- Alliances with organization, with other social forces are also central to our strategy in terms of building a viable movement.
- If it is making promises, I don’t think anybody can beat the APC. In the run-up to 2015 general election, they made 298 promises.
- APC didn’t have an agenda for the country.
- Every regime since 1999 has been governing Nigeria in breach of the 1999 constitution.
During a courtesy visit by the Generation for Change Africa Initiative to the Take Back Nigeria Movement’s Convener, and also a presidential aspirant, Comrade Jaye Gaskia many issues were raised in response to questions. In this encounter by Comrade Alexander Ameh Ogbu and Comrade Abdulrahman Obaje, Comrade Jaye Gaskiya touched on issues bordering the economy, PTDF, popular power, and Including Owoyele Sowore’s plagiarising of the platform in seemingly an attempt to confuse their followers and members of the public by diluting and polluting their messaging. The excerpt:
Going back in history, there was attempt at forming a broad based organization that would seek and contest for power under the Abdulsallam’s transition programmes. Today, close to two decades of bourgeoisie electoral democracy, I think the left in Nigeria must seek the road to popular power.
The salient and thought provoking question today is, how can the left realize this pertinent agenda outside the political party politics controlled by the bourgeoisie?
There has been sustained agitation for the bill on independent candidacy before the National Assembly to be passed into law before the 2019 general elections. What is the current position of this bill and if it fails to become law, what is the way forward for the left in Nigeria?
You are welcome. I think it is important to underscore the issue you raised about the resurgence of political awareness amongst Nigerians and amongst the generation that has aided to seemingly be uninterested in politics of polity of the country. And that the fact that there is a definitive project in 2019 has also added impetus to that resurgences in terms of the ability and the capacity to mobilize which has become amplified and that is one of the reasons that informed, you know our decision to step into this arena.
First, it is an opportunity to galvanize the left and the left-leaning activists around a common program and around a common objective.
Second, it is a represent another opportunities to rebuild and revive the popular mass movement for popular power and like you rightly noted, this has been part of our tradition, is not strange to us. It is also been a tradition that has been waning over the past two decades but that the potential to revive it is there right now and so let’s give it a try.
So, basically, it means that this effort is primarily not immediately about 2019, it is about reviving a mass left movement, about reviving the mass political movement, but it is also about using 2019 as a beacon and as a pivot for that revival.
But then we are all students of history and students of class relations. We also know the dynamics of the contestation can very well produce an outcome that would be different from the usual outcome. So, if we succeed in building a mass political movement, if that mass political movement succeeds in challenging the bourgeois parties, and if that mass movement succeeds in getting the immense majority of Nigerians to challenge the bourgeois parties, then it means that there is actually more than the possibility of victory. It means that victory is actually possible.
Now so if victory is possible, it means that in building the movement, in using 2019 as the beacon we also then need to also build a movement that is prepared to govern, a movement that understand popular power and is prepares to exercise popular power. So in the event of victory we are not going to be scratching our heads, we should be ready to govern because we have mobilized Nigerians and Nigerians have said okay, we believe in your programs. The onus is on us that we must then implement the program. At least lead Nigerians to the direction where those programs begin to be implemented.
That is what all of these is about and that was the reason why we decided on this project, that is the reason why we are building the Take Back Nigeria Movement.
And as the name implies the objective is that the oppressed and the exploited Nigerians should take back their country. In any case we are in the overwhelming majority, so to take back our country, and if we want to take back our country then the onus is on us to rebuild our country and build it in a manner that that country becomes responsive to our needs and our aspirations, not to the aspiration of a tiny minority who exploit us.
And So that is why we are in this and from the very beginning, the strategy has been to build alliances which is why alliances with organization, with other social forces are also central to our strategy in terms of building a viable movement but also be able to successfully challenge the ruling class in the 2019 elections. So we welcome alliances with social formation of the particularly social formation of the oppressed people, formations that is either made up and composed of the oppressed or that work manifestly for the interest of the oppressed.
We are reaching out to those kind of formations, and we are determined to build alliances with those kind of formations.
