NIGERIA’S ECONOMY AND POLITICAL SITUATION
NIGERIA’S ECONOMY AND POLITICAL SITUATION
RESOLUTION OF DSM NATIONAL COMMITTEE MEETING OCTOBER 11-12, 2014
Abbey Trotsky introducing the discussion on Nigeria’s economy and political situation, photo by DSM
Between the last National Committee (NC) meeting held in April 2014 and now, the Nigeria’s political, social and economic situation has degenerated to an extent that it does not require the gift of clairvoyance to know that Nigerian neo-colonial ruling elites who have been presiding over the running of Nigeria are highly incapable to move the country forward.
Except the labour movement yield to its historical responsibility of mobilizing and organizing the entire working people in a mass movement against anti-poor policies and for a political power the country in the coming period will be plunged into a more deepening state of barbarism.
This also means that socialists have to double all efforts and campaigns to ensure that Nigeria is transformed politically, socially and economically along a socialist line. Under a socialist economy all the commanding height of the economy will be nationalized and placed under the democratic control and management of the workers and poor people. This will ensure the stupendous and inexhaustible human and natural resources are tapped and harnessed for the benefit of all and not for the profit motive of the few as it is under the present situation.
Nigeria is one of the countries in the world that are abundantly endowed with all it takes to make humanity exceptionally excel. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the revenue accrued in the last six months from the sale of crude oil alone has positioned Nigeria as the fourth highest earner among Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The revenue fact sheet of thise 12-nation member cartel showed that Nigeria realized about $40 billion (N6.4trillion) from crude oil exports in the first half this year, 2014. The same revenue fact sheet showed that in 2013, Nigeria has net earnings of about $84 billion (Guardian, 23/9/14). But the oil price may fall, due both to the huge increase in shale production in the US and a slowing down in the world economy.
Worthy to note, that this data excludes the tremendous prospect and fortune also recorded in other sector of the economy like agriculture, mine, telecommunication among others. Take for instance; Nigeria is blessed with an agriculture friendly climate, costal and marine resources of over 960 kilometers of shoreline, expansive rivers and lakes covering 120, 000 square kilometers and a large consumer market. Nigeria also has over 80 million hectares of arable land. This accounts for about 23 percent of arable land in West Africa (BusinessDay 19/9/14)
In another report in the Guardian newspaper published on 21/9/14, the President of the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) revealed that Nigeria has the best metallic resources for the production of cable wire in world. The report also disclosed the capacity of Nigeria to produce all kinds of globally competitive vehicles should the Ajaokuta Steel company works to the fullest.
Population is another resource that also shows the inherent potential in Nigeria state for greatness. Nigeria has an estimated population of 170 million people with the large proportion of productive youths which fall between the age ranges from 15 to 40 years old.
In spite of all these stupendous human and natural resources, it is so disheartening that Nigerian workers, youths, students and the entire poor strata continue to groan in unimaginable underdevelopment and mass misery owing to the rapacious and insatiable lust for profit of the capitalist rule of both international and local capitalist elites. Currently, all socio-economic and political institutions of Nigeria are completely dysfunctional to the extent that people are losing faith that this kind of vicious cycle can ever be broken.
MANIFESTATIONS OF THE FAILURE OF CAPITALIST RULE
The terrible state of economic condition of Nigerians continue to make a serious mockery of various kinds of statistics the Nigeria government and its capitalist agencies usually roll out with the sole view of dishing out false impression that Nigeria economy brings gains for the working masses. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria recorded a growth rate of 6.54 percent in real gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter of 2014 (Leadership 8/9/14).
Going by the advantage of the huge percentage of Nigerian population that are of productive age (over seventy five percent of 170 million estimated Nigeria population are below 25 years of age), the 6.54% in GDP reported by NBS is achievable. The fact however is that this economic growth has failed to bring any significant improvement in terms of living and working condition for the working masses. The so called GDP growth is not a product of any deliberate economic policy or special wizardry of the economic team of the administration but a mere indicator of high price of crude oil which has been sold around $100 in the last two year.
