March 2004 Local Council Elections – a monumental sham

Lagos State NCP statement

Struggle for working peoples’ demands

The March 27, 2004 Local Councils’ elections have confirmed two major features which must be properly appreciated by pro-masses parties like the National Conscience Party (NCP) and indeed, all genuine change seeking elements and organisations like the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Labour Party, market women, students, poor peasants, etc.

The first major feature clearly demonstrated by the election is that the vast majority of the working, suffering people of this country are not in support of any of the three ruling parties (AD, ANPP and PDP) across the country. This was eloquently exhibited with their conscious decision to boycott the monumental farce called election across the country. In Lagos State, where the NCP and other opposition parties expressly called for boycott, the outcome of the so-called election was an unmitigated embarrassment. The metro section of The Guardian of Monday, March 29, 2004 captures the situation accurately: "Empty booths, empty streets" with this unflattering ride: "Saturday’s council elections in Lagos may be long remembered for being ‘uneventful’.

The second major feature also confirmed by the "election" is that the various self-serving capitalist politicians of all the ruling parties will always manipulate the electoral processes and state’s apparatuses including the judiciary, to retain themselves and their ilk in power against the wish of the vast majority of the working people. Only through a conscious and concerted working peoples’ political and economic resistance, which ultimately ends in the removal from power, of all capitalist politicians and the termination of their unjust economic system, can the working people of this country dare, realistically hope to have genuine democratic elections. Predictably, the AD, ANPP and PDP severally and collectively have virtually "won" every elective position in the state where they held sway! This, it should be stressed, is the logical outcome of a situation where the powers that be at the federal and state levels themselves had come to their positions through massive fraud and manipulations of the year 2003 general elections.

Background to the Local Council Elections

Since year 2002, various state governments and the ruling parties have been running the affairs at the local government level with appointed officials in flagrant violation of section 7 of the 1999 constitution which stipulates that only elected officials should run local councils. Thus, the decision to even bother to conduct elections into the councils was largely due to the agitations of parties like NCP. So, right from the beginning, the various ruling parties left no reasonable person in doubt that they would only conduct elections which would only follow their own predetermined results.

In virtually all the states, undemocratic electoral rules were prescribed with a view to shut out opposition parties, particularly, pro-masses but financially poor parties like the NCP. And where in Oyo and Osun states, the courts ruled against some of these undemocratic and monetised guidelines, the state appointed electoral commissions simply ignored the courts’ rulings and went ahead to exclude NCP candidates from participation in the so-called election. In Ekiti State, Governor Ayo Fayose expressly threatened communities that did not return PDP candidates as "winners" to forget the development of their communities. In addition, Governor Fayose openly asked councillorship and chairmanship candidates of the opposition parties to step down for PDP candidates and collect N100,000 and N200,000 each respectively.

In Lagos State, so desperate was the AD controlled government that a contrived judicial approval for the conduct of the election into the so-called 57 newly created councils was given by the usually pro-establishment Justice Adeyinka Alabi. This same Alabi was fully aware that the NCP has a pending matter challenging the constitutionality of these so-called councils and yet, without scruple and without hearing the arguments of those challenging the creation of the councils, he went ahead to do the bidding of his master, Governor Bola Tinubu. It was this same Alabi that granted what the NLC president, Adams Oshiomhole, rightfully described as "black market" injunction restraining workers and the Nigerian masses from going on strikes and demonstrations, against the hike in fuel prices effected by the Obasanjo regime prior to the 9-day general strike that shook the country in June/July, 2003.

Owing to the boycott of the election by the NCP and other parties, the AD candidates (mostly chosen against the will of their own party members) practically had no opponents in most parts of the state. Even in the few areas where ANPP and APGA were said to have presented candidates, the AD rigging machinery simply brushed them aside. For instance, in Ward F Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos, one Mr. Rasak Lawal was cleared as an ANPP councillorship candidate to contest the election against the LASIEC’S "anointed" AD candidate. However, instead of taking trouble to begin to procure a contrived result, LASIEC simply declared the AD candidate returned "unopposed"!

In Ekiti, Rivers, Ondo, Cross River, Kano, etc., the "election" witnessed various degree of violence with incumbent governors brazenly using police and security officials to terrorise opponents in order to pave way, at all cost, for "victories". As at the time of writing, about 50 persons have been confirmed killed, not to mention the wounded and detained, mostly elements fighting against official manipulations of the electoral processes.

The Aftermath

Nonetheless, "winners" have been declared of an election which was nothing but a gargantuan farce. Governor Tinubu has in fact derided those political parties, which boycotted the organised farce called election as lacking understanding and good tactics. According to Tinubu, parties that boycotted were "cowards" merely running away from imminent and inevitable electoral defeat. The NCP rank and file members and all class conscious sections of the working masses must see these comments for what they truly are- a subterfuge to down play the absolute rebuff shown by the Lagosian masses to the Tinubu led AD government, through massive boycott of his organised farce called election. In this regard, his speech was nothing but an empty bravado. Yes, "winners" have been declared, but these elements lack complete legitimacy such that they only can hope to retain power if allowed by the working masses inaction. The fact that these "winners" did not emerge through people’s votes has been amply documented by all strata of the media, both electronic and prints. Here, we shall only be able to quote a few examples to underline the point being made.