We did mentioned, Part of our strategy was also to use this campaign to put pressure on the ruling class to open up the democratic space and allow for independent candidacy. We know that the ruling class, there are elements of the ruling class that want independent candidacy because of the challenges they always face within parties and for party primaries. But we also know that the ruling class as a whole is also very scared of broadening the democratic space which was why we decided that only mass pressure could finally nudge you know the ruling class to make that decision
As it is the way things are going we the entire constitution amendment process and the electoral law amendment process and the rest of that the way it is going it appears as if everything is going to be caught up in the usual intra-class dispute between the executive and the legislature and that therefore, it is not likely that any of those bills that have been passed will be signed in time enough to become the basis for the 2019 general election. So what that means is that the 2019 general election may well be conducted based on the current status-quo and it may then means that there will be no room for independent candidacy.
This was also part of our thinking in terms of possible outcome. So what if this bill was not passed? And our alternative strategy is that because alliance building and networking is central to our strategy, it really does not make a difference. We are building alliances. Apart of the social formation that we are building alliances we also going to be political parties but the one thing that we have ruled out from the beginning is that this cannot be manifest parties of the ruling class nor can they be their clones, any of their clones.
So, there are a number of smaller parties. Of course all the parties currently established today has been established by the elites, there are a number of smaller parties that have been registered by elites, by some elite’ element and some younger professional elite elements who are not consciously ideological but who simply think that their country is not fulfilling its potential and that this country can achieve much more and they just want the country to achieve much more. Some of those kind of parties can be pulled into an alliance for popular democracy and popular democratic power and also as we are in touch with labour groups we are also in touch with some of this parties and we are having conversations with them and of course there is also a Socialist Party of Nigeria that are also against all odd have been registered and they are definitely actually able to more or less in constant conversation with the Socialist party of Nigeria.
So what is obvious is that we are going to go into the 2019 elections with the context of an alliance and this alliance will include parties, but it would also include non-party formations, at least that is our preferred strategy so that it’s not just, because we cannot achieve the objectives we want to achieve without bringing in the organization of the people because eventually they are the only safeguards of any popular democratic government because any government that wants to do the will of the people is going to meet with the opposition from the establishment from the ruling class and the only way you can overcome those obstacles and the opposition is by having the popular forces from below behind you otherwise it would be a…. so that essentially is our strategy for the immediate future.
One of the issue that has been in the front-burner is the issue of Plagiarizing of your messaging and Platform by some elements. What are you doing to in other to curb this type of issue?
I think essentially the best way to approach this is to from the perspective of the fact that you are building a movement that will restructure Nigeria and when I say restructuring I am not talking about restructuring in the way that the elite talk about restructuring, I am talking about restructuring governance and making governance more responsive to the needs of the people. I have been building such a movement we have also ask Nigerians to come and join us.
So one of the things that any movement that is what is sort would have to face from time to time is this kind of risk of Either people coming in to try to dilute the processes or people coming in to try to undermine processes or people from outside trying to dilute and so one of the challenges we are facing at the moment is for people from outside trying to lay claim to the movement Without an understanding of the basic principle and programs of the movement and therefore diluting the message of the movement and then eventually also seeking to hijack the platform.
What we have always done, our approach to that will always be measured. We would try to avoid the kind of controversy that would distract from the real program, from the programs that we are pushing to the masses, what we say we want to do, our vision for Nigeria, we would try to avoid the kind of controversies that would you know blur all of these but at the same time we would also very clearly and in very clear term honestly speak to Nigerians about what these challenges are and what they should watch out for so we just raise question and point Nigerians in the direction to the kind of question they should be asking.
So in this particular note we have asked the question, we are not against the aspiration of any single individuals, there are 180 million Nigerians, anyone of whom can legitimately aspire to be president of Nigeria. We are not against the aspiration of anyone, but there is also ethics, there is ethics in politics even if the way politics has been played in Nigeria has been shun of ethics, but there should be ethics in politics.
