Nigeria: 2007 Elections – transition of turbulence

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By the Workers’ Alternative Editorial Board    
Friday, 11 May 2007

Special Mayday Editorial Statement by the Workers’ Alternative Editorial Board
Labour must act now! Demand an end to "reform"! For socialism!

Fraternal greeting to all workers on this special day for workers. Mayday has come to be a very important date in Nigeria and to workers in particular. Traditionally this day is very important to the working class movement internationally. It is a day of international solidarity and its origins are in the struggle of workers for improved living conditions.

This year's Mayday comes at a very critical period in the history of the Nigerian working class movement, a period of growing hardship, turbulent instability and an urgent need for a programme of action by the workers.

However, it is quite commendable that both the leadership of the NLC and TUC agreed to have a united Mayday rally this time around, instead of separate rallies. This should be a step towards uniting the Nigerian workers as the strength of the working masses lies in their unity. This is an essential ingredient now in the face of the problems facing the working masses.

The recent unity of the NLC and the CFTU into one body is also very progressive, as it makes the workers much stronger. This is why all hands must be on deck towards really uniting the NLC and the TUC into one trade union body. This would be a very positive step forward.

In another curious way, this is the first Mayday of "baptism" for the newly elected leadership of both the NLC and the TUC, led by Comrade Abdul Waheed Omar and Comrade Peter Eisele respectively. It is also the last in the lifespan of the Obasanjo regime.

As always it is necessary to draw up a balance sheet of the present situation in the Nigerian polity, particularly as it affects the life of the working class. The Nigerian workers must definitely take a stand on the current crisis, which reflects in the most brutal way the crisis of the system of capitalism. The last eight years of the present "civilian rule" have been particularly traumatic for the Nigerian workers as regards the imposition of various anti-people "reform" programmes of the regime.
Hard times

Living conditions continue to degenerate by the day. Nigeria is now a land where nothing works. No power supply, no water, education out of reach of the masses, no jobs, no healthcare, poor wages, long hours of work, no job security, terrible work conditions, permanent use of casual labour, are the order of the day. Similarly, we have the irregular payment of low pensions, attacks on pensions as a whole and converting them into a savings scheme which now means cuts in workers' wages. Large-scale retrenchments have thrown out hundreds of thousands, we have the liquidation of government corporations and their privatisation. The list of the tales of woe is constantly growing.

It is very clear that these hard times will continue unless the workers end them by taking power. There are no shortcuts. It is very clear that the only policies that the Nigerian ruling class recognise are anti-masses. They are only interested in making more money at the expenses of the workers who produce the wealth. But their system is in constant crisis, and the current electoral crisis is another major pointer to this fact.
2007 Electoral Crisis

Undoubtedly the 2007 election is far from being regarded as anything democratic. It has appropriately been declared as the worst in all its ramifications. There was massive rigging in all areas, even in those States where the opposition bourgeois parties won the elections.

Numerous dirty methods were widely used, such as the stealing of ballot boxes, violence, etc. However, the main rigging was carried out by the INEC. No elections were held in many large areas and yet "results" were announced. There were cases where not enough ballot papers were delivered to areas where they believed the opposition would win; in other areas the elections did not start as scheduled, etc.

Prior to the elections, many of the perceived enemies of the Obasanjo regime were crudely disqualified by the INEC. This led to a series of high cost lawsuits which the regime lost in almost all cases.

Volumes of books can be written on the various crude and dirty methods freely used in the "2007 Elections". (Watch out for our next main edition for more details on the elections and on our website.)
Low Turnout

What is most notable in the 2007 "general elections" as the very low turnout of voters. This actually speaks a lot about what the masses really feel. The low turnout is actually a protest vote against the system. It is a confirmation that the masses do not have faith, not only in Obasanjo's PDP but also in all the other bourgeois political parties, as they were clearly professing the same policies.

They all say they would continue with Obasanjo's IMF inspired anti-people reform programmes. The phrase "Public-Private sector cooperation" remains their guiding principle, which is actually a programme in the interest of the rich only.

Obasanjo on one of his campaign rallies crudely declared, "If you (the opposition parties) have no programme of your own but you plan to continue to carry out all the policies that we created why should we (PDP) give you power?" What is common to all the so-called opposition parties is that they have no alternative programmes to the current ones the IMF are implementing through the PDP Government.