Worthy to note that the act of bragging of impressive figure to give an impression that economy is waxing stronger is always a usual style of every capitalist government. It will be recalled that Olusegun Obasanjo and his successor Umar Musa Yar’adua equally did. As it presently obtains, nothing fundamental could be seen in terms of improvement in infrastructure and living condition of the working people.
Oil and gas exports account for more than 95 percent of Nigeria’s export earnings. The country’s proven oil reserves are estimated at between 16 and 22 billion barrels. Most of these oil resources are found in the Niger Delta region. Unfortunately this region has been witnessing increasing cases of kidnappings, oil theft and other related act of violence
The inflation rate in the country has risen for the sixth consecutive month in August to 8.5 percent year-on compared to the 8.3 percent increase recorded in the previous month (Leadership 15/9/14). There is every indication that this may get worse in the coming period. According to one of the report credited to the chairman of the state commissioners of finance, Mr. Timothy Odaah, the state governments have begun agitation for removal the so-called fuel subsidy as a way to increase the allocations to states from the federation account. Should there be new hike in fuel price will be automatic hike in the rate of inflation.
Electricity which has been universally acknowledged as a major means of economic and social development is presently in a state of nightmare. Currently, it is reported that between 70 and 80 million people are without electricity in Nigeria. Another frightening statistics is that 80 percent of Nigerians rely on firewood and charcoal as the source of energy need for the family (Nation 15/9/14).It is appalling that electricity generation in Nigeria is 3000 to 4000MW for a population of 170 million people while South Africa with just a third of Nigeria’s population produces 40,000MW and yet not all South Africans have access to electricity!
Amidst this gory state of power sector, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has introduced a new tariff regime. According to this regime, a kilowatt-hour tariff that used to be N9 in 2010 has gone up to as high as N18. This steady hike in tariff regime without any improvement in the electricity supply has once again confirm the DSM age-long position that bureaucratic control of public utilities cannot meet the needs of the working masses while privatization is nothing but a policy designed by the capitalist class to rob the poor to pay the rich.
As a matter of fact, a huge sum of N213 billion was recently reported to be set aside by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to bail out the new electricity generation and distribution companies that have done nothing significant to improve power supply. According to Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke in a press conference which she addressed in the presence of her counterpart in ministry of power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, the Chairman, NERC, Dr. Sam Amadi and CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the intervention funds was specifically meant to address ” legacy gas debts’ of N36 billion (up from N25 billion in August) as well as shortfall in revenues to the sector since the new power firm acquired the successor-company of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in November last year” (Punch 24/9/14)
This act of using public resources to bail out the failing private electricity generation and distribution companies is similar to how some privately owned failed banks were bailed out with public money worth N1.3trillion by same CBN in 2009. This shows that these private companies lack the capital base to turn around the sector.
Virtually all the private companies that bought the power sector borrowed a large chunk of money used in acquiring PHCN. These private sharks achieved this by first horridly registered the companies for the purpose of bidding for the distorted and balkanized power sector, got some international energy companies to agree as their technical partners and secured loans from the banks.
Recently, it was reported that CBN had expressed its fear that the banking sector may be plunged into another crisis soon over the inability of the private companies currently running the power sector to service the loans they obtained from the financial institution which have grown to over N250 billion. Should this happen CBN has warned that it may not have the capacity to bail out the bank like it did in 2009 without avoiding the option of printing money, which will have significant consequence on inflation rate in the country (Vanguard 22/9/14).
Given this background, it is very doubtful that these private companies will steadily improve power supply to Nigerians let alone guaranteeing uninterrupted power. Their major interest is to come and rake in as much profit as possible while the mass of Nigerians are forced to pay so much for erratic power supply. This partly explains why they collaborated with NERC to sack more than half of the workforce, , many of whom had acquired the required experience to move the sector forward, in order to reduce cost and to increase profit. At present the number of experience workers in the sector is grossly inadequate.
