In the absence of a trade union based/backed mass working people’s political party, the National Conscience Party (NCP) represents an important political vehicle for the masses, socialists and labor activists.
As we have severally stated, the NCP is presently not an outright socialist platform. However, over the years, its national chairman, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, has acquired a reputation of a people’s defender, who is above corruption. While all other capitalist parties always find one reason or the other to oppose or not support the specific struggles for the economic and political rights of the masses, the NCP leadership has always openly identified with the struggles of the working masses and youth. The party’s manifesto supports the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy with a view to get the needed resources to carry out its central program – the abolition of poverty. In a situation of sharper economic and political crisis where the bankruptcy and anti-poor, anti-working class characters of all the ruling capitalist parties become clear, a rapid growth in membership and political influence of the party like NCP is something likely, even if temporarily, in our situation.
A major development in the party and in the nation’s politics as a whole took place in 27th April, 2002 when Gani announced his intention to seek the mandate of the party to contest in the 2003 presidential election. This has made a wider layer of the working masses and even middle class elements to show interest in the party while boosting the morale of the party activists. Already, we have begun to witness a significant change in the number of working class people and youth joining the NCP. If the party is given license to contest elections, no matter how close this is to elections period or even if the party has then missed participation in the local government elections, there is likely to be greater influx of change seeking masses and youths into the party. At the same time, corrupt political careerists who could not make ends meet in other bourgeois political formations should also be expected to join NCP with a view to use the party to achieve their own narrow, selfish ends.
For these and other reasons, socialists, as usual, must continue to skillfully campaign to the rank and file members of the NCP to adopt a fully rounded revolutionary, socialist economic and political programs without which the party will not be able to abolish poverty – its central goal. We must always warn the NCP rank and file and the masses in general that history is full of carcasses of parties that started on a radical note but ended up compromising with capitalism.
For instance, the party, just like the labor movement as a whole, needs a sensitive, democratic and revolutionary perspective and programs on the national question. Yes, it is correct to emphasize and work for the unity of actions of the working masses of the diverse nationalities that make up the country. This, however, must be combined with a perspective which fully support the democratic agitations for self-determination by nations and nationalists groups within Nigeria. Of course, socialists have an unpostponable duty to always urge unity of action on issues of common interests by all members of the working masses irrespective of their ethnic, religious and national backgrounds. Unless this approach is adopted and practiced, labor and a party like NCP will inevitably run into contradiction where they will have to give tacit and even active support to sectors of the capitalist class seeking, in vain, to keep Nigeria one at all cost under capitalism!
NCP and labor activists must be able to say yes, we support the democratic rights of nations to self-determination but at the same time, we are opposed, absolutely, to sectarian killings of members of one religious or ethnic group by another. NCP and labor, for instance, should come up with practical organizational and political proposals which are capable of preventing mindless killings and harassment under the guise of nationalist/religious campaigns or crusades.
The NCP leadership is renowned for its vociferous criticism of the plundering of the nation’s wealth and resources by the alliance of foreign and local capitalists. So, if the leadership of the party is absolutely committed to fighting the pernicious influence which these capitalist/imperialist elements have on the nation’s economy and polity, what are likely going to be their responses and that of their members internationally? If, as most likely, they grow hostile and violent, how can the interests of the masses be made to prevail against the minority but selfish interests of global capitalism? Doesn’t this scenario from the beginning suggest the need to cultivate and build solidarity and organizations of like minds across Africa and the world as a whole?
As socialists, we must always emphasize within working class and youth organizations that the capitalists cannot be made to “see reasons”, “be rational” either in the advanced capitalist world and most especially, in backward countries like Nigeria. That for the working class people to have a hope of decent living, they must be prepared to wage a victorious democratic, revolutionary socialist struggle whose ultimate goal is the overthrow of capitalism. As have been amply demonstrated by the international history of the labor movement, no specific or permanent achievement can be won by the laboring masses unless they are prepared to struggle for it. Again, as has been amply demonstrated by the international history of the labor movement, every and all momentary gains of the moment stand to be taken back as long as capitalism continues to dominate the economic and political ethos of society.
