GOODLUCK JONATHAN FULL TERM PRESIDENCY:
GOODLUCK JONATHAN FULL TERM PRESIDENCY:
CAN THE ECONOMY AND POLITY GET BETTER?
Segun Sango, DSM General Secretary
To his bourgeois promoters plus also the few elements who genuinely but wrongfully have hopes in him, Goodluck Jonathan is a God-sent president to effect Nigeria’s socio-economic “transformation”. Proof â€“ he is the only politician, who became a governor and then later president within a period of five years, without ever having contested any election! At 52, Jonathan is Nigeria’s first president who holds a PHD certificate to the bargain! He comes from the Niger Delta, a minority region that has lately being the epicenter of militant actions on the account of perceived age-long deprivation and the political oppression. Plus this clincher, Jonathan is the youngest person to occupy that post in the past 12 years of post-military era. Thus the masses were urged to vote Jonathan during 2011 elections as the providential man that would herald the seriously needed socio-economic “transformation” of Nigeria. In the period up to the 2011 general elections and since the commencement of his full term presidency, Jonathan himself has continued to wax eloquent about his administration’s commitment to the “transformation” of Nigeria.
In his inaugural speech on May 29, 2011, Jonathan had amongst other things stated: “In my early days in school, I had no shoes, no school bags. I carried my books in my hands but never despaired; no car to take me to school but I never despaired. There were days I had only one meal but I never despaired. I walked miles and crossed rivers to school every day but I never despaired. [I] didn’t have power, didn’t have generators, studied with lanterns but I never despairedâ€¦In spite of these, I finished secondary school, attended the University of Port Harcourt, and now hold a doctorate degree. Fellow Nigerians, if I could make it, you too can make it. Let the word go out from this Eagle Square that Jonathan as President in 2011 will herald a new era of transformation of our country; an era that will end the agony of power shortage in our country. Let the word go out from here that I will be for the students, teachers and parents of Nigeria, a President who will advance quality and competitive education. Let everyone in this country hear that I shall strive to the best of my ability to attain self sufficiency in food production.
“Let the word go out that my plans for a Sovereign Wealth Fund with an initial capital of $1billion will begin the journey for an economic restoration. This restoration will provide new job opportunities and alleviate poverty. Let the word go out that our health sector will receive maximum priority in a new Jonathan administration, a priority that will ensure maximum health care and stop our brain drain.”
Then, Mr. Jonathan went lyrical when he concluded his speech by parodying Martin Luther King’s 1967 speech and enthused: “I have a dream for Nigeria”â€¦ that any Nigerian child from Kaura-Namoda to Duke town; from Potiskum to Nsukka, from Isale-Eko to Gboko will be able to realize his God-given potentials, unhindered by tribe or religion and unrestricted by improvised political inhibitions.”
SAME, BAD OLD, OLD STORY
Since 1999 and up till now, the Nigerian ruling elite, across all their parties, have under the guise of privatisation and deregulation of the economy been carrying out policies that frontally destroy and undermine the publicly owned corporations, parastatals, institutions and companies. Since 1999, everything that can fetch money for the country has been sold or concessioned to both local and foreign companies. A very veritable public housing sector, including houses built during the colonial era, has been sold to thieving public officials and money bags at rock bottom prices by the rulers at the federal and state levels. All public services and utilities like healthcare, education, housing, pipe-borne water, roads, electricity, etc, which can add value to living became grossly underfunded, while as usual, the lion share of whatever amount is voted for these services continued to be looted by top politicians and technocrats in governments. Lately, they have devised a new, fraudulent means of robbing the people through a concept called Public Private Partnership (PPP) â€“ an open con, where public funds and authority are used to finance and support private profit interests of the few rich in construction, transportation like the Lagos BRT, etc.
