Friday, 18 July 2014

2014 Osun Governorship Election 2014: All Candidates are Anti-Poor


For a Genuine Working People’s Alternative Now



Governorship election will come up in Osun State on 9th of August 2014. The ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), which is seeking extension of tenure of the current governor, Rauf Aregbesola will be contending with a similarly pro-rich, reactionary party that is ruling at the federal level, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). PDP’s candidate is Iyiola Omisore. Some other contestants are Fatai  Akinbade, a former PDP stalwart and former secretary of the ousted Oyinlola government, who is contesting on the platform of Labour Party and Mr. Segun Akinwusi, a former head of service contesting under Social Democratic Party (SDP. One thing that is common to these parties and contestants is their pro-rich, anti-poor policies and dispositions.

Aregbesola government uninspiring 

The incumbent governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, in an interview with Vanguard newspaper published on July 11, 2014, painted a picture of a rosy Osun State under his administration. Nothing can be farther from the truth. In reality, the policies of the Aregbesola government – a government that rode to power on the back of huge support of the mass of people – have mostly been elitist and anti-poor. Working and oppressed people are made to suffer for various policies that are at best cosmetic, but in most cases anti-poor.
For instance, while Mr. Aregbesola is strutting around towns for his campaign, students of tertiary institutions in the state are kept away from schools for over five months running, no thanks to the failure of the government to meet the genuine demands of the striking workers in the institutions. These demands include proper funding of infrastructures in the institutions, and employment of more teaching staff, to cover for chronic shortfall of teaching staff in the institutions. Meanwhile, according to the propaganda machine of the government, the government has improved education in Osun State to ‘global standard’.

Mega Schools
While the government claimed to have rebuilt about thirty schools, reportedly committing as much as N14 billion to the projects, several hundreds of schools are still in deplorable state, with hardly any functional teaching facility. In fact, just four, out of the over thirty new schools the government claimed to have built have been completed. If it took the government four years to build four schools, how many years, will government need to rebuild most of the schools? In the name of rebuilding schools, the government closed down and destroyed hundreds of schools, reducing the number of primary and secondary schools in the state from over 2, 100 (two thousands and one hundred), to 900 (nine hundred) schools. A terrible example is the Fakunle High School, Osogbo, a school with enrolment of over 3, 000 students, which was demolished to pave way for a shopping mall! This has caused untold hardship to parents and pupils. In many instances, pupils have to transit by many kilometers to get to their ‘new’ schools. This policy of school merger has disoriented the school system, leading to overcrowding of existing schools and ineffective monitoring of students.

Worse still, the conditions of the schools the pupils were transferred to, are as terrible as the ones they left. This has made many reactionary pundits to demand that the schools that were originally owned by missionary be returned to them. We in the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) reject this reactionary demand of return of schools to their previous (missionary) owners who had been fully compensated when the schools were taken over by the government in 1970’s. This demand if granted will deny poor parents and their children access to education, as these schools will be priced out of the reach of poor and working class parents. Worse still, it will lead to dislocation of education system, as each school will introduce its own policy without governmental control. It also has the tendency of leading to divisive acrimony, especially along religious line. For instance, it will be difficult for students of other faiths and religious beliefs to attend Christian/Muslim missionary schools, where religious ethics will be enforced. This, at a period of deep social and political crises, can generate dangerous religious crises. We, on the contrary, demand free education at all levels, massive renovation and rehabilitation of schools and democratic running of schools by elected representatives of teachers students, parents, and the communities. Inasmuch as we are opposed to the Aregbesola government’s merger policy, we consider return of schools to missionary owners as a horrible alternative.

“Opon Imo”
The Aregbesola government has also claimed that it has distributed educational computer tablets, called “Opon Imo” to students. While the SPN supports any effort to improve education, we consider this policy, without basic improvement in school facilities, as painting a dilapidating house. More than this, the Opon Imo tablet has become another drainpipe for the state. According to government sources, each tablet costs over N50, 000, which is almost a double of the market value. Besides, the tablets, as against the lies of the government, have no textbooks, but mere teaching notes written by some teachers.  Besides, it was not every student that got the tablets as against the propaganda of the government when the project was launched.

