The Socialist Party of Nigeria sees the current internal fighting among the Nigerian ruling elite, as an opportunity to offer an alternative that is pro the masses working people of the country.
We are lucky and very fortunate that the members of the ruling class are fighting among themselves – conspicuously at the national level, which has percolated through to the states of the federation. There is no doubt that this crack in the ruling class shall significantly alter the character of the 2019 general election. And before 2019, it could determine the Osun 2018 gubernatorial election as it helped shaped too the Ekiti election a month earlier.
This is also the ripest moment for the people to reject the rich-politicians from the mainstream political parties, who are ably experienced in deceiving and disappointing the common people every four years. And the masses can do this by uniting against these elites while they are busy fighting themselves over matters of no significance to the growing rate of inflation or unemployment.
But who shall the masses replace these exclusive class of politicians with? How would the people determine a genuine and clear-headed candidate from a lying one? After all the good people of Osun have been deceived in the past by politicians who promised heaven on earth, and even identified with the common people by wearing the simple attires of average citizens, and even patronising, to frenzied showmanship, the street-side “bukas” where the artisans and students have their breakfast and supper.
There is an emerging light in this election that glows differently from the rest. This statement is intended as both figurative and literal expression. There is a light in the candidate of the Socialist Party of Nigeria, in the person of Barrister Alfred Adegoke, whose participation in the 2018 Osun election has illuminated the issues of importance to the survival of the average households in Osun State, and the sustainable growth of the Osun economy. This particularly unusual candidate, Barrister Alfred Adegoke, has been busy over the decades condemning the callous and oppressive policies of the Oyinlola and Aregbesola’s governments. There is also the symbolic coincidence that those with interests in astrology might find intriguing that the logo of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and the party of Alfred Adegoke is a shining bulb.
Alfred Adegoke is not a new comer to the political stage of Osun, only that he is taking up a role different from an activist and human right lawyer this time around. At a time Aregbesola was vaunting his record as a former student union leader of The Polytechnic, Ibadan; at the same time the outgoing governor of Osun State was displaying to the public his friendship with the top of the organised labour and transforming the cream of many civil society organisations, as courtiers in his government.
Alfred Adegoke stood apart and refused to join a government that was only pro-people in the propaganda of the state’s Ministry of Information. While many of the deserters of the pro-democracy struggle were attempting amusingly to justify, for example, the “half salary” policy in Osun, Alfred Adegoke was churning out from his Station Road, Osogbo Chambers tons of statements and declarations to rouse Osun workers to struggle for full payment of their salary like the activist he has been since his undergraduate days as the Secretary General of the Students’ Union of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, a school where he had studied law.
As the Osun State Coordinator of the Campaign for a Democratic Workers’ Rights, Alfred Adegoke would join the march of workers on May Day (Workers’ Day), raising placards to his former comrades and acquaintances, who by that time have transformed unconscionably to the new oppressors and exploiters in town. We should all be wondering what might be going on in the minds of these former acquaintances of Alfred Adegoke – perhaps, they could have been assuring themselves how asinine Alfred was for shunning the short cut to sudden wealth – political appointment – by refusing to curry appointment from the Aregbesola government.
He was later to be embarrassed, harassed and even physically assaulted by his former acquaintances in the struggle, who employed the Police and Department of State Services (DSS) at their disposal to attempt to stifle his loud and clear voice of opposition to the Aregbesola’s regime. Sometimes in July 2015, that was exactly what happened when the men of the DSS invaded his office, tore his clothes and ransacked his files and documents – violating the sacred principle of attorney-client confidentiality by unlawfully looking through the files he kept of his legal representation of his several clients.
At the DSS detention facility in Osogbo, he was detained and told to stop issuing statements in support of the struggles of workers and pensioners of the state in his capacity as the then Chairman of the SPN in Osun. At the time Alfred Adegoke was lending his voice and articulating the demands of the oppressed strata of the Osun society, the SPN was at the federal high court Abuja challenging the refusal of Independent National Electoral Commission to register the party officially. Alfred was also at this time challenging at the Federal High Court Osogbo the unlawful invasion of his chambers at Station Road, Osogbo by men of the DSS. Both parties won their respective suits before the courts – the courts ordered the immediate registration of the SPN and the payment by the DSS of N500, 000 (about US $ 1380) in damages to Barrister Alfred Adegoke for the physical and psychological losses he incurred during that Gestapo-styled invasion of his chambers.
In a twist of fate that should underline the essence of steadfastness and consistency in human endeavours, Alfred Adegoke won the nomination ticket of the SPN to stand as the gubernatorial candidate of the party in the forthcoming Osun state gubernatorial election. He is presently going around the streets of Osogbo, from market places to the “unmotorable” communities hidden behind the facade of the city-centres, sensitising Osun people on his programmes and unique political ideology as a socialist contestant.
