Aj. Dagga Tolar

If there is anything to be learnt from the 2023 General elections, it is the fact that Marxists have been correct to have raised the necessity for a trade union-led political party to take on the bourgeois parties of the ruling class. 

The leadership of the Labour Party (LP) even after the October 26, 2023 Supreme Court judgement continues to claim it won the presidential poll. And there are emerging facts on the ground to so prove that it did. The information from big wigs of the PDP like Chijioke Ihunwo in Rivers State is revealing, according to him, that they worked to rig the elections, the LP won River State and that they knew what they did. Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the LP won in Lagos and Abuja, there can be no better pointer to the huge potential of the party in driving the desire of the working masses for change in the country than the fact of its performances in the 2023 elections, with victories in Lagos the most cosmopolitan state in the country, from which Tinubu claims to come from and as well as in Abuja, the capital of the country. And the working masses must from here on take for a fact that the only hope for a change of fortunes from one of mass misery and poverty is organising an independent political party with which to bid for political power and subsequently employ same to end the capitalist domination of the economy and polity.

Right from its inception in 1987, the Labour Militant Tendency (DSM from wherein the MSA emerged) had consistently raised and canvassed for such a party for the working class. We were actively involved in the effort in 1989 during the then Babangida Military transition that was consciously programmed to hit a dead end.  The subsequent non-registration of the Nigerian Labour Party (NLP) and proscription of 13 parties including the NLP in 1989 paved the way for the Babangida military junta to decree into existence 2 parties for the country, namely the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC). Even this didn’t resolve the issue, since the June 12, 1993 elections were annulled. It took a mass movement on the streets to bring about Babangida’s hurried exit from power. Another coup by Sanni Abacha, another transition set again against the right of the working masses to be involved in the democratic process as Abacha set himself out to succeed himself as a civilian president, but all thanks to the cold hand of death that cleared the stake. It is through this torturous road that the Fourth Republic emerged, as Abdulsalami Abubakar succeeded in handing power to Obasanjo, who was christened the one “they can trust”.

The defining role of economics in all political engagement and of politics in economics was key in the emergence of the Party for Social Democracy in 2002, which was to later change its name to the Labour Party. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) led by Adams Oshiomhole, alongside forces of the civil society, which included Socialists and labour-leaning groups had provided leadership for the struggle against the IMF neoliberal capitalist programme of deregulation and privatisation of the key sectors of the economy. From the year 2000, the working masses trouped to the streets in a series of General Strikes after General strikes that grew into near insurrectional acts against the deregulation of the oil industry (which translated to the periodic increases in petroleum products) and the ruling class as headed by Obasanjo, except that they failed to pose the question of power. 

But with every successful strike action, a reduction in price attained, Obasanjo was soon back again at another increase, it was a cycle that is still in place and has been employed to continue the unending attack on the living conditions of the working masses. This is the very nature of capitalism with its embodiment of exploitation of the working masses, milking from their very little to further enrich the bourgeoisie and ruling class. 

Capitalism offers Nigeria nothing else but the worst variant of itself as the only possibility of its existence here. With the underdevelopment of the means of production and the same colonial role of producing raw materials for the West (and China now included) and importing manufactured goods from them in turn, the continuous subjugation and domination of the resources and wealth of the country to serve the interest of Imperialism. 

There can be no other way out of this damn cycle of poverty and penury that capitalism offers to the working masses outside of the building of an independent political party of the Working Masses, enshrining in its manifesto the goal of accomplishing a Socialist Revolution and trashing capitalism into “the dustbin of history”.


One basic feature of the Labour Party that stands out as different from other parties is that it is a party founded by the trade unions. The decision to birth it is directly a consequence of the pressure from below by the working masses and, more importantly from the bigger lessons drawn from the struggles against the deregulation and privatization of the key sectors of the economy.

The truth however is that the Labour Party as presently constituted is far away from the above goal of becoming the platform with which the working masses can employ to take on the ruling class. Before and after the elections it has been plagued with one crisis or the other and all of them doing damage to the LP. The factional tussle for the leadership of the party between Julius Abure and Lamidi Apapa dragged on into the courts. It was clear that the latter was acting a script that was dictated by interest from outside that in no way meant any good for the party. Following the Court of Appeal’s judgment delivered on the 6th March, 2024 by Justice Hamma Barka the dispute was put to rest with Abure confirmed as National Chairman. 

