Diplomatic MattersPolitical Affairs

Nigeria’s forthcoming 2023 General elections and Prospects for socialists and the left [1]

By Jaye Gaskia

The forthcoming general elections in Nigeria in 2023, the 7th of the current 4th republic, is barely a year away, and is taking place against the backdrop of a deepening, general, protracted, pervasive, and paralysing complex crises of existential proportions – not only for the country, but also for the people in general, and for the contending classes (the ruling and oppressed and subaltern classes) in particular, as well.

The crises is complex because it is a combination of intensifying economic, social, political, and ecological crises, the hallmark of whose manifestation is the unbearable levels of near permanent worsening hardships on the people, the intense character of the exploitation and oppression of the working masses, the pandemic character of insecurity, and the deepening ferment among the working peoples and the toiling masses, alongside the increasing instability and disagreements within the ruling class.

Against the backdrop of these crises, the forthcoming general elections, and the process of electioneering campaigns that will occupy the next one year, and make the political question the foremost question of the period, presents, or rather potentially should present an opportunity for the left and progressive minded people more widely.

But that said, what is the actual situation? What is the prospect for the left and for socialist in these forthcoming general elections?

We need to combine solidarity with existing struggles and strikes with campaigning for real change next year. The PDP/APC represent the corrupt elite, we need to build a real alternative.  TPAP-M is for all those who are horrified by the increasing poverty in Nigeria represented by the declining value of the minimum wage and the increasing cost of food, fuel, school fees etc. We are sickened by the revolting wealth of the corrupt elite and their impunity represented by the recent pardons.  We demand action by the NLC/TUC for a proper living wage and funding of education and health.  We fully support the strikes in the universities and the research centres and want a government that keeps its word and implements its agreements with the trade unions.

We need a charter/manifesto that builds on the one produce by the NLC with agreement with TUC, PRP, Labour Party where possible.

Our response to this poser must proceed from what Lenin called ‘the concrete analysis of a concrete situation’.

By this it is meant, an analysis of the situation as it is, as it currently exists, taking cognisance of its historical trajectories; and not an analysis based on what we wish in our minds, or in accordance with we expect the ideal situation to be.

So, what is the concrete situation in the Nigerian context, in the context of the dynamics of the class struggle, and the relations and balance of class forces, during this period, at this moment in our history?

And since we are examining the prospects of the left and socialists, the concrete situation to be analysed is that of the class and its organised political formations.

The major outlines of Our concrete situation consist of the following:

1. The largest and most influential organisations of the working class and its allies in the other subaltern classes are the trade unions and their two federations – the NLC and the TUC. But alas, these organisations of the class with the greatest potential political weight and leverage are currently not leading the necessary fight-back.  Their leadership is more or less oriented on the economic struggle and that is unwilling to jeopardise its mediatory role between the workers and the employers, between the class and the ruling class state. However, the monthly strike bulletins from TPAP-M show that there are major indefinite strikes on an almost permanent basis.  The Kaduna Strike in May last year show how the NLC can organise to win. Unfortunately, they did not learn the lessons and the three week strike in Cross River (with the TUC) went down to defeat less than six months later.  The NLC recently said this is one of only three states still to implement the minimum wage.  We need to push the NLC and TUC and their member trade unions to make two major changes:

  • Providing unity and solidarity with existing strikes like those in the universities and research institutes
  • Ensuring that the minimum wage is increased much more frequently (most countries have annual increases especially when inflation is above 10%.

2. The political formations of the class and its allies, that is the left (including left leaning), and the socialists (including socialist oriented) political formations still largely exist in small groups and grouplets, are scattered and dispersed; and have yet insignificant levels of leverage, influence and authority within the class (that is the working peoples and toiling masses) in particular, and within the wider polity in general;

3. The most recent iteration of a bold move to bring together the majority of the left and socialists in the country, to coordinate left and socialist political organising and interventions, and to achieve left unity through a unity of struggles – unity of purpose and unity in action: The Peoples Alternative Political Movement (TPAP-M), is still in its infancy, having emerged out of a concerted effort to convene a left political summit, just a little over a year ago in March 2021;

4. This nascent effort to bring together the political forces and formations of the left, and enable the building of a mass socialist movement, one that can realise its founding resolve ‘to work towards the emergence of a mass workers party and the socialist transformation of Nigeria”; though well on its way to acquire the capacity it requires to realise its mission, is still bedevilled with challenges carried over from the period before its birth;

5. These challenges include the delusion of grandeur that comes with small group mentality; the debilitating and injurious sectarianism associated with the puritanism that proclaims the sect as the only one with the correct perspective, and apriori excludes the possibility of coming together and working with others, since they are inherently wrong; as well as the damaging tradition of mutually antagonistic rivalry, that is the hallmark of the small sect, and that isolates the sect, and prevents it striking roots within the class (However,  ASCAB and TPAP-M show that we can begin to overcome these sectarian tendencies);

