THE present ruling class in Nigeria have forfeited their right to rule as a result of their failure to produce the basic necessities of life for the Nigerian masses. It has failed to provide security of persons and properties to Nigerian citizens. It has failed to create jobs, build roads, bridges, hospitals, clinics, schools, universities and housing. It has failed to provide the enabling environment for agricultural, industrial, technological growth and sustainable economic development. Unfortunately for us, progressive forces in the nation do not have the power to seize control of the apparatus of the state and institute an era of sustainable economic development.
One of the barriers to increasing the power of progressive forces is the lack of unity around progressive ideas. In 2015, the efforts to present a united force made up of opposition parties failed. Currently, there is an attempt to build unity around the labour party as a Third Force against the dominance of the democratic political space by the two bourgeois parties, the APC and PDP.
Unfortunately, this unity is been built around bourgeois political personalities rather than the NLC Nigerian Workers Charter of Demands or a broader platform of nationalistic revolutionary principles/demands. Thus, even if the labour party wins, it will not serve the interests of the masses of Nigerian people in its present non-ideological form under the leadership of bourgeois or even pro labour personalities. The party’s experiences under Olusegun Mimiko, Alao Akala and Adam Oshiomole leadership lead to this conclusion. What then is the way forward toward building a sustainable Third Force to oppose bourgeois political dominance of the nation?
Under certain historical conditions, the political, social and economic demands of various groups and classes coincide thereby creating the possibility for the formation of a nationalist political united front or Third Force. The identity of the political united front reflects national and class struggles. Sometimes, a united front is between classes as occurred after 1945 when the Nigerian labouring classes (workers and farmers) united with the emerging national bourgeois class around the demand for political independence.
At other times, a united front is between the sections of the labouring classes or groups as happened with the anti-subsidy struggles around the demand for affordable petrol prices. A Third Force is a political united front of progressive forces from different groups and classes around a specific set of demands under the leadership of progressive working class forces. A Third Force is not another bourgeois or ruling class political party. It cannot therefore be successful led by ruling class elements or politicians decamping from existing bourgeois parties.
A Third Force is tactical, ideological and political united front based upon a specific set of demands. A third force is a tactical united front because the principles and programs of the independent groups/classes/political parties joining the united front are preserved. These groups retain their autonomy outside the third force program or set of demands. The Third Force is ideological because it is committed to a set of ideas that seeks to improve the living conditions of the masses. The Third Force believes in ideals that are based on humanist economic and political theories and policies.
The late Amilcar Carbal of PAIGC, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde taught us that “to have ideology doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to define whether you are communist, socialist or something like this. To have ideology is to know what you want in your own condition…We first asked –Who are we? What do we want?. How do we live?. What is our enemy?. Who is this enemy?. What can he do against us?. What is our country?. Where is our country?.—things like this, step by step, explaining out real conditions and explaining what we want, why we want it and why we had to fight.”
A Third Force must be able to answer these questions firmly and clearly to the satisfaction of the masses of people. The Third Force is political because it seeks to contest the right of the ruling class to rule or maintain control of all state apparatuses of class domination in the national democratic arena. At its core, the Third Force is a tactical, ideological united front designed to promote direct action (by voting and otherwise) against the ruling class and its total control of state resources
Finally, the Third Force is based upon a realistic assessment of the prevailing situation in the country and the immediate basic interests and concerns of the masses. This assessment is captured in a program consisting of a concrete set of demands aimed at achieving concrete benefits for the masses of workers, youths, students, women and farmers.
Amilcar Carbal taught us to “always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.” Therefore, the concrete demands must flow from the existing grassroots struggles of the different forces that make up the constituent parts of the Third Force as a tactical, ideological, political united front. The Third Force organize and mobilize the masses of people door by door, street by street, ward by ward and state by state on the basis of this program of concrete demands.
The NLC has a set of concrete demands for the Labour Party outlined in its Nigerian workers’ charter of demands. The charter of demand covers Education, Health Care, Living Wages, Prioritization of Workers’ Welfare, Management of Nigeria’s Natural Resources, Industrialization of the National Economy, Physical Security, Social Protection and Good Governance.