At the peak of Nigeria’s brief industrial growth in the 1980s, the key private sectors amongst themselves employed about 3 million workers. But according to the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN), 1.9 million (officially) of these workers lost their jobs between 2002 â€“ 2008, no thanks to the multifarious but destructive and usurious policies spearheaded by top government officials like Jonathan and Okonjo-Iweala. The real state of the economy is so bad today that many companies have relocated to neighbouring West African countries with many of those claiming to be doing business in Nigeria mostly acting as cover for the sales of goods produced elsewhere.
Meanwhile it is appropriate here to underline the fact that Okonjo-Iweala was the country’s Finance Minister in 2005, under Olusegun Obasanjo presidency, when Nigeria paid about $12 billion to the Paris Club for debt allegedly owed to these international finance sharks. At the time, the official line peddled by all the imperialist hirelings led by Okonjo-Iweala was that gifting instantly these international finance sharks about $12bn of Nigeria’s badly needed money, was the best way to pull Nigeria out of debt bondage and usher in an era of robust economic growth. In reality, the facts on ground then totally contradicted the argument being pushed by these pro-imperialists, capitalist elites in power.
Here, it is also important to recall that there was a widespread opinion that held that Okonjo-Iweala should not pay that hefty sum because of the extremely vulnerable state of the economy and coupled with the fact that whatever amount the country might have borrowed from the Paris Club has been recovered 2 times over. There was also the revelation that the vast bulk of the loans in issue could not be justifiably accounted for. According to Mansur Muhtar, Director Debt Management Office (DMO) in the ThisDay of March 13, 2005, only 2% of the projects for which the loans in issue were procured for could be described as successful. 15% a bit functional, 60% total failure while 10% of the loan never reached the project site.
At the time, Farouk Lawan, a member of House of Representatives, also proffered another important reason why Nigeria should not rush ahead to use its badly needed but scarce resources to appease the insatiable gods of capital. According to Lawan, since 1992, Nigeria had not taken any additional loan from the Paris Club. On the contrary between years 2000 and 2005 Nigeria made a total debt repayment of $6.9 billion, yet the country’s debt profile in that same period increased by $7.5 billion. Between 2003 and 2005, Nigeria paid Å3.5billion in debt services but its debt burden rose by Å3.9billion within the same period! Summing up Okonjo-Iweala’s “debt treat” the DSM has in the special edition of the Socialist Democracy of July 2005 stated thus: “Far from bringing any succour, these conditionalities, severally and collectively will only bring greater socio-economic doom for Nigeria in the immediate and long term periods. In fact, what is being celebrated as debt relief is nothing short of second slavery”.
ARE LEOPARDS ABOUT TO CHANGE THEIR SPOTS?
Frequently, Jonathan speaks as if he is truly concerned about the socio-economic crisis ravaging the country and its hapless people. While inaugurating the reconstituted board of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) on August 4, 2011, President Jonathan had amongst other things stated: “the whole concept of privatisation … started a long time ago. The Federal Government delegated some of its responsibilities to the private sector over the period. We believe the private sector will handle things better than the public sector. “But the whole story about privatisation has not been as successful as Nigerians expect it to be. The feeling is that a number of enterprises that have been privatised by the Federal Government are not doing too well.” While inaugurating the Federal Government Economic Management Team (EMT) in Abuja, President Jonathan had also declared; “I want to be able to assure Nigerians at every turn, that in the next four years, we will make this country proud. Our task is to ensure that the country records unprecedented economic progress and our citizens see clear improvements in the quality of their lives. This is our commitment…I expect this team to work with the vice-president and I to bring about such economic transformation that can clearly translate into better opportunities for our people. We must ensure better linkages between fiscal and monetary policies, provide a more enabling environment for private sector investment and continue to encourage the culture of entrepreneurship to thrive … The economy is, of course, at the heart of this administration’s transformational agenda. We are looking forward to greater fiscal discipline, a continuously improving framework to support local and international investors and effective macro-economic and monetary policies. Our emphasis should be one of inclusive growth and employment generation. Economic growth should necessarily translate into measurable benefits for our people.” (Tribune, August 19, 2011).
