FIRST 2 YEARS OF JONATHAN ADMINISTRATION:
FIRST 2 YEARS OF JONATHAN ADMINISTRATION:
Glitz and Glamour of the Midterm Report Cannot Hide the Failure
(By Peluola Adewale)
In May President Goodluck Jonathan celebrated the first two years of his administration with a self-praising and highfalutin midterm report. He was elected in 2011 election though he had been in power as the acting President since 2009 following the sickness and demise of President Yar’Adua. While presenting the report to the media Jonathan was so confident of his purported achievement that he threw gauntlet down to critics to prove him otherwise. This was no doubt a barefaced bravado!
President Jonathan claimed that as a teacher he knew that any examination should be guided by a marking scheme suggesting that critics of his administration are not objective in their assessment. He lined up his Ministers to highlight what are called impressive results of the administration. Many vainglorious figures were thrown up. To the working people those figures appeared invented from the netherworld as they do not have basis in the reality of their daily experiences. The working masses assess the performance of government on the basis of access to basic needs of life such as jobs, foods, education, power, etc. By using those criteria as the marking scheme Jonathan government is a failure.
But to Jonathan administration there are enough figures to show that the economy is waxing strong. The Minister of Finance, Okonjo Iweala, for instance said in the last two years, the GDP had recorded significant growth as the one of fastest in the world. The dollar exchange rate had remained stable between N155 and N160. External reserve rose from $32.08bn in May 2011 to $48.4 billion as of May, 2013.
These impressive figures being gleefully reeled out are not product of any deliberate economic policy or special wizardry of the economic team of the administration. They are indicators of high price of crude oil which has been sold around $100 in the last two years. However, it must always be remembered that the price of oil can go down as well as up and, oil, once mined, cannot be replaced in the ground. Oil accounts for around 80 percent of government revenues. Indeed, the oil revenue is now under serious threat of sophisticated oil theft. For instance, in July the oil revenue plummeted by about 42% as a result of oil theft and failing oil production.
Besides, it must be stressed that having impressive figures to brag about are not unprecedented as Obasanjo government had similar record, and just like what presently obtains there was nothing fundamentally to show for it in term of infrastructure development and living condition of the masses . Indeed, in the last one decade Nigeria and a few other African countries are among the fastest growing economies in the World. Moreover, the external reserve put at $48.4 billion as of May 2013 should have been much more than that given the accusation by Oby Ezekwesilli, a minister in the Obasanjo government and a former Vice President of World Bank, which has not been reasonably refuted, that Yar’Adua/Jonathan government squandered about $45bn in the reserve left by the Obasanjo government.
COST OF LIVING ON THE RISE
Okonjo-Iweala said the rate of inflation had dropped to 9.1 per cent from 12.4 per cent in May 2011. The reality is that this does not reflect in the prices of foods and other consumer goods which have continued to point northward. The effects of the January 2012 hike in fuel price on cost of living have not abated. For instance, every household is a power station with at least a generating set run on petrol for domestic needs as a result of failure of public electricity whose generation is below 4,000 megawatt for a population of 160 million. For the same reason artisans rely on fuel to run their businesses.
This has been worsened by the government abandoning of social service like education in line with neo-liberal capitalist agenda which means that a good number of people have to seek private solution to ensure quality education for their children at primary and secondary school levels. According to the Minister of Education Ruqayyatu Rufai out of 1.7 million that wrote joint entrance examination to universities, polytechnics and colleges of education this year only about 520,000 will be offered admission (Punch April 28, 2013). This scary situation is as a result of inadequate funding of tertiary education and misappropriation of the limited available resources
In the report Nigeria is said to have become the highest investment destination in Africa. This is not impossible given the huge population of the country, the largest in Africa, which the anti-poor capitalist government is ready to subject to super exploitation. Besides, most of the new investment are in oil sector and consumer goods retailing which create only very few jobs. The poor infrastructure has meant that the manufacturing remains in doldrums and does not only fail to attract new investment but also see existing factories closing shop with attendant job losses. This explains why the so-called monumental investments have not created significant jobs. They are essentially “jobless” investments.
In what appears to be orchestrated propaganda to paint “all is well” picture of the economy, the National Bureau of Statistics NBS shortly after the mid-term report publication gave the rate of the unemployment at 24%, around 40 million Nigerians. Some sources, for instance by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC,) put the unemployment rate as high as 60%. Even by the official figure the number of the unemployed is colossal. It is almost the four-fifth of the population of South Africa, the Africa’s biggest economy.
Putting aside percentage abracadabra what the government town criers find difficult to deny is the monumental evidence of unemployment in Nigeria especially among the young people. Away from glamorous faÃ§ade of the midterm report, Okonjo Iweala in July apparently lamented at a public function, “According to the National Bureau of Statistics, each year, about 1.8 million young Nigerians enter into our labour market and we need to ensure that our economy provides jobs for themâ€¦In fact, some people ask, ‘What keeps you awake at night, with regard to this economy?’ I say it is the issue of job creation. And I know this is what keeps Mr. President (Goodluck Jonathan) awake at night as well.”
