Activists say Pruning Parties Will Undermine Democratic Rights

Activists say Pruning Parties Will Undermine Democratic Rights

…Fault Results of 2019 Elections as Tacit Move to Impoverish the People Activists at a discourse in Lagos to review the 2019 General Elections, say that any attempt by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to prune the 91 political parties, will not only seriously undermine democratic space but will impair freedom of choice and

…Fault Results of 2019 Elections as Tacit Move to Impoverish the People

Activists at a discourse in Lagos to review the 2019 General Elections, say that any attempt by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to prune the 91 political parties, will not only seriously undermine democratic space but will impair freedom of choice and association.

Held under the ambit of the Coalition for Revolution, comprising the Alliance for the Masses Political Alternative (AMPA) and the Take It Back (TIB) movement, with the theme, Post 2019 Election And Crises: The Need To Build A Coalition For Revolution, the gathering held at the weekend, also resolved on the need for the myriads of progressive and left leaning parties to harmonise their resources and work in unison rather than in splinters.

“We need to sustain the democratic struggle that led to the opening of democratic space and not seek to asphyxiate it,” argues Mr Olaseni Ajai, a member of the executive committee of the Coalition while alluding to the epic legal battle spearheaded by foremost Human Rights Lawyer, Mr Gani Fawehinmi which opened the floodgates to the registration of the National Conscience Party (NCP) and other parties.

Shrugging off the view of those who think the parties are compounding the already bloated election budget, he says, “I do not agree that 91 political parties are too many. INEC does not print the ballot papers with its own money. Everyone has a right to belong to parties of their choice.”

The forum also frowned at the outcome of the recent poll which they asserted were “massively rigged” as revealed by the reports of many local and international observers, to foist a “spineless leadership” amenable to perpetuate neo-liberal policies that will further impoverish the people.

While appraising the significant gains recorded particularly by the intervention of the African Action Congress (AAC) with Mr Omoyele Sowore as its presidential candidate, which has revealed that the ruling elite is not invincible, the forum notes that harmonising the resources of the different political platforms would have produced better outcomes.

It shows that even with paucity of resources, a strong platform anchored on the interests of the people can be a potent organ for change. “We were everywhere including Daura and the people welcomed us. It was some eye opener,” says Mr Juwon  Sanyaolu, one of the youth leaders who accompanied the AAC campaign team to many parts of the country.  

With a modest total sum of N157.9 million which it garnered from Nigeria and abroad, the AAC was able to organise over 500 events including town hall gatherings, rallies, meetings, and interviews. It was also able to do 9000 miles of travels across 36 states of the country to galvanize the people between March 2018 – February 23rd, 2019. “This is something we can build on to bring concrete change to our people”, says Sowore, who joined the discussion from his base in the US on skype.  

Rather than work at cross purposes, “We’ll surely be on a stronger stead if we harmonise our resources, structures and energies to confront the big parties that are merely buying votes and offering little or nothing to the people”, says Mr Lanre Osaze, former executive director, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO)

Recalling how the Muslim Brotherhood was able to seize political power after the Arab Spring and how the Campaign for Democracy (CD), then led by Dr Beko Ransome Kuti, was able to galvanize the people during the struggle to revalidate the June 12, 1993 election, Osaze was of the view that we needed a more viable “political movement whose work is firmly rooted in the people. It should also be grounded on definite programme and action.”  

“We need to present alternative views on several issues and think strategically. Our work must be strongly rooted in the people. It is in the course of practical work that we can align ourselves. We need to transform the struggle from that of intellectuals to that of the people who are angry. We took CD to the streets and that was why it could ask the people to sit at home and they obeyed.”

Arguing further, Osaze says, “Unless we work to make our organisation that of the ordinary Nigerians, we’ll not make progress. These are the people that can make the revolution a reality.”

Says he: “We must agree that the degenerate ruling class has to go. Nigeria became independent 60 years ago, yet we had a child that was driven out of school for school fees and we started contributing money for her. How did that happen in Nigeria or an oil rich Delta state? How stupid are we? For a class that has shown absolute incompetence. The entire ruling class has to go. That they are again muting hike in fuel price and Value Added Tax (VAT) in deference to the World Bank and IMF, is clear that they are out to further impoverish the people”.

While conceding the need to work together as a cohesive and purposeful group, a former Presidential Candidate of the NCP in the 2015 election, Mr Martins Onovo contends that it is farfetched to begin to think about 2023 election.

“In 2015, there was no election. What they published had no correlation with reality. Fantastic figures were posted from different parts of the country. We accepted it. The 2019 election was a charade. We have seen the reports of the international and local observers. If we wait for the 2023 election, they’ll rig it again. We should challenge this rigged election now. We need not postpone the fight, we should engage now.  This country has failed.”

Arguing that “This people are out to kill all of us unless we stop them,” he says, disclosing that Nigeria’s debt overhang has now risen to N24 trillion from the N13 trillion the Buhari government met when it came in 2015.

Querying the rationale for the huge debt when there are no concrete major projects to show like it was under the Obasanjo government that built 12 power stations, Onovo says,

“This place has failed. We are all marked for death. This people will kill everybody unless we stop them. My neighbour died because of the pressure of paying school fees. There are thousand ways that they’ll kill many of us. We need to stand for many departed activists who worked for many years for the betterment of Nigeria. We need to organise together under a coalition for a revolution. Black Africa will not succeed until we succeed here. We need to reject this election. Everyone has rejected it. Let us reject this charade. We can defeat this people morally, intellectually and strategically”.

President of the Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr Malachy Ugwunmmadu says, his organisation opted to host the discourse as part of its modest contribution to finding an alternative way to what is now perceived as the APC-PDP bind “that is holding back development in our dear country,” referring to the power struggle between the ruling All Progressive Congress and the opposition People’s Democratic Party, which many derisively see as two faces of the same coin.  “All the great ideas that have led to transformation start small. As a Rights Organisation, we always accommodate several views,” he says.

Recalling the battle that led to the formation of the NCP at Anthony bus stop on October Ist, 1994, Ugwummadu says, “Many Nigerians are now convinced of the possibility of change of power. If we are purposeful, we don’t have all the billions but we can overrun them. We have a history. These efforts have crystallised over a long time. We need to build a consensus around definite programmes and action. CDHR will provide the modest resources to promote further discussion on this.”.

General Secretary of National Automobile Technicians Association (NATA), Mr David Ajetunmobi was particularly excited that the “forum was the first solution that we have to come together to discuss the way forward.” “We must have a programme of action. It can be to press the governors to build roads, hospitals etc. We must come up with an agenda. We need to start from somewhere,” he counsels. The highly stimulating forum which featured divergent views on how to engage in the power struggle to create better life for the people, was attended by representatives of eight political parties, left leaning groups and some civil society organisations .          

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