ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF CAPITALIST RULE IN NIGERIA
ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF CAPITALIST RULE IN NIGERIA
(By Segun Sango, National Chairperson, Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN)
With its abundant human and natural resources, the present state of socio-economic and political paralysis, most especially manifested in unimaginable underdevelopment and mass misery of the vast majority of Nigerians, in all regions and sectors, provide an irrefutable proof of failure of the rule of both international and local capitalist elite in the past one hundred years of Nigeria’s history as a corporate entity.
Currently, all socio-economic and political institutions of Nigeria are completely dysfunctional. With an estimated population of one hundred and seventy million, seventy-five percent of whom are statistically below the age of twenty-five years and based on stupendous agricultural and other innumerable natural resources, Nigeria should be an indisputable success story.
But capitalist rule with its rapacious and insatiable lust for profit, the god of capitalism, has only been able to produce unfathomable degree of socio-economic underdevelopment and mass misery in the midst of abundance. Presently, between 70-80% Nigerians live on less than $2 per day. An estimated 40% of Nigerians, mostly youths, are completely without jobs. Even those that are employed by both government and the so-called private sectors are perpetually kept in unbelievable state of poverty wages and remunerations. Some limited improvement which the working masses had previously won vis-Å•-vis their working conditions have been drastically reduced or rendered ineffectual under the current and vicious neo-liberal, capitalist, anti-poor policies and practices of all the private sectors. Increasingly in all government ministries and parastatals, casualisation has replaced permanent employment. Pensions which previously is automatic for any worker that has worked for a certain period of time has been bastardised through a pro-capitalist, profit making venture where both workers and employers are expected to contribute certain percentages to workers pension fund periodically to profit making ventures.
In practice, this has only enabled the capitalist elements running Pension Schemes to become financially bloated while millions of senior citizens entitled to pensions die in penury due to backlog of unpaid pensions benefits under one spurious excuse or another.
The education sector sharply reveals the insoluble capitalist crisis that grips Nigeria. About 75% Nigeria’s population are estimated to be below the age of 25 years, 40% of school age children are completely out of schools or have no access to proper education. Yet, the quest for formal education is higher today than in the previous years of the country’s existence. In 2014 an estimated 1.7million Nigerian students would participate in UTME to secure admissions to tertiary education at universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. But very disappointingly, the entire public and private educational institutions within Nigeria have no capacity to give admission to more than 500,000 of the hapless youths that will be seeking higher education. Unlike in certain past, under British colonialism, when the vast majority of Nigerians across the region deliberately discouraged formal, western education, seen largely as an instrument through which the colonialists seek to capture the minds of the colonized. Today, there is widespread and eager acceptance and quest to acquire formal education because of the prevailing level of social consciousness. But so pathetic is the utter incapacity of the rule by the capitalists that even a ridiculous proportion of the minority of school age groups that through tears and pains struggled to acquire education are perpetually without employment.
For instance, in October 2012 the Jonathan administration launched an online jobs project called Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) wherein the federal government recruits graduates to work in mostly private firms on a very low pay of N18,000 monthly for a period of one year. While the government pays the graduates the private companies exploits them. It is a case of assisting private companies to make profit while the graduates are placed on an insecure job arrangement. This explains why there is a mad rush by firms to participate in the scheme. With this scheme, the government is promoting casualisation and unfair labour practices.
For about six months in 2013, the entire public universities at federal and state levels were completely grounded by the industrial strike of members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), fighting for improved funding of the universities and improvement in the working conditions of lecturers. Faced with determined resolutions of the strikers, especially as university teachers hitherto regarded as privileged workers began to embark on public mass protest to push their cause, the government after initial efforts to forcefully prevent the mass protest in several universities, eventually retreated by granting some paltry concessions to the strikers. However, key ASUU spokespersons in the past few days have been making open complaints of government not even faithfully implementing the paltry concessions won through six-month of bitter struggles!
Since October 2013, the Association of Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) across the country has been on strike over same issues that pitted ASUU in conflict against the government. Under capitalism, the hopes and aspirations of Nigerian youths for quality education and decent jobs are issues of no importance to the ruling capitalist vampires of all the ruling parties.
The pro-rich, anti-poor attitude of the ruling capitalist parties is best captured by the example of Lagos State government under the platform of All Progressive Congress (APC), which currently charges between N193,000 and N348,000 as tuition fees for its courses. Meanwhile, Governor Babatunde Fashola, the current Lagos State government attended University of Benin in the 1980s without paying a kobo as tuition fees. Predictably, this atrocious high fee regime has drastically reduced the number of students seeking admission to LASU.