And as we have argued elsewhere probably, there are about 30 presidential aspirant that have declared every single one of them have their own very distinct identity platforms at messaging and so it really beg the question why this intruder. Sowore is actually very hell-bent on using the platform and the identity of another candidate. You can very well create your own distinct identity and platform and I have argued elsewhere, Sowore is a man of ideas and a man of action, he certainly has the personality that can be sold on his own personal recognition without necessarily having to latch on to anybody’s identity or anybody’s platform. So, which raises the question if he has that kind of personality, why is he doing what he is doing now? And that is the deeper question that I think that Nigerians should just ask him. “Who is the drummer that is beating the drum behind the scene for this masquerade to dance?” is the question that Nigerians need to ask. Why are you hell-bent on this? Why can’t you simply just have your platform the way each of the other 29 aspirants have their platforms? And why can’t you build your movement if you want to build a movement? and by his own admission, this journey for him started five weeks ago. This journey for us started since we became conscious activists that we wanted our country to be better governed.
In terms of 2019 and saying that we are going to engage in 2017, this journey started in October 2017 to be very concretely when the declaration was staged. So, and the platform Take Back Nigeria Movement pre-date even that declaration and then for him to come up sometime in march of 2018 and then be laying claim, introducing yourself globally, even raising funds globally, GoFundMe using take back Nigeria, Movement that you did build, a name that you know nothing about you know, that is why I say we need to ask those question, those deeper question, why are you doing this?, why is this being done? Because if the ambition is about challenging the status-quo and the establishments then the tactics and the strategy should not be about creating confusion and distraction within the ranks of those who are challenging the status-quo when you are deliberately creating confusion and trying to undermines the ranks of those who are also like you challenging the status-quo. It means that the reason is far greater than wanting to challenge the status-quo. The mission may well be to actually cause confusion between the ranks of those who are challenging the status-quo so that the status-quo can eventually survive and that is the deeper underline meaning that Nigerians need to begin to ask the question about.
The second thing about this which is more important and the difference is clear between us and I dare say also between us and other platforms; other people who have declared their aspiration, many of the aspirant have been talking about the symptoms of our problems, addressing the symptoms making promises about the symptoms.
Some have said they would create 89 million jobs, some have said they would create 10 million jobs, some have said they would pay a 100,000 naira minimum wage, some say they would pay 67,000 naira minimum wage, some say they would pay Corpers 15,000 monthly.., you know everybody, they are talking about the symptoms. Okay how are you…, what are your programs to grow the economy? What is your economy policy that is going to enable you to have this resources to pay? Then secondly, are you going to arbitrarily fixed salaries? What happens to tripartite negotiation, you going to fix 100,000 naira without conversation with labour, without conversation with the organized private sector? The people who are going to pay the resources.
When you say you are going to pay a 100,000 naira minimum wage, do you understand what that means? It means that the minimum that a worker can receive is 100,000. so, you can’t have somebody for example in a company with 25 employee, may be the cleaner is the least paid and you have the cleaner on a 100,000, you can’t have the cleaners supervisor earning 80,000, because the meaning of minimum wage is minimum wage so have you done your calculation about the ripple effect throughout.
So that is why I say our program has been more holistic. We are talking about actually growing the economy. We have said for example that one of the biggest challenges with the Nigerian economy today is that all our policies, even policies that are potentially beneficial work at cross copies because agricultural policies is simply addressing agriculture, health policy is simply addressing health, education is simply addressing education; as if education is not the bedrock of everything, as if there are no health issue in agriculture, as if there are no infrastructural issue you know in agriculture and the rest of that.
so for example you have an agricultural policy that says you just want to increase revenue and they want to address food security, okay and then we have some crops, we want to start exporting, then you ask yourself, why, why should I? you also have a policy on industrialization that say you want to encourage industrialization and some of the biggest challenge of industries in Nigeria, indigenous industries in Nigeria is sourcing for raw materials and agriculture is the biggest source of raw materials and your policy is to export those raw materials, your policies is not how to convert this raw material to, these agricultural produce into the raw materials that local industry needs. So that is how to address, that is how to have a holistic policy to revive the economy.
If you are saying buying made in Nigeria which is good by the way. But if you are saying buying made in Nigeria, all your policies must be aimed at that, it means your industrialization policy must be aimed at that, you know why? You can’t buy made in Nigeria if there are no made in Nigeria products being made.
