As we march forward to the next general elections in Nigeria, we must focus on breaking the chain of sorrow, tears and blood that has been the lot of the working people and poor youth. This requires our looking at the elections and beyond it.
We cannot afford to have faith in anyone of our oppressors. Our primary concern must be to build the political power we need, to liberate ourselves.
We need much more than our PVCs and ballot boxes. We need to emancipate ourselves and thus be able to use the wealth we create with our labor to better our lives; ensuring that everybody has enough food, decent housing, quality education and health, and adequate leisure time.
We, the poor masses in Nigeria, fought military dictatorship from the early 1980s to the end of the 1990s. When civil rule was reinstated on 29 May 1999, there was a sigh of relief. Many people believed that this would mean our political liberty and the improvements in the social and economic conditions which we need.
But the reverse has been the case. Just like when earlier generations of the working people fought and defeated colonial rule, those who took over have been the beneficiaries of our struggle. They have become stupendously richer while the immense majority of the population has sunk deeper into poverty.
This goes to show that we need much more than just elections. We, the poor, exploited working people and youth have to fight for to liberate ourselves from the bondage of the ruling class that has always been in charge, and overthrow their oppressive capitalist system.
Elections are important. They provide opportunities for revolutionary parties that are committed to the people’s emancipation to present alternative ways of running society and mobilize the working class and other oppressed sections of the population for system change and not just change of government.
There are similarities in every election. The most important to note is that the ruling class allows, indeed promotes elections as ways to effect substantial changes in the lives of the people through government change.
This possibility is true to only a limited extent. For example, revolutionary or radical parties could emerge victorious at the polls and use that opportunity to effect significant changes. An example of such a situation happened in Chile in 1970 when the Popular Unity coalition brought Salvador Allende to power.
But even when this occurs, the capitalists who run this oppressive system mobilize all the resources they can muster nationally and internationally to smash such seeds of revolutionary democratic change.
They own the factories, businesses and finance that are the lifeblood of the economy. And they have a firm grasp on the police and the army, mass media and educational institutions, the national civil service bureaucracy and structures of international governance.
They demonstrated their ruthlessness against revolutionary change in Chile. Three years after Salvador Allende was democratically elected as a socialist president, he was overthrown, and thousands of workers and activists killed.
The main reason elections are important to the capitalists is that they help to give an illusion of choice to the masses. And with this goes hope, which helps to legitimize the ruling class’s continued oppression of our class.
So, we have to see elections as a moment in the long-drawn struggle for our self-emancipation. Our power lies primarily in our self-organization and solidarity as working people nationally and globally.
We need to build democracy from below, with structures of power in our workplaces, campuses, and neighborhoods, which are elected by and responsible to the masses directly, to fight for, win and defend the revolution. And it is only with revolution that we can liberate ourselves.
Elections could provide opportunity to build, consolidate, or sow the seeds for building such structures. Revolutionary parties can seize such opportunities only when they have a critical mass of activists committed to and with experience in organizing extra-electoral struggles.
Every election has its own specific dynamics, emerging from the social and economic context of class struggle when they take place. This includes the level of class consciousness and confidence of working-class people, and the nature of parties which represent or claim to represent the working masses.
The 2023 elections: context and matters arising
For the first time in the sixty-odd years since winning flag Independence, civil rule has lasted for about a quarter of a century. But the 2023 elections, which represent this consolidation of capitalist democracy, will take place amid an unprecedented state of general crisis in the country. And none of the 17 capitalists’ parties on the ballot can lead the country out of this valley of the shadow of death.
To merely survive from one day to the other has become an arduous task for scores of millions of poor Nigerians. Cost of living has been soaring over the past few years.
This is being driven by runaway inflation, which has risen consistently over the last ten months to 21.47% by the end of November. The unemployment rate has also continued to rise over the years, standing at 33.3% in 2022, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), with youth unemployment being 42.5%.