Farcically, the teachers were neither trained in the use of the tablet nor given personal copies. This has meant that the students are disconnected from their teachers. It is simply impossible for any meaningful knowledge to be impacted on students with “opon imo” in such situation. It is incredulous that the Aregbesola government has turned computer tablets, which should serve as mere learning aids, as substitute to practical teaching and education. Laboratories, libraries, etc are hardly available. There is chronic shortage of teaching staff in schools. Yet, government claims to have improved education. It is thus not accidental that public education has nosedived with students becoming disoriented, teachers demoralized by these anarchical education policies.

Expensive Contract System
While we in DSM will welcome any improvement in social infrastructures, no matter how little, we are quick to point out the futility of piecemeal approach and capitalist manner of such policies. For instance, with Public Works Ministry properly equipped and developed, N14 billion reportedly handed over to big time contractors for the rebuilding of 30 schools could have been used to reconstruct hundreds of schools, to standard. More than this, it will lead to decent and secure employment for thousands of young people, as against handful of part time and casual jobs the contractors offered in order to maximize profit. This also applies to road construction, where several billions of naira has been expended on limited stretches of road. The over N10 billion reportedly used to construct some hundred kilometers of inner township roads, could have been used to construct several hundreds of kilometers of roads, if the contracting system had not been entrenched. Today, the Ministry of Works, and its professional staffs have been rendered idle, as their jobs have been contracted out. Thus, it will not be surprising when the government starts using the excuse of redundancy to retrench workers.

School Feeding Program and School Uniforms
The governor in the Vanguard newspaper interview mentioned the school feeding programme as one of the success stories of the government. Of course, one will readily welcome and support any initiative that tends to reduce the burden on poor parents and improve the lives of poor kids. However, this programme, which was started by Oyinlola government, is not all that a rosy story. The so-called jobs being provided for the cooks working for the school feeding programme hardly provide them with living wage, yet big time contractors, who supply materials for the programme, continue to amass wealth.The cooks are only expected to gain marginal profits from materials provided for the school feeding programme. This can lead to cutting of cost at the expense of quality of foods. One would have expected the government to employ cooks and place them on living wage. More than this, we will expect the government to state how it will resolve pervasive poverty that has made parents unable to feed and clothe themselves and their kids.

While the APC government is committing public resources to lining the pockets of the rich and politicians, working people are being squeezed under the guise of financial prudency. The Aregbesola government gave almost one billion naira of public fund, under the guise of giving free school uniforms to pupils, to a private business to set up a garment factory in the state. However, some months after the so-called free school uniform programme, poor parents are now being forced to procure the same school uniforms from the private garment factory (which now has the monopoly of producing public school uniforms) at more than double the price of former school uniforms. This has caused an untold hardship to poor parents.

Pensioners and OYES
While politicians are earning millions as salaries and allowances, working people are made to go through hell to get their basic incomes. A case in point is that of thousands of retirees who are still owed several months of pension arrears; while no gratuity has been paid since the current government emerged almost four years ago. Worse still, many workers have been pushed into the exploitative Contributory Pension Scheme that hands over workers’ pensions to private pension managers, who pay workers peanuts but earn huge profits from them. To add insult to injury, the government has refused to remit its contribution to this fraudulent pension scheme, thus denying many retirees of their meagre entitlements.

The so-called employment scheme government established under Osun Youth Employment Scheme (OYES), where twenty thousand young people were purportedly employed, has been nothing but rip-off. The volunteers, aside being paid peanuts of less than ten thousand naira as salaries, are denied any democratic right including regularization of job, accident allowances, retirement opportunity or right to unionization. Worse still, those employed are to be disengaged within two years. Already, the first batch of the volunteers have been disengaged, many of them returning to the streets.Yet, there is a huge shortfall in the civil and teaching services due to mass retirement of thousands of workers.

No Viable Alternative
As terrible and anti-poor as ruling Aregbesola/APC government is the PDP and its candidate Iyiola Omisore constitutes a horrible alternative. The PDP ruled the state for seven and half years, three and half years of which was illegally gotten through a rigged election. The seven and half years of PDP were years of the locusts, as every facet of social services and public infrastructures plummeted. There were serial attacks on workers and students’ rights. The state university established by the Oyinlola/PDP government was made exclusively for the children of the rich with school fees as high as N200, 000, even when the state government hardly implemented the then public sector minimum wage of N11, 000. The party, PDP has been ruling the country since its emergence in 1999, yet more people are living in penury than ever. This is in spite the fact that the country has earned unprecedented wealth reportedly running to over $600 billion.  

