Nigerian political crisis: Can electoral reform come to the rescue?

Over 70% of the Nigerian population lives below the poverty line; life expectancy stands at 43 years; and 50,000 Nigerian women die from childbirth every year. Instead of finding a solution to these burning problems, the corrupt Nigerian elite is now playing with the idea of “electoral reform” and the labour leaders are falling for this. What is required is an independent party of the working class capable of leading the workers in a struggle to change society.

Trotsky once wrote that the capitalist regimes toboggan to disaster with their eyes closed. This statement perfectly describes the political situation in Nigeria today. As we have stated several times before, the objective conditions required to maintain an ongoing viable bourgeois democratic regime, were completely eroded some years ago.

The present “bourgeois democratic” regime has become a mere empty shell, a corpse waiting to be buried. It is an apparatus that is incapable of living and yet unwilling to die. So as to artificially extend its lifespan beyond its natural limit, the present regime has been clinging on to anything it can get its hands on. The recent casualty of this clinging game is electoral reform.

In this demand for electoral reform, the leadership of the Nigerian trade unions has finally found a common ground upon which they can ally with the so-called “liberal bourgeois” and the imperialists, and consequently further strengthen their collaborationist policies. Electoral reform has been pushed to the forefront of all other more important issues. It has allowed the Labour leadership to temporarily abandon the struggle for better wages for workers, the struggle against deregulation of the oil industry and other struggles for better conditions for working people.

In full collaboration with US and UK imperialism, and other imperialist powers, together with a section of the local Nigerian bourgeoisie, the leadership of the Nigerian trade unions is presently asserting that all the 50 years of suffering of the Nigerian masses under the domination of the Nigerian ruling class can only be addressed by the miracle of sound electoral reform. How much fairness and justice can be guaranteed by our electoral system that is based on the present social economic system managed by inept, inefficient and mafia-ruling class?

Can Nigeria’s social economic set up guarantee a fair electoral system?

Soludo (former Governor of the CBN) explained in his Governor’s address of 2008 that, “Less than 20% of African households own bank accounts or have access to financial services. Nigeria has a highly unequal income distribution profile: about 8% of those that have access to financial services own about 90% of the available deposits.”

Nigeria is a country where over 70% of the population lives below the poverty line and where in 2000 the World Health Organization ranked its health system 187th out of the 191 countries evaluated. According to UNDP, life expectancy in Nigeria has declined to 43 years (2006) from 47 in 1990. In contrast, life expectancy in Malaysia, which attained nationhood at the same time as Nigeria, has now reached 70 years. Over 50,000 Nigerian women die from childbirth every year (the equivalent to a plane carrying 140 people crashing every single day). Nigeria, which accounts for 2% of the world’s population, has 10% of the world’s maternal deaths in childbirth. One in five Nigerian children dies before his/her 5th birthday. About a million Nigerian children die of preventable diseases every year.

So, what degree of democratic rights can the present system grant the ordinary working people of Nigeria? An ever diminishing minority that has cornered an exorbitant amount of our collective wealth can only maintain itself in power through imposition. Anybody hoping for this minority to simply, willingly and cheaply let go of their power and privileges is simply naïve and feeble minded. If this minority were to seriously play with one iota of genuine democratic rights for the masses, they understand correctly that within the twinkle of an eye, they would be defeated and all their means of livelihood would collapse along with their privileges. The last thing they will allow is a free, fair and conclusive electoral process. The unfolding events going on in Venezuela are there to haunt them like ghost.

What needs to be done?

The Nigerian ruling class is presently in a very weak position and can promise anything to the masses to buy more time to prepare for a more vicious attack against the Nigerian masses. While promising heaven and earth, the Nigerian ruling class instructs the military to keep a watchful eye on the situation and prepare to strike, if needs be, to forcefully continue with all the ongoing anti-people policies. An extremely corrupt, inept and absolutely inefficient Nigerian ruling class has lost its entire social base, and is presently incapable of freely requesting a renewed mandate from the Nigerian masses. What is presently sustaining them now in government is the compromising action of the reformist leadership of the Nigerian main trade union centres. This explains why the 500million naira alleged bribe given to the NLC and TUC leadership as appreciation of their support for the Government an allegation that they are yet to debunk is very timely and necessary. It is payment for a job well done.

The leadership of the main trade union centres in Nigeria deliberately turns its back on the party (Labour Party) that they themselves formed and are always prepared to enter into any form of alliance with any section of the Nigerian ruling class just to keep their own careers moving. Had the Nigerian working class been fortunate enough to have a more responsible and courageous leadership at this point in time, with very little effort the Nigerian workers would have easily pushed to one side this parasitic and thieving Nigerian ruling class and established a Workers’ Government.

But one should not cry over spilled milk; the urgent task before the Nigerian working class is to double the pressure on their leadership to reclaim the Labour Party and sharpen it up with a socialist program, in the interest of the Nigerian masses. Of what essence is a perfect and ideal electoral system, when the Nigerian workers do not have their own political party to contest? Which of the existing main parties can genuinely mobilize the mass majority of Nigerians to come out en masse to vote? Which of them is capable of defending the people’s vote if at the end of the day the results are rigged? We need to continuously ask ourselves, which of them, if they were in Government, would be worth our trouble? All the main parties have the same programme and policies. They will all continue with drastic cuts in social spending; health facilities will keep declining; public education will be worsening; poverty will increase because they all support deregulation, privatization and wage cuts and wage freezing.

Do we need to be reminded of the fact that when over 10,000 bank workers were sacked, all the parliamentarians unanimously, irrespective of their party affiliations, voted in support of this? They all voted for deregulation, for cuts in spending on education and health and, most unfortunately, they are all uniformly corrupt, inept and mafia-like in their actions and outlook. The solution to the problem has obviously gone far beyond mere electoral reform. We need a radical break from the past and with the existing electoral system that imposes a tiny minority over the heads of the overwhelming majority. The first pre-condition towards this is the building of a political party of our own under a courageous leadership resting on the shoulders of the Nigerian working class.

Source: Workers' Alternative (Nigeria)

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