"In an attempt to persuade voters to go to the booths, some party agents had to move from house to house. But they got little results. Hence, the polling agents and security officials at the various booths chatted away the hours in idleness".

"A Lagos resident in Egbeda, who refused to go to the polling booth after he had been appealed to by an Alliance for Democracy (AD) agent told Sunday Punch he had no confidence in the system. The elderly man said: "Today they are coming to appeal to me to vote for them. After this day, I will not see them again. The next time you see them, they would tell you they have increased your tenement rates. They don’t care what happens to those who take the trouble to vote for them" (Sunday Punch, March 28, 2004).

A 26-year old teacher, Ishola Aleshinloye also spoke to the cited Sunday Punch: "You can see that people are not just interested. I believe the apathy is due to the failure of successive governments to meet the aspirations of the people. The people are not happy that politicians are enriching themselves at their expense. Look at the state of our roads, schools and hospitals. There is nothing to show for their being in government. Sometimes I wonder if there is a government in this country".

The Guardian edition of March 29, 2004 recorded similar viewpoints. In a feature article titled: "Lagos: A peculiar poll with familiar result", two correspondents of the above cited Guardian edition reported that some observers attributed the low turn out of voters as partly, a reflection of "the fact that, winners of the polls were already known following the boycott by the PDP and NCP". According to these journalists, "by mid-day, many polling booths barely recorded 20 voters (a polling booth usually contains between 600 and 1000 voters – ed)". If the electoral officers were to be likened to petty traders, Saturday was a bad market day with no customers". In another feature article titled: "Empty booths, Empty Streets", another set of The Guardian correspondents reported: "The few who went out to vote were either relations or neighbours to a particular candidates. Some complained of not knowing the candidates while others were unimpressed with the performances of past chairmen".

A resident in Isolo area, Mr. Innocent Odiala spoke to The Guardian: "Nobody wants to make the mistake they made over four years ago. We have noticed that the people we voted for had gone there to enrich their purses. Very few ever remembered to execute one or two people-oriented projects. So, why must we waste our time voting for people who are not interested in serving the people?".

A furious trader whose kiosk was taking over by the electoral officials spoke to The Guardian "I want to start selling my fruits, they said they will finish by 2.00p.m. This is 2.20p.m. Let them leave my shed, nobody will give me food if I have nothing to eat".

Suffice to stress, the reaction of the masses in Lagos state was largely a reflection of the situation across the country. A 25 year-old photographer, Benjamin Ukumhen, in Delta State, spoke thus to the cited Sunday Punch: "We will end up having selection and not an election. Even if the election is not held, the candidates of the ruling party will emerge victorious". Corroborating these view points, Festus Okoye, head of Nigeria’s biggest poll observing organisation, the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) (a body being sponsored by local and international capitalist corporations and institutions) itself made the following revealing conclusions: "Most (substitute all -ed)" of the state governors have tried to manipulate the electoral process. They were hoping for a situation, where they just appoint their colleagues to these councils. The Nigerian people have been presented with a fait accompli". Speaking further to AFP, Okoye stated: "Most of the people we interviewed attributed their apathy to the fact that they felt their votes did not count in 2003".

Thus, from whatever angle it is examined, the March 27, 2004 local council’s election was a monumental sham. Right from the beginning to the end, the masses had no hands in it. From this perspective, its outcome stands condemned and rejected by the overwhelming layers of the masses. Unfortunately however, unless chased out of power by the combined struggles of the working people across the country, the usurpers calling themselves "winners" of these predetermined results would continue to loot public resources to enrich themselves while the overwhelming majority of the working masses continue to wallow in unmitigated misery.

The Way Forward

Writing in the Sunday Punch edition of March 28, 2004 in an article titled: "A pillar of hope", Dafe Onojowo had amongst other things stated: "Like vandals, the political elites are smashing every ideal or principle that should light a nation’s way to lasting progress and glory". This sentence in a way aptly sums up the character of Nigeria’s contemporary ruling elites. The year 2003 general elections were massively rigged and manipulated by the capitalist ruling elites across the country/parties. The March 27, 2004 local council’s election in comparison with the 2003 general elections was a monumental sham, a complete farce. If 2007 ever comes, under the prevailing dispensation, the working masses are set for a worse time. So we pose the question: What should be done to avert this kind of dead end "elections" and self-serving governance?

Demoralised by the apparent invincibility of the anti-peoples elements who always seem to have their ways, either under the military or civilian dispensation, some elements have come to the degrading conclusion that change is not possible and as such, activists should only strive to join in the looting of public resources, instead of struggling to effect a change. Elements within this school of thought sometimes do correctly point out the fact that the contemporary world policies and politics are dominated by anti-people, anti-democratic and anti-poor governments. But from this premise, they often draw the false conclusion that there is no alternative to the prevailing socio-economic and political rot which dominate contemporary capitalist society. When you complain of electoral manipulations by leaders of neo-colonial capitalist countries like Nigeria, they are very quick to point out that that also happens even in the advanced capitalist countries like the USA. To these self-serving depraved elements, these absurdities are the natural features of "democracy".

However, time and time again, the working masses in Nigeria, and internationally by their actions and pronouncements, had always rejected this misery-laden perspective. Their overwhelming massive boycott of the local councils election in issue is one such graphic example of how the masses have shown that they have nothing to do with the self serving politics of the capitalist politicians.

In the general strike of June/July 2003, the working masses across the country equally showed that the current set of capitalist rulers across the country with their anti-peoples policies and unmitigated corruption do not for a second enjoy their endorsement. Thus, if these hateful elements were able to retain power up till today and by so doing keep it till tomorrow, it could only be because the working masses and their leaders are yet to come up with necessary socio-economic alternatives which will ultimately lead to the removal from power, of all layers of capitalist vampires holding the masses and the country to ransom.

It should be stressed that the outcome of the March 27, 2004 local council’s election gives a graphic indication that this is an achievable task. Completely lacking in mass support, the current set of capitalist looters across the country can be easily removed from power if organisations like the NCP, NLC, Labour Party, Labour and Civil Society Coalition, etc can come together on a concrete programme of action to fight on the basis of the daily needs and aspirations of the working masses. If the aforementioned organisations embark on consistent agitations for decent living for all, in areas of jobs, housing, food, education, health care, social services such as light, water, transportation, telecommunications, etc, defence of democratic rights to independent trade and student unions, right of self-determination for every of the ethno-religious components that make up the country called Nigeria, then sooner than imagined, the current set of usurpers calling themselves "elected" leaders can be easily isolated and dislodged from power with the most minimal efforts by the masses.

The basis of contemporary mass poverty is not because of insufficient human and natural resources in society but a logical product of a system which consciously goes out to impoverish millions so that a few billionaires can be glorified. If the resources of nature and humanity’s technological know-how are collectively owned and democratically harnessed by the working people themselves, then the prevailing capitalist induced mass poverty can be wiped out within a generation.

However, to achieve this kind of end, Labour and NCP leaders as well as the leaders of all mass organisations, have to come to the inescapable conclusion, that there can be no way to positively meet the economic and political demands of the masses within the framework of world capitalist order. A change of system is imperative.

To achieve this goal, we in the Lagos State NCP urge the NLC, Labour Party, DSM, DA, etc to agree to meet urgently to discuss what concrete and joint mass actions can be undertaken. We propose that campaigning should be on the following issues:

  1. Independent and democratisation of institutions like Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), such that its composition, funding and activities are democratically controlled by the people through their political organisations.
  2. No to fuel tax, road levy, etc.
  3. A monthly minimum wage of N20,000 with periodic increases to match the rate of inflation without any loss of job.
  4. Immediate implementation of the 12.5% increment in minimum wage agreed to by government since early 2003, across board in both public and private sector without a single retrenchment.
  5. Massive public funding of housing, education, health care, sufficient provisions of water, electricity, transportation, etc with a view to effect an immediate positive improvement in the living conditions of the working masses and the poor in general.
  6. Right to independent trade and student unionism without any form of interference by those in government and by the management of the private sector. An immediate struggle to force the Obasanjo regime to back off its latest project which seeks to destroy the NLC.
  7. Implacable opposition to government’s plan to intensify education commercialisation with the increment of fees for a bed space from N95 to N10,000 with effect from next academic session.
  8. United struggles against all forms of undue levies and harassments of working class people by the government at all levels, especially at the local government level.
  9. Jobs for all those who need jobs and can work, while subsidy or unemployment benefit should be paid to those that cant get jobs and the youth in schools or those under apprenticeship.
  10. Convocation of a democratically-elected Sovereign National Conference (SNC) comprising elected representatives of social groups such as workers, peasant farmers, traders, rank-and-file of the armed forces and police, professionals and ethnic nationalities according to their numerical strength to deliberate and decide on the way forward for the country.
  11. Public ownership of the country’s vast resources and wealth under the democratic management and control of the working people.
  12. No to privatisation. Democratic management and control of public companies and parastatals by committees comprising elected representatives of workers, consumers, trade unions, NLC and the government with immediate effect.

If fought for on a consistent basis, very soon, a powerful working peoples platform of struggle can be rapidly built which can become strong enough to remove from power, the impostors calling themselves leaders, without necessarily having to wait till 2007 when, if left in power, these ruinous elites will once again organise another farcical show in the name of an election.

Delen: Printen: