Labour And The Imminent Revolt Of The Masses

In advanced democracies, the two most powerful organs of government that thoroughly help to check the abuse of power by political office holders are the Police and the judiciary. These two organs are detached from politics and are very, very deligent in the discharge of their duties. They owe their allegiance to the tax payers and the citizenry and not to any government or Party in power. They are structured to serve the people. In Nigeria, the Police and in most cases, the judiciary, serve the party and govt in power and not the people. The fact is that the police and the judiciary in Nigeria seemed not to understand the constitutional power they wield under a democracy. Perhaps they are seemingly handicapped by constitutional provisions.

The way the re-runs were conducted in the states of Ekiti, Adamawa, Kogi, Bayelsa, Enugu, Sokoto and Cross River has affirmed this position, not to talk of past elections. In the first instance, the Electoral Tribunals murdered justice in all its ramification in those states. That political parties where found guilty of rigging elections in 2007 by stuffing ballot boxes here and there and were told by Tribunal judges to go back for a re-run is a travesty of justice and, that they {even} went back and perpetuated the same electoral fraud is simply tantamount to a kind of double jeopardy. I cannot comprehend it. It is therefore clear that from the actions of these bunch of childish politicians, who behave virtually like our wild Africanised bees, that punishment meted out against their nefarious acts in the 2007 elections was not commensurate with electoral offences committed.

With what had transpired, especially in Ekiti state where the PDP was “closely marked” by the ever politically conscious Ekitians, it is obvious that Option A4 electoral process and success could not be surpassed. I had in about three published write-ups brought out – as a participant observer in that JUNE 12, 1993 election – the qualities of Option A4. If that option was used in Ekiti, and other states where only two political parties were involved in the re-run, there would’nt have been any need for the resident electoral officer to have disappeared, resigned, reappeared and reassigned back to Ekiti to assumed duties. There would’nt have been any need of using police stations as counting or collating centres. There would not have been ballot papers talk less of the stuffing of ballot boxes. In option A4, you don’t need ballot papers, ballot boxes, and a police Force to escort boxes because there were none to be escorted. You don’t need those “bullshits”. In the Nigerian historical electoral context, inasmuch as we continue to use ballot papers and boxes – with the Nigerian police as escort – elections in Nigeria will continue to produce its own anachronisms.

With Option A4, all that were needed in those re-runs were: the physical presence of voters at their wards, the polling officer, and the two party agents. The voters would have queued up in front of their candidate’s posters, they would be counted and in a jiffy, the total number would be entered in a result sheet, signed by the polling officer and countersigned by party agents who were also participant in the counting process. Then, with copies shared, they would return to the collating centre of each local government area where party agents would hand in their copies to their representatives and the polling officer would do same too. The results would be cross checked and entered into an overall sheet and on a displayed notice board. Now, why is the acclaimed “biggest political party in Africa- the PDP” afraid of this approach? The simple answer is because any party{not only the PDP}, that does not appeal to the electorate, will flatly loose any election using that approach. In other words, if Maurice Iwu were to vacate office today and another strange character takes over, the same electoral mockery will continue except some fundamental changes are effected before the 2011 election!

What then should be the recipe to these sinister election rituals? Here I present suggestions that the current leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress should peruse, digest and probably act on. With a quick disregard to domain assumptions, let us articulate new progressive approach. Time is too short. Market women, civil society groups, labour, peasants, Nigerians abroad, talakawas and the almajiris etc., should be ready for action. It is time to gird our loins. Class wars come in different guises. They should be confronted concretely and in different ways too. We can no longer condone the charades of 1999, 2003 and 2007 called elections. The electorate should be courageous enough to confront those affronts that have continually militated against the actualisation of genuine democracy in Nigeria. We can still repeat the June 12, 1993 election miracle. The will to do it is not far from us. The power of the masses is in their number. They should learn to use that power for effect. I am sick and tired of theoretical permuatations, intellectual mutations and critical articulations devoid of realisable concrete social actions. The masses should through civil disobedience be prepared to lay a well sustained siege on Aso Rock.

The trend in most mass movements in Nigeria has been for a coalition of the oppressed forces to embark on strike or partake in civil demonstrations and then fall back into long days of stupor and inaction. This has got to stop. Because of our nostalgia towards a long and well sustained social action the political thieves and their cohorts had always boasted that Nigeria is the easiest country to loot. The quest to meet daily needs in most homes has made most social actions not to last the distance. This is the time for labour to change gear bearing in mind unfolding global events and the dithering nature of the Nigerian STATE. Collective bargaining seemed not to have done labour much good. We should not use old methods to fight new innovations in electoral vices. We need to try new devises.

Ukrainians used it to twist the arms of the judges; Burmese citizens used another to twist the arms of a military junta; Pakistanis lawyers used sustained strike actions to make sure that some judges who were unjustly sacked by General Musharaf are recalled. Venezuelans used popular democracy to impose their will – Hugo Chavez. Despite all attempts to hijack that election by the Americans, the Venezuelans stood their ground and stamped their foot on the ground. They were ready for action in case there were any attempted official hanky- panky to doctor the result.