No sooner did the NLC through its political commission headed by Theophilus Ndubuaku move in, exercising its right of ownership and as founders of the party to dismiss Abure, alongside its supposed national convention that returned him as National Chairman, which held in Nnewi. It posited that Abure “ceased to be the national chairman of the party” and that a proper National Convention would be organised. The Chairman, Board of Trustee S.O.Z. Ejiofor has announced that it has taken over the party, and will be running the affairs for now and it will “communicate the processes for the conduct of an all-inclusive and expansive National Convention of the Labour Party”. 

The Movement for Socialist Alternative (MSA) welcomes the very idea by Joe Ajaero’s led NLC to reclaim the LP and the statement of intention from the Board of Trustees of the LP, “to reclaim and repositioning the Labour Party as the vehicle for the socio-political emancipation of our dear country, her working people and populace.” (https://kubwaexpress.com/2024/03/28bot-takes-over-labour-party-jettisons-abure)


Can the Labour Leaders be trusted to back their words with the necessary actions? In reclaiming the party, we must first answer the question, of who owns the Labour Party. Painfully, for the working masses, since its inception in 2002, the LP has been taken over by pretenders, and the same decadent members of the ruling class, who cannot march cash for cash in the two main ruling class parties of the PDP and the APC, these are the strange fellows that have dominated the party, and they have been aided in this regard by the labour leaders from Adams Oshiomhole through to Wabba Ayuba, and of course by SOZ Ejiofor as well, who interestingly is part of the new process to reclaim the party. 

From 2002 to the 2023 general elections, the LP was only made available to moneybags and members of the billionaire club. For party leaders, it was a pastime to make the party ticket available for the highest bidder, it was the same process by which Obi got the ticket to contest as the presidential candidate for the LP. This scenario of reducing workers to merely voting for the party, and unable to stand as candidates for the party for all contestable offices is unacceptable.

The MSA insists that the criteria for candidateship for the LP, cannot be a cash-and-carry affair. It must be open to all members, including rank-and-file workers. It follows therefore that its ticket cannot and should not be sold. Fees for nomination or intention to contest as candidates for electoral office must not be charged in whatever guise to make it only attainable by moneybags, and impossible for workers to stand for public office. The question of funding for the party, and election must collectively be the responsibility of all members of the party, and this can be done through the raising of funds and donations from members through monthly subscriptions, and donations from members of the general public. This will help create a situation wherein the party shall be open to workers and socialists alike to step forward to want to be candidates as opposed to the current practice wherein only bourgeois or their pretenders dominate the LP as candidates. 

While the LP must open its doors to all Nigerians, a party is however only able to function, if its members have a specific goal, not just the opportunist goal of winning political power, but what it will do with political power when it is attained. And this is where the ideology of the party is of essence. It is the ideology of the party that makes cohesion and harmony in the functioning of a party. Ideology is what defines a party, and helps distinguish parties from one another. In this regard, the LP puts forward the claim that it will “be humanistic, patriotic, pan-African and socialist” and further still that “the ideology of the Labour Party and its members shall be Social Democracy.” 

The LP is therefore caught in between being “socialist” and at the same time subscribing to “Social Democracy”. Before saying this is contradictory, the party’s programme on the economy articulates that it “shall ensure [an] activist developmental role of the state in the economy by being a major player in the strategic sectors of the economy, namely petroleum, energy, communications, rail and ports: water, health-care, education and research.”

We are faced with the very same confused state of consciousness of the leadership of the Trade unions and working-class movement worldwide since the Collapse of Stalinism, the distorted and now defunct version of socialism practised in the former USSR, and the triumphant proclamation of “new world order” and the victory of capitalism.  So while still wanting to be seen as “militant” by workers, these labour leaders turned labour bureaucrats are no longer willing to be seen to be opposed to capitalism. But theory is theory and practice is practice, the electoral fortunes of the Labour Party, all this while even up to 2023 leave it a far distance removed from Social democracy or socialism in the character of those that have held aloof the banner of the party. As already clearly stated above, they have been rejects or largely bourgeois and Big Business supporters “who unable to attain the ticket of the major parties of the ruling class, the PDP and the APC” simply turn to the LP, making it basically a cash and carry affair. 

