Abiodun Bamigboye, the gubernatorial candidate of Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) in the 2019 general elections in Oyo State, is an activist and socialist who has dedicated over 16 years of his life to struggles for workers’ rights.
He is the Oyo State Coordinator of the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR), the organization known for playing leading roles in the struggle public and private workers and retirees against poor working conditions, unpaid salaries and pensions.
Mr Bamigboye, in this interview with Atanda Adebayo, explains why he wants to take over from Abiola Ajimobi as governor of Oyo state.
PT: The last time you contested for a political position was for local government chairmanship. Why are you in the gubernatorial race?
Bamigboye: The first and fundamental reason I am in the electoral contest for the position of the Oyo State governor is to use the limited democratic opening and charged political atmosphere often created by the election period to offer a clear socialist alternative to that of the various pro-establishment and anti-people exploitative capitalist policies.
Policies like privatization, deregulation, and commercialization of social services, for example, education, which have always been the guiding principle of both the past and present government in the state regardless of pro-capitalist political parties that formed them.
This kind of opportunity was not opened to us as socialists during the 2015 general election. As at 2015, we of the SPN were still at loggerheads with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
This was in connection with the INEC refusal to register SPN, despite having fulfilled all constitutional requirements for party registration. It took us (SPN) over three years of political and legal battle within and outside the court, between June 2014, when SPN submitted its application and November 2017, before INEC was compelled by the court judgment delivered by the Federal High Court in Abuja on the 28 November 2017, to issue SPN its certificate of registration.
It was on January 15, 2018 that the INEC formally gave us the certificate.
It is true that I was sponsored by my party, SPN, to contest as local Government Chairman in Ibadan South-west Local Government Area during the farce called local government election conducted on May 12, 2018, by the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission, OYSIEC.
The SPN decision to participate in the council poll even when all the leading capitalist political parties like People Democratic Party, PDP, ACORD, Social Democratic Party, SDP; Labour Party, LP in the state did not participate in the council poll was not born-out of the illusion that the election will be credible or free from manipulation.
Rather, the decision was based on a strong conviction that the election campaign will offer members of the party an opportunity to reach out to as many as possible working people and youth with the party socialist programme which represents the alternative way of running the society.
This is with a view to win as many as possible persons who agree with this program to the banner of the party.
During the SPN campaign, over five thousand (5000) copies of leaflet, which summarize the program of SPN and how same will be implemented if elected were circulated to members of the public while over 2000 copies of posters were also pasted around the electoral wards that constitute the Ibadan South west LGA, the only LGA SPN presented a candidate.
Many who received the SPN leaflet expressed support for the socialist program of the party, even when some were doubtful of its practicability.
Despite this, over 100 working people, largely in Ibadan South-west, indicated interest to join SPN.
This is an expression of the huge scale of mass disaffection with the capitalist political establishment and a search for an alternative among the Nigerian working people.
It is in consideration of the huge threat the SPN active involvement in the council poll posed to the ruling party APC, that it planned to manipulate the outcome of the election, particularly in Ibadan south west.
That explains why I was denied nomination form by OYSIEC after being subjected to the rigor of a screening exercise, during which my eligibility to stand as candidate in the election was certified.
Nevertheless, OYSIEC went ahead to include both my name and logo of my party in the election ballot paper. This shows that the denial was deliberate, to prevent the SPN from being officially part of the election while the name and logo was decided to be included in the ballot paper with a view to use the name of the party to give credibility to the election.
Beyond the electoral fraud perpetrated against us in SPN during the said LGA election, the significance of the practical experience garnered by members of the SPN during the election, which among other things, showed that the socialist idea and programs are still much fashionable and correspond with the needs and aspiration of the working people.
This, therefore, is the source of the motivation behind my party decision to present me as the person to lead the banner of the party in the gubernatorial race in the state.
If SPN wins, we will be having a pro-working masses state government that will always defend and give priority to areas of needs of workers and the poor.
Where we do not win, our participation in the election will no doubt offer us a better opportunity to continue to organize the working people particularly against all forms of anti-people policies that will be imposed on them by government formed by any of the pro-capitalist party after the 2019 general elections.
PT: Activists are usually on the other side, serving as watchdogs to politician by setting agenda through constructive criticism. What informed your decision to be in the race?