The dizzying depreciation of the naira, which has taken an even more worrisome turn in recent months by up to 33.7% between July and October, has worsened this catastrophic economic situation.
Any party coming into power will have a major economic crisis to contend with. The response of any capitalist government will be to tighten fiscal consolidation on behalf of big business. This means that, while the current government has flogged us with whips, they will whip us with scorpions, irrespective of the sweet promises they are making now that they are running for office.
This is already self-evident. The four leading capitalist parties (All Progressives Congress, People’s Democratic Party, Labour Party, New Nigeria People’s Party), have all committed themselves to continuing privatization.
And as we know from bitter experiences in Nigeria and worldwide, this simply amounts to subsiding private profits with public resources that could have been used to better the lot of the poor masses.
More Nigerians are getting poorer. Their lives and communities are also increasingly unsafe. Every part of the country has fallen under siege of bandits of all sorts. Once again, the different parties of the bosses are telling us they will solve the dreadful state of insecurity that pervades every region, particularly in the north. But these include the same people who assured us in 2015 that General Muhammadu Buhari would make insecurity a thing of the past when he got to power.
In fact, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, was one of the loudest voices saying so. He said that being an army General and former head of state, this would be no problem for Buhari.
But Boko Haram and other armed sectarian bodies like Ansaru/ISWAP are still thriving, bombing trains, killing, maiming, and kidnapping people. Indeed, the number of non-state actors driving insurgency has increased.
Bandits have taken over large swathes of lands in the north, collecting “taxes” in cash and kind and using residents in communities as forced labour to till farms in the bandits’ enclaves. In Zamfara alone, bandits run things in 13 out of the 14 Local Government Areas in the state.
Between them, these non-state actors have killed over 53,000 people under General Muhammadu Buhari (retd)’s watch as president.
It is quite clear from their manifestos and the antecedents of their flag bearers that the capitalist parties cannot solve the problem at hand. But we see large turnouts at their rallies, and an undeniable mass presence of youths in the “Obidient” movement behind the Peter Obi candidacy of the Labour Party. The reasons for this are not far-fetched.
“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas.” It also helps that, in politics, the dominance of these ideas is well oiled with huge amounts of money.
In periods of normalcy, these ideas appear to be natural. For example, many people consider “politics” to be the preserve of “politicians”. By this they mean those members of the circles of the thieving capitalists who have traditionally managed state affairs on behalf of the capitalist class as a whole. And they label revolutionaries as “activists” who should stick to criticism of the excesses of “politicians.”
But periods of systemic crises, like that which we are going through now, open cracks in the dominance of the ruling class dominance, and the dominance of their ideas. Revolutionary politics do not fill these cracks immediately.
Often, the failures of the capitalist system is refracted through the lens of the section of the capitalist class that ruled on behalf of the capitalist class. And the political project of another section of the same class would appear as an alternative, even though it essentially represents what is being rejected.
This is the case with Peter Obi and the “Obidient” movement it has inspired. Revolutionary forces need to arm the working class and its allies for the struggle ahead by showing the politically fraudulent reformist illusions that movements like this sow for what they actually are.
There is abundant evidence that Obi is every inch as corrupt and anti-poor people as Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, whom Peter Obi ran with in the 2019 presidential election as a vice-presidential candidate.
For the eight years that he was governor of Anambra state, he pursued anti-worker policies. He refused to pay the national minimum wage, owed salaries and pensions. In some state-owned corporations, this was for years.
He equally promoted schisms, bigotry, and tribalism. He deepened the cleavage between Catholics and Anglicans in the state, enjoining Catholics to “maintain their grip on the state.” His administration arrested poor beggars on the streets and “deported” them back “home.”
It was clear enough that he was as corrupt as they come, even when he was governor. He invested $30 million Anambra state funds in a company where his family-owned shares.
