BOOK REVIEW: Yar’Adua and the Working Class: A Timely X-Ray
BOOK REVIEW: Yar’Adua and the Working Class: A Timely X-Ray
By Lanre Arogundade
The actual title of the book under review is ‘President Yar’Adua’s Era â€“ A new dawn for the masses?’ a 48-page document written by the Democratic Socialist Movement’s (DSM) General Secretary, Segun Sango. But in choosing YAR ADUA AND THE WORKING CLASS: A TIMELY X-RAY as the title of this review, this writer takes ideological liberty in the fact that the publication, being a socialist one, directs its central political message to the labour and the working class movement and their allies.
Thus while the introduction says that “the pamphlet x-rays the regime with its 7-point agenda and shows that it is a continuation of Obasanjo capitalist misrule”, it warns against disillusionment by labour leaders, poor working people, mass organizations, socialists, who it challenges to “immediately commence the process that will crystallize the formation of viable mass working class peoples’ party with socialist orientation that will transform Nigeria along socialist line”.
The book will indeed be a valuable literary companion for the working class as it sets about the above task. In eight chapters, the book examines among others the June 2007 General strike, Rule of law, the seven point agenda, the Niger Delta, the opposition, the way forward and the immediate period ahead.
In doing the above analysis, the publication again reinforces the truism in the saying that when history repeats itself, it first does so as a tragedy and later as a farce. It emphasizes the tragic reality that Yar’Adua’s regime is just another phase of the Obasanjo regime and therefore that the working masses should not have their hope misplaced. “In the real scientific terms, President Yar’Adua’s era is a mere continuation of ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo’s inglorious anti-poor and incorrigibly corrupt government”, it says in the opening chapter aptly titled ‘hope triumphing over experience’. It further explains that this assertion is despite that fact that the document was written when Yar’Adua was barely 100 days old office.
That it took a widely supported general strike for Yar’Adua to reverse the hated decisions of hike in fuel prices, increase in VAT, cheap sales of the Kaduna and Port-Harcourt refineries and the suspension of the implementation of 15 percent pay rise for federal workers, announced by the previous regime, clearly shows that the nation is still orbiting the capitalist path. While acknowledging the concessions rightly won as a result of the strike, the book however notes that they amount to no-added economic value for the working class that is already traumatized by high cost of living and poor working conditions.
Chapter three argues that the rule of law is nothing but the rule of fraud under a regime that has given bail terms to big time treasury looters like most of the ex-governors but did not mind to slam student leaders into prison for fighting in defence of independent unionism. As for public declaration of assets, , due process and the rest of them, the book warns that they would not reduce corruption an inch nor bring better living conditions for the masses. So also that nothing would come out of the so-called electoral reform process, thereby repeating the same farce by previous governments that never stopped election rigging.
In several places the book argues that corruption and rigging takes place within the context of cut-throat competition for power by rival sections of the ruling class, because the capitalist political and economic system provides the framework that makes it possible for few millionaires to pocket the wealth produced by majority of the population. Against this background, chapter four delivers the verdict that the seven point agenda that sounds high on such issues as energy, security of lives and properties, human capital development, poverty alleviation etc cannot lift the social and economic burdens on the working class being also, a whole-sale adoption of neo-liberal policies. As is well known, such policies as marketed by the IMF and World Bank promotes anti-poor programs like privatization of the commanding heights of the economy and commercialization of education, health care and other social services. As chapter four concludes, because the reigning neo-liberal philosophy is that government must not spend public resources on the economy and well-being of the masses, “Yar’Adua’s seven point agenda will at the end of the day turn a ruse”.
Chapter five also comes to the conclusion that the solution being offered by Yar’adua to the Niger Delta crisis would amount to nothing. For it is still within the same framework of capitalist exploitation that the region, which through crude oil revenues, accounts for 90 percent of the country’s revenue “has pathetically remained one of the poorest and environmentally most devastated parts of the world”. This development is correctly attributed to the “especially rapacious exploitation of the region’s oil resources by multi-national oil companies in active collaboration with successive capitalist governments of Nigeria” besides the skewed political arrangement left by the colonialists and the domination of the capitalist elite of the majority Hausa/Fulani, Ibo and Yoruba nationalities.
In resolving the Niger Delta crisis and many others that face the poor working masses, chapter six stresses that hope cannot be placed on the pro-capitalist political opposition that would carry out similar anti-masses measures if the electoral fortune had swung in their favour. In the next chapter therefore, the book reiterates that only a labour movement and leadership imbued with the principle and spirit of social transformation and socialist revolution could build the necessary working class political party only which can have sufficient motive and support of the entire working class to implement the revolutionary option. It further expresses optimism that as the working class strives to escape perpetual poverty and political bondage, “the necessity/realization that the masses need their own party to fight the capitalist exploiters and political robbers may make the question of the labour party more relevant than it seems at the moment”. The last chapter similarly concludes that “the immediate creation and development of class conscious and viable pan-Nigeria working masses party to replaced the current unjust order with a democratic socialist system remains the primary tasks facing the working class and socialist activities”.