It would be at the peril of the working people to consider this a genuine concern. Given the rabid anti-poor capitalist character of Okonjo-Iweala and Jonathan government, such concern is more akin to acting the character in the popular quote from Leo Tolstoy’s What Then Must We Do?, “I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means – except by getting off his back.”
But the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), a subsidiary of the World Bank, with its recent report has literarily torn apart the midterm report and figures being thrown around by the government and its officials. It reads in part, “In sum, statistics on poverty and unemployment in Nigeria, together with other direct indicators of welfare, suggest a story that is rather different from the national accounts data. The GDP growth has not been sufficient to support levels of poverty reduction and job creation necessary to prevent a growing number of poor and unemployed (underemployed) Nigerians.”
The AfDB therefore suggests that “It is imperative that Nigeria finds a recipe to unlock rapid growth and job creation in a larger part of the country, as well as to increase standards of education, health, and other social services to enable its citizens to find gainful employment in the emerging growth poles.”
This is good talk even though with tongue in cheek. This is because it is the anti-poor capitalist neo-liberal economic model espoused and promoted by the World Bank among other imperialist agencies that explains while GDP growth does not reflect in job creation and good living conditions of the working people. Incidentally it is the same economic paradigm that has been advanced by the World Bank as the solution to the crisis of poverty in the midst of huge human and material resources in Nigeria. However, while they share the same neo-liberal capitalist philosophy with Nigeria’s economic management team, headed by Okonjo-Iweala incidentally seconded to Nigeria by World Bank, what AfDB apparently finds unacceptable is the falsehood being unashamedly peddled around by Jonathan in the name of achievement.
The Jonathan government appears to have been confident and comfortable with the litany of lies as a result of the failure of labour leadership to confront its neo-liberal attacks and anti-poor policies with mass protest and general strike. The labour leadership has issued a number of statements to puncture the inflated records of performance of the government and condemn some anti-poor policies like increase in electricity tariff and proposed scrapping of national minimum wage.
But this has only reduced the labour to mere a paper tiger even though it has huge potential to bite with a series of mass actions. It is unfortunate that the current labour leadership has adopted hot air as the best response to the government anti-poor conduct. Even on the national minimum wage that was won by struggle and has been signed into law since March 2011, the labour leadership has failed or refused to mobilize and deploy the colossal force of workers to compel its implementation especially by state governments and private sector employers. There is now a real danger that the new minimum wage will only be applied nationally when inflation has reduced its real value to a shadow of what it was in 2011.
Besides, the education sector has been rocked by strike actions by workers unions over the failure of government to implement agreements signed with them. This saw the closure of polytechnics for three months before the suspension of the strike while the universities have been shut for two months as of the end of August. Yet national labour leadership has not organized solidarity action even though all the striking unions are affiliates of NLC.
WORKING PEOPLE ALTERNATIVE
However, the struggle against the neo-liberal agenda and attacks as much as necessary and desirable can only win concessions on a short-term basis. This is why it is imperative for workers, youths and students to link the various struggles for improvement or against neo-liberal capitalist attacks to the urgent need for a working people political alternative.
There must be no illusion in the newly registered All Progressives Congress (APC) which is a merger of ACN, ANPP and CPC. The legacy parties have shown that they are not fundamentally different from the PDP in term of program and conducts as shown where they are in power. Their record in office shows they are all anti-poor. For instance, the model of APC is the Fashola/ACN government in Lagos which has waged fierce war against the poor and working people in the state. For instance, the university education has been taken out of the reach of students of the poor and working class parents in the state while different sections of the working people like okada (commercial motorcycle) operators and petty traders have been ruthlessly deprived of their means of livelihood.
This is why the working people need a political party of their own to wrest power from the anti-poor politicians irrespective of political parties and replace the iniquitous private profit driven capitalist agenda with socialist program. This means that we need in power the government of the working people that would commit the resources of the society to the provision of functional education, health care, decent housing, decent jobs, infrastructure, etc. In order to mobilize adequate resources to achieve this, the commanding heights of the economy must be put under public ownership with democratic management and control of the working people, while the public officers who are subject to recall must receive the average salary of civil servants.
The situation facing Nigerians is becoming urgent. The country is changing rapidly. The latest, July 2013, population estimate is that Nigeria has 175.5 million inhabitants. Of these 76.8 million (43.8%) are under 14 years old. When you add the 33.6 million 15 to 24 year olds, 63.1% of Nigeria’s current population is under 25 years old. But capitalism cannot offer these youth a real future. If Labour does not offer young people a way out, they will seek other roads. Already no-one can doubt that one of the factors in Boko Haram’s growth is the desperate economic and social situation in the north-east.
The need for a visible alternative is one of the reasons why, as we campaign for a mass working peoples’ party on socialist program, the members of Democratic Socialist Moment have, in the meantime, come up with the initiative of launching a party called Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) to contest elections where possible on socialist program and offer alternative to the working class people and also to intervene in the daily struggles of the working people in communities, workplaces and schools.