The extent of his corruption became exposed in recent times. As the Pandora Papers showed, he has several businesses in offshore accounts. These include Gabriella Investments Ltd. in the British Virgin Islands, which he set up in his second term as governor. He never declared this, and any of the others, to the Code of Conduct Bureau, in contravention of the law.
Chukwuma Soludo, the former Central Bank Governor who is now the Anambra state governor, has also punctured the Obi’s lauded claim to prudence and an acute sense of investment, as governor. He pointed out that Obi’s investment of $12 million in SabMiller “is now worth less than $3 million.”
He further pointed out that “poverty more than doubled under Peter Obi” as governor “and more than 50%” of Anambrarans lived in poverty at the time, adding that roads made built by Peter Obi, which he flaunts have been washed away whilst those built by his predecessor remained functional.
Soludo summed up the heart of Obi’s politics and corrupt neoliberal economics with a bold question mark on “the propriety of using taxpayers’ money to promote a company in which one is a shareholder in the name of “investment”, or even whether so called “savings” are warranted when there were dozens of schools without roofs or classrooms, or local governments without access roads or hospitals without doctors/nurses.”
The real Peter Obi’s rule was not only marked by sleaze, incompetence and lies. He also ruled Anambra with impunity and an iron fist of repression. He used the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SAS) to suppress those he considered as enemies.
The Anambra State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality, Extra-Judicial Killings and other Related Matters which was set up, as in 27 other states after the October 2020 EndSARS Rebellion, invited Obi to respond to a petition which revealed how he tortured opponents.
He simply lawyered up. His counsel, Mr Alex Ejesieme SAN asked for the petition to be dismissed. It also speaks volumes that Peter Obi’s first choice of his campaign’s spokesperson was General John Enenche. Enenche was the Army spokesperson who declared that reports of the killings of EndSARS protesters were fake news.
The worst thing that could happen to the Peter Obi candidacy is to win the presidential race. The illusion that he is in any way a pro-people alternative to the degenerate APC regime will be revealed in a way that will break the hearts of many of his supporters.
If he could take the steps he took in Anambra, when oil prices were as high as $174 per barrel, the impact of the harsh anti-poor policies he would take on working people now that receipts from oil have plummeted to half of that, and the economy is in crisis. And he would readily take steps to crush any popular opposition to such neoliberal policies.
African Action Congress: liberation politics on the ballot
There is a revolutionary alternative on the ballot, which stands for the liberation of the working class and all oppressed sections of the population. This is the African Action Congress (AAC), with Omoyele Sowore as its presidential candidate.
Since its formation in 2018, it has been much more than a mere electoral machinery, while also being the only revolutionary platform that has consistently been on the ballot. This has been despite an avalanche of state attack and attempts to usurp the party.
With its Take It Back (TiB) movement, the party has been at the barricades with several communities fighting against epileptic power supply and crazy electricity bills. It has helped mobilize demonstrations to defend the right to freedom of speech. It also bore the torch of a revolutionary alternative in the EndSARS rebellion.
The party has been the only party that has consistently been in the trenches with the working class in all its major demonstrations in Abuja, Kaduna, Lagos, Port Harcourt, and every part of the country. Indeed, its members who are trade unionists have been at the fore of some of the fiercest struggles of the working class in the aviation, road transport, education, and other sectors of the economy.
AAC is not only the leading partisan body of radical resistance in national politics today. It also sets out a program for the revolutionary transformation of Nigeria in A People’s Manifesto for Liberation, which is the party’s 2023 electoral platform.
An AAC government will be a government of the long exploited and oppressed working-class people and youth. It will emerge as a sword and shield of the oppressed themselves through our collective struggles to break the shackles of capitalism.
We must take the battle of ideas and politics to the capitalists in the 2023 elections. SWL calls on workers, artisans, poor farmers, students/youth, women, traders and all who love freedom and are ready to fight for our self-liberation to vote AAC and to join in the battlefields of our workplaces, communities, and campuses in the struggle for revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system, and the building of socialist society.