by Baba Aye
Half a year after the All Progressives Congress made history by becoming the first opposition party to emerge as ruling party, the contradictions of its project are obvious to the discerning eye. The point of departure in grasping the possibilities and limitations of the APC government must be a clear understanding of what it represents. To win electoral support for its shot at power, it had to symbolise much more than being an alternative government. What it effectively proposed was a form of regime change.
There are three layers within which the political power of a ruling class is manifested. These are governments, regimes and the state. More often than not, governments come and go. These could be of the same or of different parties which might or might not share the same ideology, broadly speaking. At the base of all governments, behind it and manifesting through it is the state.
The state comprises governments (at all levels) as well as the means of administration (the civil service bureaucracy) and coercion (armies, police, courts, prisons etc.) with which the political will (“the law) of the ruling class is enforced. Thus the so-called “rule of law” is basically the ruling class’ dictatorship, which could be through democratic or authoritarian means.
Closely tied to these means of coercion are those ideological institutions with which the ruling class moulds the minds of the oppressed working-class people to see the existing order, established by the bosses’-class in their own interest as “our” system, which cannot be changed.
In between the deep state and the surface structure of government, lies the regime. This is the broad spectrum of mechanisms, processes and practice which generally sets the context of how the state and politics are managed and organised, usually, by the ruling class. Thus for example the Nigerian state which has existed since, let us say 1914, had different governments under the colonial regime. And after independence, we have had military regimes and civilian regimes where corruption and ineptitude have been the context within NPC/NCNC, NPN and PDP governments had ruled.
The essence of the APC’s victory was to effect a regime change. This is not simply because of its electoral promises. The general mood in the country for change which the party latched upon and the visage as well as arguably the track record of its Muhammadu Buhari as an austere man of justice were part of the ingredients of the grand illusion. Of great significance as well is the global situation of contestation against a discredited neoliberal era whilst the popular forces, despite rising revolts are not ideologically and organisationally equipped to effect regime change as a result of the muck from yesteryears that still for now, hold back the depth which the storms of working-class people’s power could reach.
But, what APC’s symbolism represents cannot be met not just because of the deep-seated extent of what it apparently desires to overturn outside it (PDP as government and the regime of corruption as endless “primitive accumulation”). Within it lies the same devil without. It is within this context that the intra-party squabbles in the national assembly and the shameless turning down of a senate motion (moved by a PDP senator) for the implementation of its campaign promise of N5,000 unemployment benefits can best be situated.
Working class activists sucked into the illusions of an APC only help to sow the seeds of mass delusion, even if unwittingly. There will be battles ahead, as the APC government attempts to rest on its current mass acceptance of some sort, to enjoin us all to buckle our belts in the face of dwindling resources as neither the world economic crisis in general nor the collapse of oil prices in particular will be going away soon.
Now, more than ever, organised labour has to get its acts right in building an alternative party of working-class people, to lead the mass struggles that lie ahead with the coming burning of illusions.