Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Newspaper of the DSM
Whatever soothsayers may say, the next four years will turn out the most volatile and unstable in the annals of Nigeria. Yes, the PDP claimed to have won the presidency and also 28 out of the 36 state governorships that make up the country. On top of this, the Obasanjo led central government equally enjoys for now, the full support of the 'elected" officers of both the ANPP and AD. Of course, some members of the ANPP and AD still occasionally do complain about fraud and manipulations, but, these they claim, they have accepted in the interest of "peace and stability". With the exception of General Buhari, presently, most members of the capitalist class locally and internationally are solidly behind the PDP dominated civilian administration. On its part, the masses appear to accept or remain indifferent to the whole process.
Against this background, capitalist commentators, locally and internationally, have been congratulating Nigeria for taking a step in the direction of political stability, having organised "successful" civilian-to-civilian elections.
However, the reality is less flattering. Ordinarily, an election is supposed to give a general indication of the political consciousness and balance of forces in a given society. Nigeria's recent elections flatly contradict this axiom. Virtually, all the "winners" of these so-called elections were beneficiaries of a highly rigged, manipulated and monetised process. The electoral victories are nothing short of a stolen mandate. It neither reflects the consciousness nor the acceptability of the electorates.
As every informed commentator concedes, the period of the past four years of civil rule has done little to mitigate the unrelenting poverty and agonies of the working masses. On the contrary, anti-poor, pro-rich policies and programmes, which the military feared to implement in the past have become the cardinal programmes of its civilian successors. The past four years, save the years of the civil war (1967-1970), have witnessed more ethno-religious violence and killings. Yet, without any effort being made to address let alone resolve these fundamental issues, the outcome of the "elections" was a landslide "victory" for the same forces that have presided over the rot. Nothing could be more unreal.
Some capitalist commentators have urged those aggrieved with the conducts and results of the elections in issue to accept INEC's verdict in good faith and begin to prepare for the next election. In a normal situation, this makes some sense. But we are not talking of a normal situation. Already, there is an orchestrated design to make Nigeria an effective one party state. Commenting on the fraudulent landslide victory of the PDP in the recent polls, BBC News Online correspondent at Abuja (Mr. Winter) had stated: "It would be a disaster for Nigeria if military rule were to be replaced with effective one-party rule, where one party wins elections and so becomes a gravy-train for those on the inside".
But according to Professor Ebere Onwudiwe, this is nothing to worry about. He professes: "I do not claim that the possibility of the PDP becoming a dominant party is not there. What I challenge is the foreboding implication that an effective dominant party rule will be a disaster for Nigeria....The truth is that the condition for a UK or an American type two-party system does not exist now in Nigeria.....Our short history as a modern country evidences no established tradition of two-party system. This is because we have never been divided by political convictions or by economic philosophy. On the fundamental issue of development, all Nigerians stand on one foot.......This is a primary reason for the emergence of a dominant party system which the apparent ubiquiousness of the PDP and simultaneous existence of other satellite political parties herald.....The three parties with doubtful promise for eventually constituting a second party in Nigeria, the ANPP, AD and APGA are all ethnic parties, Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo respectively. None of these will survive for too long. Obasanjo has reigned in the AD. In 2007, Atiku's PDP may swallow ANPP. APGA will find its way into the belly of PDP as sure as the sun will rise. Its members mostly pragmatic Igbo, will not tolerate exclusion from national influence for ever.... It follows simply that in a democracy with a dominant party such as the one in Nigeria's future, or the present one in South Africa, people are free to form any party of their choice, be it regional, ethnic, conscience or what have you. However, those who want political power in such democracies are free to join and compete for it through the vehicle of PDP or ANC". (The Guardian, May 4, 2003, p. 21).
Just before hasty conclusion is made on the central political projection of Onwudiwe, let us hear the Baba of the moment himself, the oracle of Ota, President Obasanjo: "The people will want us to believe that we must have more parties. What more parties have caused us is more confusion......I believe that once we have a choice of one or two parties, particularly parties that do not have any ideological differences, that would be better for the country".
