2023 and Left Unity: Election or Revolution? By Omole Ibukun

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It is therefore important to let this foresight guide our answers to the questions 2023 is asking us. More than ever before, we are in need of unity. A left unity has become very important given the present definition of Nigeria as a failed state and the possibility of a military dictatorship. Given the history of what military regimes do to left movements, it is not too much to say that we are in a Unite or Die moment in the Nigerian left.

IN the run up to the 2023 elections in Nigeria, the Nigerian left is once again faced with many questions. However, two main questions stand out. They include; one, how much of left unity do we need for a successful left intervention in 2023 elections and beyond? Two; should our interventions be through the organising of a political party to participate in the elections or should they be outside of the electoral process for a socialist revolution?

The answers to these questions require careful analyses. The 2023 election is special because it is coming after a mass revolt of Nigerians during the 2020 #EndSARS protests. The last time there was such mass revolt was in the 2012 #OccupyNigeria protests. The effect of the 2012 revolt on the 2015 general elections that followed was that it ended the 16-year rule of the People’s Democratic Party, only to give power to another side of the ruling class represented by a former dictator, General Muhammadu Buhari.

While some good number of Nigerians had unrealistic illusions in a potentially dictatorial, bigoted and capitalist Buhari regime as at 2015, it must be noted that the fact that PDP was punished electorally for plundering the country was a politically conscious achievement by electorates.

The rebranding is easy especially if the ruling class can get a part of the left to believe in their candidate. This happened during the rebranding of the then General Buhari for the 2015 elections. Some part of the left had high hopes in Buhari despite his history of dictatorship, bigotry and capitalist neo-liberal policies. This is understandable given the desperation of that period, but we must have learnt from our mistakes by now.

It is this kind of mood (of punishing the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the clearly tyrannical Buhari Regime) that the 2023 general election is coming into. This present context gets better in that the other side of the ruling class (the PDP) has already been discredited by their history. The Nigerian political class is therefore left with no other option than to conjure up another party for the ruling class or risk mass apathy that will taint the credibility of those elected in future elections.

This mass apathy was already evident in the Lagos and Ogun states local government elections, and was also a feature of the recent Anambra election. This is despite the fact that the ruling class was still able to conjure up an alternative party for themselves in the Anambra election.

Soludo, a former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, won the seat for APGA, a ruling party for 16 years at the state level. The voter turnout was a meagre 10% of registered voters, and the winner won with less than 5% of registered voters. This was despite the fact that Soludo was presented as a young technocratic outsider of the electoral politics. Obviously, we are not the only ones who saw the lie.

The historic low turnout in the Anambra elections would have been blamed solely on IPOB’s opposition to the elections and fears of insecurity if the IPOB had not declared that it had no opposition to the elections after much diplomatic appeals to the secessionist group. This crisis of political representation within the ruling class was therefore exposed with the low turnout despite fears of insecurity taken out of the way.

Within the ruling class, this crisis of political representation can be resolved in two ways:

1) The ruling class could find someone within their ranks or someone who is aspiring to join their class and rebrand such person as their candidate for the 2023 general elections. Open efforts are presently ongoing with technocrats like Vice President Osinbajo; youth candidates like Kingsley Moghalu of the ADC, youth parties like YPP, anti-worker labour party like ZLP and the Labour Party itself whose leadership is being hijacked by a right-wing of the party.

The rebranding is easy especially if the ruling class can get a part of the left to believe in their candidate. This happened during the rebranding of the then General Buhari for the 2015 elections. Some part of the left had high hopes in Buhari despite his history of dictatorship, bigotry and capitalist neo-liberal policies. This is understandable given the desperation of that period, but we must have learnt from our mistakes by now.

Our basic agreement in the left is the need for a socialist change of society. That does not happen through elections alone, but also through revolutionary organising of the mass of the people against the state in strikes and mass protests. Election or Revolution? Our approach to 2023 must factor both of these things.

2) If it becomes impossible for the ruling class to find someone with some credibility to represent its interests by the 2023 general elections, rather than let a left alternative fill that spot and/or claim victory, they might go for the military option. Coups have been used recently by the ruling class in Sudan, Guinea and Mali, with that of Sudan and Mali happening twice as the Military is being used as a weapon to keep the revolutionary demands of the masses in check. Such military regimes claim to be carrying on the revolutionary demands of the people and hardly get any substantial International opposition as long as they are ready to play nice with global imperialist forces. The military offers itself as stabilisers for the many insecurities and instabilities in the country, but only exists to represent the interest of the ruling class.

It is therefore important to let this foresight guide our answers to the questions 2023 is asking us. More than ever before, we are in need of unity. A left unity has become very important given the present definition of Nigeria as a failed state and the possibility of a military dictatorship. Given the history of what military regimes do to left movements, it is not too much to say that we are in a Unite or Die moment in the Nigerian left.

This need for unity surpasses any individual interests because none of us can find a space to exist in within a possible military dictatorship. Given the present geo-political tensions in Nigeria, it is not impossible that such dictatorship takes the form of a tribalist ‘Hitler’ genocidal campaign or a religious theocratic regime like that of the Taliban in the Middle East.

It takes no soothsayer to know that no left movement or organisation, no matter the tendency or colouration, can exist in such a regime. The war-like situation in Libya, for example, hardly allows any left organising to thrive. The task at hand therefore demands that we unite on our basic points of agreements, not only DESPITE our organisational differences but also BECAUSE of our organisational differences. It is only through unity of action that we can move beyond theoretical debates of our differences and resolve them with practical experiences.

Conversely, our platforms of struggle must express the need for the masses to take political power. Our campaigns for a revolution must educate and express the need for the masses to organise themselves democratically for a revolution from the bottom up. Campaigning for a top-down revolution led by one Messiah will only lead to another dictatorship even if such Revolution happens. Worse still, just like in some other African countries, the military could try to lay claim to that revolution, with military generals presenting themselves as revolutionaries.

Our basic agreement in the left is the need for a socialist change of society. That does not happen through elections alone, but also through revolutionary organising of the mass of the people against the state in strikes and mass protests. Election or Revolution? Our approach to 2023 must factor both of these things.

Our united electoral platforms must not just be parties for elections, but must be parties of struggle. Starting with the rejection of the attempt to increase fuel price nationally (under the guise of subsidy removal or deregulation) to the attempt to deny justice to the victims of police brutality and the Lekki Massacre, our parties must take the lead as parties of struggle. On electricity costs, on housing, on health care, on school fees, and on other local issues across the country leading to protests, our parties must be parties of resistance. If we do not do this, our parties (even where we win) will become just another vehicle for our working class candidates into the ruling class, just the same way Adams Oshiomhole used the Labour Party then.

Conversely, our platforms of struggle must express the need for the masses to take political power. Our campaigns for a revolution must educate and express the need for the masses to organise themselves democratically for a revolution from the bottom up. Campaigning for a top-down revolution led by one Messiah will only lead to another dictatorship even if such Revolution happens. Worse still, just like in some other African countries, the military could try to lay claim to that revolution, with military generals presenting themselves as revolutionaries.

This should be our approach to the “Election or Revolution” questions. As 2023 draws nearer, more questions will be raised for the left as people get more politically conscious with the hope to change our lot for the better. These questions wherever they come up must be answered with open, critical and independent minds with the aim of achieving and preserving unity.

Comrade Ibukun writes from Abuja and can be contacted on 09060277591

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