Bamigboye: The impression that activists are meant to be the watch dog of the society is an old gimmick and deliberate ploy often used by the pro-capitalist politicians to ensure that the political space continues to be dominated and monopolized by them.
Interestingly, this kind of erroneous impression had been successfully challenged by the life of prominent activists like Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Lanre Arogundade, Late Barister Niyi Adewunmi, who were not only known as ardent and unrepentant critics of all forms societal ills under various forms of pro-capitalist government but also offered themselves to contest elections at different occasions to shows that there is alternative way the society can be run in the interest of the worker, youth and poor masses.
It is this kind of example set by these prominent activists that actually informed the decision of our party that I should be presented as its gubernatorial candidate in Oyo State.
PT: We have seen cases of activist like late Gani Fawehinmi and Professor Pat Utomi vying for elective positions as presidents while some contested as governors, but, they never got it. Maybe people do not see them as good politicians. Do you think you can make a difference?
Bamigboye: I do not think it is true to say that the reason the Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi did not win the presidential election in 2003 is because people did not see him as a good politician. If being a good or bad politician is the yard stick that determines the winner of election in Nigeria, I strongly believe that the late Gani Fawehinmi would have been the winner of the 2003 presidential poll.
This is because, among the leading candidates who contested the election, only the Late Gani fawehinmi can be said to be a good politician, by all reasonable standards.
It must be recalled that politics itself is an act or science that details the process and method through which the resources at the disposal of the society is judiciously used for the benefit of members of the society at large.
This is the political tendency the Late Gani fawehinmi lived his life for.
This is unlike other leading candidate in the election including the general Olusegun Obasanjo, whose political philosophy is that the societal resources should be handed over to the few individuals under the pretense of neo-liberal policies like privatization, deregulation, whose priority is to ensure that those resources are run to increase the profit interest of the few at the expense of the people at large.
It is the desperation to ensure that this kind of anti-people status quo remains that the pro-capitalist politician who in my opinion are bad politicians, deliberately ensures that the electoral system is undemocratic, expensive and create a condition of mass misery in order to make the working people vulnerable for all forms of electoral inducement.
It is the combination of these factors that are responsible for the Gani electoral defeat in 2003.
Again, with the depth of rot in the country today it will take more than a single intervention in election before a victory of pro-working people political party can be guaranteed, especially, when the working people have been victims of deceits of various pro-capitalist political platforms and politicians at the different occasions in the recent past.
Despite all of these, Gani was not deterred by his electoral defeat, instead, he remained steadfast and consistent on the side of the poor till he died.
Unfortunately, this cannot be said of both the Pat Utomi and Adam Oshiomole, who are currently on the side of oppressors, in pursuit of their self-serving political agenda.
Even though, Gani did not win the 2003 presidential election, the fact remains that his involvement and participation in the election in question clearly provided a rally point for mass of the working people and change-seeking Nigerians youths.
To me, this is a political achievement which my involvement in the 2019 is hoped to build upon.
Concerning the question of what difference the participation of our party will make in this election, I will just urge you to monitor the process of our campaign closely. Our party will never be a work-out in this election.
That I can guarantee!
PT: Your party is relatively new in Nigeria, how do you want to cope and outshine the ruling parties?
Bamigboye: It is true that our party is a relatively a new party. As I have earlier hinted, we were issued a certificate of registration on the 15 January, 2018 at the instance of the court order delivered on the 28 November, 2017.
However, considering the magnitude of our antecedent and age-long tradition of standing and defence of the interest and aspiration of the working people, I must say that our party is not only older than many existing capitalist political parties in the country today but also inherent with potential and prospect to outshine any of the existing political parties of the ruling class.
This will mean that we will need to be consistent and steadfast with the ideological commitment of our party for an adequate defence and advancement of both the political and economic interest of the workers, student, youths and other members of the oppressed strata in the country.
To us, this is the surest way. We hope to win and attract the support of the working people to our banner and therefore, outshine the parties of the capitalist class.
PT: We term political parties as being progressive or conservative in nature, where does the SPN party belong?
Bamigboye: For the sake of clarification, SPN is neither progressive nor conservative. It is very important to state that the nomenclature of conservative and progressive is often used to make a distinction between political parties of capitalist orientation.
Our party is a party of socialist orientation. Our party believes and subscribes to the idea of socialism, which stipulates among other things, the stupendous human and natural resources at the disposal of the country must be collectively owned and placed under a democratic control.