In this respect, Professor Onwudiwe's prognosis is not just a product of a mischievous intellectual mind but rather, the theoretical rationalisation for the direction which the power that be attempts to shape politics in the immediate period ahead. For their own amusement, "people are free to form any party of their choice, be it regional, ethnic, conscience or what have you.......but those who want political power ....are free to join and compete for it through the vehicle of PDP". Period! Therefore, if the current civil rule tenure lasts till year 2007, and there is no formidable political party of the working people to checkmate this kind of insidious anti-democratic design, being fashioned by the capitalist strategists, then, future elections can be nothing but a mere formal ritual, a caricature of even the type of the recently manipulated elections.
In the same vein, the prospects for general democratic rights of the masses, under the current civil rule of the PDP, ANPP and AD are very, very, bleak. To an outsider or a superficial analyst, the past four years of civil rule represents a society with better human rights record. This conclusion is however a false one. The following quotations which are taken from the year 2002 Annual Reports of the Human Rights Watch (HRW), a US-based, pro-imperialist, Non-Governmental Organisation, at least, give a glimpse of the reality of democratic rights under civil rule. We quote: "Little action was taken by the government to investigate human rights abuses since it came to power. There was still no public investigation into the Nigerian military's November 1999 massacre of hundreds of civilians and widespread destruction in the town of Odi in Bayelsa state......Members of the security forces were responsible for numerous extrajudicial executions, including a series of massacres by the military in Benue State in October. On October 22 and 23, soldiers killed more than two hundred (and possibly many more) civilians of the Tiv ethnic group in Gbagi, Zaki-Biam and other several other villages and engaged in widespread destruction of homes and property....The meetings of the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), a group which advocates autonomy for the Igbo people, were repeatedly and violently broken up by police, their offices raided and hundreds of MASSOB members arrested; many were detained without charge......police summarily executed several MASSOB members, in particular during a police attack on their office in Okigwe in Abia state, in February, when at least ten MASSOB members were reportedly killed..... There were widespread violations of the rights of women and children........Prison conditions remain poor and sometimes life threatening........Torture and ill treatment were widespread, especially in police custody......The National Human Rights Commission, a government appointed body created in 1996, suffered from a lack of resources and complained of difficulties in compelling alleged human rights violators to cooperate with its investigations".
Suffice to note, the above quoted reports, which speaks for itself did not include the myriad of attacks and violations of rights of labour activists, market women and youth activists, especially whenever any of government's anti-poor polices are opposed or being fought by these elements. Now poised, more than ever, to re-energise its pro-rich, anti-poor policies of privatisation, liberalisation, commercialisation, etc, the current civil rule dispensation under PDP, ANPP and AD will witness more concerted attacks on the general democratic rights of the working masses and ordinary Nigerians than any period in the past history of Nigeria.
In June, 2003, the "new" civilian rulers across the country (both at the central and state levels) unanimously agreed to hike the prices of petroleum products. That would be the third time they would be doing so since the inception of the current civil rule in May 1999. There is, however, one unique feature of the current hike. All past heads of state (with the exception of Geneneral Buhari), the current president, vice-president, the senate president and House of Representatives speaker, all the "newly elected" governors or their deputies attended the National Council of State meeting where this decision was taken.
Cross-River State governor, Mr. Donald Duke, who briefed journalists after the meeting, said it was imperative for the Federal Government to liberalise the down stream sector to make petroleum product available in all parts of the country. He said: "We have come to the conclusion that we cannot continue to prevaricate on this matter. At the meeting, everybody saw strong reasons why we should liberalise the petroleum sector.......We know that the price rise is expected to generate inflation. However, inflation is primarily a monetary issue but liberalisation will generate additional fiscal revenue, which if properly allocated, can be more effective in addressing social needs than price subsidy". The Ondo State governor, Dr. Segun Agagu, also had this to say on the issue: "We cannot prevaricate on this matter. We must take a decision. If it is opened, I can import, you can import. Then market forces will make this price, which is presently N60 to come down. That is the truth of the matter. And this is not time to start getting emotional about it". (Both quotations are from page 2 of the Thursday, June 19, 2003 edition of The Punch).
