GOODLUCK JONATHAN FULL TERM PRESIDENCY:
GOODLUCK JONATHAN FULL TERM PRESIDENCY:
Can the Economy and Policy Get Better?
To his bourgeois promoters plus also the few elements who wrongfully have hope in him, Goodluck Jonathan is a God-sent president to effect Nigeria’s socio-economic “transformation”. He is the only politician, who became a governor and then later president within a period of 5 years, without ever having contested any election! At 52, Jonathan is the Nigeria’s first president who holds a PHD certificate to the bargain! Plus the clincher, he comes from the Niger Delta, a minority region that has lately been the epicentre of militant activities on the account of perceived age long deprivation and the political oppression. He is also 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.
ARE LEOPARDS ABOUT TO CHANGE THEIR SPOTS?
Frequently, Jonathan speaks as if he is truly concerned about the socio-economic crisis facing the country and its hapless people. While inaugurating the reconstituted board of the National Council on Privatization (NCP) on August 4, 2011, President Jonathan had amongst other things stated: “the whole concept of privatization which started a long time ago. The feeling is that a number of enterprises that have been privatized by the Federal Government are not doing too wellâ€¦So, these are the kinds of areas the new council members should address their minds to, the ones that have been done and the new ones that are yet to be done”.
While inaugurating Federal Government Economic Management Team (EMT) in Abuja, President Jonathan has 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” (Tribune 19 August 2011).
At the same Inauguration, his Finance Minister, 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 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, 21 August, 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 18 August, 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 lawmakers 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 pro-rich and anti-poor capitalist policies that are largely responsible for the prevailing monumental failure and decline in the economy and people’s living standard. 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 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).
This is not at all surprising. Okonjo-Iweala was the country’s Finance Minister in year 2005 under Olusegun Obasanjo presidency, when Nigeria paid about $12 billion to the Paris Club for debt allegedly owed to them. 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 important to recall that there was 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 had been recovered two 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 the National Assembly, 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 had 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”.
Based on their inglorious past and anti-peoples policies, working masses, youth and the poor must be 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.
AN ANTI-WORKER GOVERNMENT
For those still entertaining illusion, the current minimum wage struggle clearly illuminates the pro-rich and anti-poor character of Jonathan’s regime. 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 organization that has more than 50 workers in its employment would, with effect from March 2011 must not earn less than N18,000 monthly.
Three months after their assumption of offices, neither the federal government nor any state government 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. According to government spokesperson, Osun State would pay N19,100 monthly i.e. N1,100 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 17.
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, under the prevailing 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 benefitting 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 allocation 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.
SAME 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 country was created and being governed by its rulers since colonial time.
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 displaced through one form of ethno-religious conflict or another with properties worth hundreds of billions of naira 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 violent disruption occurs in any part of the country, the ruling elite in power always make 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 arm 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 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 usual, 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 calling a truly democratic sovereign National Conference, dominated by 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 called a single term of 7-year presidency and governorship.
Far from stemming the tide of economic, social and religious discontent, 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 sharing the country resources among 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 virtual 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 united 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.
This emphasizes the urgent need for a working people’s economic and political alternative that can halt this set of “profit-first” capitalist and pro-imperialist locusts in power and put in their place a democratic socialist government of workers and the poor that will be capable of utilizing Nigeria’s abundant natural and human resources in a planned and democratic manner to meet the needs of all. Otherwise, the future of Nigeria as a corporate entity in the medium and long term periods is doomed while the vast majority of ordinary Nigerians will continue to suffer unimaginable socio-economic disasters.
THE ONLY WAY OUT FOR THE MASSES AND NIGERIA
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. Under normal conditions, Nigeria can potentially support decent living for a population, three times bigger than its estimated 150 million people. This reality has in no small measure fed the myth that Nigeria’s socio-economic problems are primarily caused by bad leaders. Some even have gone to the extent of claiming alleged genetic deficiency and argue that there is something wrong with the black race in general.
But tempting as this kind of reasoning 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. 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.
The discovery of petroleum products in huge commercial quantities now helped imperialist/capitalist power to nurture and impose a socio-political arrangement 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 arrangement to be sustained, the local backers and agents of imperialism/capitalism in governments have had to engage in massive looting of national treasuries while implementing the pro-rich, anti-poor dictates of imperialism/international capitalism.
Since 1999 and up till now, Nigerian ruling elite, across all their parties, have under the guise of privatization and deregulation of the economy been carrying out policies that frontally destroy and undermine publicly owned corporations, parastatals, institutions and companies. Many public properties that can fetch money for the country have been sold or concessioned to both local and foreign companies. A very veritable public housing sector, including houses built during the colonial era, have 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 the paltry amount voted for these services continued to be looted by top politicians and technocrats in governments. Lately, they have devised a faster means of robbing the people through a concept called Public Private Partnership (PPP), an open fraud where public funds and authority are used to finance and support private profit interests in construction and transportation like the Lagos BRT, etc.
At the peak of Nigeria’s brief industrial growth in the 1980s, the key private sectors 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 and 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 these claiming to be doing business in Nigeria mostly acting as cover for the sales of goods produced elsewhere. This shows the inability of privatization or bureaucratic running of nationalized enterprises, as well as the capitalist system upon which both are based, to move society forward.
Unless capitalism is replaced by a democratic socialist system, things will get worse for the working masses not only in Nigeria but the world over. 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, 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 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. On the other hand, the economies in weak capitalist countries like Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, etc are hanging on a lifeline. This same period has also continued to witness a very comprehensive bosses’ offensive in most capitalist world, all which seek to cut down the meager 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 humanity near to the stone age.
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 unjust capitalist system. This must involve the working masses and youth taking over the running of the society into their own hands directly. On the basis of democratic planning, running and management of the social resources and services, 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 a 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 greedy capitalists elements who would set up factories, build schools, hospitals, roads, electricity and run banks only if there exists the possibility of making supper abundant profits while paying workers poverty wages!
To attain this end, labour and trade union movement internationally and in Nigeria must make a clean break with capitalism and its ideology 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 jettisoned. 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.
The DSM demands as always that the leadership of the NLC and TUC immediately abandon the futile and pro-rich approach of “strategic partnership” with the capitalist ruling elite. In this respect, we urge the NLC and TUC to democratically work out an economic and 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, will require the labour leaders to immediately withdraw from participating in the National Council on Privatization (NCP) and draw up 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. The ongoing struggle for implementation of the N18, 000 minimum wage is a graphic indication of the real feeling of the working masses. The significance of this struggle is that workers are beginning to draw, through experience, the conclusion that the opposition political parties as much as the PDP are anti-poor and pro-rich. A great layer of this will yearn for an independent political party representing workers and poor, something that is missing now. Therefore, 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.
The full version of this article has been earlier posted on this website
Unfortunately, the pro-capitalist trade union leaders are adding to this increased frustration by their inability to work out a strategy of struggle that can unite working people, with oppressed youth, students to fight for free and functional education, living wage and jobs. The rise of Boko Haram is also due to the inability of the trade union leadership over the years to provide a way out of the crisis of mass poverty and unemployment for the mass of oppressed workers and youth. Unless the labour leadership provides working people and youth justifiably angry at the condition of poverty amidst plenty the alternative method of mass struggle to defeat capitalism, many may begin to look on violence and terrorism as effective alternative to hit back at the corrupt ruling class.