The party’s candidate, Iyiola Omisore, who has been in politics since 1999, is part of this rotten politics. He was a former deputy governor between 1999 and 2003, and the first major event associated with him was mismanagement of millions of naira meant for water treatment and supply. He was fingered, but later acquitted of the murder of former Justice Minister, Bola Ige. He is a two-time senator, whose elections were fraught with violence. As the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation between 2007 and 2011, he oversaw enactment of budgets that denied young people of education, destroyed social services and handed public wealth to the rich few. Therefore, his candidature has nothing to do with improving the lots of the working people, but to use growing disillusionment of poor people with the current government to access power and implement worse anti-poor, pro-rich policies. He has never been identified with any pro-working people policy. For instance, in his recent interview in Guardian newspaper, his alternative to the backward school merger of Aregbesola government is privatization of education through return of schools to their former owners.

However, based on general disillusionment with the Aregbesola government, some workers and oppressed people are already looking in the direction of Omisore. This has been given boost by the recent victory of Ayo Fayose/PDP in Ekiti State governorship elections. This is like moving in a vicious cycle. The same mass of people implacably opposed the almost eight years of PDP rule, and struggled, even at the cost of their lives, to have Aregbesola elected as governor. Yet, less than four years, many sections of the populace are disenchanted with the government. This clearly underscores the urgent need to build a new mass working people’s party with clearly socialist programmes. This is what the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) stands for. There is tendency for a mass disillusionment in all the contestants, which may lead to voters’ apathy, thus allowing major bourgeois parties to rig, where they have opportunity and strength.

The other capitalist candidates like the Labour Party’s Fatai Akinbade and Social Democratic Party’s SegunAkinwusi (immediate past Head of Service in the state) have no fundamentally different résumé from APC and PDP candidates. They were part of the rottenness associated with current and past administrations. Akinwusi was Head of Service for eight years under Oyinlola and Aregbesola. He was the brain behind the fraudulent Contributory Pension Scheme that has led to dislocation of careers and worsening living conditions of many workers and retirees. Akinbade was Secretary to Oyinlola government for eight years, superintending over several anti-poor policies of the government. Indeed, the emergence of these yesterday men, including Omisore, aside being a product of lack of viable working class and socialist alternative, is a reflection of the failure of the Aregbesola government, whose four years have not engendered any serious improvement in people’s lives.

If Aregbesola wins the coming governorship election, it will only mean consolidation of anti-poor regime and further diversion of public funds to private contractors, political patrons and political office holders. On the contrary, in the event that the opposition PDP defeat Aregbesola, it will mean emergence of another, possibly worse, scoundrel in power. Surely, the next four years will be years of mass struggle of working and oppressed people against one government’s anti-poor policy or the other. The need to rebuild working people’s mass organizations like trade unions, student movement, community movements, etc. is more urgent now than ever. Unfortunately, many labour union leaders, in search of filthy lucre, have turned themselves into pawns of various politicians. Moreover, there is the need to start the process of building a new working and poor people’s political platform as an alternative to all anti-worker and anti-poor parties. This is where the SPN stands.

Alfred Adegoke                                                    Kola Ibrahim
State Chairperson                                               State Secretary

Monday, 14 July 2014

BAMIDELE ATURU’S DEATH: PAINFUL LOSS TO THE NIGERIAN WORKING CLASS MOVEMENT



PRESS STATEMENT

We of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) express our heartfelt sorrow at the untimely departure of Bamidele Aturu, a renowned former students’ leader and pro-working class and human rights activist.

As the Students’ Union President at Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, Ondo State and later as Vice-President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) at Obafemi Awolowo University, where he read Law, Aturu stood as one of the leading lights of the student movement’s struggle against the anti-poor capitalist policy of education commercialization.

It was in furtherance of that struggle that he famously rejected a National Youth Service Corps award from a military administrator in Niger State. 