As known by every informed person, there is nothing new in the reasons being given for the hike. Thus, as it happened in the past, when similar policy was effected, the current hike has led to a phenomenal rise in the prices of transportation and all goods and services. Needless to stress, this will bring about an effective decline in the purchasing power of the working masses. Far from yielding a vibrant economic atmosphere, the current economic depression will become deepened.
In reaching this kind of conclusion, one must not also lose sight of the fact that it is this same kind of anti-poor, depressive measures that holdsway in all other sectors. Prices of food, housing, education, health care, water, electricity, telecommunications, etc, are similarly being determined by the market forces i.e. by the amount of money in each individual pocket. In a situation of massive unemployment and widespread poverty, this money first ideology, constitutes the foundation of the prevailing culture of treasury lootings, high scale frauds, drug trafficking, human trafficking, big time smuggling, big time bunkerings amongst members of the capitalist ruling class, armed robbery, crimes of all shapes and prostitution.
The type of economic policies that are being put forward by capitalist elements locally and internationally are such that can only compound the difficulties of the real productive sectors of the economy. In a situation of overwhelming poor purchasing power, no productive venture can truly flourish. In fact, in order to stay afloat, many private businesses and government departments will, under the impact of the inevitable high increase in the cost of running their businesses and departments, come up with proposals to carry out another round of retrenchment, thus compounding an already complicated situation.
And as the DSM always explain, the Nigerian situation is further compounded by the fact that it runs a dependent capitalist economy. Under this kind of economic order, the main decisions and policies concerning the central direction of economic policies are usually and primarily dictated by the international finance capital, based on its economic interests as represented by its transnational corporations.
Right now, the central goal of privatisation and liberalisation, being railroaded by imperialism, through the IMF and World Bank, is, in the case of Nigeria, to fully transfer all its major sources of wealth as the exclusive properties of capitalist monopolies mostly owned and controlled by elements from the advanced capitalist countries in Europe, Japan, China and the US. And if it may be stressed, imperialism does not seek the ownership of all these public resources with a motive of creating a world of abundance. On the contrary, this orgy of privatisation and liberalisation are being propelled by the insatiable greed for profit and prestige between fellow capitalist rivals and countries.
Consequently, none of the rosy pictures of growth and economic development being painted about privatisation and liberalisation will materialise. To start with, the two segments of the capitalist class behind the policy of privatisation and liberalisation are doing so for their own selfish reasons. The main author of privatisation and liberalisation, the international finance capital is striving to buy up as much as possible of the main resources of the world with a view to guarantee its own selfish hold on the world economy and its people. Local capitalists, lacking any worthwhile independent economic and financial powers of their own, merely want to be carried along. That is being able to share from this obvious loot.
This, it must be noted, is the basis of the incurable contradiction of capitalism. The ever present strive to convert what belongs to all as the exclusive property of a few rich elements is the basis of the deep misery of the majority. For mass prosperity to truly flourish, the entire resources of the universe, including all its major natural and technological resources, must be collectively owned and utilised in such a democratic way to satisfy the needs and aspirations of the entire mankind and not a minority portion of it as is the case under the prevailing "money first" capitalist order.
To uplift the living standards of the working masses in Nigeria today will require amongst other things, massive creation of employment opportunities, total and functional free education and health care for all, functional and affordable social services such as water, electricity, telecommunications, functional and affordable transportation network, etc. Under an economy where the commanding heights are publicly owned and truly democratically run by the working masses themselves, these and many more could actually be achieved. But the "money first" capitalist ideology was primarily designed to permanently and perpetually keep the living standards of the working masses down.
