Alfred Adegoke, a lawyer and human rights activist, is the governorship candidate of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) in the upcoming September 22 governorship election in Osun State. He speaks with PREMIUM TIMES’ Oluwole Josiah on his chances at the poll and related issues.
PT: You are coming into the governorship race from the background of activism and agitations for good governance. What are your plans for the Osun workers who are owed several months of unpaid salaries?
Adegoke: Our support has always been for the workers. We have been demanding that the workers be paid full salaries. We have been demanding for an end to half salary. We have also been demanding an end to half pensions. We called on the government to pay the arrears of all salaries and pensions. That is exactly what the SPN government will implement. We plan to establish a government of workers, youth and the poor masses, so that we can bring about an egalitarian society, a society that is free from oppression and exploitation.
PT: The Osun State Government had complained of lack of funds as the reason why the salaries are not paid. How do you intend to go about this when elected as governor?
Adegoke: Well, it is not true that funds are not available. If that were to be true, all the vote buying and all the election monetisation will not be there. And let me tell you this, can you say that there is no money, when some roads in Osun State are built with N1 billion per kilometre of road? The Osogbo – Gbongan road is built approximately for N1 billion per kilometre of that road. The contractors have collected their money – at least 90 per cent of their money. So, how can anybody tell you that there is no money? What is happening is that the contractors were brought in by the regime to milk the state dry.
That is the penchant of all the pro-rich politicians and government which has been ruining our country today. We have to bring an end to this kind of system by ensuring that public projects are done by well-equipped ministry of works which will do all the government programmes. We will try to abolish the contract system and replace it with a mass public works programme to be supervised by government, the workers and the communities where the projects are being implemented. It would mean that the cost of production will be cut by 90 per cent, so that the road project done by N1 billion per one kilometre of road will cost N10 million, so that a lot of money will be saved for programmes to ameliorate the sufferings of the masses and pay salaries and make infrastructure and social services available.
Secondly, the public officials of the SPN will earn only salary obtainable within the civil service. That means for example, if I am elected as the governor, my salary or emolument will be what is obtainable in the civil service of the Osun State and not just all those corrupt and obscene salaries that the governor and public office holders are taking. We are going to abolish and block all those areas where all these huge amounts which should have been used to develop the state and better the welfare of the people are being siphoned through contracts and emoluments. And that includes security votes and all those fraudulent schemes through which government (officials) steal money.
PT: How do you address the issue of corruption with the government involved in construction and execution of projects, particularly in the present Nigerian setting?
Adegoke: That is exactly the reason why public officers are elected. Public officers are elected for the purpose of ensuring that the public work is done corruption-free. But the reason why it is not being done is because all the politicians of all other political parties, except those of the SPN, their main aim is to do government programme through contract, through which they will divert the money into private purse.
The question of saying there is corruption in government business, is like saying calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it. The truth of the matter is that it is the politicians that are behind the corruption that has bedevilled this country, it is not the working class. We will put the commanding heights of the economy under a democratic control and management of the working people and through that we are definitely going to plug corruption. Let me give you an example.
You want to construct all the roads and all the bridges in a community. We will look for a place where there is sand and stones in that community. We are not going to pay for the sand and the stones. Government owns the sand and the stones. The SPN will ensure that the commanding heights of the economy is collectively owned and democratically managed and controlled.
It means we will not buy sand, we will not buy stones, we will not buy wood from the forest. If not for corruption, why should any government that wants to better the lots of the people ask a contractor to go and steal in quotes? It is tantamount to stealing to give the contract to a company to go and get these materials which ordinarily belong to the government for construction.
We are going to abolish all that. The workers know where the stones and timbers are. They will go and get them for the construction of the roads and other infrastructure. That is the only way we can plug corruption.
PT: The socialist party espouses a lofty ideology for the people. But how can the SPN get into office in the face of the two party dominance without first getting the people to understand and accept your socialist’s ideas?
Adegoke: That question is a major question. In fact, apart from the question of the dominance of two political parties like the PDP or the APC, etc., the question of monetisation of the process is also there.
But I place these proverbs before our people: First, if a man narrowly escapes the guillotine, which takes away his cap instead of his head, the person ought to be grateful. But I ask our people, what should that man do? He should take care of his head and not let it return to the guillotine. That is the challenge facing our people, because hitherto, there had been the political dynamics of no choice between the people.
I will refer you to the era of Bisi Akande. When they were saying, Akande was not good, they voted him out as governor of AD, which preceded the APC. They chased him away and replaced him by the Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the PDP. But it was just for a short while. Within that four years of that regime it became glaring that Oyinlola did not represent the aspiration of the working people. So, it brought about the yearning for change.
But yet, in the absence of any alternative, they were faced with the choice of the Aregbesola. They thought his candidature from the APC could make a difference. In the face of no alternative, they brought him to power, and we all can see the ruinous state of the economy and the polity today. Now, there is a call for a new alternative.
It doesn’t need the help of a soothsayer to know that the two dominant political parties represent the same thing. The difference between them is that of six and half a dozen. They do not represent the aspiration of the working people of Osun State. It means that only the party of the SPN that can offer a clear ideological alternative to the corruption and decadence and the collapse of the state by all these parties like the APC and the PDP.
PT: The incumbent governor has persistently accused the last PDP administration of ruining the Nigerian economy and had blamed it for what is happening in Osun State. Do you share this view?
Adegoke: But what has he done with that allegation. Has he fared better? Why are people clamouring for a change? Has he fared better? We have backlogs of salaries, half salary, non-payment of pensions….in fact in Osun State there has been an attack on the working class particularly in the second term of his administration.
