Resolutions on Nigeria’s Political and Economic Situation
National Committee (NC) Meeting, April 2014
Resolution on Nigeria’s Political and Economic Situation
Segun Sango, General Secretary DSM at the DSM NC April 2014 , photo DSM
Six months after the last Congress of our organization, the reality of the bankruptcy of Nigerian capitalist class has become starker than we moderately foresaw. Politically, economically and socially, the Nigerian neo-colonial ruling elites have shown their inability to move the country forward.
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 on poverty wage 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. It is not accidental that today, most state governments have still refused to fully implement the meagre National N18,000 minimum wage. Increasingly some government ministries and parastatals, casualisation has replaced permanent employment. Pension, which previously is automatic for any worker that has worked for a certain period has been bastardized. It is rapidly being replaced with a fraudulent and exploitative Contributory Pension Scheme where both workers and employers are expected to contribute certain percentages to workers’ pension fund periodically for profit making ventures to cream off. This is an attack on the living condition of workers who are made to contribute additional funds from their meagre wage compared to previous pension scheme wherein part of the unpaid surplus value are set aside for pension. In comparison to previous pension, the value of today contributory pension is smaller.
In practice, this has only enabled the capitalist elements running Pension Schemes to become financially bloated while millions of senior citizens entitled to pensions live or die in penury due to a backlog of unpaid pensions under one spurious excuse or another.
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 depends on importation of fuel, diesel, kerosene and many other processed elements of crude oil! 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!
Power generated by Nigeria’s power plants has dwindled from 4517 MW in December 2012 to 3563MW in December 2013; a drop of 954MW within a year (Punch, Editorial, January 23, 2014). In fact, by January 27, 2014, seven of the 11 power plants have shut down completely or almost completely (Punch, January 29, 2014) due to lack of capacity of the private owners to maintain and manage the plants. This has led to practical blackout for most part of the country for weeks since third week of January 2014. In spite of this glaring failure of the so-called private investors, the capitalist Nigerian government has further in its rabid quest to sell public assets to the local and foreign big businesses who have failed to improve any sector of the economy. While ten new power plants are being sold out at rock bottom prices to ineffectual private sector, other sectors of the economy including refineries are being slated for privatization and commercialization.
According to a report in the Vanguard newspaper (January 2, 2014), quoting a representative of a Western oil consultancy firm, Nigeria wasted 1.1 million cubic feet of gas daily, which can provide electricity for 20 million houses, while the flared gas in the Niger Delta is enough to power “African continent and beyond”, yet more than 130 million Nigerians (constituting over 81 percent of the population â€“ NOI Poll, Vanguard, January 28, 2014) do not have access to electricity in the 21st century.
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.
Freshly dished on our plate is the theme of the current budget proposal, “job creation and inclusive growth”. This perhaps is the government’s answer to “jobless growth” that has been aptly used to describe the continued rise in the GDP in over a decade, one of the fastest in the world. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) claimed that 1.6million jobs were created in 2013. This was celebrated by the government as a badge of achievement even though it is a far cry from the official unemployment rate put at 24% which means well over 40million in labour market. Though the Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala admitted that there are at least 2 million new entrants to labour market every year, the government according to the Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, is targeting to generate 460,000 jobs in the next four years through what is called Growth and Employment project. “This is what the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan and the National Enterprise Development Programme, which were launched by President Goodluck Jonathan recently, seek to achieve.” Aganga gleefully stated (Punch, February 21, 2014). This government must be a joker.
Just less than a month after Aganga joyfully placed Nigerians on the roller coaster, the bankruptcy of Nigeria’s government was exposed, as more than twenty young Nigerians, including pregnant women, were killed in stampedes across the country during the Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment test. Nothing exemplify the starkness of the unemployment crisis in the country, and the utter inability of the Nigerian ruling class to ameliorate the situation, than the fact that over 700,000 Nigerians were struggling for less than 5,000 job slots (more than half of which may have been shared out already). Nothing shows the contempt of the Nigerian ruling class than the fact that, in spite of the limited space available, the authorities of the Immigration Service and the Interior Ministry raked N1,000 from the hapless applicants! Not done, the Interior Minister, who superintend over this fraud, came out to blame the victims, including the dead for the tragedy.
All this shows the treacherous and cynical attitude of the ruling elite in Nigeria to the issue of unemployment. Left to them, economic growth is defined by the amount of billions that can be amassed by elements within their class. For us in the DSM, Nigeria, with its stupendous and mostly untapped wealth, can guarantee decent and secure jobs for all Nigerians without tears, if only the common wealth is taken away from the neo-colonial bankrupt capitalist ruling class, and placed under the democratic control and management of the working and oppressed people. For instance, there is a shortfall of over 200,000 teachers in public primary and secondary schools, yet several thousands of graduates of education are roaming the streets, looking for jobs. In the power sector alone, genuine effort at increasing power generation and improving distribution will require employment of thousands of graduates, technologists and technicians, in addition to the existing number of workers. Ironically, under the guise of privatization, thousands of capable and experienced workers of PHCN have been sacked.
The Nigerian ruling class is however not interested in genuine effort at developing public infrastructures or the economy through which millions of jobs can be provided. For instance, only 24% of the budget is for capital expenditure, which is a drop by 7% from 2013 budget. Any government in a developing economy that is sincere about job creation will vote much more for capital projects. In the same budget, the government earmarked N572bn to service N7.1tr domestic debt in the budget (Vanguard, February 9, 2014). In a country with over 40 million unemployed, the 460,000 jobs, which Aganga promised in the next three years, if at all feasible, can only be a drop in the ocean.
The best solution the ruling class across the country could offer is through either dubious entrepreneurship programme or casual labour, which at best will only lead to institutionalized misery for the people. 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. Unfortunately, the labour movement leadership that should lead the campaign for mass job provision is itself hardly capable of defending its members.
Indeed, all the economic wonders that capitalist rulers in Nigerian and their spin-doctors rely on are already falling like a pack of cards. Earlier in April 2014, the leading telecommunication company in Nigeria, MTN sacked more than 200 of its engineers, citing unbearably growing cost of operation. According to the company, more than N34 billion, about 12 percent of the total running costs, was used to buy diesel to power its sub-stations across the countries. Also, Etisalat, another telecommunication giant, is sacking 2, 000 of its staff, citing similar excuse. While these companies may not be totally truthful, as they still declare huge profits and spend billions on frivolities like celebrity shows, the fact that these so-called success stories of deregulated economy are lamenting, especially of power supply crisis, indicate the enormous misery faced by poor and small businesses. Therefore, all the talk of developing small businesses and entrepreneurship, as a basis of job creation by Nigerian government, will fool nobody. Indeed, several thousands of young people (many of whom are educated) engaged in the marginal aspect of the telecommunication business, like the recharge card sellers, are only subsisting marginally.
The foregoing explains why many Nigerians have dismissed the recent rebasing of the GDP which put Nigeria as the biggest economy in Africa overnight as utter vanity or fairy tale.
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.
Government of Gargantuan Corruption
If the Jonathan government is a failure in many respects, it has however earned its name in the corruption hall of fame. If Obasanjo government is reputed for massive waste, the Jonathan government has shown that it can do much better. In every action or inaction of the Jonathan regime are open and sometimes unashamedly accepted corruption. The oil sector, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, has become the cash cow of the Jonathan government. The recent revelation by the ousted CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, that a whopping $20 billion could not accounted for in the NNPC account is actually a tip of the iceberg. In fact, Sanusi actually reviewed the amount downward from over $40 billion, after NNPC claimed to have reconciled the accounts, to $20 billion. Lamido Sanusi had earlier revealed that Jonathan government depleted excess crude account from $11.5bn in December 2012 to $2.5bn as of January 17 this year (Punch, February 10, 2014). There is nothing to show in term of infrastructure development because of this outrageous depletion in the revenue, which is ostensibly created for rainy day but usually spent by the both federal and state governments without budgetary appropriation. It is not accidental that Nigeria is ranked the least on Human Development Index among the OPEC countries.
It is however pertinent to immediately warn that the shocking disclosure of oil revenue fraud by Lamido Sanusi must not earn him endorsement by the working people as a defender of their interest. He is in agreement with Jonathan government on all fundamentals of anti-poor capitalist policies. For instance, it should be recalled he was one of unrepentant advocates of the increase in the fuel price in January 2012 that provoked the biggest general strike and mass protest in Nigeria. He is indeed a rabid hater of government subsidies to social program while he supports bail-out for banks with public funds. Sanusi’s sacking only reflects the constant in-fighting between rival sections of the ruling elite.
Every government, representing the capitalist class as a whole, as always seen the oil sector as a cash-cow to milk dry. It is thus not accidental that within the last fifteen years of civilian rule, a whooping $140 billion has been reported looted from the nation’s coffer. This amount is indeed a fraction of huge amount stolen by the ruling class when other sources of diversion are added. For instance, every years, less than 18, 000 political office holder draw more than N1 trillion from the national treasury as official salaries, allowances and other perks of office. This is aside looting through government policies, e.g. privatization, trade waiver, etc. in 2013 alone, government granted waivers worth N603bn on import duty, which according to Vanguard newspaper, only meant government giving “waivers to political associates and cronies to import and make cheap money” (Vanguard, July 15, 2013). In fact, according to a report in the Punch newspaper in 2012, the Jonathan government had committed over N2 trillion to various bailouts without any result, with most of the bailout funds diverted to private interests.
Indeed, capitalism cannot exist without corruption as the system itself is premised on the conversion of what is public to private ownership and control of a few rich. However, Nigeria’s corruption is gargantuan even among third world economies. Aside superintending over massive looting, the Jonathan government has openly and unashamedly associated with every tom, dick and harry in the corruption business, even including the dead but deadly Sani Abacha, who was given a so-called centenary award by Jonathan government.
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, 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. Today is totally unlike the past when, under British colonialism, the vast majority of Nigerians across the region deliberately discouraged formal, western education, which was seen largely as an instrument through which the colonialists sought to capture the minds of the colonized. Now 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 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 similar 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.
In about 9 months from now, Nigeria holds general elections across the country to choose its next political leaders. However, on the basis of economic and political policies and configuration of all the ruling capitalist parties including the so-called Labour Party, 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!
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). To show the significance of the APC as an opposition party, 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. However, this cross carpeting actually has little to do with the strength of the APC to dislodge PDP, but an attempt of a disgruntled section of the PDP to settle scores with the PDP after their fortunes seemed dwindling based on bitter struggle for control of leadership structure of the party. This in itself is linked with the question of which political structure within the party will present candidate for the election. 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!
Therefore, the movement of a section of the small section of the PDP, while reflecting the implosive crisis within the party, does not reflect the ability of the APC, which has been generally a regional party (or a conglomeration of regional parties), to fundamentally tilt the political balance as 2015 is coming. 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. Already, crisis signals are already on the horizon for the opposition APC both at the national and state levels. For instance, struggles are emerging in the party on the question of who control the leadership structures of the party, especially at the state level, between the foundation members and new entrants, especially new governors. This has led to defection from the party by erstwhile strong members like Attahiru Bafarawa, Ibrahim Shekarau, and recently Buba Marwa, among several others, from the APC to PDP. At the national level too, there is a growing schism on who controls the party structures ahead of the 2015 elections.
These crises, which mirror on smaller scale those in PDP, will grow deeper in the coming period as the elections draw nearer. This will expose the bankruptcy of the so-called opposition party, and may provide opportunity for more politically conscious section of the working and oppressed people, to draw the conclusion of a new need for a genuine alternative. This can further boost our campaign for the building of a working people political platform, and for the building of the SPN. On the other hand, it can also deepen the political crisis. For instance, with the crisis in APC and PDP, more and more Nigerians will become disillusioned in the political process, which aside leading to passivity towards elections, may also deepen social crisis being witnessed in the country as more people tend to look for solution in religious fundamentalism or ethnic jingoism, especially as the socio-economic crises deepen. But all this will also depend on the ability of the working and oppressed people, especially the most conscious section, to draw the correct conclusion of the need for a labour-led political alternative, which may not start out with clearly revolutionary socialist programmes, but can develop to accept these programmes on the basis of the strength of socialist forces.
As we noted in our previous Congress Document, inasmuch as the then very bitter internal crisis within the PDP has the tendency to not only implode the party, it could not have been ruled out that the ruling class, on the basis of the legendary corruption, can resolve their crisis through patronage and political bribery. This is more so that all the political elites depend on the state as the central means of amassing wealth. Therefore, while the struggle for the control of lever of political power may be deadly and dangerous for the continued existence of the country, the ruling elites have a way of realigning themselves behind the stronger structure.
This also explains why various sections of the ruling class, even the hardliners, are reluctant to raise openly the banner of secession and disintegration of the country on ethnic lines, as all of them still rely on the central pool. However, in a period of serious and deep economic crisis, that tend to ruin the fortune of various sections of the economic and political class, the ethnic conflicts could be heightened. For example, loss of significant part of the oil wealth or a renewed global economic crisis that put Nigeria in a Greek situation has the tendency to trigger a divisive ethnic crisis or call for secession, or deeper religious fundamentalism or a military/semi-fascism regime to paper over the deepening crisis. It is no accident that all the political parties, including the so-called opposition, make ethnic configuration as one of the central, if not the most important, factor in the choice of candidates and the manner of their administration, at all levels of government. Therefore, in the absence of a mass political platform of the working class or conscious labour movement leadership to rally the oppressed against the neo-colonial capitalist state, the future for Nigeria’s continued existence as a corporate entity, is bleaker than ever.
National Conference: An Expensive Sideshow
Therefore, the current so-called National Conference convened by the Jonathan regime, in spite of all media attention, cannot achieve the fundamental task of resolving either nationality question or the socio-economic and political crises facing the country. How can a conference that has more than a three quarter of its participants nominated by the same set of capitalist ruling class that has put and vow to continually put the country in a state of perpetual underdevelopment, resolve the crises that provide them their feast. According to some analysis, up to a quarter of the delegates at the conference have one or more corruption relation issue. More than this, the character and composition of the conference reflect long existing ethnic divisions in the country, as majority of those in the conference are nominated from divisive ethnic and religious basis. It is thus not accidental that the main issues that have confronted the conference are divisive issues that bother on ethnic and religious debates. Already, there are threats of walkouts by some elements even before the conference start properly. Even if the conference take a far-reaching decisions, aside the practical impossibility of getting such agreed to at the conference on the basis of the decision-making configuration and the composition of the conference how such will be implemented by a congenitally corrupt, bankrupt and backward-thinking ruling class is a billion dollar question.
It is this huge and expensive joke that Jonathan and capitalist ruling elite are calling national dialogue or conference. The Socialist Party of Nigeria urges the working masses and the poor not to give any iota of support to this cynical game which the capitalist ruling elite are enacting to maintain their strangle-hold on Nigerians people and resources.
Yes there are so many important social-political issues on the origin of the Nigeria and its current shape that can benefit from a sincere approach at redress. However, as socialists we know too well that President Jonathan and all capitalist ruling elite can never bring forth or implement policy that can make Nigeria and its people to fully and truly actualize their social-economic potentials.
According to capitalist strategists and authors of Jonathan side show of a dialogue/confab “The conference is not a last bus stop to solve Nigeria’s problem but a pivotal driving force. This will be a momentous event in the life of this nation. And for this President, this conference is more important than the 2015 elections because if it is successful, it will herald a new era of value-oriented politics and transparency in the conduct of government business in the country. There will be an agreeable platform to move the nation from where we are right now to where we ought to be. That is the goal.” (The Guardian, January 19, 2014)
To say the least, this is a pretentious political prognosis. Jonathan’s national dialogue/conference will not have any legal or political authority. There will be no elections of delegates. Organizations claiming to represent different “professional, cultural, ethnic and religious groups” will be asked to nominate their own delegates. This of course would be supplemented by required number of elements chosen by the government itself to save the self-serving agenda of the current capitalist ruling elite. The full details of government plan in this respect is expected to be released mid-February. If the national dialogue/conference holds, there will only be two practical gainers. The first are the delegates who will undoubted pocket substantial fees and expenses. Secondly will be the opportunity presented to Jonathan and other capitalist elites to perfect their pro-rich, imperialist/capitalist rule and oppression against the background of the infighting between the different sections of the capitalist ruling elites over who would retain or grab political powers come 2015 general elections!
Under special political situations such as under military dictatorship, socialists would give utmost support and attention to a demand for a national, democratic Conference/Assembly. This would be politically essential to pose a working peoples’ democratic alternative to military dictatorship. Equally, where the ruling capitalist government is forced by the peoples’ struggle like the recent defeat of capitalist/military regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, to avoid powers being retained by the same forces just defeated by mass uprising, socialists would energetically urge leaders of the masses’ organizations and youths to fight for a provisional revolutionary government that is immediately prepared to proffer democratic alternative to dictatorship. Ultimately, permanent economic and political respite can only be guaranteed to the masses of different nationalities within Nigeria and other countries, when the ruling capitalist forces are politically defeated and the economy and politics of society is deliberately and democratically run to meet the needs of the masses and not the profit and privileges of the minority ruling elite as has been the case under the rule of all property owners either of feudal, military and civilian regimes.
To be in a political situation where this is possible, the working masses must have successfully removed from power the ruling capitalist elite. At the recent Joint Action Front (JAF) congress, a representative of the Socialist Workers League (SWL) speaking from platform argued that JAF should “engage” Jonathan’s national confab, conference/dialogue and stridently concluded that JAF would be making a big political error if the organization refuses to “engage” the proposed political sideshow being sponsored by Jonathan and other capitalist forces. Socialists in the DSM and SPN urge the working masses and youths not to dissipate their energy supporting in any form the parody of a national conference/dialogue being sponsored by Jonathan and other capitalist rulers/leaders.
According to capitalist strategists and authors of Jonathans dialogue/confab “for the presidency the dialogue is to agree on how to have a strong union. No one is expected to come to argue for separation. Rather, the conference is to resolve contentious issues that impede the nation’s match to greatness”.
To complete the farcical nature of Jonathan’s national dialogue, no single delegate was elected by sections of the masses, rather conference are made up of nominees of different professionals, cultural, ethnic, religious group and NGO’s but worse still dominated by delegates handpicked by the Federal Government. Billions of naira would be spent wasted on the provision of necessary logistics and N4million monthly allowance per delegate for the execution of this “sideshow” which from the beginning lacks any political or legal authority and power.
To pro-capitalist/nationalist activists and their shadows with socialist labels, this will be opportunistically rationalized by arguing that their own participation in this “sideshow” dialogue/confab is to demand “that the decisions and outcomes of the national conference should only be subjected to a referendum and this process should produce a brand new constitution for Nigeria”.
Here, it is important to recall that Jonathan and the capitalist authors of this “sideshow” do not expect the dialogue/confab to last more than three months. Immediately afterwards the 2015 general elections will become the main pre-occupation of all capitalist elements of all nationalities. Under this scenario, the possibility of the decisions and outcomes of the conference being subjected to a referendum becomes a mere pipedream. Even if it is subjected to a referendum, the current failed capitalist elements and rulers would be in power to organize such an exercise in style of the typical capitalist farcical elections seen in Nigeria! Furthermore such a referendum would itself not be democratic as it would only allow the Nigerian masses the chance to vote “yes” or “no” to a new constitution drawn up by a completely unelected body.
Instead of pursuing this political dead end, socialists urge organizations and individuals that truly support the actualization of the economic and political aspirations of the people to immediately intensify efforts to proffer a political alternative/platform that is committed to the achievement of a working peoples’ government which will under democratic control and management of the elected representatives of the working masses, poor farmers and the youths. Such government must be committed to institute a socialist reorganization that will ensure that Nigeria’s (to start with) and world abundant human and natural resources are collectively harnessed to meet the economic and political needs of the people.
Boko Haram and Military’s Murderous Reprisals
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 cutthroat competition with 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 fact that Nigeria is existing for 100 years, despite the fact that it was conjured up by the colonial rulers, does not rule out the fact that the country cannot in future break up on the basis of this patchwork.
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. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, more than 1, 500 people have been killed by both Boko Haram and the government security forces.
The report noted that almost half of those killed are through government forces, with the majority of them defenseless. In a particular case, on 14 March, after the attack on Giwa Barrack, where many alleged terrorist suspects are detained, the military went on rampage to kill more than 600 people across Maiduguri. ‘Among the testimonies gathered by Amnesty International were the voices of witnesses who described what happened when the military found 56 of those who escaped from the Giwa Barrack. “The former detainees were in a classroom. They started screaming ‘we are not Boko Haram. We are detainees!’ My neighbor and I saw the soldiers take the men to a place called ‘no man’s land’, behind the University of Maiduguri. We watched as the soldiers opened fire killing all 56. They were killed in front of us. All of them”‘ In another incident by the report, about 190 suspects rounded up by the so-called, but undemocratically run, civilian JTF were summarily executed in the street by the military under the watchful eyes of the so-called civilian JTF. The day the report was published, the military announced that it has killed another 2,000 so-called terrorist in the Sambisa forest of Maiduguri. As reported above, many of the ‘terrorists’ will be defenseless and mere suspects.
All this shows the clear inability of the Nigerian government, and its security forces to stop carnage wrecked by the deadly group, or stop terrorism. The strategy of killing mass of people, including alleged terrorists, is aimed at instilling fear into the minds of the people and the terrorists. However, this strategy has failed in the past, and hardly can it win now. It should be recalled that the current version of Boko haram evolved after the military unleashed a virulent attack on the Muhammed Yussuf-led group, when the latter went on a rampage that led to killing of more than 15 people and destruction of properties, in 2009. In the reprisal attack by the military, more than 700 suspected Boko Haram members were killed on the streets of Maiduguri, most of them defenseless. Yussuf himself was summarily executed. This, along pervasive poverty, and deadly politics of the ruling cabals further fuelled this renewed terror. While it is possible that the group will be defeated militarily, the deadly manner and approach of the military and the Nigerian government can only engender new socio-political crises, not only in the northeast, but in many other parts of the country.
The DSM, while opposing terrorism and the deadly Boko Haram’s terror campaign, has always advocated for a working people’s solution. We have called on labour to organize mass movements against neo-liberal policies, and terrorism, as this is the main means of isolating the group. It should be noted that the main recruiting factor for Boko Haram is the pervasive poverty and ignorance engendered by neo-liberal capitalism. Only a collective struggle of the working and oppressed people can unite the people against capitalism and all anti-poor pro-capitalist policies, and isolate divisive tendencies. It should be noted that the period when Boko Haram was most isolated was during the January 2012 mass uprising against a hike in fuel prices. Moreover, while we support the idea of self-defence groups by communities, we however maintain that such must be under the democratic control of people of the communities. Without this, the self-defence groups can become new monsters, using the platforms to further personal and parochial interests. Elements of these are being witnessed, with the so-called civilian JTF serving as tool for the military to perpetrate massacre. Moreover, such democratic self-defence group will link its activities with the campaign for improved social services, better infrastructures and jobs for all employable people. With this, it can be possible to defeat terrorism physically and politically.
Working People’s 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 the trade union movement 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 the public and private sectors across the country over one form or another 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 presidency, formed a Labour Party. Sadly however, the top leaders of the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) have only abandoned this platform to 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. In fact, it is almost becoming a public toilet, with every bourgeois politicians entering and leaving it in the manner they prefer.
Of course, top trade union leaders are compelled sometimes 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.
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 do 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 a radical party like the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) that 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 formally register the party and continue the building of the party in different areas, 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 to 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. 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.