Even workers in the advanced capitalist countries, where living standards have always been higher than what obtains in backward capitalist countries like Nigeria, are now suffering and systematically witnessing daily attacks on their living standards. Seeing from this context, the current hike of fuel prices by the capitalist ruling class reveals not an episodic but rather a generic crisis. Under capitalism, life for the majority will and can only get worse. To every basic need and aspiration of the masses, the capitalist elements will always plea that they don't have enough money. On May Day 2003, the central government promised to increase wages of "federal public workers by 12.1/2% as soon as budgetary allocation for this is agreed. In addition, one or three states out of 36 made similar promise. But even before this paltry and highly restrictive wage increment promise is effected, the ruling class has now gone ahead to increase fuel prices by 54%! Remarkably, the former presidential candidate of the ANPP, General Buhari, the only former Head of State absent at the Council of State meeting where the decision to hike the prices of petroleum products was taken, has not voiced any opposition to the exercise, even though he is still fighting the government over the admittedly rigged elections. Thus, for the next four years of Obasanjo's regime and even under any other capitalist presidents or heads, the interest of the rich few will always come first and masses interests to be completely sidetracked.
Confronted with the hopeless economic and political realities offered and represented by the capitalist governments across the country, several political analysts and commentators have been raising different options as the best way out of the Nigeria's endemic socio-economic quagmire. These options are as varied as those making them. Here however, we shall only highlight the most relevant and topical of these options.
THE INTERIM GOVERNMENT
In the aftermath of the massively rigged 2003 general elections, a cacophonic call for an Interim Government across the country was made by a host of different political groups. The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), the National Conscience Party (NCP), the Patriots, etc severally and collectively rejected in totality the conduct and outcome of the said elections and instead called for the formation of interim governments across the country pending new elections.
Even though nothing has come out of the proposal, it did, at the time, received lavish media coverage and debates. Even, if only for this reason, it is worthwhile to try to undertake a scientific evaluation of this proposal. But more importantly however is the reason adduced by The Patriots for making this suggestion in the first instance. Amongst other things, The Patriots said: "We are firmly convinced that it is wholly unacceptable to allow the results obtained by means of these well-attested electoral malpractices described by the CNPP and also the International Election Observer Teams to stand. To allow it to stand will subvert the democratic form of government instituted by the constitution and, worse still, would entrench election rigging as a permanent feature of the Nigerian polity. Democracy would have been irretrievably stultified, together with the legitimacy, which democratic elections confer upon government".
How can these obvious dangers to our collective democratic rights be averted? The Patriots had proposed an Interim or Transitional Government of National Unity on the following terms: "(1) It shall exist and function for not more than one year. (2) It should involve itself only minimally in the process of government administration and should concentrate mainly on the following specific tasks: a) Convening and organising a National Conference for the restructuring of the Nigerian polity under a new constitution to be adopted by a constituent assembly and approved at a referendum. b) Setting up a new and credible electoral system and a new electoral body to replace INEC. c) Overseeing the holding of a fresh election to be conducted by the new electoral body. d) It should be comprised of persons nominated by political parties and other interest groups and should be headed by President Olusegun Obasanjo (by the present incumbent governors in the states), not by virtue of his disputed victory in the April 2003 presidential election, but rather in recognition of his being the person currently holding the reins of power in the country".
On its part, the NCP merely demanded the (1) "Handover of power by President Olusegun Obasanjo on 29th May 2003 to a council of Supreme Court justices with the Chief Justice of Nigeria as the chairman. (2) Handover of power by each of the incumbent governors in the 36 states of the federation to the Chief Judge of each state on 29th May, 2003".
The 2003 general elections were so massively manipulated and rigged to such an extent that no informed person can expect any government formed on the basis of these "elections" to implement beneficial economic and political policies in the interests of the working masses. Therefore, any proposal claiming to have a better alternative to the prevailing socio-political rots deserve all attention. Lamentably however, none of the features of the proposed Interim Government either as advocated by The Patriots or NCP come close to represent a credible alternative to the prevailing rot.