6. The combined effect of these challenges, has been the temporary slowing of the momentum of the movement, and the transitory limiting of its potential. Nevertheless, it must be said that with each new outbreak of struggle, the movement is attracting new layers of activists and left organisations, and is gradually, in the course of practice, overcoming the challenges, and increasing its momentum while building up its capacity;

7. At the electoral political level on the other hand, the class is greatly hamstrung, and left with limited, but nevertheless still potentially decisive options. Two openly left and socialist parties are not on the electoral register, and so will not be on the ballot. These are the SPN, that was recently deregistered, and the Liberation Party (LiP) that has never been registered, and so cannot equally be on the ballot. Incidentally both these parties and many of their members are more or less affiliated with the movement (TPAP-M).;

8. Of the 18 registered parties, only two can be considered left leaning, socialist oriented, pro – labour, and or pro working peoples. These are the LP and the PRP. Alas both of these parties have been enmeshed and engulfed in crises for a while, the consequences of the outcome of which will impact on the ability of the left to directly field candidates, and as well on the manner and strategy that the left and socialist forces are able to deploy in their engagement with the forthcoming general elections in 2023;

9. The Labour party (LP), although its registration was initiated by the labour federations, has since grown distant from the trade union centres, and more importantly from the class. Although it was registered as a worker’s party, workers have never been mobilised into its membership, so as it is today, it is a worker’s party only in name. The current battle by the trade union centres and the movement to recover the party, is a step in the right direction, but for this recovery to be meaningful and to make any difference, it must be a recovery of the party by the class, that is by the workers, working peoples, and the toiling masses, who must be mobilised to join and support the party, and consequently take ownership of the party. It is clear that the leadership of the NLC has no real intention of allowing the Labour Party to organise properly before the election next year;

10. The PRP on the other hand is also split into factions, that are apparently in ideological contention over the party and its direction. The process of reconciliation, again at the behest of the movement, is ongoing. The outcome that will be most suitable for left and socialist engagement will that which sees the emergence of a united left oriented leadership and a socialist program;

11. Under these circumstances, the movement has taken a collective position to strategically engage with the 2023 general elections, on the basis of a socialist program, as encapsulated in the draft TPAP (The Peoples Alternative Party – the party being promoted by the movement) manifesto; with a view to utilising the electioneering period as a platform to project, promote and canvass the socialist alternative across the country, and as a political and electoral Tribune of the working peoples and toiling masses to expose and highlight the exploitative and oppressive character of the capitalism, and shed light on the role and complicity of the ruling class in sustaining this inhumane system. The overriding objective is to put the case for socialism on the front burner, to cement the ties of the movement with the people, to give political umbrage to the grievances, economic resistance, anger against insecurity, and expressed desire for change by the  working peoples; as well as to build up the membership and support base of the movement among and within its social base, thus strengthening the structures of the movement across the country, building and consolidating its political leverage among the class, and emerging from the engagement, post 2023 as the Socialist Alternative to the ruling class and its capitalist system, as well as its political formations;

12. If the ongoing processes within the Labour party and the Peoples Redemption Party leads to the desired and preferred outcome; then there will be an opportunity for the left and socialist forces to directly field candidates, for strategic positions, eschewing any illusions, that can best enable the movement to have a nationwide audience for its socialist message. In this case, a political alliance including these parties, the parties not on the register, the trade union centres, and the movement, can and should be established to pursue the engagement with the forthcoming general elections. If on the other hand the outcome is not favourable, then the left and socialist forces will not be able to directly field candidates, and will have to engage with the process on its own, without fielding candidates, but conducting its campaign as if it were running in the elections, canvassing the socialist alternative, and contributing to deepening the political crisis and the weakening of ruling class hegemony.

To sum up, it is obvious that the prospects for the left and socialist forces in the forthcoming general elections, exist precisely in the opportunity that it presents for a rigorous countrywide organising and mobilization, as well as for a vigorous and robust nationwide presentation and canvassing of the case for socialism.

If we emerge at the end of the general elections as a significant, and decisive political force, with immense, if not dominant leverage, influence, and authority among the class and within the polity, with a mass membership and support base that transforms us into a Mass Socialist Political Movement; and with Socialism seen and accepted by a growing majority of the class as not just a viable alternative, but the alternative; then we would be able to consider our strategic engagement, a success; and this is without any prejudice to an even more eventful outcome, one that can portend the supplanting of the current system, and trigger a crisis of revolutionary proportions. If this were to happen, then all of the effort put into the strategic engagement would have served to prepare us, and prepare the class.

Jaye Gaskia is a member of the TPAP-M Secretariat.

[1] Thanks to Comrades Toye Olorode and Drew Povey for their comments on the initial draft of this article.

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