Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Newspaper of the DSM
The year 2003 general elections, we were promised by the powers-that-be, would be an opportunity to break the jinx of a civilian government's inability to organise free and fair elections.
At the end of the day, Nigerians and the working people in particular were subjected to the worst forms of electoral malpractices and manipulations.
These manipulations were so gargantuan in nature that even election monitors sent by various imperialist countries and bodies were forced to openly attack the conducts of the elections in issue. According to the European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM), "the Presidential and Gubernatorial Elections were marred by serious irregularities throughout the country". The Washington-based National Democratic Institute said it found "ballot stuffing, rigging, voter intimidation, violence and fraud" particularly in the Niger Delta and the South East. To the International Republican Institute (IRI) (another US based capitalist agency), what happened in Cross River, Imo and River States was nothing short of "outright or attempted fraud".
On its part, the Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) led by former Secretary-General of the defunct Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim asserted that "the election overall, was credible". He went further: " the elections also represent a landmark transfer of power from one civilian administration to another and constitute a good sign that democratic processes and institutions in Nigeria are growing from strength to strength". (The Guardian, April 25, 2003, p. 2).
Virtually, all the capitalist countries of the world have congratulated President Obasanjo and Nigeria for having organised "a successful civilian to civilian elections" and for a good measure, all those who have contrary opinion are advised to go to Election Tribunals.
Of course, President Olusegun Obasanjo and his partners-in-crime (local and foreign) including PDP, INEC, the media, diplomatic circles, etc, see things differently. According to Obasanjo, the elections was "peaceful, free and fair" He describes allegations of widespread irregularities and manipulations in the conducts of the elections as "sweeping generalisations". He concluded: "perfection will be the art of God and His angels and not to any human institution".
Notwithstanding this grand deception, opposition to, arguably Nigeria's most perverted elections has been vociferous and varied. The ANPP has not only rejected the elections, it has in actual fact promised not to recognise the legality and legitimacy of any government formed on the basis of the presidential elections and in some states in which the party believed it won the elections. The party's presidential candidate, General Mohammed Buhari, even threatened "mass action" to make the country ungovernable if the entire elections were not cancelled and fresh ones conducted.
APGA not only decried the conducts of the election, its presidential candidate, Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, declared himself as the "winner". On its part, the National Conscience Party (NCP) equally rejected the elections, called for its cancellation and formation of an Interim Government to be headed by Chief Justices of the federation and the states. The Patriots, an association of "eminent" personalities have called for the cancellation of the results, formation of an Interim Government to be headed by President Obasanjo at the central level and state governors at the state level. In the alternative, The Patriots urged the National Assembly to amend the constitution to the effect that a president shall only hold power for a single 5-year tenure and backdate the commencement of that law to May 29, 1999. The protagonists of "Interim Government" believe that their option is the only way to save the country from an inevitable ruin, anarchy and possibly military dictatorship.
However, to Obasanjo and others who directly and indirectly stand to benefit from the powers bestowed by the disputed elections, the opposition parties are merely indulging in apocalyptic prognosis induced by their failure in the said elections. Everything, they say, will henceforth get better for Nigeria and Nigerians.
Against the above outlined background, a scientific and socialist appraisal of the background, conducts and issues arising from the April/May general elections becomes imperative. Can the economy become better? Can the working masses have a fundamental improvement in their living conditions? Does the "victory" of the PDP, ANPP, AD, etc, at the polls represent the deepening of democracy in Nigeria? If, as it is in reality, the purported victories of these parties at the polls represent the gravest travesty of democracy, what are the inevitable socio-political repercussions of this "victory"?
On similar occasions in the past, 1964 and 1983, when the general elections were as massively manipulated and rigged by the incumbent governments, military coups took place to terminate the lives of the governments formed on the basis of the massively rigged elections. What, therefore, are the prospects for and against military coup in the aftermath of the latest rigged mandate?
Will the return of Obasanjo for second term now, once and for all, resolve the nagging national question? Put differently, will the different separatist movements like the OPC, MASSOB, Ijaw National Congress, etc, clamouring for the break-up of the country now rest their case on the alter of "rotational presidency" i.e. a perspective that one day, one of their own "sons of the soil" will become president and through that resolve all their national aspirations?
Top labour leaders including Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) president, Adams Oshiomhole, have lauded the conduct and outcome of the elections. Expectedly, they have condemned the call for "mass action" made by Buhari in particular and some opposition parties in general. What therefore should the working masses and youth expect from Obasanjo's second term based on the "vote of confidence" passed on him by top labour leaders? What does labour leaders' romance with Obasanjo, PDP, Tinubu's faction of AD, etc, have on the prospect of building the Party for Social Democracy (PSD) for instance? Put differently, if labour leaders continue to praise to high heavens anti-workers/pro-rich capitalist politicians like Obasanjo, Tinubu, etc, will they ever see the necessity to build a solid alliance with pro-masses parties like the NCP in the quest to build a formidable mass revolutionary party of the working people, as the most effective way to fight for daily improvement in the living conditions of the masses and ultimately emancipation from all forms of exploitation and oppression?
THE MASSES AND THE ELECTIONS
Notwithstanding the fact that the recent elections had been massively rigged and manipulated to favour the parties in power (the PDP, ANPP, and AD) and despite express call for mass action to fight this by certain opposition figures, the country has remained generally "peaceful". This seemingly unusual situation has provoked different political reactions amongst certain layers of left activists. Some have argued that the last elections have shown that the masses can never hope to come to power through the ballot. The insurmountable obstacles towards this end being listed are lack of sufficient funds, ignorance and poverty which often made the masses vulnerable to the bribery and manipulations of the rich, state repression, rigging, official falsification of results, etc.
Based on this, some left elements have been saying that the masses or a pro-masses government can only come to power through some kind of armed struggle. Others in this league not arguing for armed struggle say that the masses probably need to undergo more economic and political exploitation and oppression before they will be capable of recognising the wisdom of voting for a party like the NCP instead of voting or tolerating parties like PDP, ANPP, AD, etc.
We therefore ask: can suffering alone bring forth revolutionary consciousness and change? Can a meaningful armed struggle develop independent of the mass struggles of the working masses themselves?
Everywhere they turn, economically, socially and politically, the masses face a dead end. Can this vicious circle be ever broken? Is positive change a reality? These and other several posers, which we cannot here enumerate are the key issues and sentiments which the 2003 general elections have provoked. It is the primary duty of Marxists and socialists to undertake a scientific analysis of these and other related issues with a view to chart out the socio-political way forward for the struggles of the working masses and youths that will unavoidably and inevitably develop against the rottenness of capitalism and its barbaric rule in neo-colonial countries like Nigeria, in the immediate, medium and long term, notwithstanding the prevailing triumphalism of forces of darkness.
Appendix: General Strike Against Fuel Price Rises The Lesson For The Working Masses