To start with, the entire concept of an interim or transitional government to conduct freer and fairer elections within the framework of neo-colonial capitalism being seriously pressurized by imperialism to restore full economic colonialism, is nothing but a pipe dream - an unattainable utopia. In a typical neo-colonial, capitalist country, like Nigeria, where only a few capitalist elements and a tiny proportion of the entire population can claim to have access to the basic means of decent living, where the overwhelming majority perpetually live in misery and ignorance, the very idea of a free and fair election being conducted by any section of the capitalist class is nothing but a mirage. The issue at stake goes beyond having good intentions. The unmitigated mass poverty of the working masses in Nigeria and in the world as a whole is neither ordained, destined nor unavoidable. In fact, on the basis of the acquired level of technology and nature's own inexhaustible resources, it should be entirely possible to guarantee decent living for all without any attendant environmental pollution and destruction which are the major features of the prevailing global capitalist order.
The problem however, is that capitalism functions primarily to cater properly for the interests of a few at the expense of the overwhelming majority. This explains why the overwhelming proportion of the Nigerian populace cannot boast of access to good food, housing, healthcare, education, transportation, communications, etc, whereas a few well placed individuals and capitalist corporations are in a position to get all the basic means of civilization anywhere in the world, no matter the price. It is therefore not logical to expect those that are presently living fat at the expense of the masses to suddenly have a change of heart and conduct "free and fair" elections that would transfer power to the victims. It is like expecting the rich people in Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Onitsha, Owerri, Port Harcourt, etc to make wills leaving their properties not to their children and relations but to the poor masses of Ajegunle, Agege, Mushin, etc.
This is why elections in all of Africa, the third world countries and even the advanced capitalist countries are always a little no more than a ritual to elect or retain in power, the most powerful layers of the capitalist class at any given time. Usually, it is those that can mobilize the largest material resources that emerge as "winners"! In Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the so-called third world countries, this "cash and carry" capitalist democracy of necessity assumes a much more frightful dimension in that the local ruling capitalist elements invariably never had any worthwhile independent economic base of its own. Most of its ranks were always filled with elements drawn from the ranks of those working with the imperialist corporations or those working in the colonial or post-colonial government structures and parastatals created by imperialism. It is this specific feature of neo-colonial capitalism that makes politics a do-or-die affair in Africa as a whole.
Being in control of the governmental powers is the surest way to get the fattest crumps from the imperialist tables. Being out of power is tantamount to being near irrelevant and inconsequential economically. This is why most so-called political parties across Africa had always conducted elections which in effect always returned the same individuals and parties to power. It is this kind of background that produced the syndrome of one party states/presidents like Arap Moi, Houphet Biony, Kereoku, Kamuzu Banda, Seseko Mobutu, Robert Mugabe, etc, to mention just a few African leaders that held on to power for long despite the fact that the overwhelming proportion of their citizens do not approve of their oppressive and corrupt governments. Military governments in this respect have also exhibited the same pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist, pro-corrupt politicians tendencies in all of their transition to civil rule programmes. Everywhere in Africa, where a military government had been forced to quit power, it had always ensured that power passed over to the most corrupt layers of the society which will never be interested in bringing any corrupt previous official to book.
The current civilian rulers in Nigeria are typical examples of this selfish phenomenon. Although the Abdulsalam Abubakar military junta spent less than a year in power, it is on record that that regime was easily the most corrupt in post independent Nigeria (given the quantity of looting done within a short period of time). Predictably, the regime's transition programme only brought to power elements that will be too greedy with its own looting rather than bothering about previous loots. The 2003 elections in this regard is nothing more than a replay of the vicious circle of electoral manipulations that has been the central feature of every election in Nigeria since 1960 up till date.
According to The Patriots, the Interim or Transitional Government "should involve itself only minimally in the process of government administration". There can never be this kind of government anywhere in the real world. Even, if as proposed by The Patriots, the interim or transitional government has a maximum tenure of only one year, that will still raise the questions such as these: will such a government have powers over Nigeria's resources? Will it have power to make contracts on behalf of the country or not? Will such a government be bound by the contractual obligations made by its predecessors? What will be the central thrust of the economic policy of such a government? Right now, the central plank of the economic policy of all the civilian governments across the country is neo-liberalism. Under this philosophy, privatisation and commercialisation of the nation's resources and social services constitute the last wisdom in economic management. What will be the attitude of the Interim or Transitional Government to the prevailing neo-liberal policies?