In essence, the masses could see through the very lies and empty promises. Nobody came out to say that they would progressively reverse all the anti-people programmes such as the attacks on pensions, the deliberate withholding of pensions, the retrenchment exercises, the liquidation of public corporations, privatisation, attacks on education, etc.

However, in spite of all these facts, there remains a widespread hatred towards the PDP Government. This accounts for why the people that came out voted massively against the PDP. Had there been a free and fair election nationally, it is doubtful that the PDP would have won in even one State!
No Labour Alternative

The main tragedy of the current situation is that the working class and all the other impoverished sectors of society did not have a choice. That is they did not have a party they can really call their own, a party that would put forward programmes in the interests of the masses and not in the interests of big-time contractors and bankers, a party that they would fund and whose contestants would come from the working masses, who would be loyal to the masses alone and not corrupt self-seeking politicians who are loyal to the last person that feeds them. In essence, what was lacking was a Labour Party with a socialist programme.

Imagine a scenario, and the appeal it would generate, had Adams Oshiomhole, the then President of the NLC, together with other union leaders declared for the Labour Party and openly lead a nationwide political campaign aimed at wresting power from the present crop of corrupt political bandits in the various establishment political parties (i.e. PDP, AC, ANPP, DPP, APGA etc) and as personalized by individuals such as Obasanjo, Atiku, Buhari, Tinubu, Ya ardua etc. This would particularly be the case if the fulcrum of the campaign were a clear-cut pro-worker and poor people agenda of eradicating poverty through genuine state intervention through the socialization of the wealth of the all country starting with the nationalization of the keys sectors of the economy - in a nutshell SOCIALISM. This scenario would no doubt have generated a genuine pull of the multitude of ordinary and change-seeking individuals behind the banner of the Labour Party nationally.

Unfortunately, this was not the case. The Labour leaders did not build the Labour Party and Adams Oshiomhole contested under Atiku's AC. This was the major mistake. All sorts of people were undemocratically given the Labour Party ticket to contest on. In Lagos, it was the arrogant Pedro and the result is clear. In spite of the calls by some labour leaders on workers to vote for him, he had a humiliating result. The masses do not see him as a friend but as an arrogant big man. Worse still, the programmes he professed were more anti-masses than those of the other contestants.
Adams Oshiomhole

Going by the various commentaries and eyewitness accounts, no doubt, Adams won with a landslide in Edo State and was robbed by the PDP. In the election campaign we saw hundreds of thousands following him. These were not the usual paid crowds that the bourgeois politicians hire. These were ordinary people who believed that it is time for change and that the only people that can do it are those not from the class of the ruling elites.

The support could have even been more solid and stronger had he contested under the Labour Party and resting directly on the Trade Unions. As it turned out, the AC was a big negative, as many of those big AC men, like Tom Ikimi, behind him were also well hated and have no credibility. The reality as can now be seen is that the AC readily gave him their ticket because they needed him and not that he needed them. The lesson of these event is that Labour must genuinely build its own political party, the Labour Party.
Spontaneous protests

Mass actions in the form of street protests and barricades took place in most centres where the crude rigging took place and the regime responded with brutal repression. Over 500 people have been killed and thousands injured over the past few weeks. Now there is a palpable boiling anger in the land; and it is only a matter of time before the masses move against all these atrocities.
Government of instability

The Yar' Adua Federal government and the resultant State governments that have emerged from these rigged elections are definitely going to be unstable and corrupt regimes that have nothing to offer the masses. They represent the dominant wing of the Nigerian ruling elites and are committed to impoverishing the people even more. They will prove to be incapable of solving any problem in the land, be it power, water, health, Niger-Delta, etc. They plan to continue with the same worthless IMF/World Bank reform programme.

Worst of all, the oil boom will not continue for ever; billions of dollars have been plundered and consciously mismanaged by the current regime over the past eight years of so-called civilian rule. The inevitable lowering of the oil prices internationally would immediately spell hardship in Nigeria. They would immediately want to pass the burden of their corruption onto the heads of the masses, in spite of the billions they have individually made.

