Another Reason to Build Genuine Political Alternative of the Working and Poor People
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s “Before it is too late” open letter to Jonathan graphically describes the crisis surrounding both the presidency and Nigeria itself. Although partly a product of the vicious in-fighting between the rival factions of the ruling class Obasanjo’s appeal has confirmed the impending catastrophe facing Nigeria.
This unprecedented letter has generated widespread debates and discussions, especially as it is widely acknowledged that the country is moving rapidly on a fast lane towards a cliff edge. The debate has further underscored the growing disillusionment of vast array of Nigerians with the current iniquitous capitalist political and economic set-up represented and headed by the Jonathan/PDP government.
The said letter, while signalling the growing bitter clashes within the various strata of the ruling elites on who next should control economic and political power, actually have nothing to do with the interests of the working and poor people. But the allegations levelled against the Jonathan government, especially those concerning the manner of governance, are both serious and trite even as it exposes the dubious character of Obasanjo.
Obasanjo is hypocritical; he writes that Jonathan is going down the Abacha road whereas the Odi massacre took place barely a few months into his own first term as civilian president. Nevertheless, Obasanjo paints a picture of a creeping dictatorship when he writes about an “allegation of keeping over 1,000 people on political watch list rather than criminal or security watch list and training snipers and other armed personnel secretly and clandestinely acquiring weapons to match for political purposes like Abacha, and training them where Abacha trained his own killers, if it is true, cannot augur well for the initiator, the government and the people of Nigeria.”
These weighty allegations coming from someone inside the inner temple of the capitalist gang again reflects the fact that devil can indeed be scared of human evil sometimes. It should be recalled that Obasanjo played major role in the emergence of Jonathan, both as acting president and substantive president since the death of Umar Yar’Adua. He helped manipulate the ruling PDP party to ensure the emergence of Jonathan.
The ‘revelations’ by Obasanjo, while not new, again reaffirm the position of Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) that the Jonathan government, and indeed all sections of the ruling elites, including the self-proclaimed ‘opposition’ parties, cannot move the country forward economically, politically or socially. In a country where government earned five trillion naira from taxes alone in 2012, but still nothing works for majority of Nigerians, we do not need a soothsayer to tell us that the current political elites can only lead the country to a blind alley. The latest struggle among various strata of the ruling class for 2015 further underscores the need for working and oppressed people to begin the process of decisively intervening in the political landscape by building an alternative political platform that fundamentally represent their interests.
Obasanjo cannot now begin to divorce himself from the rots that currently characterize Nigeria. Indeed, the bankrupt political and economic policies of the Jonathan government are continuation of Obasanjo-era policies. Obasanjo government launched full-scale privatization policy that saw many public enterprises and infrastructures sold out to private hands. The seed of the current rot in the education sector, including the current university lecturers’ strike, was sown by the Obasanjo government. By the time Obasanjo was stopped from his third term agenda and forced to hand over, trillions of naira had accrued to state coffers, yet poverty was more pervasive than when he became president while unemployment was at a historic height. At a time when university education was gasping for survival, the best solution Obasanjo and his deputy, Atiku Abubakar, could offer was the establishment of their own private universities.
Therefore, Obasanjo is part of the rot of governance in Nigeria, and by all standards pacesetter for the Jonathan clueless and anti-poor capitalist government. All his pontification about insecurity, unemployment, corruption is mere attempt at whitewashing his horrible past. The same Obasanjo that was lamenting about Jonathan’s mismanagement of $7 billion could neither account for over $22 billion in excess crude account wasted by his regime nor the over $16 billion wasted on power sector without any tangible result. While corruption has attained a higher priority in Jonathan government’s scale of preference, it is actually a continuation of ruinous past under Obasanjo and Yar’Adua. His economic advice to Jonathan is that the latter, despite his rabid commitment to neo-liberalism, should further open up the economy, especially the oil sector to the IOCs (international oil companies).
However, one of the recurrent themes in Obasanjo’s letter is the issue of whether Jonathan should contest the 2015 election or not. For the majority of working and oppressed people in Nigeria, who have gained less but lost more since the emergence of Jonathan as president, they cannot wait an hour to send this ruinous government packing through mass movement. But the attempt of Obasanjo and the so-called ‘opposition’ party, the APC, to pose the issue of 2015 election around Jonathan contesting or not is self-serving. Indeed, the whole political class, including those in the ‘opposition’ party, represents a monster that an average Nigerian will want to do away with, as they have launched collectively and severally, anti-poor policies on the common people. If Jonathan is stopped today from contesting, the alternative being offered by the APC, or within the PDP will not be a break from the past for the working and oppressed people.
The influx of the anti-Jonathan politicians and governors in PDP into the fold of the ‘opposition’ APC party reflects the fact that, in principle and practice, fundamentally there is no difference between PDP and APC. The scenario of Oyinlola attending the same party meeting with Aregbesola in Osun State is a clear confirmation of this. For most politicians and governors in PDP, it will be a battle of political survival to ensure the continued rule of PDP, while the APC offers no genuine alternative. Therefore, the 2015 elections, aside being a ‘no choice’ situation for the working and oppressed people based on the PDP-APC permutation, may witness unprecedented political violence and rigging that will make 2007 and 2011 manipulations mere child’s play. As Obasanjo alluded to in his letter, Jonathan government is leaving no stone (except provision of basic needs of the common people), including ethnic card, unturned in ensuring his re-emergence come 2015. Surely, the ‘opposition’ will also take a cue from this. As Jonathan government continues to popularize the bonanza of massive looting at federal levels, various state governments including those controlled by the opposition are also building huge reservoir of loots. Therefore, 2015 paints a picture of gloom for the common people.
It is against this background that we in the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) reiterate our call on workers, youths, professionals, artisans, market men and women, unemployed, and the oppressed people in general to join force with us in building a political alternative to the rot represented by the PDP and its clone, misnamed opposition. We make clarion call on leadership of labour movement in Nigeria, being the most organized platform of working people, to spearhead this process for the formation of a genuine political alternative. However the current Labour Party (LP) cannot serve this purpose. Despite being initially formed by the trade unions, Obasanjo’s letter confirms how the LP has been taken over by corrupt elements. The LP leaders have, so far, been silent, on Obasanjo’s complaint to Jonathan that “in the South-West …disgruntled PDP members were going around to recruit people into the Labour Party for you, because, for electoral purpose at the national level, Labour Party will have no candidate but you.” A so-called Labour Party allied with Jonathan’s PDP faction cannot represent working people.
We propose that the process of building this genuine alternative should begin with the convocation of a summit of labour unions, pro-labour organizations, left and socialist organizations, organizations of working people, youth and unemployed, to discuss the formation of a political platform that will champion the demands and needs of the common people. Such a political platform must make as its central programme the takeover of society’s wealth from the hands of rich few, and putting it under democratic public ownership of the working and oppressed people from grassroots to the national level. Such a political platform must ensure that political office holders earn the wages of skilled worker while there must be open democratic process within such a platform. These are necessary for such platform to make genuine difference. Moreover, the labour movement should unite the working and oppressed people through mass struggles against anti-poor, pro-rich policies of capitalist governments at all levels e.g. privatization of electricity sector, under funding of education, pervasive corruption, etc. and in defence of democratic rights.
These struggles, along with building political alternative can mobilize the working and oppressed people together in common struggle to end the rule of ruinous capitalist political class. The labour movement will be betraying its historic duty if it fails in this direction. SPN is committed to playing a vital role in the process of liberating the oppressed people from the clutches of suffering in the midst of superabundance.
Segun Sango Chinedu Bosah
National Chairperson National Secretary