With the exception of a few political parties like the NCP, most of the registered political parties openly and expressly canvass neo-liberal policies like privatisation of the economy, commercialisation of education, health services, etc. All the openly pro-capitalist parties like the PDP, ANPP, AD, etc will, any day, back hike in fuel prices and mass retrenchment of workers as solutions to Nigeria's endemic economic crisis. What special good therefore can come from an Interim or Transitional Government which is "composed of persons nominated by political parties and other interest groups and should be headed by President Olusegun Obasanjo?" Needless to stress, this would be like leaving a chicken poultry farm under the control of a committee of wolves.
Why, if we may ask, should those that invested massively in achieving results at all cost in the last elections suddenly become less interested in the elections being conducted by an interim government made up of fellow capitalist politicians? Why would those that currently hold sway in economic and political realms be less interested in the convocation of any political conference, whether national or sovereign, that will have powers to determine the future of Nigeria?
The Patriots see Nigeria's problem as primarily a constitutional issue. This, as of all Nigeria's history has shown is fundamentally false. Yes, since 1914 when Nigeria was arbitrarily created by British imperialism, its diverse nationalities have never been allowed by the various administrations up till date to genuinely and democratically decide if Nigeria should be and if so in what forms. To one extent or the other, the Nigerian state since its creation has been a child of force and convenience simultaneously. Owing largely to these factors, many a time, the country had been engulfed in murderous conflicts only peculiar to countries with unresolved national cum religious questions. Suffice to note, this is the background of the agitation for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference in recent years by nationalist groups and radical politicians in general.
Nonetheless, it should be stressed that the little constitutional framework which existed were always violated and trampled upon at election times and other times when there is prospect of anything or anybody tampering with the powers and privileges of the capitalist elites. The 1999 constitution of Nigeria is very restrictive, elitist and undemocratic in many respects. Take for instance the issue of party formation. There are several provisions in the constitution and the Electoral Act which not only abridged the political and democratic rights of Nigerians but also ones which expressly sought to make political party formation an affairs of only the privileged and the rich.
Notwithstanding these shortcomings, the 1999 constitution also contains some beneficial democratic provisions. There is the clause that says that criminal suspects must either be released on bail or charged to court within 24 hours of arrest. The constitution also guarantees freedom of association and peaceful assembly and demonstrations. To what extent however are these rights respected by the state?
Routinely, the security outfits arrest and detain citizens endlessly with impunity. In most cases, the cost and processes involved in seeking redress are often beyond the victims. Freedom of association and assembly are never permitted whenever the working masses decided to exercise these rights. For almost four years, the PDP, ANPP and AD conspired not to allow new political parties to emerge as provided for by the constitution. And when the NCP organised a peaceful protest to INEC office, the police physically prevented the march.
In June 2003, when the Obasanjo government hiked the prices of fuel officially by 54%, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), organised and led a general strike and protests against this pro-rich, anti-poor policy. As usual, the government unleashed all its venal powers on those trying to exercise their democratic and constitutional rights. Tear gas were used to disperse peaceful gatherings and assemblies, while scores were arrested and detained across the country for days without bail or charge. At the end of the day, about 15 unarmed persons, across the country, were killed by the police bullets in the process of preventing citizens from exercising their constitutional rights.
Therefore, the main issue to be posed is this: how can power be taken from the hands of a greedy, self-centred capitalist elite who always strive to use every economic, political, nationality, religious issue to feather its own nests and by so doing, perpetuate itself in power? Under civil and military rules, Nigeria in all its post independent era has been under the stranglehold of imperialism and the local ruling class. Suffice to say that this was also the situation under colonialism, in the pre-independence era. And going by The Patriots' suggestions, this ruinous class will still dominate the Interim or Transitional Government of national unity. Everywhere you turn to: in the hierarchy of mosques and churches; amongst traditional rulers and native despots; within the legislature, the judiciary, the banks, the universities, the media, etc, representatives of this self-centred capitalist elite hold sway.