At the same Inauguration where President Jonathan made the above quoted statements, his Finance Minister, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the golden girl of imperialism and former leading staff of World Bank, equally made a statement that might make the uninformed elements to think that new/better things are about to happen under Jonathan’s current administration. She said: “We cannot yield the progress of this country to those who want to keep it on stranglehold, we have to move forward, the vast majority of Nigerians want to see changes in the economy”. (The Guardian, August 21, 2011). Okonjo-Iweala also said: “Let me say this first the whole thrust of what the president wants for now is the creation of jobs so everything that we do in terms of pushing the economy forward has to be geared around how we can have a true job growth of the economy”. (Vanguard, August 18, 2011). As proof of her commitment Okonjo-Iweala has this time around agreed to take her salary in Naira, not the US dollars which she demanded during her first term as Finance Minister. But, just days before she was appointed, the law was changed to allow the President, Governors, Cabinet ministers and parliamentarians to hold foreign currency accounts so no doubt she will not be short of US dollars!
Few days later, Okonjo-Iweala made another remarkable statement while articulating her economic policies and visions: “We will focus on those sectors that affect the common man. This is why government is focusing on the development of power. If we achieve that, Nigerians will begin to see tangible achievements. We have to focus on food scarcity. Inflation has come down to 9.4%. We can build on that and move ahead”. (Next, August 25, 2011).
In reality, despite fine sounding words these statements do not in any sense suggest that the Jonathan presidency is about to jettison its prevailing capitalist, i.e. pro-rich and anti-poor, policies that were largely responsible for the prevailing monumental failure and decline in the economy and people’s living standard. In fact, fearing that Jonathan’s speech that privatisation is a colossal failure as quoted above might be interpreted to imply an abandonment of privatisation as a central economic strategy, his Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, hurriedly came out a few days later quoting Jonathan thus: “We must do things properly according to due process and also do them in such a way that it shows commitment, passion and vision. (Nigerian Tribune 27/07/11).
When decoded in Nigeria’s notorious political language, this means that Jonathan and his collaborators, the new ultimate powers in town, might be prepared to revoke some earlier privatisation deals with the aim of making themselves and or their proxies the central beneficiaries when these same companies are invariably put up again for privatisation! On her part, as a highly prized imperialist agent/enforcer, Okonjo-Iweala did not leave any thinking person in doubt about her real economic mission and agenda. At the forum where she made the above quoted statement, she instantly let the cat out of the bag: “There has been a lot of debate on fuel subsidies and we have all resolved that (removing it) is a good direction to go on. You have to leave it to us to decide when it is prudent to do so”. (Punch August 25, 2011).
AVERTING GREATER SOCIO-ECONOMIC DISASTER
Based on their inglorious past and anti-peoples policies, the DSM members have repeatedly warned that the current full term presidency of Jonathan will only unleash a new level of suffering and political disasters on Nigeria and the vast majority of its working and poor people. Almost three months after assumption of offices there has been not one single policy or political direction from either the federal or state governments that can positively impact on the ordinary citizens.
Shortly before the general elections, the entire ruling elite entered into an agreement with the trade unions which was subsequently passed into a law. Under the new Minimum Wage Act, the least paid worker, in any institution or organisation that has more than 50 workers in its employment would, with effect from March 2011, earn N18,000 monthly.
Three months after their assumption of offices, neither the federal government nor any state governments has implemented their commitment in this respect. Those that have so far indicated their willingness to do so have only offered varying degrees of distorted implementation. The ACN controlled Osun State government offers a graphic example of this distorted implementation. According to government spokesperson, Osun State will pay N19,100 monthly i.e. N1100 more than the N18,000 stipulated in the Minimum Wage Act. However, unwilling to implement same law to all categories of workers, it arbitrarily resolved to add a few thousands naira more on the wages of level 7 to level 16. In most states of the federation, there is yet no any visible commitment to pay the new minimum wage. Worse still, there have been threats to carry out mass retrenchment of workers if forced to pay the new wage. To add insult to injury, the governors of all the ruling parties have demanded that the oil subsidy must be immediately stopped! A very clever way of hiking fuel prices again so that the paltry sum gained by poor workers can be clawed back by inflation that would most certainly follow this notorious but failed pro rich policy, especially under the prevailing near total socio economic strangulation facing the country and its hapless people.