This is to achieve an equitable distribution of the wealth of the society and socialist plan such that guarantee meeting the basic needs of the vast majority. Therefore SPN is neither a progressive nor a conservative but socialist oriented political party!
PT: You are contesting at the time some governors are saying they will not pay N30, 000 minimum wage. How much do you intend to pay workers as minimum wage?
Bamigboye: If you go through our manifesto, you will see there-in that our party promised to be committed to the implementation of the N30, 000 minimum wage.
To demonstrate this commitment, every elected political office holder under our party will be placed under the salary and allowances earned by the civil servant.
At SPN, we believe that only political office holders who are prepared and ready to live like the working people will always be willing to defend both the economic and political interest of the working people.
My party and myself as the party gubernatorial candidate had issued a series of public statement where we have not only declared our commitment to the implementation of N30,000 minimum wage but also urge the leadership of labour movement not to relent on the struggle to force both the enactment and the implementation.
The argument that some state government cannot pay N30, 000 new minimum wage has been refuted many times, by our party.
There is no state in Nigeria today, including Oyo State, that does not have the capacity to pay N30, 000 if the resources at the disposal of the state governments are judiciously utilized under the democratic control and involvement of workers and the people.
This will mean that the outrageous salaries and allowances including other frivolous privileges often enjoyed by political office holders will have to be drastically reduced. The fraudulent contract system through which politicians, who masquerade as contractors and business men, often used to siphon public fund will also have to be stopped.
Instead of the prevailing fraudulent contract system we call for a well-equipped and adequately staffed Ministry of Works (public works department) under a democratic control of workers and relevant professionals such that it is capable of judiciously and cost-effectively executing all categories of projects.
In other words, it will deliver the same standard project at a fraction of the cost by the current contract system.
PT: INEC said over 700,000 PVCs are still in its custody in the state. What do you think can be done to reduce it to the barest minimum?
Bamigboye: The first and the immediate thing I feel should be done is for the INEC, possibly in conjunction with the National orientation agency, to embark on mass sensitization of the general public, with a view to encourage and persuade them to go for the collection of their PVCs.
The need to persuade the people toward ensuring the collection of the PVC is very crucial given the fact present characterization of political parties and the leading capitalist politicians in the state.
The anti-poor characters of leading political parties in the state means that an average working class person is not encouraged to be voluntarily and actively involved in the electoral process in the state. For instance most of the leading political parties currently participating in the 2019 election have formed government at one time or the other in the state and have failed to bring any improvement to the life of the working people in the state.
Same goes for politicians who are standing for one electoral position or the other, under most of these political parties. Even other pro-capitalist political parties with little political influence which are relatively new and never formed government also lack political programs that could uplift the living condition of the people.
PT: States are complaining that the federal allocation and the IGR are not even enough to settle their wage bill. How do you raise money without necessarily over-taxing the people?
Bamigboye: One of the ways a government formed by our party will generate and raise fund to implement our socialist program will include immediate cancellation of the security vote governors often allocate to themselves out of the fund meant for the development of the state.
This will mean that all funds at the disposal of the state will be committed and invested on the areas of needs of the working people particularly adequate funding of public utilities, like education, under a democratic control and management of committee of workers, students and parents.
Another way an SPN government will generate and raise fund for the implementation of programs is through the cancellation of the regime of corrupt and costly contract system. It will replace it with a public work program under which the ministry of works will be equipped with adequate equipment, machineries, expertise and manpower to undertake mass public works like mass building of schools, hospitals, roads, mass housing, water-works, mass electrification, etc.,
Contract system has been used by the current and previous governments to pilfer away several billions of naira, and throw statse into needless debt crisis of billions of naira.
SPN government will review all contracts entered into by previous government.
All unjustified and fraudulent contracts will be cancelled.
Only contractors with proven evidence of work will be paid. This is after the interests of workers, retirees, youths, and the poor must have been satisfied.
SPN government shall set up democratic probe committees comprising representatives of workers, retirees, youth and students, communities, other social groups, and the government towards the recovery of all looted funds by officials and top politicians.
All recovered funds will be used to fund a public and social works programs for the poor and the needy. The administration of all revenues, running, monitoring and supervision of government institutions, ministries and departments will be reviewed and subjected to transparent and democratic involvement of elected representatives of workers, community, professionals and government.
This will ensure judicious use of resources and also reduce corruption to barest minimum.