The Nigerian Labour Congress should start sending signals to the ruling elite that any attempt to have a repeat of those patterned useless elections of 1965, 1979, 1993, 1999, 2003 and 2007, that Nigerian workers, students {through a rejuvenated NANS leadership}, market women, Nigerians abroad, lecturers – through their vibrant union {ASUU}, are no longer ready to tolerate such collective insults. Nigerians should also bear in mind that the International Community would not help us, rather, like the June 12, 1993 saga, they would only come in to compound situation in the interest of capital. Our destiny is in our hands. We have got to be proactive. The much some of us can do for now, is to continue with our sensitization exercise.

If that useless election of 2007 is allowed to repeat itself, patriotic Nigerians, labour, students, lecturers, market women, journalists, lawyers, Nigerians abroad, judges, peasants and the masses should make Nigeria ungovernable until the country, literally returns to its senses. We are not trees that can be shaken anyhow. Organised labour should be bold as brass. It has the wherewithal to take on the state and capture power for the benefit of the generality of Nigerians. We cannot continue to develop along the present bourgeois chosen path to ruin that is littered with “rogue masters” and institutionalised thievery. Most of us, despite the fact we may be comfortable abroad, are worried

stiff about the ”impunities” going on in that country.

We have got to initiate plans for a qualitative transformation of our country. Since independence, political thugs, highly corrupt politicians, the military, and assassins have held that country to ransom and majority have had to live in fear. I think that if the 2007 election is replicated in 2011, that, will be a veritable litmus test on our collective will to resist evil. We are tired of eating bones like Africanised dogs. Let us eat meat too!

It is on the strength of all these that I will propose that the NLC leadership should take the initiative in this pre-planned action. The onus lies on the congress. I believed that if the union initiates a proper action, others will follow. Labour should advise workers to be ready for a long drawn out battle if the election of 2011 were to be rigged. And for such action to have effect, it should also direct Nigerians to be ready to buy foodstuffs that would last for as long as the government refuses to hearkened to the voice of the people. We demand for a free and fair election to enable us elect leaders chosen by the Nigerian people and that will serve the people. One month is not too much of a sacrifice for a worthy national cause.

If all fails, the judiciary should then use their positions to pursue social justice and not legal justice. We are tired of hearing words like locus standi, writ of mandamus, interlocutory injunctions, adjournments and mens rea. In the Guardian Editorial of 24 February 2009 titled: THE VERDICT ON EKITI ELECTION, the paper writes inter alia: “all previous re-run elections – in Adamawa, Enugu, Bayelsa, Kogi, Sokoto and Cross River States – all PDP-controlled states, had seen the Respondents, the losers at the Court of Appeal level, returned to their seats as though the petitions against them actually lacked merit.”

Of course, the petition lacked merit because the respondents, instead of being punished for thwarting the will of the people, were asked by the judges to go for a re-run. Re-runs for state parties that ought to have been banned! This is the contradiction inherent in those judgements. This is what the judiciary should not allow in 2011. First, in any call for a re-run, the judges should sound it as a matter of declaration that serious electoral laws were breached and as such, if complainant and respondent were indicted, both should not be allowed to participate in re-run. Parties that rigged should bear the consequences of their action.

Second, the judges should – if both parties were guilty of massive electoral malpractices – use their discretion as honourable men to denounce and announce that the third best in that election be sworn in. In fact, a variant of what the judges did in Rivers state by swearing in Chibuike Amaechi, should be replicated in states where massive rigging were reported. This attempt by any ruling party to turn Nigeria into a one party state should not be the fight of only the opposition parties, it is a fight for all of us. Afterall, the Nigerian judges don’t live in Jupiter or Mars.

They live with us. Most of them have wives that go to the same market with other Nigerian wives; their children go to the same school like other Nigerian children; they go to the same hospitals like others and feel the pain and agony of corrupt and bad leadership that other Nigerians feel. Therefore, the social onus also lies on them to use their judicial positions to pronounce judgements that are acceptable to the generality of the Nigerian people.

The opposition parties have shrunk into insignificance because of the registration of too many quack political parties. As a result, their ability and effectiveness to challenge the ruling party, has been waned. All we have are opposition parties whose opinion on national issues are scattered and uncoordinated.

The action and judgements of tribunal judges will therefore send messages across board that the days of election rigging are over. Since the ruling class has made it difficult for true democracy to evolve and for the people to choose their leaders out of their own free will, other options have to be looked into. The NBA should also call most of their men to order. If there are established cases of electoral fraud in some states, it should help negotiate to see that the will of the people either prevails or that justice is seen to be done. Everything is not money. Lawyers lust for money to the extent that 90% of them don’t care where the nation is headed.

Above all, a properly mobilised and well sustained social action, which is carried out by a courageous and fearless people, is a sufficient condition for the evolution of good electoral process and goverments in Nigeria. Here, the challenge goes to the present leadership of the NLC – which seemingly looks inactive since Adam Oshiomhole left – to stand up and go for a genuine national transformation. We don’t want: “you- rob-my- back-I-rob-yours” Paschal Bafyau kind of NLC leadership. May the blood of Jesus continue to protect the seekers and writers of truth in these trying times! Amen! I rest my case!

Written by
Ephraim Adinlofu
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