According to NBS, a total of 2.48 million new jobs were created in the Nigerian economy between third quarters, 2012 and second quarter 2014. Breaking the figure revealed that the highest number of jobs were created in the informal sector with 1.41 million, while the formal sector with 903,804 jobs and public institutions with 160,591 jobs followed respectively(Leadership 9/9/14)
Comparing this figure with estimated 68 million Nigerians productive youths without jobs to a large extent showed that the so called badge of achievement of job creation is paltry especially when more than 80 percent is from the informal sector. The 1.41 million jobs claimed to be created in the informal sector are usually those menial jobs like selling of call cards, operation of view centres, selling of goods in traffics among others which many youth undertake today after completing tertiary education without gainful employment or finishing secondary school without access to higher education.
The 903,804 jobs allocated to formal sector comprise largely of those job usually created by private employers who are of the habit of paying workers far behind minimum wage in the quest of making huge profit at expense of workers especially when their right to union is usually disrespected. Only 160,591 jobs allocated to public institutions can be said to be created by the government. Unfortunately this is a sector where employees are perpetually kept on poverty wage and remunerations though with a better secured employment than the private sector. Some limited improvement, which the working masses had previously won vis-Å•-vis their working conditions is being undermined through vicious neo-liberal policies and inflation. For instance, many government ministries and parastatals have replaced permanent employment with casualisation.
A clearer picture of the treacherous and cynical attitude of the ruling elite in Nigeria to the issue of unemployment can be seen in the Jonathan administration SURE-P Internship Scheme wherein the federal government will recruit 180,000 graduates to work in mostly private firms on a very low pay of N25, 000 monthly for a period of 12 months. While the government pays the graduates, the private companies exploit them. It is a case of assisting private companies to make profit while the graduates are placed on an insecure job arrangement
The pension that is previously automatic for any worker that has worked for a certain period has been attacked. It is rapidly being replaced with a fraudulent and exploitative Contributory Pension Scheme where both workers and employers are expected to contribute 7.5% each of workers salary to workers’ pension fund monthly to 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. Further mess of this new pension scheme, was captured in the Punch newspaper published on the 24/9/14 where it was reported that the pension contributions of about 130,000 workers registered under the contributory pension scheme are not remitted monthly to their respective Retirement saving Accounts by their employers.
Despite the 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.
The train services are not only scarce but also crude in service delivery. Despite huge water resources, there are few 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 construction 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 productivity hours lost on roads due to their bad conditions and other inadequacies.
(2) Social Services
Social services such as education and health care have been worst hit. Take for instance, the state of education sector sharply reveals the insoluble capitalist crisis that grips Nigeria. The sector suffers from inadequate funding and gross education commercialization, inadequate facilities for proper learning, teaching and research like books, laboratory equipment etc., dilapidated and insufficient hostel facilities, inadequate qualified manpower. As a result of the deplorable state of Nigeria education, a fact sheet released during the Nigerian Economic Submit Indicates that between 2007 and 2010 Nigerians students enrolled in foreign universities increased from 22,712 to 38,851, draining the nation of N1.5trillion annually (Vanguard 22/9/14).
Also, about 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. Over 2.1 million Nigerian students participated in the last Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) to secure admissions to tertiary education at universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. But very disappointingly, the entire facilities in all the public and private educational institutions within Nigeria have no capacity to give admission to more than 500,000 students.
The result of the West African Secondary Schools Certificate Examination (WASSCE) released recently further revealed the rot in the education sector. “Only about 30 percent of the candidate who sat for the examination will have the chance of being considered for admission into a tertiary institution. This is the percentage of those who obtained credit in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics” (Punch 16/9/14). There is an over 65% shortfall in academic staff. About 60,000 more lecturers are needed to ensure adequate academic staff in universities. Yet, nothing is being done about this even when among tens of thousands of unemployed youths there are those who are qualified and could be trained to fill these vacancies.
In addition to all this is the pending recommendation from Stephen Oransanye panel that Federal Government should completely withdraw from funding all federal universities while at the same time suggested tuition fees ranging from N350,000 to N450,000 to be introduced in all federal government-owned universities.
For the state owned universities, the situation has not been far better! For some time now, at many state universities students have been groaning under all kinds of killing fees. Notably among these are Lagos State University (LASU); Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU); Ekiti State University (EKSU); Osun State University (UNIOSUN); Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) among others.
It was just recent that a collective struggle of students and workers in collaboration with ERC and JAF forced the Babatunde Fashola-led All Progressive Congress (APC) Lagos State Government to totally reverse the LASU school fee to N25, 000. It was the fear of a repeat of this kind of struggle that has forced another APC-led government in Ogun State to reduce the astronomically hiked fees across the tertiary institution in the state, though with a fraudulent gimmick that the new fee would take effect from next academic session.
This attempt to trick students into a blind electoral allegiance with the APC-led government in the state was massively rejected in a protest by students of OOU. One important lesson revealed by LASU struggle is that with an independent students’ union prepared to work in a joint action with worker unions within and outside the campus a struggle against fee hike will mostly be victorious.
Just recently the Federal Government through the ministry of finance (FMF) has introduced a 50% tariff and duty on imported printed books. This policy has not only been described as a way to increase the cost of education but also a negation of the policy of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Florence Convention which the United Nation enunciated in 1954 to guarantee free flow of educational, scientific and cultural materials (Vanguard 22/9/14).
In continuation of attacks on education sector the Federal Government recently announced the plan to start charging all graduates qualified to participate in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) a huge sum of N4,000 before they could collect their call-up letter (Vanguard 11/9/14).
The health sector has not fared better. Many hospitals and health institutions are virtually in a state of decadence as a result of the perennial underfunding. It so sad that a year to the target year of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), hundreds of Nigerians are still dying annually from preventable diseases such as cholera- a water-borne disease. According to the government statistics, there were 22,347 cases of cholera between January and June this year, out of which 288 people have died in Nigeria. These cholera outbreaks, which have been under-played in the media, revealed much more the monumental failure of the anti-poor, capitalist government.
For a country of an estimated population of 170 million people, there are just four laboratories reportedly founded with grants from foreign charity organizations available for carrying out test on Ebola Virus. Latest report had shown that Nigeria and India account for one-third of global child deaths (Guardian 17/9/14)
The state of healthcare in Nigeria is appalling. “The number of available doctors is grossly inadequate. The recommended doctor to patient ratio is 1:600. But according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, the ratio in Nigeria is 1:10,000. Available statistics show that there are merely 259,719 registered doctors in Nigeria catering for over 160 million people.
“Furthermore, there are just 78,727 specialists and 63,780 general practitioners reportedly in the country. This is grossly inadequate and nothing is being done to improve on the situation as the poor state of the hospitals has forced thousands of Nigerian doctors to seek better working conditions in other countries.
“According to reports, there are over 4,000 Nigerian doctors practising in the United Kingdom alone. The number is astronomically high when those in the United States, Europe, Middle East and elsewhere are added” (Guardian 9/6/14).
In the last few years there has been increasing and unprecedented threat to live and properties of mass of Nigerian working masses due to all forms of bombing , ethno-religious conflicts and other terrorist attacks that are currently happening mostly in the northern parts of the country.
The cause of this social disorderliness is located in the capitalist origin of the political entity called Nigeria. In 1914, the former British colonialists merged different independent nationalities and tribes which were not dominated by others or which had expressed no intention to co-exist in the same entity to form what is called today Nigeria.
This undemocratic amalgamation was predicated on the self-serving agenda of the colonialist government to minimize its cost of running Nigeria’s vast territories while at the same time maximizing colonial gains in its cut-throat competition with the French and German 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 even the various ruling elites of the different parts of the country, not to even talk of consent of the Nigerian people themselves before they were forced into a co-existence.