Also all the big business owners and billionaires in the state will be made to pay appropriate taxes.
Finally, we shall campaign for nationalization and democratic management of all commanding heights of economy such as oil and gas, banking industry, etc in order to raise more resources for the government.
However, to achieve this and also the judicious use of the resources we will need a socialist government not only in Oyo state but also in many states and at the federal level. This is our goal!
PT: The state government recently introduces security levies on business and religious body as way to generate more money; if you are elected will you rescind the decision?
Bamigboye: Definitely yes. We have issued a press statement to condemn the decision of Senator Ajimobi/APC-led Oyo State government to impose what was reportedly called security levies on the poor traders and small business owners in Oyo State.
At the same time, we demand an immediate reversal of this decision while calling on members of the Oyo state house of assembly to immediately kick start the process of repealing the obnoxious law upon which the decision for the security levies was allegedly premised.
As far we are concerned, the imposition of security levies on the people under the pretense of “generating fund to assist security agencies in their bid to maintain a crime free state” as claimed by the governor himself is unjust and criminal as it amounts to transferring the burden of funding of security agencies on the poor citizens of this state.
It will not only compound the economic hardship under which the working people in the state groan, but it is also at variance with the Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution as amended which stipulates among other things that the security of life and properties of every Nigerian, regardless of ethnic and religious affiliation, must be the fundamental responsibility of the Nigeria government, at all levels.
We strongly believe that the security agents in the state would have been more effective and efficient if the huge proportion of the yearly budget often voted on security by the federal government and the huge sum of fund Governors often set asides for themselves as security votes has been used judiciously over time to improve on both the working and living condition of the security agents.
Unfortunately, the exact amount and expenditure of the security votes running to millions of dollars on monthly basis, are not bound by any law to be disclosed.
This is why we call for immediate cancellation of security votes, while charging legislators in the state house of assembly members to enact a law that will support the conversion of the funds that goes to the governor under the pretence of security votes to a security fund to assist the security agencies at the state level. Such a fund must be subjected to the democratic control and management of the elected representatives of working people to ensure its adequate accountability.
PT: As a way to improve the education sector, the state government introduced school governing boards. It also introduced Agric Oyo, to improve the agricultural sector. What can you say about these programs?
Bamigboye: The introduction of governing board by the Oyo State government, without a prior, conscious and sustainable effort to yield to its social responsibility of proper and adequate funding of education is a misplacement of priority.
This kind of approach will not be acceptable to a government formed by the SPN. School governing board under an SPN led government will comprise elected representative of teachers, parents and students and this will be done side by side adequate funding of education. At the same time, ensure that the public education is properly and adequately funded.
The existence of governing board across schools in the state where students lack access to facilities and conducive atmosphere necessary before learning can take place is a share waste of time and a fruitless chase after shadow!
The Agric Oyo is tokenism and it has proved to be incapable of guaranteeing sufficient and avoidable food for Oyo State people. Under SPN, this will be replaced with SPN Integrated Rural Development Program so as to put tens of thousands into jobs, ensure food sufficiency, expand economic activities and develop the rural areas.
Under this program, farms/plantations in a form of farm settlements, will be established with provision of basic infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, schools, potable water, housing etc.
SPN government will provide machineries, equipment and inputs in all local governments for poor farmers and peasants to access at an affordable rate. This is in addition to the provision of cheap credits and other financial supports through their cooperatives.
PT: Many people will say one must have contributed one way or the other to the development of his society before he can seek people votes. What have you done to deserve their votes?
Bamigboye: As an activist and socialist, with my organization, I have contributed greatly to the victory of a number of workers struggle in the state. A few of these struggles are as follows: Struggle that forced the reinstatement of 95 sacked workers and removal of the despotic ED in CRIN; Struggle that forced the reinstatement of four lecturers arbitrarily sacked by the provost of FCA, Ibadan; Struggle that forced the removal of IAR&T Director who is currently serving a jail term, over cases of corruption and mismanagement of the institution money and Struggle of the Oyo State workers that forced the senator Ajimobi-led APC Oyo State government to drop the plan to sell-off some secondary schools in the state.
The most recent is the struggle that won an improved working condition and better pay for over 15 000 casual workers in Summal food company located at Oluyole industrial estate.
I am daily involved in different efforts at organizing workers, youths and the poor masses to fight for better conditions and against exploitation in workplaces, communities and schools in the state.