What, therefore, is begging for organisation is a pan-Nigerian working masses political platform, fully armed with a clear cut economic, political, strategical and tactical alternatives to those put forward by the capitalist elite. It should however be stressed that this is a task for the socialists and working class elements, youth and all those suffering from the class exploitation and oppression of capitalism, not an Interim or Transitional Government composed of members of this same ruinous capitalist class.
To bring to power a government that will implement beneficial programmes in the interest of the working people, there is the need on the part of the working people to wage conscious struggle for collective, democratic changes against the selfish individualist economic and political options offered by capitalism. In other words, only a resolute class struggle by the working masses against capitalism which will result in the overthrow of the system can open the possibility of an era of guaranteed decent living for the masses.
As long as the working class does not fully recognise its historic responsibility in this regard or be in a position to put a viable economic and political alternatives to the rots offered by the capitalist elites, for that long shall the capitalist elite be able to get away with electoral crimes and manipulations. It does not matter whether the election in issue is for positions in the national conference or for a new full-fledged government.
Apparently faced with the futility of their own suggestions, The Patriots themselves had made an alternative suggestion: "immediate amendment to the constitution to limit the president and state governors to a single, non-renewable term of five years, the amendment to take effect from 1999".
More than anything, it is this singular suggestion that revealed the real characters of The Patriots and their likes. This is not a suggestion on how to have free and fair elections but rather one which vainly hopes to reduce intra-capitalist class conflicts over elections and accession to power. The suggestion (and this coming from eminent legal luminaries) that the amendment to the constitution be backdated to 1999 equally reveals a morbid desperation. The cynical but futile idea is that if the tenure of government officials were to be limited to a single five year term, the process of succession will be less acrimonious supposedly because none of the incumbent power holders will be constitutionally allowed to re-contest.
This, in real world, is a baseless supposition. Just as has been demonstrated by the series of military organised elections, the mere fact that incumbent power holders are not physically or directly contesting in elections does not in the least guarantee that anyone not favoured by them could emerge winners.
The NCP's suggestion simply asking the hand-over of powers to judges across the country added nothing positive to the concept of an interim or transitional government. If anything, it amounts to nothing but the promotion/celebration of arbitrariness, very akin to outright military arbitrariness. Both the NCP's and The Patriots' proposals failed to tell us how laws, rules and decisions are to be made under the interim or transitional government. Yet, this is the most crucial issue by which the character of a government, whether dictatorial or democratic can be scientifically made.
Judged from any angle, the concept of an Interim or Transitional Government as being propagated is nothing but a dead end. The last time in 1993 when the country was placed in the hands of an interim or transitional government, it was a full blown, bestial military dictatorship that came out of its womb.
Undoubtedly, the interim or transitional government being advocated by The Patriots and the NCP will compose of and be controlled by the same capitalist elements that have brought the country to its present prostrate situation. It is important for activists and socialists to understand this fact because the issue of an interim government will come up again and again in times of political upheavals, acute social crisis, mass struggles or future military rule. In such situations, socialists will call for the immediate building of a working peoples' alternative through the setting up of genuinely democratic bodies of workers, the poor, youth, etc, that will lay a basis for a workers' and poor peasants' government.
Rather than accepting unrealistic, counter-productive, interim or transitional "solutions", the working masses must be gearing itself to wage a fight to finish struggle against the capitalists' stranglehold on societal resources and political power. Only this approach can put the working masses in a proper political and organisational framework to wage a successful contest against capitalist elements in elections time. A class conscious, combative working masses' party can easily checkmate the fraudulent antics of the capitalist elements before and during elections time. Not only this, only a class and politically conscious pan-Nigerian working class movement can have the interests, capacity and courage needed to make and implement fundamental policies to improve the living standard of the entire masses and the poor. The greatest task of the day therefore is centered on how this kind of party can be rapidly built. Otherwise, the year 2007 elections will meet the working masses in the same prevailing politically prostrate conditions.
Appendix: General Strike Against Fuel Price Rises The Lesson For The Working Masses