The charter calls for free and quality education up to tertiary level for all Nigerian students. It calls for a cost-free comprehensive health care services for all citizens and the enrolment of more Nigerians into the National Health Insurance Scheme. It demands the legislative prohibition of public officers accessing health care in foreign countries. It demands a reasonable national minimum wage and affordable Housing for Nigerian workers. It calls for equal pay for work of equal value.
It demands a stop to the privatization of public enterprises and asset. It demands the repair of our local refineries and the termination of 100% importation of petrol and other refined petroleum products. It rejects the perpetual increase in petrol prices. It calls for world class public infrastructure including double carriage highways, standard guage railways, affordable public electricity supply, world class airport facilities, improved inland waterways, increased fiber optics lines for affordable internet, data and telephone services in Nigeria. It demands jobs for Nigerian youths and a fundamental reform of the Electoral Process.
The Labour party has been promoted as a Third Force. What are the specific concrete demands of the Labour Party as a Third Force?. It is not clear if the NLC workers’ charter of demands has been adopted by the Labour Party as the basis of its existence. While the NLC and TUC set up the Labour Party as a tool for electoral struggles by workers, youths, farmers and women, Nigerian politicians see it as just an alternative bourgeois electoral party. The Labour Party has welcomed these Neo-liberal anti-worker forces into its leadership. Thus, the present amorphous nature of the Labour Party is an obstacle to its ability to be a tactical, ideological, political united front of oppressed Nigerian masses fighting to win material benefits and guarantee the future of their children.
For example, in the 1990s, the Venezuelan Labour Party failed to build a Third Force as an opposition to the two dominant bourgeois political parties (Copei and Democratic Action) because it allowed Neo-liberal anti-worker forces to seize control of its leadership. However, in April 1997, the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200, a small Venezuelan socialist party, supported the candidacy of Hugo Chavez for President.
The party registered itself as the Fifth Republic Movement for the 1998 election. Within a year, it formed a united front consisting of other small political parties such as the Peoples Electoral Movement, Venezuelan Popular Unity, Tupamaro Movement, Socialist League, Fatherland for All, For Social Democracy and the Communist Party of Venezuela and transformed itself into a Third Force. Campaigning on an agenda made up of a set of concrete anti-poverty demands, this Third Force won the 1998 election and brought Hugo Chavez to power. While in power, Chavez executed the demands and program of the united front. The poverty rate fell by 50%.
A Third Force in Nigeria today should encompass the following set of demands in a 10-10 program as the basis for a tactical, ideological, political united front of oppressed Nigerian masses fighting for sustainable economic development.
The Third Force Program.
WHAT WE WANT:
- Free Education at all levels for Nigerian Youths.
- Good Transport infrastructure (Roads, Railways, Airports) and Health Care for Nigerian people.
- Full Employment and Jobs for Nigerian Youths and Workers.
- Adequate Electricity, Housing and Pipe Borne Drinking water for Nigerian people.
- Free Speech, Rule of Law and Security for Nigerian people.
- Adequate Food Production and Agricultural Development for Nigerian Farmers.
- A massive reduction in Poverty and Hunger for all.
- Total Resource Control at Zonal and State level.
- Restructuring of Nigeria, True Federalism and Democratic Socialism.
- One United Socialist Africa.
WHAT WE ARE AGAINST:
- Corruption (Misuse/Stealing of public funds).
- Tribalism, State of origin and Ethnic Oppression.
- Nepotism and Impunity by persons in high offices.
- Gender/Women Oppression.
- Religious fanaticism/bigotry/intolerance and State religion.
- Racism, Imperialism and Neocolonialism.
- Insecurity of life and properties.
- Military Rule .
- Police brutality and violence against citizens by State Agents and the Armed Forces.
- Economic Exploitation of the Nigerian masses.
The Third Force program forms a minimum set of demands around which groups/small progressive parties can unite with direct action, voting and other forms of struggles. The program forms an electoral platform for the Third Force as a political party during elections and a program for concrete struggles after the elections. It is not too late to transform the Labour Party or any other progressive party into a true fighting Third Force. This will require the acceptance of a set of concrete relevant demands by all members of the party and the construction of a united front aimed at mobilizing the Nigerian masses for the political struggle to actualize these demands.
Dr. Agbon, a former Chairman of ASUU, University of Ibadan, now a consultant, lives in Texas, USA. He can be contacted via: [email protected], Twitter: @izielenagbon.