All the ruling political parties are in an unholy alliance to prevent the working masses from benefiting from the paltry increment in the minimum wage. At the same time, they are solidly united to continue to drain the nation’s resources through payment of outrageous jumbo pay and allowances to themselves. In his typical speechifying fashion, Jonathan has continued to berate the “high cost of governance” and yet increased the budget of the unelected pimps of power, called presidency from N12.78b in 2010 to N20.1b in 2011! Just like under previous capitalist governments, unlimited corruption, mis-management and abuse of powers still reign supreme under Jonathan. For instance, between May, 29, 2011 and roughly about one month before a new set of ministers were appointed by the president, the unelected top government officials of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) accumulated a debt of N640bn “without regard to due process and the level of revenue at its disposal” (FCT Minister, Bala Mohamed â€“ Vanguard, August 17, 2011). Up till date, nobody has been indicted let alone arraigned for this act of public looting. The reason should not be far fetched! That is the standard practice in virtually all government institutions, banks and the so-called private sector.
OLD POLITICAL CRIMES
Under Jonathan’s presidency, Nigeria and most especially poor Nigerians are increasingly being murderously ravaged by ethno-religious conflicts arising from the undemocratic and arbitrary manner through which the country was created and being governed by its rulers since colonial time through military and up till the period of the present thieving elected rulers.
This phenomenon of course, did not start with the Jonathan dispensation. Between 1999 and now, about 30,000 Nigerians have lost their lives, not counting millions that have been permanently dislocated through one form of ethno-religious conflict or another with hundreds of billions of naira property destroyed. For the past few years, Jos in Plateau State and Maiduguri in Borno State have virtually become ungovernable as a result of perennial killings and bombing by ethno-religious extremists and Boko Haram, an Islamic religious sect. Each time a violent disruption occur in any part of the country, the ruling elite in power were always making empty boast of bringing the perpetrators to book with nothing ever done until another disaster take place.
Incapable of a scientific approach seeking to understand the real causes of these frequent conflicts, the capitalist elites have always resorted or advocated strong armed repression. Boko Haram leaders were arrested in 2009 but were subsequently killed in an extra judicial manner just like about other 700 members all in the futile hope of forcibly exterminating out this trend. Today however, this murderous sectarian group has grown to such a deadly level that they routinely attack innocent citizens as well as state institutions such as the prisons, police and even army patrol contingents.
As we predicted, the current ruling elite at federal and state levels are totally devoid of genuine democratic ideas and strategy of how to bring this destructive trend to an end. Instead of seeking genuine democratic solution, they are busy constructing plans of how to militarily suppress all forms of socio-religious agitations. In the typical capitalist fashion, billions of naira have been, and would still be, voted towards such a futile strategy. Instead of convoking a truly democratic sovereign National Conference, dominated by an elected representatives of the working masses and the poor across the country, the Jonathan presidency, like all the previous capitalist administrators, have decided to embark on another wild goose chase â€“ called a single term of 7-year presidency and governorship. Far from stemming the tide of economic, social and religious discontents, this prognosis, if it sails through, will be nothing more than a futile attempt by the doomed ruling elite to fashion out a less acrimonious method of ruling and looting the country resources between the different factions of looters to the detriment of the interests of ordinary Nigerians.
In 1999, when the military were forced to relinquish political power, the overwhelming majority of Nigerians never hoped to have the misfortune of being governed again by military dictators. Today however, the capitalist elites of all the political parties have so much messed up the economy and politics to such an extent that virtually martial rule is now a growing norm in many parts of the country in order to guarantee minimal peace. A very sad spectacle that may be later used to pave the way for another military coup with the military once again posing as the best defenders of stability and one Nigeria. Nigeria’s so-called civilian politicians have only demonstrated that they are collectively as anti-people, greedy and pro-rich as much as the military dared to do in the past. Quietly, they have enacted laws which empowered those in power to sell/convert public properties and resources to the exclusive ownership of so-called private investors, under the guise of deregulation and trade liberalisation.
