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The ‘One-man-One-Vote’ campaign

RECENTLY, there has been a sustained campaign in Edo State, south-south of Nigeria, for every vote to count championed by Governor Adams Oshiomhole. The slogan that is fast becoming a cliché is called ‘One-Man-One-Vote’. With this campaign, the Oshiomhole government hopes to eradicate election rigging in Edo State and by extension in Nigeria. I support any campaign, slogans, agitation aimed at defeating election rigging.

However, it should be noted that election rigging and manipulations in Nigeria does not exist because of the absence of campaigns, agitations, slogans, but fundamentally due to the absence of alternative working class movement that can check election rigging head-on with the aim to change society. Politically, the right to vote and be voted for is a product of class struggle that cannot be won by mere sloganeering and campaigns; so, it is only the class presently oppressed that can stop election rigging.

Unlike the Uwais recommendation that spells out some changes in the conduct of elections, the ‘One-Man,-One-Vote’ is just like many other campaigns that lack any political focus, direction or force. Though, some of the Uwais recommendation are progressive while some are not, it has some practical suggestion that can be debated upon, which is missing in ‘One Man One Vote campaign’.

However, both still lack an organized force to carry through any major reform, having reduced the people to mere spectators while appealing to the ruling elite to allow for credible election.

What is the economic framework, philosophy and ideology of One Man, One Vote campaign and how would it be used to protect the socio-economic and political interest of the poor? How would the campaign produce a different economic and political system compared to the ruinous one we presently implement?

The proponents of election reform have only identified that elections are in most cases rigged and the need for reform, a fact known to everybody, but have not identified why elections are rigged. Are elections rigged for the sake of rigging? The answer is No.

Election is only a means to an end. The ruling elite who rig do it to shortchange the people through policies and programs that benefit them and their class alone.

The process of taking political power today is the only striving profitable industry, an avenue to loot, exploit and not to serve the people.

The petro-dollar comes in handy and the grab-grab mentality which the Nigeria ruling elite is notorious for accounts for the continued collapse of the basic infrastructures. Government is run privately to guarantee private interest and not for public interest.

So, appealing to the same ruling class to introduce reforms that may undermine their position is to expect milk from a he-goat.

The ‘One Man, One Vote’ rally held in Benin on April 29, 2010 that had Ibrahim Babangida in attendance, an anti-democratic force notorious for subverting the will of Nigerians and with a rich credential for institutionalizing corruption while in power, shows the obvious bankruptcy and limitation of the project. Why would anybody in his wildest imagination think that he can co-opt IBB or other anti-people politicians into a project meant to liberate the masses?

Universal suffrage was fought and won in the course of class struggle and not on mere campaigns. In the feudal period, the possession of wealth or property determines your right to vote and to be voted for. During the French revolution of 1789, universal suffrage was not just a struggle for adult male to have the right to vote, but a struggle for economic wellbeing of the poor.

The Jacobins did not stop at agitations, campaigns and slogans, but formed a massive organisation against the economic policies of the feudal elites; the same for the Bolsheviks in Russia against czarism and petty-bourgeois in 1917. The right for women to vote was subsequently won in different countries on the crest of struggle for political and economic rights of women.

The democratic right to vote and for the vote to count is still a mirage when the vast majority cannot be voted for. Due to the highly monetized and expensive capitalist electioneering process, only the rich or those supported by the rich can aspire for political positions leaving out the vast majority (working masses and poor) to only periodically vote for either the devil or the deep blue sea. No doubt, this does not offer any choice to the people. I

f I cannot be voted for because it is expensive, it then means that I will be forced to choose among a rich few who most likely will not defend my interest, thereby jeopardizing or making mockery of the right to vote and be voted for.

It is not true when the proponents of bourgeois reform, including Adams Oshiomhole, hold the view that when vote counts it automatically guarantees good governance and basic amenities for the people. If those who contest the election are one and the same corrupt anti-poor politicians like we have witnessed in most cases, the people are not only denied of choice even when the votes count, but also subjected to a continuation of the ruinous anti-poor policies such as privatization, deregulation, education commercialisation, etc.

We have seen many times in history when people effect change in government, but no change in their socio-economic conditions. The most recent is the change of guard in Ukraine after the February 2010 run-off election that brought into power Viktor Yanukovych, a candidate that was rejected in the 2004 poll.

The former president, Victor Yushchenko was elected in 2004 and brought to power by mass movement of the people, but only scored 5.45% of the total votes in the first election held on January 17, 2010 because he failed the people through his pro-rich economic program- the same economic program the current President subscribes to.
In Nigeria also, different parties and individuals have been voted into power without any change in the lives of the people, though in most cases elections are massively rigged.

So, it is a case of voting the same set of politicians, but different faces and personalities – obviously choosing between devil and Lucifer.

This explains the reason for political apathy and why the people are not enthused in participating in the electioneering process. So, the working masses and the poor need a truly independent mass based political party of their own and a capable leadership entrenched in socialist policies and programs in order to liberate themselves from the shackles of poverty, backwardness and inequality.

The only way to smash this vicious cycle and election rigging is for a political movement of the working class to be built, uniting the socio-economic and political interest of the vast majority, strengthening the solidarity of the working class in order to change the present rot.

If Adams Oshiomhole is serious about the suffering masses, he should abandon his obvious futile and opportunistic efforts at uniting different forces irrespective of their ideology, class and political leaning, and consolidate the campaign against election rigging (‘One Man, One Vote’ Campaign) by helping to build a political platform that will represent the interest of the people.

I also call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), the different affiliates and pro-people organizations to kick start the process of the building a mass based working class political platform as a tool for changing Nigeria.

Mr. Chinedu Bosah, a social activist, writes from Lagos.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.