Aturu was to later play prominent roles in the anti-military and post military struggles against human rights violations and pauperizing neoliberal policies. Through all these, “BF” as he is popularly called built the reputation of a steadfast working class activist and socialist.

For us in the SPN, one of the most striking aspects of Aturu’s character was his broad-minded orientation which illuminated his political conclusions. This explains why despite that he belonged to a different political spectrum on the left which often does not see any good from the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM),  Aturu gave commendable financial support to the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), a party initiated by DSM.

No tribute can be more befitting for Aturu’s than for socialist, youth and working class elements to continue with the challenge of building a genuine political alternative. 

The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) would continue the unflinching defense of working people’s interests, as Aturu relentlessly did, by opposing all forms of mass disenfranchisement of the working people through such means as undemocratic deregistration of political parties and obnoxious conditions for party registration. 

Pursuant to this task, the SPN has since submitted its application to the Independent National Electoral Commission having met all conditions under the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Electoral Act 2010 (2011 as amended) for the purpose of standing genuine working class candidates in the coming 2015 general elections and participating in the daily struggles of the working people in and out of political offices.

Segun Sango
National Chairperson, SPN


Sunday, 29 June 2014

No to Privatization of Refineries:



Labour Unions Must Uncompromisingly Oppose This Daylight Robbery

Press Statement

The Nigerian government is hell-bent in taking Nigeria to an economic road to perdition with its rabid implementation of neo-liberal policies. The latest in the phase is the privatization of the state-owned oil refineries. If allowed, this policy will further worsen the already unbearable living conditions of the majority. It will imply the fate of working and poor Nigerians being determined by the profit interests of few capitalists. This therefore bring to fore the need for the labour movement, especially the in-house unions and the labour centres (NLC and TUC) to oppose this daylight robbery consistently and with organized mass actions

According to Benjamin Dikki, the Director General of Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) in Guardian newspaper (28/06/2014), government has concluded all arrangement to privatize the refineries, safe for the opposition from labour unions, especially National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers’ Union (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN). He further stated that the labour unions “want to be stakeholders in the privatization process” and that National Council on Privatization (NCP) has conceded some shares of the privatized firms to workers.

This to us in the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) is an attempt to buy working people’s long-term interests for a pot of mess. SPN calls on leadership of labour unions including NUPENG, PENGASSAN, NLC and TUC not to accept this fraudulent arrangement, as this will be jeopardizing the interests of the working people in the name of being stakeholders and partners in a gargantuan economic racket. . Rather than being partners with government in this privatization fraud, labour movement should declare civil mass actions including strike and mass protests, if government should go ahead with its plans.

Labour unions should not repeat the error made during the privatization of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), whereby labour unions were duped by the government in the name of worthless engagement and resolution of labour matter. We believe that the central labour matter is that workers and their unions must oppose privatization in principle as well as in action. Privatization of the electricity companies has neither improved electric power supply, nor has it led to improvement in the working conditions of workers. On the contrary, things have actually gotten worse. Aside power generation and supply dwindling in spite of huge profit the private buyers are making, thousands of jobs have been regularly axed by the private buyers. Many retrenched workers are still denied their entitlements, while many workers are currently working as casuals. In the face of all this failure, the private buyers, with direct support from government have hiked electricity tariff by more than 100 percent since the privatization in November 2013.

Therefore, it will be criminally shortsighted to believe against reality that privatization of the refineries can bring different outcome. It will be another monumental failure, with the working people paying the price. Subsidy fraud in which billions of dollars were looted by private businesses in conjunction with politicians and top bureaucrats reflects the fraudulent character of Nigeria’s capitalist class. Privatization of refineries will mean massive retrenchment of workers, casualization of labour, and deregulation of fuel prices, meaning pricing of fuels out of the reach of the poor and working people. On the other hand, it will mean concentration of wealth in the hands of a few rich. Selling a token of shares to workers will not halt these situations. It will on the contrary mean workers’ name being used to rubberstamp this mother of corruption that privatization entails.