Unfortunately, the set of local leaders of these diverse nationalities whom this undemocratic structure and its exploitative capitalist system was handed over to at independence by the colonial masters 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 expressed in the cacophonic and sometimes murderous armed campaigns by organizations and individuals claiming to be fighting for one sectional economic, political or religious interest. Notably among these kinds of ethno-religious and nationality crisis is the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency that has politically and economically paralysed the North East zone of the country.
Since this insurgency broke out in 2009, the President Jonathan PDP â€“led administration has adopted several forms of military and forceful approach to suppress the insurgent, which has not yielded much impact.
Two major reasons could be identified as the cause of the glaring failure of the military in the war against Boko Haram. The first is embezzlement and misappropriation of fund meant for the procurement of ammunitions and payment of allowances of military personnel by some top military brass and many ruling class elements. This act of corruption which is characteristic of the capitalist system has resulted in a number of problems like inadequate weapons to fight with, little or no logistical support, poor knowledge of the terrain, poor living and fighting condition, unjustified increasing wealth and privileges of the top military officers etc. which has greatly weakened the morale of the rank and file military officers.
The smuggling of $9.3m into South Africa has shown clearly that the Nigeria top military officers and the ruling elite are busy chasing arms deal, siphoning and laundering money meant for development under the guise of fighting Boko Haram while ill motivated soldiers are daily forced into suicide missions.
The second reason is the brutal and undemocratic attacks often unleashed on the defenseless civilians by the military, both in the current struggle in the North-East and previously in other parts of the country. According to a report by Amnesty International, just in the first three months of this year over 1,500 people were killed by both Boko Haram and the military.
Based on this ruthless killing of innocent civilians, many working class people who ordinarily could have been willing to give one support or the other to military troop see them as blood sucking as the Boko Haram. Therefore, in contrast to the kind of support that democratically organized self-defense community groups could win and thereby undermine Boko Haram, the strategy of killing mass of people, including alleged terrorists, adopted by the military aimed at instilling fear into the minds of the people and the terrorists will hardly win as it has failed in the past.
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, corruption and terrorism, as this is the main means of isolating the group. It should be noted that the recruiting factor for Boko Haram is the pervasive poverty 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 hike in fuel prices. Moreover, while we support the idea of non-sectarian 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.
In a way Jonathan and co have written off the North-East, to them it’s not immediately important economically or politically. However Boko Haram’s strength is an illustration of both the government’s and military’s weakness, something that can, in time, undermine the whole structure, producing a deeper crisis. This is linked to the tensions between the different groupings and cliques within the ruling class. Jonathan out-manoeuvred his rivals to get a second term, but what will happen in the run-up to 2019?
(4) Corruption and Mismanagement of public resources
Every action or inaction of the President Jonathan regime in the past few months particularly between the last NC and now had shown that his regime is open and not ashamed to accept corruption. Aside superintending over massive looting, the Jonathan government has openly and unashamedly associated with every tom, dick and harry in the corruption business.
Recently, it was reported that the federal government has discontinued the trial of formal works minister Hassan Lawal, charged alongside nine others with an alleged N6.5billion fraud in the execution of contract it awarded in 2007 for the building of a bridge on River Benue to link Kogi with Nasarawa state.
On the 17th of June, 2014, the Federal Government dropped a nine-count charge against Mohammed, the son of the late Head of State Gen. Sanni Abacha, over alleged complicity in the theft of N446.3 billion during his father’s administration. In the nine-count charge preferred against Mohammed in February 2014, the government accused Abacha of unlawfully receiving about N446.3 billion allegedly stolen from government’s coffers between 1995 and 1998.
The most recent among several cases of corruption that characterized Jonathan administration is the controversial $9.3 million seized last week by the South African authorities. Two Nigerians and an Israeli attempted to take $9.3 million in cash into South Africa, in a jet owned by the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ayo Oritsejafor. The claim was that the cash was meant for the procurement of arms and ammunition form South Africa without mentioning the name of the South African company
This $9.3million issue summarily confirms the report that an estimated $1tn (Å600bn) a year is being taken out of poor countries. The truth that has to be noted is that at the root of every corruption is the capitalist system which is primarily premised on the conversion of what is public to private ownership and control of a few rich.
