Unable to match Atiku’s $20,000 dollars to each delegate in attendance at the recent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Convention/Presidential Primary held at the Eagles Square in Abuja and other big spenders, the same Atiku to whom he was a running mate in the 2019 general election, Peter Obi chose to defect to the Labour Party (LP). With little or no competition, he was able to fulfill all the demands of the party’s leadership to become its presidential candidate.
This tradition of putting up a political party’s ticket for sale to the highest bidder has continued to hold the Labour Party down since 2002, when it was registered. This has also made the party completely unattractive to Nigeria’s working masses.
Up until now, the leaders of the LP have preferred to keep the party locked up in a box, completely irrelevant to the challenges, struggles and aspirations of the Nigerian worker, only to open it at intervals, especially during electoral periods, for bourgeois refugees who lost out in the primaries of their preferred political parties.
The question to ask is how much did Peter Obi dole out to catapult himself as the presidential candidate of the LP less than a week after he became a member of the party?
So what is this Peter Obi rebranded Labour Party that is generating so much interest across the country, which has even made some “socialists” endorse the call to join the electoral train? What has Obi brought to the party that has made it different from what it was in the past and at the same time elicited joy and excitement at the possibility of an end to the dominance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP.
It is undeniable that eligible voters have desperately flooded designated registration centres in Lagos and other urban areas in different parts of the country, seeking to be registered. Also, there is the possibility that the 2023 general election could witness an unprecedented mass turnout. This cannot be divorced from the emergence of Obi and the birth of a growing crowd of followers identifying themselves as “Obi-dient”, with the character of a mass movement, mostly in the urban centres. So what has Obi brought on board the LP that has given rise to all these?
Should this be taken to mean that a qualitative shift has occurred in terms of a programme that would fundamentally change the course and history of the country, with the potential of meeting the aspirations of the working population? It is appropriate to acknowledge the trends observed above and admit that there is a quantitative new entrant into the LP, which is indicative of the desire of “change seekers” to have little or nothing to do with the APC and PDP. It appears that these change seekers know what they don’t want. This, however, cannot now be taken to mean that the people have now hit on the magic wand that would transform the fortunes of Nigerian workers.
While welcoming the call by the trade unions for workers to join the party as part of the process of reclaiming the party, there is no assurance that this call will automatically propel workers to join the party. Many workers still have fresh in their consciousness the refusal of labour leaders to consistently provide the needed leadership in their struggle against the ruling class and their ruinous policies of deregulation and privatisation.
If anything is significant about the name Labour Party, it is that it should be a party for workers and the poor masses, a party that should allow the working class the opportunity to take on the ruling class and not trade it to members of the ruling class to pretend that they are the same and one with the working class and can so represent their interest and should be voted for.
Interestingly this is not the first time Peter Obi is presenting himself to the electorate. There is nothing significant about him that has changed when he contested and was governor of Anambra State for two terms on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), crossed over to the PDP and contested as Vice President to Atiku in the 2019 general election. Interestingly the latter is now one of his opponents. In terms of ideas and philosophy, he does not differ from Atiku of the PDP or Tinubu of the APC. He is a supporter of big business and neo-liberal ideas of the capitalist class, defending a continued domination of the key sectors of the economy by private capital, both foreign and national.
As a state governor, his reluctance to pay the new minimum wage shows that he is not in any sense workers-friendly. It is painful and sad that this is the very person now presented to workers as the presidential candidate of the LP.
A political charter for the labour movement should be defined by first and foremost an independent political organisation of the working people and for the working people. Such should be free from control by the members of the ruling class, defending not just the right to vote but the right of workers to stand as candidates to be voted for, campaigning on a programme and a manifesto that seeks to mobilise the entire working class and all of her allies to fully come on board the arena of struggle so as to build the necessary force that can take on the ruling class, dislodge it from power and commence on the road to a social revolution, to accomplish and build a new country for all on a socialist manifesto.
To call workers to join the LP is nothing more than a call to vote for Peter Obi and endorse his neo-liberal and capitalist ideals. This is also not the first time the people will be presented with a supposed “fresh face” or “fresh breath” as Goodluck Jonathan was so branded, with nothing whatsoever to show for it and leaving the working masses worse off in the end.
Muhammadu Buhari was similarly repackaged in 2015 and presented to the electorate as someone who was feared because of his hatred for corruption to the extent that the creed of governance remained that of promoting big business and the continued dominance of the economy as opposed to a total break from it. While we will not fundamentally oppose the call for workers to reclaim the Labour Party, this cannot be defined and limited to the context of the 2023 general election. Joining merely for the purpose of canvassing and voting for Peter Obi completely defeats the purpose of the call.
Aj Dagga Tolar