We in the SPN call on labour unions to maintain a principled, consistent and uncompromising opposition to privatization of refineries, and privatization in general. Labour unions should demand public ownership and running of the refineries under democratic management of elected representatives of workers, communities, consumers and relevant professionals. While we agree that public corporations have been run aground, we contend that this is a product of the bureaucratic and undemocratic running of these public corporations. This has meant top bureaucrats in conjunction with corrupt politicians and their private sector accomplices turning these corporations to private cash cows. They are the ones have that milked these corporations dry, and they, acting along with their global capitalist backers, are behind the privatization project. With democratic public ownership and management, it can be possible to run the refineries in the interests of the working people, who are in the majority. It will also liberate the huge wealth being cornered by bureaucrats, corrupt politicians, big businesses and multinational corporations, for the improvement in living conditions of the majority.

Ultimately, labour movement need to build a political alternative to governments of privatization at all levels by crystallizing the formation of a genuine working people’s political platform with a clearly socialist program

Segun Sango
National Chairperson

Friday, 27 June 2014

SPN CONDEMNS WUSE II BOMBING




 AND OTHER TERRORIST ATTACKS ACROSS THE COUNTRY

PRESS STATEMENT


Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) condemns the June 25, 2014 bombing of Banex Shopping Plaza in Wuse 11, Abuja that led to the death of 21 persons while injuring 17 others. Among the casualties is Suleiman Bisalla, Managing Editor (Northern Operations) of the New Telegraph. We commiserate with the families of the dead, injured as well as those who lost properties. As a matter of fact, the Wuse II bombing took place close to the national secretariat of the SPN.

Tragically the Wuse II bombing is only the latest in the renewed wave of terrorist attacks outside the Northeast Nigeria. Apart from this attack, in the last one week there have been bombings in Kaduna and Kano. Besides, this explosion is the third in Abuja in the last two months. On top of this is the continued abduction of over 200 Chibok girls by Boko Haram and ceaseless assaults on the North east by the terrorist group despite the state of emergency and the purported heightening of military operations including imperialist assistance in the region  

The recent bombings and the previous ones continue to demonstrate how incapable the government and the entire ruling elite are in curtailing these mindless terrorist activities that have continued to cause many deaths, injuries and displacement mostly of poor children, women and working class elements. While the rich can afford to surround themselves with massive security or relocate abroad, it is the poor working masses that daily face the brunt of terrorist activities across Nigeria.

The working people must therefore begin to organize resistance through democratically controlled mass self-defence committees at communities, parks, markets, etc to protect ordinary people against terrorist activities. These self-defence measures must be with the purpose of uniting the working masses across religious and ethnic lines to prevent the terrorists sowing division and provoking sectarian clashes and conflicts. Such joint bodies should be linked with the struggle for decent jobs, living wage, basic infrastructure and decent living conditions for all.

We in the SPN therefore challenge the leaderships of both the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to lead a mass resistance of the working masses against the relentless wave of terrorist attacks and the neo-liberal policies that fuel them through a one-day general strike and mass protests. The Labour movement must also demand an end to wanton killings and unlawful detention of innocent people by the security operatives under the guise of fighting Boko Haram.

The working masses should however understand that the struggle against terrorism cannot and should not be separated from the larger struggle to rid Nigeria of the exploitative and pauperizing capitalist rule of the millionaires. It cannot also be separated from the need to democratically negotiate and decide Nigeria’s future given the underlying nationality crisis in the country. These two fundamental tasks can only be genuinely carried out by a working class and youth led government basing itself on the socialist ideas of working peoples’ ownership, control and management of the commanding heights of the economy and the right to self-determination.

In this wise, SPN wishes to emphasize that governments that cannot defend the lives and properties of ordinary people against terrorist activities do not deserve to remain power. It is not only the PDP that has failed in this respect but all the anti-poor parties in government at various levels including the All Progressives Congress (APC) as it is the common anti-poor, neo-liberal capitalist program they all subscribe to that continue to provide fertile ground for recruitment into terrorist activities .

SPN again therefore calls on the leadership of the trade union movement to stop its collaborationist tendencies with the ruling classes by embracing the need to build a working class political alternative to contest and wrest power from the thieving, anti-poor ruling elites with the aim of using the huge resources of the society for the benefit of the vast majority. It is the urgent need to provide a striking example in this direction that our party SPN has been formed and recently applied for registration with INEC.

Segun Sango
National Chairperson