Mutiny and Prospect of Coup
The recent cases of mutiny in the military are a graphic expression of the level of anger and dissatisfaction among the lower ranked soldiers against continuous attack on both their living and working condition. It will be recalled that, on the 14th May, 2014, soldiers at Maimalari Cantonment, Maiduguri protested when the General Officer Commanding 7 Division, Major General Ahmed Mohammed, ordered soldiers to embark on a journey to fight Boko Haram with inadequate fire power, inadequate logistical support, no broad fighting plan as well as poor working/fighting conditions.
On the 15th Sept, 2014, 18 of the soldiers were arraigned for trial of mutiny before a General Court Martial by military authorities in Abuja, out of which 12 were sentenced to death while five were discharged and acquitted and one sentenced to 28 days imprisonment with hard labour and reprimanded. As at of the time of writing this document another set of 97 soldiers are to be arraigned before a General Court Martial by Military authority at Sani Abacha in Abuja ( Punch 30/9/14).
These developments at this critical time when there are cases of allegation of corruption and misappropriation of funds among the top military brass and their civilian collaborators pose the prospect for a military coup in the coming period.
Such military coup could also be encouraged or complemented by a section of the ruling elite in political struggle with their rivals in robber elite over the control of the resources of the society. But given the ethno-religious cleavages that characterize the current political crisis the prospect of a successful military coup is bleak. This does not mean a coup or an attempt of it is completely ruled out. But from all indications such coup will not enjoy the support of military officers and soldiers from every ethnic group, something which would deepen the country’s divisions. Therefore, any military coup arising from the current crisis would only plunge the country further down the road towards break-up and civil war.
The perspective of a military coup and/or an exacerbation of ethno-religious conflict up to the point of an armed conflict/civil war does not augur well for the working class. This is why socialists, labour and youth activists must intensify the campaign for the building of a political party to rid Nigeria of these refractory and corrupt capitalist ruling elite under whose rule Nigeria will continue to face a perilous prospect.
However, the issue of mutiny and court martial of soldiers who are not satisfied with their living and working conditions have further underscored the demands of socialists for the democratic rights for the rank and file members of the armed forces to form and belong to trade union organizations.
Osun and Ekiti Elections
The outcome of the last Ekiti and Osun gubernatorial elections once again confirm the fact that the working masses if given the appropriate alternative are always prepared to protest the neo-liberal policies of all the existing pro-establishment political parties in quest of taking over the political power for the benefit of the workers, students and the entire poor strata of the society.
In Osun State for instance, the Aregbesola government, despite being in government for about four years and thus having the opportunity to use its scorecard for campaign, was engaged in rotten politics of inducement through what is now commonly referred to as “Stomach Infrastructure”. This involved inducing voters with staple consumer goods like rice, kerosene, etc. There was stiff competition between the PDP and APC in the rotten politics of “Stomach Infrastructure”.
This clearly shows the bankrupt character of these parties. The PDP has been the ruling party at the Federal level since 1999, but so terrible is its performance that it had to rely on inducement of voters to secure votes. This is not unexpected as the party, and the governments it formed at national and state levels, are rooted in neo-liberal policies of privatization, commercialization, etc. that ensures more wealth for the rich few, while pushing more people to the dungeon of poverty and want.
But the APC is no different. In fact, the state was almost choked with posters and billboards and banners, such that people started wondering if Aregbesola was an opposition candidate in the state. This is in sharp contrast with that party’s performance in the 2007 and 2011 elections when the mass of people, without being assaulted with unnecessary campaigns and inducements voted en mass for the APC predecessors, the AC and ACN respectively, seeing it as an alternative to the PDP. Coupled with this was the rotten politics of wooing other corrupt politicians into his campaign trains.