Many of the Osun electorate are hearing the term “ideology” or “socialism” for the first time in their entire life to show the level of ideological vaporisation in the state politics, and even in Nigeria as a whole. Alfred is campaigning on the programmes to cut the outrageous cost of governance in an agrarian economy like Osun State by abolishing the contract system of implementing government’s policies and earning the same salary as professional civil servants in the Osun State civil service. He has sworn to an affidavit to give Osun people the locus standi to hold him legally accountable for his manifestoes and programmes.
The present government claims, without evidence for that matter, that its political office holders are earning half salary in “solidarity” with the workers who are being paid only a fraction of their paltry wages that are not commensurate with the level of inflation and cost of living obtainable across the country. In reality, these political office holders draw outrageous allowances that the average civil servant does not earn, including the governor himself benefiting from the sinecure of a security vote of N400 million (US $ 1.1 million) on monthly basis for example.
In four years, these amounts to a scandalous amount that a professional engineer for example in the Osun State Civil Service cannot earn even if he saves his wages from the day he started work until his retirement. It is this wide gap that Alfred Adegoke and the SPN are campaigning to erase, on the basis of the principle that the lifestyle of political office-holders must also reflect the standard of living of the people they are representing – there is no way people who live in palaces can know the pains of household in mosquito-infested slums.
The present governor, Rauf Aregbesola, is a vocal opponent of the call for a review in the minimum wage laws of the country, and has adduced the argument that payment of salary is not the only responsibility of the state government. While the governor has serially defaulted in paying workers the lawful value of their monthly labour for the government, one prominent explanation of the Aregbesola administration is the quick reference to the construction works he carried out in the state as an excuse for this breach of contract.
Aregbesola’s conduct has made it appear that for an agrarian or low-income state to embark on infrastructural growth, it must starve workers of their salaries and force them into making unwilling sacrifice for the state, which the ruling class cannot boldly make. Alfred Adegoke and his party are rejecting as fraudulent this excuse, and have identified the practice of contracting government’s projects to private firms as a conduit pipe for siphoning state funds – which has turned ironically every project undertaken by government into Greek gifts that come with excruciating consequences for the people.
The Punch newspaper reported that construction works in Nigeria are the costliest in world, at a billion naira (about US $2,758,620) per one kilometre of road while the World Bank benchmark for such projects in Africa is N238 million (US $ 656,552) per kilometre. Behind the scene of this practice of awarding contracts is the unholy alliance against the people’s economy existing between the politicians and contractors who carry out these projects, which sometimes involve that the contractors inflate the budget and share the differences between the politician and the contractors.
For starters, projects carried out in Osun by both the All Progressives Congress and its People’s Democratic Party predecessor could have been constructed at well below one-fourth of the cost expended by the state government. And this is an ideology of governance shared similarly by other mainstream political parties, which perhaps explains the unprincipled cross-party defections that have saturated the news recently. Alfred Adegoke begs to differ; he wants to abolish the contract system and in its place utilise the government’s ministry of works and its personnel to carry out such construction works.
The economic benefits of such radical departure from the status quo include the massive employment of more skilled and unskilled workers into the state’s civil service, and the abolition of the costly and unimportant roles of middlemen. This would mean more money retained in circulation within the state’s economy than to be holed up in their chunks in the offshore accounts of corrupt politicians and their cronies in the big construction firms. Rather than the redundancy that the fraudulent contract system has caused in the civil service, Alfred Adegoke intends to revamp the civil service and make it the artery of economic and infrastructural growth in the state of Osun.
Wrongly workers in the nation’s civil service have been given a bad name in order to make them appear inefficient in carrying out their patriotic responsibility of building society, when in actual fact it is the politicians, acting as ministers and commissioners, who make all the decisions and should be held responsible for consciously wrecking the civil service in order to foster a self-serving alliance with big private firms. The first military coup in the country cited as one of its motivations the need to end the era of those who receive ten percent from government’s businesses; but the military never had the will to tackle this problem at its root by abolishing the contract system, but instead embraced it and enmeshed itself in corruption as its civilian predecessors and subsequent successors.
Alfred Adegoke is articulating in this campaign those ideals he has consistently fought for as an activist. If his unswerving record of solidarity with the oppressed or his consistent defence over the years of the same ideals he is now advocating during this campaign is not enough to earn him the trust of the public, then the logical coherence of his programme, being rooted in a mathematically-styled precision, would endear him to the masses whose primary characteristic as human beings is their intelligence and inherent nature of critical thinking.
The Ekiti people did not have this unique opportunity of a candidate like Barrister Alfred Adegoke inspiring ideologically based debates that are challenging the fraudulent basis of governance that has long been taking them for granted. This could be a watershed moment in the history of politics in Nigeria, where Alfred Adegoke would bring our society up to speed with the dynamic changes taking place in international politics, with a new breed of left-inclined, politician-activists like Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, Kshama Sawant, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who are inspiring a new generation of voters to taking charge of democratic institutions for the purpose of a human-centred and honest politics.
*Wole Olubanji is the Organising Secretary of Alfred Adegoke Campaign Organisation. He writes from Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria.