Nigeria: Fighting attempts to rig forthcoming elections.

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) calls on the Nigerian working people, labour and youth organisations and activists to rise up to fight the recent decision by the so-called Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to register only three new political parties out of the 24 political parties which applied during the registration exercise.

We call on the National Conscience Party (NCP) in particular to organise mass political actions to challenge INEC’s obnoxious ruling.

INEC’s decision to register another three pro-rich, elitist capitalist parties UNPP, NDP and APGA in addition to the already three recognised bourgeois parties PDP, AD and ANPP is not only undemocratic and unconstitutional, it is a continuation of the deliberate and calculated policy of the Nigerian ruling class to prevent the emergence of any pro-masses political party that could represent and champion the interests and aspirations of the oppressed, poor working masses. In particular, this latest exercise is obviously meant to stop the emergence of a pro-masses party like the NCP which has a great potential to dislodge the existing three registered parties from power as a result of its opposition to their massive corruption and unpopular anti-poor policies of privatisation, commercialisation, retrenchment of workers, etc.

INEC’s charade

By all yardsticks, the party registration exercise conducted by the Guobadia led INEC is a complete charade and a gargantuan fraud. Above all, it is a travesty of democracy.

Even more than the initial three registered parties, the three new parties UNPP, NDP and APGA have no discernible followership anywhere in the country. Apart from the money-bag treasury looters who parade themselves as the leaders of these parties, they have no active membership whatsoever. This contrasts with the NCP which has been in existence since 1994, has thousands of registered members across the country and organises political activities. Yet, the independent, impartial, wise men and women of INEC in their infinite wisdom consider NCP as not deserving registration.

New parties, old order

A careful analysis of the composition of the leadership of the three new-parties shows that they are made up of essentially the same ruling class elements, both civilian and military, who have ruled and ruined the country. Some of the notorious figures behind these parties are former military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida; his deputy, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu; his chief press secretary, Chief Duro Onabule; his Attorney General, Chief Clement Akpamgbo; Chief Emeka Ojukwu, Donald Etiebet, Abacha eras ex-state military governors, and similar corrupt, anti-poor and reactionary characters. None of these elements is capable of offering a credible and pro-masses alternative to the devastating anti-poor policies of the ruling PDP, APP and AD.

However, the outcome of the registration exercise should not be a surprise. Right from the word go, INEC had determined to implement the ruling class agenda of preventing the registration of any pro-working people party. This is what lies behind the draconian, undemocratic and unconstitutional guidelines on party registration issued and used by INEC. As DSM, NCP and other organisations and activists have continued to explain, the conditionalities contained in these guidelines can only be met by billionaire treasury-looters and fraudsters.

3 years of disappointments

The Nigerian working masses waged titanic battles against military dictatorship for over one and a half decade in the expectation that a civilian administration will bring improved living conditions and put a stop to the country’s vicious cycle of endemic poverty, crimes, corruption and political instability.

Tragically, after three years of civil rule, not only has the aspiration of the masses being largely unfulfilled, in certain aspects, things are getting worse. Low real income, mass unemployment and commercialisation of social services like education and health services by the PDP, AD and APP governments continue to keep overwhelming majority of workers, youth, peasant farmers, traders and the rural population in mass poverty. Rather than create new jobs, tens of thousands of workers in both the public and private sectors have been sacked.

Just like in the Second Republic, non-payment of workers salaries is becoming an increasing phenomenon, with workers being owed as much as six months in a state like Anambra while labour leaders and activists are victimised and persecuted for leading struggles for better wages and working conditions. Among labour leaders sacked for this reason are Ayodele Akele, the chairman of Council of Industrial Unions in Lagos State public service; Dr. Oyebade Olowogboyega, the president of Osun State chapter of National Union of Local Government Employees; and Femi Aborisade, the National General Secretary of the NCP. Millions of pensioners have virtually become destitutes as a result of non-payment of their pensions for several months while many of them have died prematurely.

But while the masses continue to wallow in abject poverty and misery in the midst of potential abundance, political office holders and the politicians in PDP, AD and APP continue to live in luxury and opulence. Despite President Obasanjo’s so-called anti-corruption crusade, billions of Naira are being looted from the public treasury under various disguises.

Last but not the least, political thuggery and violence has become the norm, leading to killings of scores of people in some states, as the capitalist politicians make desperate moves to either retain or acquire power, all in a bid to be in position to loot the public treasury! In short, it has been business as usual for the past three years as far as members of the ruling class are concerned.

