Urgent need to build Mass Working People's Party now!
After several months of heavily monetized campaigns, inducement and rotten politicking, the Osun State governorship election held on August 9, 2014. The election held amidst heavy militarization with well over 65, 000 security forces, including the police, state security service, army etc., storming the state as if there was a state of war. At the end of voting, the current governor of the state, who was also the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Rauf Aregbesola won the election, garnering 394, 684 votes, amounting to 55 percent of the votes. His main challenger, Iyiola Omisore, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party ruling at the federal level, scored 292, 747 votes, amounting to 40 percent of the votes. The Labour Party candidate, Fatai Akinbade, a former chieftain of PDP and erstwhile secretary to the earlier Oyinlola/PDP government had a meager 8, 898 votes. Unlike previous governorship elections, this election was not characterized by reports of mass rigging, ballot snatching and stuffing, violence at polling centres or data crunching. Therefore, the results present a good factsheet for the review of the election.
The election, as much as there was heavy but intimidating presence of the security forces, witnessed high turnout in many areas. As early as 5.30 am, voters in many towns including Osogbo, Gbongan, Ile-Ife, etc. had besieged the polling centres. This in itself was a strong message to the security forces that people were prepared to defend their votes. More than this, it shows the readiness of the mass of people, especially the downtrodden, to take necessary political actions to fight for improved living conditions. Unfortunately, the political parties and their candidates in the election offered no fundamental and practical way out of the socio-economic problems facing the working and toiling masses. Therefore, this mass enthusiasm, in the absence of a genuine working people's party with clear programme of socio-economic, political and cultural emancipation, became a mere service in the interests of various capitalist political forces.
This election witnessed a huge deployment of billions of naira for campaign and inducement. This was carried out by all the major political parties, especially PDP and APC. The Aregbesola government, despite being in government for about four years and thus having the opportunity to use its scorecard for campaign, was engaged in rotten politics of inducement through what is now commonly referred to as "Stomach Infrastructure". This involved inducing voters with staple consumer goods like rice, kerosene, etc. There was stiff competition between the PDP and APC in the rotten politics of "Stomach Infrastructure". This is aside from billions spent on hundreds of bill boards and thousands of posters. This clearly shows the bankrupt character of these parties.
The PDP has been the ruling party at the Federal level since 1999, but so terrible is its performance that it had to rely on inducement of voters to secure votes. This is not unexpected as the party, and the governments it formed at national and state levels, are rooted in neo-liberal policies of privatization, commercialization, etc. that ensures more wealth for the rich few, while pushing more people to the dungeon of poverty and want. But the APC is no different. In fact, the state was almost choked with posters and billboards and banners, such that people started wondering if Aregbesola was an opposition candidate in the state. This is in sharp contrast with that party's performance in the 2007 and 2011 elections whene the mass of people, without being assaulted with unnecessary campaigns and inducements voted en mass for the APC predecessors, the AC and ACN respectively, seeing it as an alternative to the PDP. Coupled with this was the rotten politics of wooing other corrupt politicians into his campaign trains.
For instance, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the immediate past governor and a former member of the PDP, was ushered into the Aregbesola campaign team and the APC with fanfare. This is an insult to the memories of the hundreds of youths and poor people killed, injured, maimed or detained in the bitter struggle that ensued to reclaim Aregbesola's mandate stolen by Oyinlola and his PDP thugs in 2007. But the same Oyinlola, along with others like Isiaka Adeleke, became the beautiful brides of the APC. This further shows that there is no fundamental difference among the bourgeois political parties and politicians. They only use political parties as a means of identification. Indeed, Omisore himself, the PDP candidate, was a former member and Deputy Governor under the banner of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), the forerunner of APC. Moreover, it shows the rotten character of the Aregbesola government. Therefore, the support given to this government by some 'left activists' and 'socialists' shows the bankrupt ideas of this set of people.
Victory Reveals Weakened Social Base
Immediately, after the elections, various interest groups, not the least many self-styled 'activists' and 'socialists', were falling over each other to congratulate the winner of the election, Rauf Aregbesola and the APC. The victory was hailed as victory over evil and devious forces. To the APC, it was a gracious opportunity to start reclaiming its lost ground after suffering a humiliating defeat in Ekiti State governorship election some two months ago. However, a sober analysis shows that rather than the election showing acceptance of the Rauf Aregbesola/APC government, it is more of an indictment of the government. For an incumbent governor, contesting against one of the most divisive and hated candidates in Osun State's history, the election cannot be an approval of the government. That the PDP candidate, who has no discernible alternative to many of the Aregbesola's anti-poor policies, was able to garner as much as 40 percent of the votes, shows the growing disenchantment with the Aregbesola/APC government.
Of course, Aregbesola won with a margin of over 101, 000 votes, but this is just a side of the story. Close to half of this vote differential, 46, 518, came from just two local government areas in Osogbo (Osogbo and Olorunda), the state capital, where the government's so-called developmental projects are concentrated. Despite the heavy presence of government in these areas, the opposition polled as much as 20, 000 votes. In many local governments where the APC won, the margins were not so much; with PDP scoring thousands of votes. For instance in Esa-Oke, the hometown of the late AD chieftain, Bola Ige, the PDP candidate won two units while the APC won three. Indeed, many of those who voted for Aregbesola, did so not necessarily because they supported the government's policies most of which were anti-poor, but to avoid the horrible spectre of Omisore emerging as a governor. More so that over 292,000 voted against Aregbesola is a sign of the weakened base of the government and a foretaste of the mass movement that will develop later over social and economic issues.