So, you don’t need a crystal ball to know that the PDP had ruined the state, and the Aregbesola regime has further ruined the state. This is the reason why the people are yearning for a new alternative, and that is in fact the exact reason why our party, the SPN, was registered to provide an alternative to the working people, the youth and the oppressed. Any vote cast except for the vote for the SPN, is a waste for the working class.
PT: Besides the programmes and projects of the SPN, does the party have the resources to push this campaign beyond the limits of verbal campaigns given the nature of the politics in the country?
Adegoke: Well, talking about resources, we are not a party of money bags, and we reject the money bag politicians. Our appeal is to the rank and file of the youth and the poor. For instance, in our party, every card carrying member pays a monthly subscription, which we all subscribe to. My campaign is being financed from the sweat of our members and our supporters.
So, you can see our profile. We are coming up with our posters and leaflets and other campaign materials. Our supporters and members will join us in our mobilisation across the state so we can whip up that possibility of ideological transformation of our country and the state ahead of the September election. If we have 500,000 supporting our campaign, let me even say we have 200,000, let me even reduce it to 100,000; if all of them contribute N100 each, it is more important to us than the stinking money or the obscene money that all the corrupt politicians are coming up with and which we have said that parties should reject them.
We are urging the people to join the campaign and identify the future and their aspirations and destiny with our party. I will remind you to go back to history, when the Babangida regime dared to ask Nigerians what kind of socio-political economic system that they will prefer. The people voted for socialism. That is the only referendum in this country where the people voted for socialism in 1986, even though that was suppressed by the regime. That referendum is superior to any other constitution. For us, the SPN, we stand up for revalidating and reinvigorating the political aspiration of our people and demanding for the way forward for our country.
PT: Socialism had been practiced in some parts of the world, without much success. What brand of socialism are you espousing for the Nigerian society?
Adegoke: The kind of explanation on that is to tell you that we stand on the works of Max and Hengel; Lenin and Trotsky and the struggles that we, the Democratic Socialist Movement and the ideologies and the perspectives that we have been building upon.
You should remember that the Democratic Socialist Movement is one of the major sponsors of the registration of Socialist Party of Nigeria. Arguments and polemics and themes that we have been working upon and deepening for over 25 years of our history and now we have the SPN to translate these things into practical reality.
However, I must say that the experience of the 1917 revolution of Lenin and Trotsky was betrayed by a Stalinist bureaucratic cliché which degenerated that revolution. Even the last term of Leon Trotsky, he tried to build (we can refer to him as the founder of modern socialism today), the kind of socialism that we are trying to build as espoused how the Lenin and Trotsky revolution was betrayed by Stalinism and the need to reverse and build a new, international alternative to the betrayal of Stalin and the bureaucratic cliché.
Of course, Trotsky himself was assassinated by the agents of Stalin in 1940 while he was in exile. We are reversing to the genuine idea of socialism. Russia, which was cited as an example of failed socialism, betrayed the socialist revolution. Trotsky himself had predicted that unless there was a democratic socialism in Russia, the country would reverse back to capitalism. So we are not surprised what has happened in Russia.
We don’t preach the kind of tyranny, oppression and anti-people and anti-workers ideas characterising the USSR socialism. We opine a more democratic system where the workers and the youth and the oppressed are at the forefront of the struggle and not subjugated to the whims and caprices of a few cliché which tilted in favour of Stalinism. This was fabricated in some countries like Cuba, China and Venezuela. We don’t consider those regimes as genuine socialist regimes. We can call them nationalised economies without democracy.
Without democracy, we cannot have socialism. So we want a situation whereby we have a collective ownership of the economy side by side with a democratic placement. A nationalised economy under a democratic control – that is the fundamental difference between our struggle and the experiences of USSR, China and all those countries.
PT: Speak on the issue of vote buying witnessed in Ekiti. As we go into the Osun election, the police, INEC and other security agencies appear to be helpless in this situation. What is the way out of it?
Adegoke: INEC and the police are not helpless. My own assessment is that they are collaborators with vote buyers and riggers of the election and I will explain. The election is supposed to be a secret ballot in Nigeria. Why will you place the ballot in the open? It is open enough for the voter to vote and show the gladiators who he has voted for and then go to collect his pepper soup money after the vote.
It clearly tells you that the election in Ekiti and election in Nigeria have been done in contravention of the law and in collaboration and in conspiracy with INEC and the police to rig the votes. It can be stopped by ensuring that the election is cast in a secret and it is the job of INEC. INEC should provide a place. It should not just be a box, it should be a cubicle where voters should enter. These are part of the campaign.
I told the INEC people that came to our congress, because they are saying they are helpless – I told them that it is a lie, because it is their responsibility. They have failed to provide a free and fair election. They conspired with the riggers to make the votes open instead of the secret ballot. Secondly, we demand that the voting process should be officially covered by cameras. There should be an official video coverage of the election process from the beginning to the end.
On our part, we call on our members to be vigilant and to ensure that these rules are followed and monitored and that voting is done in secret. We call on INEC to end the kangaroo manner they have been conducting elections in Nigeria.
PT: What are your chances of your party emerging victorious in the coming election?
Adegoke: The chances of the Socialist Party of Nigeria is dialectically linked with the chances of the Osun State workers, the youth and the oppressed to stand up and wake from their slumber. If they wake up from their slumber and chase out the capitalist pro-rich parties, kick them out and put SPN in power, good, so be it; but it is dialectically linked. It is not about my chances, it is about the chances of all the workers, the youth and the oppressed masses of Osun State.
We are going to campaign to them, we are going to go to the corners and crannies of Osun State, but it is the choice of the workers, the youth and the oppressed of Osun State. If they will continue to put their heads in the guillotine, then that is their choice. But if they choose to liberate and emancipate themselves from this corruption and desperate politicians, then we can have a new dawn for Osun State and for our country.