It is this complete failure by the existing registered parties which is fuelling the desire for change among the working masses across the country. This is what is responsible for the increasing popularity and mass support for a party like the NCP.

Thus, the refusal to register the NCP will merely deepen the increasing mass disenchantment with civil rule. By denying the working masses the opportunity and the right to vote for parties that could represent their interest, the Obasanjo regime and the ruling class as a whole are digging the grave for civil rule.

This explains the reason why labour and youth activists, the working masses and other organisations must not relent in their efforts in fighting for the right of working peoples parties like the NCP to exist and contest elections. Despite INEC’s ruling, the struggle for a genuine multi-party democracy in which all groups and individuals will have the right to organise political parties without prior recognition by the government or its agency, must be sustained.

What is to be done?

While the INEC decision represents a setback for the masses and the NCP, the party members and activists should not allow it to dampen their morale or reduce their commitment towards the building of the party. We need to understand that the attainment of a genuine multi-party democracy in particular and the emancipation of the working masses in general will be a product of a protracted struggle. Historically and world-wide the struggle for the liberation of the masses has never been a simple and easy task as the capitalist oppressors and the beneficiaries of the present unjust capitalist order will do everything possible to defend the system and hang on to power by hook or crook. But with persistence, perseverance and correct policies and tactics, the working masses and their party will ultimately triumph.

This is the lesson to be learnt from the experience of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, for instance. Founded in 1912 to fight for black majority rule, the ANC was banned for many decades by the white minority capitalist ruling class. On its part, the ANC even boycotted several undemocratic, kangaroo elections organised by the apartheid regime. But when the regime was eventually compelled by mass struggles to organise the first one person-one vote election in South Africa’s history in 1994, the ANC won an overwhelming majority. Suffice to say that the degeneration of the ANC leadership and their embrace of capitalism makes it necessary for the South African masses to build a new working peoples party.

In Russia, the victorious October 1917 socialist revolution would not have been possible without the correct programme and the several years of patient preparations, propaganda, agitation and organisation by the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin.

Against the background of the above analysis, what steps must now be taken by NCP activists to actualise the recognition of the party’s right to exist and contest elections? What kind of programmes and activities would make the NCP to realise its goal of becoming a party of the working masses and achieving its objective of abolition of poverty?

First and foremost, the NCP must immediately put in place a programme of political actions to challenge the INEC decision not to register it. Mass protests, picketings and rallies should be organised in many parts of the country by the party. These must be preceded by the production and circulation of thousands of posters and leaflets. These activities should be aimed at exposing to the masses the ruling class conspiracy and fraud behind the so-called party registration exercise. Also, the party will explain the need to continue to struggle until a genuine multi-party democracy which recognises the right of groups and individuals to belong to political parties and contest elections without registration by the government or any of its agencies such as INEC is achieved. In addition, there should be freedom for independent candidates to stand in elections.

Secondly, through these activities, the party must continue to recruit change-seeking workers and youth into its ranks and continue to put up party structures at all levels: wards, local governments, states, national, campuses, communities, etc.

A party of struggles

However, this will not be possible unless the NCP continues to be organised as a party of struggles, whether or not it is allowed to contest election at any point in time by the powers-that-be. In other words, the party must be prepared at all times to organise and lead mass struggles against capitalist attacks on the living and working conditions of the masses and for the provision of water, electricity, food, education, healthcare, transportation and telecommunication and other basic necessities of life. The party must continue to oppose and mobilise against the anti-poor programmes such as privatisation of public wealth, commercialisation of social services, and retrenchment of workers being implemented by all the money-bag parties. In short, whether registered or not, the party must continue to make itself relevant to the attainment of the rights, aspirations and yearnings of the masses.

A socialist programme

But most importantly, the NCP members and activists need to understand that in order to satisfy the need of the masses for economic prosperity, political freedom and social security on a lasting basis, the party must be built on an anti-capitalist, socialist ideology. Its goal should be the coming to power of a workers and poor peasants government that will make the abundant resources of society truly available for the use of the entire society and not only to further enrich a wealthy few.

This type of government will put the commanding sectors of the economy such as petroleum, mineral resources, manufacturing, banking and finance, and all the big multinational and local companies under public ownership with democratic control and management by the working people. It is only this democratic socialist arrangement that will make it possible to launch a massive programme for food production, housing construction, free and qualitative education and medicare, full employment, telephones, and create a basis for the eradication of mass poverty, crimes, corruption, prostitution, ethnic and religious conflicts, and political instability which have continued to ravage the country despite the end of military dictatorship.

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