enter the party. Some have called clearly asking that they be allowed to join the party to accomplish their political ambitions. This kind of element the party leadership has had to turn down. But a danger exists that these kind of elements can also enter the party quietly and try to take it over from within. This is why members of the party must ensure that the party does not at any time depart from its principle of a party for the downtrodden.
To this end, some key organizational resolutions were moved and adopted. These resolutions border on building the party, qualification for membership and requirements for emergence of party leadership and candidates for elections within and on the platform of the party, the principle that any political office holder who emerges on the platform of the party will collect only the salary of a skilled worker while the rest will be donated to the party and workers/youth/community struggles etc.
One of the features in the report of party members is how some people first demand money or assurances that immediate benefits would come their way if they join the party. This is a product of first the legacy of "money-politics" and vote buying laid by the capitalist parties, something which has heightened since the beginning of the Fourth Republic. Secondly people have given up on expecting that politicians would ever fulfill campaign promises, so they want to take something now even if it is just a small piece of bread since that's all they are likely to get in the next four years.
Like the meeting resolved, while this is a great problem in mass consciousness, the way to deal with it is not to succumb to it. Rather we have to confront this by clearly distinguishing the SPN as a party that does not buy support and vote because it is not a corrupt party that wants to get to power to steal. In terms of benefit, the SPN as a campaigning party will support struggles on social issues and encourage broader layers to also become active in campaigning. If the SPN gets to power, its representatives will also implement its socialist programmes of jobs, housing, living wage, free education and health care all of which are more fundamental benefits than the N500 and N1000 that capitalist politicians give out as dividends of democracy.
All of these formed the background to the key decisions taken on the 2019 general elections. The meeting agreed that the SPN will strive to contest the coming elections with candidates who are prepared to defend our ideas in order to provide a credible political alternative to the capitalist political establishment. However what would determine this would be the strength of the party and not inordinate ambitions of individuals. We want to build a party that will be active after the elections in the struggles that will inevitably break our sooner or later. On the need to have a presidential candidate, the meeting equally resolved that while it is not foreclosed, the party is currently too weak to mount such a campaign. However, if conditions change then this decision can be reviewed. After nearly eight hours, the meeting came to an end with the rendition of solidarity songs.