This is why the MSA will continue to insist that the first step towards reclaiming the party is to make the party welcome-able for workers, farmers, traders, artisans, youth students etc., for it is workers in their millions inside the party who can really reclaim the party and end the tyranny of few numbers of party leaders renting it out to moneybags and rejects from the ruling parties.

For too long the labour bureaucrats have been comfortable not having workers in their numbers inside of the Labour party since this allows the party leaders the freedom to act in whatever manner they so desire… to continue to hold the party down. Even more painful, is their unhidden romance with the ruling parties. Indeed nearly all the labour bureaucrats, if not all of them are card-carrying members of the main ruling class parties and they prefer to contest and be candidates in these parties rather than in the LP. They would rather not have the profile they have earned as labour leaders plunged back into building the LP. The example of Adams Oshiomhole and that of the former president of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Nasir Idris who is the current governor of Kebbi elected on the platform of the APC are glaring examples.


All those, who issue a call to join the Labour Party, with the hope that it is an easy ticket to grab power, in reality, are not any different from the bourgeoisie politicians like Peter Obi and all of the bourgeoisie pretenders who are unable to procure a ticket in the main ruling class parties turn to the LP. In reality, Marxists going into the LP, must build a revolutionary core inside of it, attracting more workers both inside and outside it to embrace the complete programme of Socialist Alternative, and constantly building up the necessary consciousness for a socialist revolution. The task is to unveil to workers that Social Democracy is a variant of Capitalism and that it is incapable on a permanent basis in power to put the interests and needs of the working masses first without bringing the wealth and resources of society under democratic control and ownership of the working masses. 

Without seeking to abolish capitalism, Social Democracy pretends at heart to defend the interest of the working masses through some cosmetic socially inclined programme that is not sustainable on a permanent basis, when in reality it functions to protect and serve the interest of Big Business, private profiteers and finance capital (both nationally and internationally), in the same that the main Capitalist Parties also even though more crudely. There cannot be enough space in a single bed for a romantic relationship between workers and capitalist bosses that will not end up with the working masses at the receiving end as losers. We either get kicked out or we kick them out. And if the working masses don’t organise to kick them out, it is only a question of time, we get muscled down by the pretenders in power, who desperately seek to outdo the capitalists and want to prove that they are better at managing capitalism better than the capitalists can ever do. This is the scorecard of Social Democracy in power and the fate of the so-called “Radicals” or “Progressives”, who dump socialism and as well as dismiss the continuous validity of Marxism as still the only authentic instrument by which the working class can organise itself and its struggle against capitalism.

This, however, is not to posit that there is no room whatsoever for class suicide, for those who want to march alongside the working masses, from the ranks of the bourgeois class. They are so welcome to bring on board the best of their skills to aid the struggle of the working masses to end their lives of misery and penury in the very sea of abundant resources all over. It is only the building of a mass revolutionary party that can and will position the working masses to come into the arena of struggle and make a revolution. 

It is only in this context and as a step forward to the above task that Marxists should heed the call to join the LP to be reclaimed. And also join the call for workers, and change seekers to join the LP. We must then take this further by building a LEFT Team inside of the LP. This team made of trade unionists, socialists must aim to win workers to help define a rounded “socialist” direction for the party has stated in its programme. And also put forward the idea to all of its supporters to stand as workers candidates in all elections, and commit to earning the wages of an average skilled worker. 

However, the working masses are at no time only limited to a singular choice, there is also the corresponding task of building a broader left coalition outside of the LP. Labour-leaning coalitions like Joint Action Forum (JAF), Alliance on Surviving Covid-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) COalition for REvolution (CORE) and other left platforms must take it upon themselves to deepen their relationship from one of just taking joint actions to work together and functioning as an organisational unit even with the framework of a “minimum programme” as already articulated by the ASCAB leadership. Of course, it must be bold enough to go beyond the general categorisation of social democracy which the LP claims to be its philosophical framework. A programme that puts forward the minimum programme of nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy as the starting point with which to develop the means of production.

Such a coalition can play a huge role as well in the process of reclaiming the LP and in no little way help reposition the working class movement to fully rise to the task of freeing Nigeria from vipers and sharks that have held it down from its very beginning as a state crafted to serve the interest of colonialism and imperialism, as opposed to serving the interest and wellbeing of the working masses.