The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) supports the demand and agitation for autonomy for local governments. We however warn that the autonomy will not automatically engender development at the grassroots level.
We hold that the fundamental cause of failure of governance at all levels is the anti-poor and pro-rich policies embraced by self-serving capitalist ruling elite of all ruling and main opposition political parties. Therefore, granting autonomy to Local government ruled by the anti-poor, pro-establishment parties whose ruinous capitalist policies are responsible for the prevailing condition of mass poverty in the midst of huge resources will rather bring the national cake closer to a few thieves than developments for benefit of all.
For the local government autonomy to be meaningful we demand adequate funding of the local government and democratic control of the administration of the local government including projects by the elected representatives of workers, traders, artisans, youths, peasants and community members. This is in order to guarantee judicious spending of the local government resources.
The fact that the two factions of the Governors’ Forum, which is divided on party lines, are united in their opposition to the local government autonomy has further confirmed our position that there is no fundamental difference between the ruling PDP and opposition APC. To the state governors, local government area is another avenue for looting as well as creation of jobs for cronies and hangers-on.
We appreciate the fears of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) which has opposed the local government autonomy. We recall that the responsibility of payment of salaries of primary school teachers had to be taken away from local governments during the military era when they could not pay and owed teachers’ salaries for several months. The position of the NUT however gives the false impression that basic education and teachers welfare are being and would be better taken care of by the States. That is incorrect!
We recall that primary schools were closed down for about one academic session recently in Benue and Kogi States as a result of the inability or refusal of the state governments to pay and improve conditions of teachers! Unfortunately, the national leadership of the NUT did not declare or organise any solidarity action in support of the teachers while the long strikes lasted. Many states including Lagos have refused to pay Teacher Special Allowance that was won with strike and mass protest some years ago. Yet, the national leadership of NUT has not done anything tangible to enforce its implementation.
All this means that the NUT must always be prepared to defend the interests of teachers whether they are under local governments or the state governments.
We hold that whatever the type or form of government so far it is run on the basis of capitalism, it cannot guarantee better conditions for the working people or the provision of infrastructure and social services. However, with mass struggles neo-liberal attacks or anti-poor policies can be defeated, albeit temporarily.
Therefore, fundamentally, what the working people should fight for is a replacement of the self-serving government at all levels with a government composed by genuine working class representatives only which can, by the aid of a socialist plan of the economy, guarantee a better life for all. This is why we have been calling on labour ledership to initiate the process of forming and building a mass working class political party that can provide the vehicle for working masses to take political power. In the meantime, we call on workers and youths to join us in the struggle for the registration of SPN which has been formed to serve as a striking example of the working people political alternative in the absence of a mass party of working people.