So first of all we have to invest in producing goods and services in Nigeria before you can buy made in Nigeria. Then it means your procurement policies must also be tailored towards that. It means that your procurement policy must ensure that you actually then buy those goods and services okay. It means your investment policies must be tailored at that. Your trading policy must be tailored at that. Even your foreign exchange policy must be tailored at that. It means you must make easier for indigenous industries to access foreign exchange, you know and so on and so forth.
So that is the kind of holistic thing that we are going to do. Now if you do all of that, certainly you are going to grow the economy and you are going to create jobs okay. So you don’t start by talking about the number of jobs that you are going to create, you start by how do you have an economy that can create jobs.
There is also this popular thing among neo-liberals about entrepreneurship. That the problem with our education with the youth is that they lack entrepreneurial skill and the rest of that. There is no economy in the world that is grown by entrepreneurs alone. Because mind you, entrepreneurs will setup businesses but businesses cannot thrive without skilled workers, so you can’t train everybody to be entrepreneurs you must train people to also be skilled and competent workers that can work in businesses setup by entrepreneurs you know. So your educational policy need to be one that responds to the needs of our economy and the needs of society so that the individual can feel actualized while also contributing to solving challenges of the society where he or she lives.
We have a Petroleum Technology Development Trust Fund that goes about giving scholarships and buying desks and chairs for secondary schools in the Niger-delta, in the same country where we have challenge with artisanal refinery, where you can actually use that fund, okay, to address the challenge of artisanal refinery so that artisanal refinery can become a model for small-medium scale refining that is better sanitized, that is more environmental friendly, that creates jobs, and helps you to meet your energy needs.
You see, it is a petroleum technology development fund but we use it to give scholarship, and use it to buy chairs, you know? Those are the issues that we need to address and those are the fundamental like I said when you look at it even based on the program, our program is far more qualitatively superior to their programs and even to the program of this impostor because on the one hand you are talking about spending money that you have not made on the other hand we are talking about how do we actually create wealth for the whole of Nigeria, so even on the basis of our program we are and that is why there is a danger when they begin to mimic our platform because they dilute our program, we begin to look like the rest, you are using Take Back Nigeria Movement, you are saying you are doing this, we begin to sound like just any other people and we know that is not what Nigeria need right now.
If it is making promises, I don’t think anybody can beat the APC, in the run-up to 2015 general election, they made 298 promises. Each of it was just addressing symptom and they were just making up those promises as they were going. Everywhere they went to, depending on the kind of question that people ask them, they make a promise (laughs) without thinking through.
So they didn’t have an agenda for the country, the promises became their agenda which is why they cannot implement anything because none of this things have been thought through, you know and if we want Nigeria to be different, we have to do things differently.
We talked about the economy, all of them are talking about, they are all embedded in their neo-liberal concern – the private sector as the engine of growth. We know that there is no country in the world that has emerged industrialized, that the industrialization has not been led by the state. None, not the US, not Britain. The state policies, state leadership, state public investment that has led that and we are insisting that the state has a role, not just a role but a leading and dominant role to play in development and in the economy.
So, for us, the basic welfare services must be public services, education, health, shelter, food and nutrition including power and energy that have because they have become such a huge obstacle to development in Nigeria. They must be public service, they must be lead. Their development, their advancement must be lead through public investment and it must be state-lead! That is just it and we are not saying anything that is unconstitutional. That is what our constitutions says. The 1999 constitution that is what it says. The implication is that, every regime since 1999 has been governing Nigeria in breach of the 1999 constitution.
So these are things, and these are the programs we are putting forward that we don’t want to be diluted and polluted when these impostors come and also claim that they are speaking on behalf of the movement and they say things that are really neither here nor there.
You are welcome.
- Prince Abdulrahman Obaje is a Media and ICT Consultant, Journalist, online marketer, social media strategist, Mathematician and Computer Scientist based in Abuja, Nigeria. He is the Founder and the Publisher of The Informavores!. You can reach me on +234 908 6937 780 or send i-witness report directly to me on firstname.lastname@example.org.