THE ACN never ceases to describe itself as a “progressive” political party. My conception of being progressive is class-based; the party that is progressive is located in an ideological spectrum, which seeks the interest of the working people and the poor. I do not think this is how the Action Congress defines its own “progressive” politics.
So when Babatunde Fashola, the Lagos State governor, sacked 778 medical doctors recently, he just underlined the class character of the regime and the party it belongs to. It would be recalled that Bola Tinubu also had a running battle with the trade union movement during his tenure. It was therefore no surprise that Lai Muhammed, ACN’s spokesperson, defended and supported the action of his party’s governor.
What pleasantly surprised me in the whole saga is the forthright position taken by Segun Ayobolu, THE NATION’s columnist and close confidant of Bola Tinubu. His column’s title last week was taken from Lenin: “What is to be done”?
He described the action as “certainly the most drastic and draconian measure ever taken in the history of industrial relation in Nigeria”. Whatever might be the alleged merits of the government and the “equally understandable…unqualified endorsement (of the sacking by the ACN)”, Segun nevertheless argued that “the stark truth, however, is that the mass sack by an ACN state government, for whatever reason, of 778 doctors has serious negative implications for the party’s professed progressive ideology and democratic commitment”.
He then asked an interesting follow up question: “If reactionary political forces, citing the Lagos state precedent, decide in future to clamp down on workers and strangulate their political rights, will ACN have the moral authority to utter a word?”
Segun Ayobolu disagrees with the method employed by the doctors but said their grievances were genuine. My questions for Segun will be directly related to the class character of the party and government. When they are described as “progressive”, is that a general description devoid of a class content?
How can a party that has a history of serially fighting the working people claim any “moral authority”, against “reactionary political forces”, when it shares the same disdain for the working people as Segun’s “reactionary political forces”? Maybe this is the time to begin to interrogate the simplistic label of “progressive” so liberally thrown about, in respect of parties like the Action Congress of Nigeria.
Or in the alternative, stalwarts of the party like Segun Ayobolu, who share ideological empathy for the working people should begin to help their party become genuinely “progressive”.
A party cannot be anti-working people and at the same time shout itself hoarse that it is ‘progressive’; we can see through empty sloganeering! Segun Ayobolu made a stand and that was very good!