This presents two conclusions. The first is that his victory notwithstanding, the election is a rejection of the anti-poor policies of the Aregbesola/APC government in the education sector, economy, civil service, etc., which have alienated majority of the working people. It is instructive here to recall that the period before the election had seen strikes and combative protests by students, workers and other social forces over some of the government's divisive education and other policies. Indeed just before the election, an over five month-long strike of academic staff of the State tertiary institutions was hurriedly "settled" to avoid a potential electoral backlash. Therefore the election, while granting another four-year term for the government, does not reflect general acceptance of the government, nay its policies. It is more of choosing between two evils, albeit a lesser evil. Clearly, an attempt of the government to wanting to continue implementing the same policies will lead to explosion of mass anger and resistance among the working and toiling people in the coming period.
Secondly, this election has shown the growing disillusionment with the main capitalist political parties in the country. While the APC was rejected in Ekiti State, the victory of PDP there has little to do with its acceptance, but more of protest votes against the outgoing Fayemi/APC government. In Osun State, the victory of Aregbesola/APC, as much as it reflects the general hatred for the PDP and especially its candidate, shows the latent anger against the anti-poor pro-rich policies of the Aregbesola/APC government. More than this, more and more people are seeing the bankruptcy of the vague 'progressivism' of the APC as a national opposition party. As 2015 elections draw nearer, this disillusionment may be expressed more sharply. While the Osun elections may have bought the APC some lifeline and helped it recover from its losses in Ekiti, the biting reality of the anti-poor nature of the party will show it has nothing to offer the people. The recent reversal of the exorbitant school fees in Lagos State University (LASU) to the old rate by the Fashola/APC government is a desperate step to stem the supersonic free-fall of the party's appeal among the working masses.
New Mass Party and Rebuilding Labour Movement
This therefore emphasizes the need to build an alternative political platform of the working and oppressed people, as a counterweight to the rotten politics of the main bourgeois parties. The ridiculous votes scored by the Labour Party in the election, shows that the party has no working class base. It also reflects the failure of the rotten politics of its leadership which prioritizes enticement of disgruntled anti-poor politicians, at the expense of building the party among the working and oppressed people. The trend of the party's politics and its low level of acceptance, has further underlined the need to build a new mass party of the working people.
The leadership of the labour movement unfortunately has gone neck-deep into rotten politics while abandoning the fundamental task of building mass movement of the working people. This is clearly reflected in the Osun governorship election, where various sections of the labour leadership in the name of workers supported various bourgeois contestants in PDP and APC. While the main leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) supported the candidacy of Aregbesola, a splinter group within TUC leadership supported Omisore. Prior to this time, the national leadership labour movement supported one politician or the other as witnessed in Ekiti and Anambra, where the NLC leaders supported Kayode Fayemi and Ifeanyi Ubah respectively. These same leaders that were quick to adopt bourgeois politicians find it difficult to defend to logical conclusion interests of workers. This therefore emphasizes the need to rebuild the labour movement with revolutionary leadership, as a first premise for a fighting platform.
The Challenge of the SPN
In recognition of the need for a mass working people's party, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), alongside other change-seeking activists, socialists, workers and youths, have initiated the formation of a party, the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) as a first step towards building a mass party of the working people. The SPN has reached the final stage of registration with the INEC, despite several hurdles placed against it by the electoral body. If registered, SPN will stand for elections in the coming period. However, registered or not, the party shall continue to build mass movements of workers, the poor and youth for immediate and long-term socio-economic, political and cultural emancipation.
The party will be run as a democratic and revolutionary platform of the working people. Elected politicians under SPN will earn the salary of workers, and donate the rest to the genuine causes of communities and working people as democratically decided by the party. However if the party is in the government the resources freed up by paying elected and appointed officials average salaries of civil servant will be ploughed into fund for pro-working people program. SPN will fight and implement all social programmes including free and quality education at all levels; free medical care at the point of use; mass public housing; full, decent and secure employment for all able bodied citizens; adequate and potable water supply; stable, cheap and accessible electricity supply for all Nigerians; massive infrastructural development, etc.
In order to mobilise resources for these programmes, the SPN will end the corrupt contract system whereby billions of naira are gifted to private contractors, while the public works departments are made redundant. Moreover, SPN will strive to end the culture of looting by putting resources, projects and administration of public offices under a strict democratic control of workers and communities. This will save the society of billions of naira going to the pockets of a few rich. Ultimately, the SPN will nationalize the mainstay of the economy and put it under democratic public control, ownership and management. This will mean billions of dollars of public wealth going to the private accounts of big businesses – both local and foreign – will be made available for human, materials and societal development.
In Osun State, there is indication that the coming period will witness mass struggles of workers and the poor, as the government will use its electoral victory to continue with many of its anti-poor policies, many of which have been highlighted in our previous statements and analyses (see www.socialistnigeria.org). We in the SPN will play active roles in these struggles. However, we enjoin all change-seeking people including workers, youth, students, pro-labour activists, to join us in building the genuine political platform for socialist change.