At least 1,200 enthusiastic members and supporters of the National Conscience Party (NCP) attended a Lagos rally on 1 February 2003 launching the Nigerian election campaign of the Party. The NCP is the most radical party standing in the national, state and local elections, scheduled to start in April.
The rally was overwhelmingly made up of young people under the age of 25, the majority of whom came from Ajegunle, the most ethnically mixed and one of the poorest working class districts in Lagos.
The main rally was preceded by a cavalcade of vehicles carrying the NCP’s presidential candidate, Gani Fawehinmi, through some of the main Ajegunle markets. Gani, a renowned democratic rights and anti-corruption fighter, received a rapturous reception from the crowds. There was absolutely no hostility. People were divided between those supporting the NCP and those, weighted down by the burden of lost hopes and cynicism, who were uninterested or asked for money to secure their votes. But the NCP, unlike all the other parties, is not buying votes.
After the rally, the returning NCP cavalcade was met by even bigger, cheering crowds on the streets as workers returning home gave an even more lively welcome to Gani.
The open-air rally was effectively organised in less than a week and its attendance showed again how the NCP appeals especially to working class youth. Many waited in the hot sun for hours before the main speakers’ programme commenced. They responded extremely well to speakers’ attacks on the ruling elite for its corruption and failure to do anything for the working masses. At the end of the rally, dozens went to the platform to ask how they can join the NCP.
NCP completely different to establishment parties
The NCP is seen as very different to the corrupt and rotten establishment parties (although of course NCP members are very aware of the need to prevent careerists using the party for their own advantages).
The contrast with the rallies of the establishment Nigerian parties was very clear. These parties use their positions of state power or big money backers to bribe people with food and money to attend their rallies. When the President or State governors plan public meetings orders go out to each local government area to supply such and such number of people for the audience.
The NCP is completely different. No one was paid to attend the Ajegunle rally and no free food was provided. People attended because they were looking for a change.
The ruling elite is putting big obstacles in front of the NCP, but the Ajegunle rally and other activities, are showing how it is gathering around it those Nigerians who want a change, particularly the working class youth. The NCP has the possibility to become a major force.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM – CWI affiliate) played an important part in the mobilisation for the rally. The DSM has been an active part of the NCP since it was launched in 1994, arguing that socialist policies are needed if the NCP’s policy to "abolish poverty" can be implemented. Segun Sango, the DSM General Secretary, who is also Chair of the NCP in Lagos State, chaired the Ajegunle rally. Illustrating the thirst for socialist ideas amongst NCP supporters, over 300 copies of the February edition of the DSM’s paper, called Socialist Democracy, were sold at the rally.