The capitalist, anti-poor strategists argue that it is not feasible to give state sponsored quality education to citizens. They argue that anyone that wants quality education must be prepared to pay for it. However, to fully appreciate the central anti-development, anti-poor character of capitalist rule, the actual state of Nigeria’s economy vis-Å•-vis its abundant human and natural resources must be dialectically x-rayed.
Globally, Nigeria is about the ninth largest exporter of crude oil. Nigeria’s proven gas resources also placed it among the first ten leading countries of the world. But such is the utter insensitivity and irresponsibility of the international and local capitalist ruling elite that run this stupendous economic sector that for about two decades up till now, the country overwhelmingly depend on importation of fuel, diesel, kerosene, gas and many other processed elements of crude oil and natural gas! Electricity, a universally acknowledged resource of economic and social development is in a state of nightmare. For a population of about 170million, the country for decades has been producing between 3,000 to 4,000MW while South Africa with just a third of Nigeria’s population produces 40,000MW and yet not all South Africans have access to electricity! Despite extensive fertile land for agricultural production, capitalist rulers of Nigeria for decades now have been spending trillions of dollar on importation of basic food items. By their very nature sooner or later Nigeria’s reserves of oil and gas will be exhausted but the ruling class’s looting means that, without a fundamental system change, the country will hardly have anything to show for billions of dollars’ worth of oil and gas exports.
Nigeria’s infrastructural failure is legendary. There are barely any train services. Despite huge water resources, there are barely any means of transportation by water. The country almost exclusively depends on road transportation. The profit-first, ideology of the ruling capitalist elite does not even permit adequate constructions of quality inter and intra city roads. In consequence, tens of thousands of lives are annually lost to the sheer death traps called roads plus thousands of million hours of productivity lost on roads due to their bad conditions and other inadequacies.
Against the background of the above sketched capitalist economic failure, the prevailing atmosphere of total paralysis that engulfs the country’s political landscape therefore becomes easier to understand. Straightaway, it must be stated that this paralysis is embedded in the capitalist origin of Nigeria as a corporate political entity. The central motive of the former British colonialists in merging the different nationalities and tribes that constitute today Nigeria was the need to minimize its cost of running Nigeria’s vast territories while of course maximizing colonial gains in its cut throat competition with the French imperialism over the colonisation of the peoples and natural resources of West Africa. On the basis of this sheer quest for profit and territorial influence, the British colonialists did not bother to seek the consent of the various ruling elites of the different parts of the country not to even talk of consent of the Nigerian people themselves. Right from colonial era until the present moment, the capitalist ruling elite of the different nationalities have equally failed to evolve a truly national economic and political agenda that is capable of guaranteeing full economic development and political liberty to the different nationalities and tribes that make up Nigeria.
The resultant effect of this failure is manifested in the cacophonic and sometimes murderous armed campaigns by organizations and individuals claiming to be fighting for one sectional economic, political or religious interest. The sharpest expression of Nigeria’s current political and nationality crisis is the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency that has politically and economically virtually paralysed the North East zone of the country. From 2009 when the insurgency broke open and now over 7 thousands persons have been killed with possible trillions of naira physical damage by both Boko Haram insurgents and the capitalist state security forces including the army. Since May 2013, the Jonathan government has imposed a state of military emergency on three states in the North East. But despite this and the spending of hundreds of billions of naira on military expenditure, hundreds of Nigerians in this part of the country continue to be killed periodically by the Boko Haram insurgents and the state security forces in their alleged quest to forcibly quell the insurgency.
2015 AND PROGNOSIS FOR THE WORKING MASSES
In about 11 months from now, Nigeria holds general elections across the country to choose the political leaders that will run the economic and political affairs of the country for the next four years thereafter. But sadly to note, on the basis of economic and political policies and configuration of all the ruling capitalist parties including the so-called Labour Party, a more horrifying economic and political conditions are the only certainty that await the vast majority of the Nigerian working masses, youths and the poor, in the period before and after the elections!
In late 2013, the ruling capitalist elite sold public electricity to private profit merchants under the false pretense that only a private driven agenda can resolve the country’s age-long electricity crisis. Few months after privatization, electricity supply and generation across the country has in fact gone to an historic low level. But characteristic of neo-liberal capitalist, anti-poor looters, their new agenda is to through the so-called Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, presently before the National Assembly pass an Act that will totally remove the titular control which Nigeria presently exercises over its oil and gas resources and transfer this to capitalist oil oligopolies. The chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Sam Amadi was recently quoted thus: “PIB is critical to move forward on gas to power, the law should be passed as soon as possible, although the debate over it is big but we want the matter to be resolved in a way that makes gas to power commercially viable and bankable. For the end of 2013, we had expected to hit 7,000MW and that would have been possible if there were enough gas to fire the plants and the NIPPS come on Board.
The political alternative being configured by the leading ruling capitalist parties is as equally hopeless as their forlorn economic prognosis. Presently, the most significant political development that has occurred amongst the ruling capitalist parties is the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) made up of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) as well as factions of All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). As if to further underline the political significance of the APC as an opposition party seeking to dislodge from power the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party that has been controlling political power at the federal level since the end of military rule in 1999, about 5 governors elected on the platform of the PDP and several legislators at the national and state levels have subsequently defected to the APC. Of course, reflecting the age-long unprincipled character and conduct of capitalist politicians in Nigeria, some of the prominent PDP figures that had initially defected to the APC have recently went back to the PDP camp, while some prominent erstwhile APC members had also recently defected to PDP. This process of defections is something that is expected to continue up till the 2015 general elections and thereafter as the vampires calling themselves politicians try to position themselves where their self-serving economic and political interests will be best served for the time being.
Owing to the above enumerated factors and especially based on the prevailing internal crisis within the PDP, there is a growing self orchestrated political propaganda that the APC will defeat the PDP in the 2015 general elections by certain APC leaders and their strategists. However, on the basis of Nigeria’s political history, this is a far-fetched conclusion. As have been mentioned, the defection of prominent PDP politicians to APC is also paralleled by the defections of prominent APC politicians also to PDP. As the capitalist parties conduct primaries to pick their candidates for the 2015 elections, it is almost certain that this political horizon would continue to witness mutual defections from one ruling capitalist party to another. And even if the APC is able to defeat the PDP in the 2015 elections (an uphill task given the fact that winners of Nigeria’s elections are usually determined by the sections of the ruling capitalist parties that have access to bigger cesspool of money and control over important state institutions like INEC, the police, the judiciary, the army, etc), this can only mean the continuation of the horrific scepter of anti-poor, pro-rich economic and political policies being implemented by the PDP!
Recently, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olisa Metuh threw a pointed challenge to the ruling opposition parties: “Proffer solutions and alternatives rather than engage in constant condemnation”. But the APC fought back, accusing the PDP of truncating the nation’s democracy by “stifling popular participation”. (Guardian February 11, 2014). For the working masses, this kind of response by the APC clearly confirms the fact that the party has no different “solutions and alternatives” to the pro-rich, pro-capitalist policies of mortgaging Nigeria’s society, including natural and human resources, solely for the profit benefit of international capitalists and their local backers.
WORKING PEOPLES ALTERNATIVE
Both under military rule and since civil rule era in 1999, the working masses across the country have always resolutely expressed their rejection of Nigeria’s failed capitalist agenda. To start with, it was the relentless mass struggles of the Nigerian people including sections of organized labour especially in the oil sectors that eventually led to the end of military dictatorship after having usurped political power for about 16 years. Between years 2000 and 2012, organized labour within the trade unions and the general masses have conducted eight nationwide general strikes and protests, aside from two planned general strikes that were called off at the eleventh hour by top trade union leaders, to fight the pro-rich, anti-poor economic policies of government, especially the incessant hike of fuel prices. From time to time and up till now, organized labour are battle drawn against Employers of Labour in both public and private sectors across the country over one form of pro-rich, anti-poor economic, political and social policies. At a stage during this civil rule era, the leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), under Adams Oshiomhole’s leadership formed a Labour Party. Sadly however, the top leaders of the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) have only abandoned this platform for pro-capitalist elements who simply turned it into an haven of capitalist politicians who could not secure tickets to run for elections in the main capitalist parties like the PDP, APC, etc. Presently, the Labour Party is so highly monetized that no genuine working class elements can run for elections on the platform.
Of course, top trade union leaders are compelled from time to time to lead agitations on issues of common interest to workers and the generality of Nigerians. Invariably however, not being socialists, the leaders of most of these agitations have usually prosecuted them within the framework of a bankrupt capitalist strategy of hoping to meet the needs of the masses within the framework of Nigeria’s neo-colonial capitalist structure.
In December 2008, the NLC launched a public campaign for a N52,200 monthly minimum wage but later accepted a paltry sum of N18,000 monthly pay under the pressure of the capitalist who insisted that the economy would collapse if they were forced to pay more. From early 2011, when this miserable amount has been legislated as the national monthly minimum wage, up till today, there is no state government or federal organ that has fully implemented the law. Still, despite occasional fighting talk, the entire trade union movement have conspicuously failed to mobilize the generality of rank and file workers and Nigerians to fight for full implementation without retrenchment of the legislated N18,000 minimum wage. Few years back, Nigeria’s capitalist ruling elite launched a gigantic project of handing over the entire publicly owned electricity sector to profit making organizations and individuals under the guise of privatization. At the beginning, the electricity unions launched a bold resistance to this brazen move. Ultimately, the leaderships of both the NLC and TUC diverted workers campaigns to one that merely concentrated on demand of severance pay for PHCN workers in the wake of privatization. Today however, it has become clearer to the vast layers of the working masses that privatization of electricity is a woeful failure.
Remorseless as ever, the capitalist elite are now demanding that only if the entire oil sector Nigeria’s economic main stay is handed over to money merchants, neither electricity nor other forms of socio-economic services will flourish. After spending billions of dollars on Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of country’s four petroleum refineries without any positive result, the Jonathan government recently decided to sell everything to profit-merchants as usual very cheaply! Faced however with the opposition of the Trade Unions in the oil sector and especially in the period before the next general elections the Jonathan administration has temporarily put this vicious anti-poor, pro-rich policy on hold.
Only a democratic socialist alternative which places the commanding heights of the economy under common ownership and democratic control of the working people themselves can begin to permanently lay a basis for the actualization of the economic and political needs of the Nigerian masses. But to get to this level, the working people must first and foremost remove from power the ruling capitalist elite and in its place institute a workers and poor people’s government whose central strategy would be based on the mobilization of Nigeria’s human and natural resources to meet the needs of full economic development and decent living for all Nigerians and not just for a few thieving capitalist elements. But as has been demonstrated above, the entire leadership of the trade unions movement, including its pro-capitalist Labour Party leadership, do not have and does not proffer genuine anti-capitalist, pro-masses economic and political alternatives to the ruinous policies of the capitalist ruling elite. It is for this reason that members of the Democratic Socialist Movement and other socialist oriented labour and youth activists have since May 2012 launched an open campaign to register the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) with a view to provide a political platform through which the real economic and political needs of the Nigerian masses can be put in opposition to all the ruling capitalist parties and their likes starting from the 2015 general elections.
Of course, the strategists of capitalism know that the forces of genuine socialism in Nigeria does not have the kind of looted money in possession of the capitalist elements that can immediately put us in a position to compete for political power with equal pace with the ruling capitalist elements. There is however a morbid fear by all sections of the capitalist elements and their support that the programme and ideas behind the formation of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) can find support amongst the broad sections of Nigerian masses. This is why capitalist INEC with the consent of existing capitalist parties raised the fees for processing the application of a new political association wishing to be registered as a political party under the provisions of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria from N100,000 to N1,000,000, fifteen years under the so-called democratic dispensation!
In its characteristic self-centered manner, the working masses should expect the capitalist looting elite to still put up more obstacles to prevent the emergence of a genuine working peoples’ political platform like the SPN. However, in order to cross this one million naira processing fee obstacle, members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and that of Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) call on all genuine socialist elements, labour and youth activists to give adequate political and financial solidarity towards the registration of SPN as a political party that is committed and ready to proffer working peoples socialist alternative to all capitalist parties starting from the 2015 general elections. Under the provisions of 2010 Election Act as Amended, a new political party seeking to participate in general elections must have filled its application not later than six months before the date fixed for the general elections. We are however confident that the working masses across the country who have subscribed to the Socialist Party of Nigeria will successfully raise the one million naira for the registration of the SPN and the further sums needed for the SPN’s activities. Ultimately the Nigerian working masses and by extension, the world working masses, would defeat capitalist forces that seek to perpetrate mass misery in the midst of stupendous human and natural resources of the world.