The elements within the bourgeois opposition are no way better than the PDP. We have seen what they can do in power too. For instance, over $5 billion have been received by the Lagos State government over the past five years with nothing to show for it. The Atikus, Buharis, Tinubus, Pat Utomis, etc, have no solution to the crisis in Nigeria, as they are part of the problem. The crisis is a crisis of neo-colonial capitalism. The system must be overthrown.
Revolution is inevitable!

The Nigerian workers are no longer going to tolerate the atrocities carried out under this so-called ‘Reform'. The pressures are seriously building up from below. At the joint TUC-NLC press conference organized at the end of April, the leadership of the two trade union centres spoke out against the anti-people policies. They made it clear that the workers would not continue to allow these assaults on their living standards. This is a reflection of the pressures building up from below in the factories, offices and other workplaces.

It is the ABC of the history of all revolutions that the first signs of a revolution are actually the conflicts within the ruling elites. The open conflicts within the Nigerian ruling elites clearly confirm that not all is well and that the masses are bound to move; it is only a matter of time. The Nigerian workers are going to enter the arena of politics very soon. The workers have to take power or the country will be plunged into chaos by the ruling elites. The farsighted elements in the ruling elites can see this reality.
Beware of the Bourgeois Opposition

As stated earlier, the bourgeois opposition represents no alternative to the PDP and they do not have solutions. They are actually trying to use the masses to get to power and then continue the same policies as the PDP. They know quite well that power lies with the masses so they try to fool us and pretend to be our friends but they are not. They need the masses but the masses do not need them.

Currently, there are calls for the cancellation of the elections, sacking of the INEC boss, setting up of a "Government of National Unity" (ING), and for new elections, even for the so-called "national conference."

The point is that no matter the number of times that the elections are cancelled and redone, under this system the results would continue to remain the SAME! If the PDP cannot rig, the AC and ANPP would rig and the resultant regimes would always remain the same. So long as the workers do not have a viable party to take power, the equation will continue to remain the same and the conditions are bound to get worse.

Secondly, in spite of the crocodile tears these disgruntled bourgeois opposition politicians are shedding now, they fear the mass actions more than they fear their ruling colleagues. They remain self-centred and prefer a deal rather than a revolution where the masses would take power that would further the interests of the working people.

They would also betray the masses. History is littered with examples. The examples of the June 12 days are still fresh in memory. And even now, we can see how the various bourgeois politicians are inconsistent and they cannot even form a united front against the PDP. Every attempt to form a united front has failed within hours after they had reached an agreement.

The working class cannot trust these people. Rather the workers must set up their own independent political organs and work in active alliance with other poor strata of the society.
NGO Activists and ‘Civil Society'

Tied to the apron strings of the ruling class are the petty-bourgeois activists who cannot see the need for the working class to be independent of the various wings of the ruling elites. To them the workers must always come second to the ruling elites and thus they are agents of confusion. They always advocate shortcuts, which are actually routes to more confusion and disasters. They do not believe that the workers can have an independent political party along with independent political action.

Currently, the imperialists and local politicians have pumped in millions of dollars towards corrupting activists in Nigeria. These have created scores of NGO activists who were formerly left/socialist but have now become "civil society". Further to these, there are those who have never understood the processes unfolding and always adopt wrong and costly methods.

This is why Labour must build rank and file worker participation into its decision-making processes. This is the only way the struggle can be advanced. Relying on "Civil Society" in LASCO can prove to be very unproductive because the NGOs do not have a feel of the minds of the working masses and at times have an anti-worker and pro-bourgeois outlook. Labour must start by organizing workers into their own political party, the Labour Party (LP), chase out the foreign elements there and set in motion the process of building rank and file participation in decision making.
Socialism: Only Way Forward

Socialism remains the only working class alternative to the current rotten system of capitalism. The masses of Latin America have already rediscovered these realities after years of hopeless reform programmes which reformed nothing, and only created more crisis. It created more poverty and a minority of rich people.

The movement around Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's call for 21st Century Socialism is growing by the millions. People are coming to see that capitalism is responsible for all their problems and that it is a system that survives on LIES.

In Nigeria, only the booting out of power of the ruling elites by the workers and the reversal of the so-called reforms via socialism can solve the current tragedy caused by capitalism. And a step towards this is to organize based on the idea of SOCIALISM, to mobilize the rank and file of the working masses and struggle to attain power.