Therefore, socialists must be prepared to proudly offer the banner and methods of Permanent Revolution concepts and tactics as elucidated by Leon Trotsky to every person and structure of the NCP and the laboring masses in general.
Party Registration Exercise
At the moment, it is not absolutely certain if the powers that be will allow NCP to participate in elections. The Independent National Electoral Commission, on 20th June, 2002, announced that the NCP and 20 other political parties failed to meet all the conditions for registration. It instead registered three more bourgeois parties APGA, NDP and UNPP. The NCP and four of the unregistered parties went to the court to challenge their non-registration. The high court upheld the decision of INEC but an appeal against the judgment by the five parties was endorsed by the Court of Appeal on 26th July, 2002, which declared that once a political association meets the provisions of sections 222 and 223 of the 1999 constitution, such an association automatically becomes a political party “capable of sponsoring candidates and canvassing for votes in any constitutionally recognized elective office throughout Nigeria”. As at the time of going to press, INEC has filed an appeal at the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal decision.
What should the NCP do to achieve its goal of abolishing poverty among the oppressed masses? If NCP is registered, will the party activists and leadership be capable to withstand the corrupt corrosive influence of self-seeking political careerists who will certainly join the NCP in such circumstances? If it is not registered, what then should the party be doing? Put differently, will the socialists ultimately succeed in winning the NCP and its leadership to a fully rounded, revolutionary socialist worldview and practice?
Undoubtedly, non-registration of the party will be a setback for the working masses and it is likely to lead to decline in enthusiasm among the party activists. We in the DSM however call on party members and activists not to allow the antics of the ruling class and INEC to dampen their morale or reduce their commitment towards the building of the party. Socialists must explain to party members that there is need to understand that the attainment of a genuine multi-party democracy in particular and the emancipation of the working masses in general will be a product of a protracted struggle. Historically and world-wide, the struggle for the liberation of the masses has never been a simple and easy task as the capitalist oppressors and the beneficiaries of the present unjust capitalist order will do everything possible to defend the system and hang on to power by hook or crook. But with persistence, perseverance and correct policies and tactics, the working masses and their party will ultimately triumph.
This is the lesson to be learnt from the experience of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, for instance. Founded in 1912 to fight for black majority rule, the ANC was banned for many decades by the white minority capitalist ruling class. On its part, the ANC even boycotted several undemocratic, kangaroo elections organized by the apartheid regime. But when the regime was eventually compelled by mass struggles to organize the first one person-one vote election in South Africa’s history in 1994, the ANC won an overwhelming majority. Since then the degeneration of the ANC leadership and their embrace of capitalism makes it necessary for the South African masses to build a new working people’s party.
First and foremost, the NCP must continue to organize political actions to challenge the INEC and ruling class conspiracy not to register it. Mass protests, picketing and rallies should be organized in many parts of the country by the party. There must be production and circulation of thousands of posters and leaflets. These activities should be aimed at exposing to the masses the ruling class conspiracy and fraud behind the so-called party registration exercise. Also, the party will explain the need to continue to struggle until a genuine multi-party democracy which recognizes the right of groups and individuals to belong to political parties and contest elections without registration by the government or any of its agencies such as INEC is achieved. In addition, there should be freedom for independent candidates to stand in elections. Through these activities, the party must continue to recruit change-seeking workers and youth into its ranks and continue to put up party structures at all levels: wards, local governments, states, national, campuses, communities, etc.
A Party of Struggles
In any event, socialists shall campaign among the party membership that the NCP must continue to be organized as a party of struggles, whether or not it is allowed to contest election at any point in time by the powers-that-be. In other words, the party must be prepared at all times to organize and lead mass struggles against capitalist attacks on the living and working conditions of the masses and for the provision of water, electricity, food, education, healthcare, transportation and telecommunication and other basic necessities of life. The party must continue to oppose and mobilize against the anti-poor programs such as privatization of public wealth, commercialization of social services, and retrenchment of workers being implemented by all the moneybag parties. In short, whether registered or not, the party must continue to make itself relevant to the attainment of the rights, aspirations and yearnings of the masses.