In fact, if a working people’s economic and political alternative does not quickly develop to first halt this set of “profit-first”, capitalist and pro-imperialist locusts in power and then put in their place a democratic socialist government of workers and the poor that will be interested and capable of utilising Nigeria’s abundant natural and human resources in a planned and democratic manner to meet the needs of all and not just the few rich as under the current despicable dispensation, the future of Nigeria as a corporate entity in the medium and long term periods is doomed and vast majority of ordinary Nigerians can only be thrown into an unimaginable socio economic disasters.
THE ONLY WAY OUT FOR THE MASSES AND NIGERIA
Nigeria is a country that is stupendously rich in human and natural resources. Under normal conditions, Nigeria can potentially support decent living for a population, three times bigger than its estimated 150 million people. In fact, prominent officials of the foremost imperialist/capitalist countries of UK and USA in persons of Baroness Lydia Chalker and Mrs. Hillary Clinton, one time British Minister of Trade and current US Secretary of State respectively, plus several international capitalist institutions have repeatedly harped on the fact that Nigeria is too rich for most of its people to be this poor!
However, coming from imperialist politicians and institutions responsible for the implementations of the pro-west, pro-rich policies with its attendant imposition of the most corrupt greedy and pro-imperialist elements in power all over the world, most especially in ex-colonies like Nigeria, this is nothing but rank hypocrisy or provocative cynicism. In the face of the stupendous natural and human resources which abound in Nigeria, the prevailing high degree of mass suffering is an utter embarrassment. This reality has in no small measure fed the myth that Nigeria’s socio-economic problems are primarily caused by bad leaders; some even went to the extent of claiming alleged genetic deficiency and argue that there is something intrinsically wrong with the black race in general.
But tempting as this kind of reasoning and conclusion may seem, class conscious working class elements and youths must never fail to point out that despite the fact that Nigeria’s socio-political problems are deep and appear peculiar, they are totally understandable. The current world economic recession which became especially pronounced since about 2007 has shown most brutally that the lives of the vast majority of world’s humanity, including those of the developed countries but most especially the working people and the poor, can only continue to grow from bad to worse as long as the contemporary “profit-first” rulers/elements dominate the society. Right now, the foremost capitalist economies and countries of the USA, UK, Europe, etc are besotted by a myriad of problems like large unemployment, massive job losses and house repossessions, attacks on pensions and wages, banks failure and bankruptcies etc threatening at the moment the total collapse of the economies in weak capitalist countries like Greece, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, etc. This same period has also continued to witness a very comprehensive bosses’ offensive in most capitalist world, all which seek to cut down the meagre living standard of the working masses. Unless resisted and defeated, the capitalist, neo-liberal measures being implemented and advocated in many of the advanced and backward capitalist countries today are such that can rapidly and surely return man to near stone age.
For peculiar and understandable reasons, the socio-economic crises faced by the masses in Nigeria are enormous. To start with, the country was arbitrarily created for the primary motive of profits and strategic influence of British imperialism, especially then against its French rival in Africa, without any form of consultation, not to talk of the democratic consent of the country’s national and religious constituents. Right from its origin, Nigeria has remained a political victim of this lopsided and arbitrary creation. The Nigeria nationalities and groups never discussed, let alone agreed to come together, and if so, under what terms. The discovery of petroleum products in huge commercial quantities now helped imperialist/capitalist power to nurture and impose a socio-political arraignment that will perpetually maintain in power local rulers (military or civilian) that would help them perpetuate their greedy hands on Nigeria’s oil wealth and other main resources. Of course, for this unjust and oppressive arrangement to be sustained, the local backers and agents of imperialism/capitalism in governments have had little or no other viable choice than to engage in massive looting of national treasuries while implementing the pro-rich, anti-poor dictates of imperialism/international capitalism. This explains why despite their talks of “good governance”, the rulers of the advanced capitalist countries had always protected and enthroned the most corrupt layers in power in Nigeria and other African countries.
Therefore, there is only one way to save the world working people and the poor from permanent suffering in the midst of an inexhaustible abundance. This is through social revolution that will overthrow the current unjust capitalist system. This will require that the working masses and youth take over the running of the society into their own hands directly. On the basis of consistent democratic planning, running and management of the social resources and services, by elected representatives of the workers, poor famers youths and rank and file members of the armed forces etc subject to instant recall whenever found wanting, it will be possible within a very short period of time internationally and especially in rich countries like Nigeria, to guarantee the basic needs and aspirations of the entire people on planet earth. Under the prevailing unjust capitalist order, less than one thousand billionaires are said to be richer than over half of the world’s seven billion people. The working class must spearhead the social revolution that would emancipate the world natural resources and wealth from the stranglehold of the ever insatiable, greedy capitalists elements who would set up factories, build schools, hospitals, roads, electricity and run banks only if there exists the possibility of making super abundant profits while paying workers poverty wages!
To attain this end, the labour and trade union movement internationally and in Nigeria must have to make a clean break with capitalism in all ramifications. The current despicable reformist tendency which seeks to better the lot of the working people and the poor within the framework of capitalism has to be defeated. The trade unions and other mass organizations of the youths and the poor must be armed with the perspective of achieving decent living standard for all and not like the present unjust order where the vast majority of humanity is perpetually compelled to struggle for survival like beasts.
In this respect, the DSM demands as always that the leadership of the NLC and TUC immediately abandon the futile and pro-rich strategy of adopting a disposition of “strategic partnership” with the capitalist ruling elite. In this respect, we urge the NLC and TUC to democratically work out an economic and necessary, political strategy to utilize Nigeria’s abundant national resources and its exceedingly resourceful population to meet the objective needs of the entire country. This of course, means that the labour leaders have to immediately withdraw from participating in the second slavery council, called the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) and begin to proffer concrete working masses alternatives to the pro-rich policies of privatization and commercialization of the economy and basic social services. Commitment to this goal will graphically bring out the indispensable necessity of the working masses having its own independent political party that will be interested and capable of bringing about the much needed social revolution. Presently, both the NLC and TUC leaders, based on their strategy and pronouncements, do not see mass struggles as a necessity imposed on the working masses by the ever insatiable and greedy capitalist elements, but as swords that can be occasionally dangled to frighten the ruling elite or bosses for the sole purpose of gaining paltry economic or political concessions.
Throughout the protracted agitations for a new minimum wage which started in 2009 and since March 2011 when a paltry sum of N18,000, as opposed to the N52,200 originally demanded by labour, was passed into law, to the present period when governments at federal and state levels have refused to implement or fully implement this law, the hallmark of most NLC and TUC leaders appear to be a disposition to accept any rotten deal in order to avoid class confrontation with the capitalist pro-imperialist exploiters in government at all levels.
However, the resolute and often intransigent struggles being waged in some states with half-heated leaders and or no leaders by the ordinary working masses reflects more accurately the real feeling of the working masses. It is the primary responsibilities of the socialists and all genuine pro-labour activists to encourage and spread to the entire labour movement this kind of disposition. The significance of these struggles is that workers in some states are beginning to draw the conclusion that they have to struggle with or without the existing leaders. They have seen Labour staged mighty protests over the past years, including six general strikes since 2000, but not wage a determined struggle to win demands whether on minimum wage, against fuel price hikes etc. So workers, like those in Osun, are taking matters into their own hands. This provides the opportunity to build a movement, based in the grassroots that can revitalise Labour and make it the force that can lead the struggle of all the oppressed and dissatisfied to transform Nigeria. The greatest political task facing socialists and all genuine change seeking labour and youth activists at this point in time is the winning of most working class activists and their leaders to an all rounded revolutionary socialist orientation.