Socialists also need to warn the party and its members against the perception that if the NCP is registered it will automatically sweep the country. While the party has a lot of support and the national chairman, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, is very popular among the downtrodden working masses, a lot of political and organizational work still needs to be done. Moreover, it is important to understand and for the party to always explain that elections do not decide everything, especially in a country like Nigeria that is in almost permanent crisis. While not dismissing the importance of elections, of equal, if not greater significance, are struggles, protests and strikes by the working masses to defend their rights and transform society.
A Socialist Program
But most importantly, the NCP members and activists need to understand that in order to satisfy the need of the masses for economic prosperity, political freedom and social security on a lasting basis, the party must be built on an anti-capitalist, socialist ideology. Its goal should be the coming to power of a workers’ and poor peasants’ government that will make the abundant resources of society truly available for the use of the entire society and not only to further enrich a wealthy few.
This type of government will put the commanding sectors of the economy such as petroleum, mineral resources, manufacturing, banking and finance, and all the big multinational and local companies under public ownership with democratic control and management by the working people. It is only this democratic socialist arrangement that will make it possible to launch a massive program for food production, housing construction, free and qualitative education and medicare, full employment, telephones, and create a basis for the eradication of mass poverty, crimes, corruption, prostitution, ethnic and religious conflicts, and political instability which have continued to ravage the country despite the end of military dictatorship.
For this reason, socialists will be against the NCP forming an electoral alliance or entering a government with any party that tries to administer capitalism. The party membership should be against pro-capitalist and opportunist alliances. Instead, we should advocate that the NCP offer a united front, on a definite program, for joint struggles with any party that the NLC might sponsor as well as NANS, trade unions, community associations, processional bodies, and other popular organizations.
A Democratic Mass Party
Another factor that will determine how far the NCP will go is how the party is managed and controlled. This will even be of greater importance if the party is registered and succeeded in winning some elective offices. The party will only be impregnable if it is built as a democratic mass party with control of the affairs of the party by the active rank and file members at all levels. To distinguish the party from all the corrupt capitalist parties and prevent political careerism and corruption, public officials elected on the platform of the party must receive the average wage of a skilled worker.
The Role of DSM Members
Though not a socialist organization, the potential of the NCP to be built as a mass working people’s party explains why members of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) have been involved in it from the onset. Alongside other members, we will continue to struggle to build the party while striving, through patient explanation, to win the party members and activists to socialist and internationalist perspectives and program which are indispensable if the party is to achieve its declared goal of abolition of poverty and emancipation of the laboring masses.
As we were about to go to press, it was finally announced that the local government elections scheduled for 10th August, has been postponed indefinitely. The election actually ought to have held before May 2002 when the three-year tenure of local government officials who assumed office in May 1999 expired. However, the local government election, as with so many other issues such as budgets, revenue allocation, electoral law, etc, has been characterized by numerous controversies and disagreements among members of the ruling class.
Among other problems, INEC has failed to compile a new voters’ register needed for both the local government and the general election of next year, claiming lack of fund. At the moment, eight months into the year, the 2002 budget is yet to be signed into law due to disagreement between the presidency and the National Assembly. Many supporters of the status quo argue that these controversies are an attribute of a democratic government, which Nigeria is supposed to be operating. They however ignore the fact that most of these disagreements are informed by selfish desires and interests of the various factions of the ruling class rather than over any principle on how to genuinely take the nation forward or improve the poor living standards of the overwhelming majority of the people.
Political thuggery and violence has become the norm. This has resulted in the killing of hundreds of people in the past three years. Lately, the primaries and internal elections organized by the recognized political parties to select candidates for the local government elections were marred by bloody violence in most parts of the country. For example, in Kaduna State, seven people were killed during the PDP local council election primaries (The Guardian 16 July 2002). This shows the desperation of the capitalist politicians to either retain or acquire power, all in a bid to be in positions to loot the treasury. With intra-party elections being characterized by such manipulations and violence, it should be expected that the coming inter-party local government and general elections would feature widespread rigging and violence unless there are concrete interventions by the labor movement and the working masses.