For instance, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the immediate past governor and a former member of the PDP, was ushered into the Aregbesola campaign team and the APC with fanfare. This is an insult to the memories of the hundreds of youths and poor people killed, injured, maimed or detained in the bitter struggle that ensued to reclaim Aregbesola’s mandate stolen by Oyinlola and his PDP thugs in 2007. But the same Oyinlola, along with others like Isiaka Adeleke, became the beautiful brides of the APC. This further shows that there is no fundamental difference among the bourgeois political parties and politicians. They only use political parties as a means of identification. Indeed, Omisore himself, the PDP candidate, was a former member and Deputy Governor under the banner of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), the forerunner of APC. However, the support given to this government by some ‘left activists’ and ‘socialists’ shows the bankrupt ideas of this set of people.
At the end of the day, Aregbesola won with a margin of over 101, 000 votes, but this is just a side of the story. Close to half of this vote differential, 46, 518, came from just two local government areas in Osogbo (Osogbo and Olorunda), the state capital, where the government’s so-called developmental projects are concentrated. Despite the heavy presence of government in these areas, the opposition polled as much as 20, 000 votes.
In many local governments where the APC won, the margins were not so much; with PDP scoring thousands of votes. For instance in Esa-Oke, the hometown of the late AD chieftain, Bola Ige, the PDP candidate won two units while the APC won three. Indeed, many of those who voted for Aregbesola, did so not necessarily because they supported the government’s policies most of which were anti-poor, but to avoid the horrible spectre of Omisore emerging as a governor.
More so the over 292,000 voted against Aregbesola is a sign of the weakened base of the government and a foretaste of the mass movement that will develop later over social and economic issues. This presents two conclusions.
The first is that his victory notwithstanding, the election is a rejection of the anti-poor policies of the Aregbesola/APC government in the education sector, economy, civil service, etc., which have alienated majority of the working people. It is instructive here to recall that the period before the election had seen strikes and combative protests by students, workers and other social forces over some of the government’s divisive education and other policies.
Indeed just before the election, an over five month-long strike of academic staff of the State tertiary institutions was hurriedly “settled” to avoid a potential electoral backlash. Therefore the election, while granting another four-year term for the government, does not reflect general acceptance of the government, nay its policies. It is more of choosing between two evils, albeit a lesser evil. Clearly, an attempt of the government to wanting to continue implementing the same policies will lead to explosion of mass anger and resistance among the working and toiling people in the coming period.
Secondly, this election has shown the growing disillusionment with the main capitalist political parties in the country. While the APC was rejected in Ekiti State, the victory of PDP there has little to do with its acceptance, but more of protest votes against the outgoing Fayemi/APC government. In Osun State, the victory of Aregbesola/APC, as much as it reflects the general hatred for the PDP and especially its candidate, shows the latent anger against the anti-poor pro-rich policies of the Aregbesola/APC government.
More than this, more and more people are seeing the bankruptcy of the vague ‘progressivism’ of the APC as a national opposition party. As 2015 elections draw nearer, this disillusionment may be expressed more sharply. While the Osun elections may have bought the APC some lifeline and helped it recover from its losses in Ekiti, the biting reality of the anti-poor nature of the party will show it has nothing to offer the people. The recent reversal of the exorbitant school fees in Lagos State University (LASU) to the old rate by the Fashola/APC government is a desperate step to stem the supersonic free-fall of the party’s appeal among the working masses.
Right from inception, we of DSM has never had any illusion that a national conference configured by capitalist ruling elite based on their undemocratic arrangement can ever bring forth or implement policy that can make Nigeria and its people to fully and truly actualize their social-economic potentials.
Almost three month, since the completion of this ‘expensive side show’ there is yet to be categorical effort to kick starts the process of subjecting the resolution to any referendum which remains the major excuse used by some pro-capitalist/nationalist activists and their shadows with socialist labels, to argue for and rationalize their opportunistic involvement and participation in this “side show”.
To Jonathan and other authors of this “sideshow” their central motive behind the convocation of the sideshow is to use the occasion of the National Conference as an opportunity to reconcile various disgruntled sections of members of the bourgeois class in a preparation toward the 2015 general election so as to ensure that they maintain their strangle-hold on Nigerians people and resources.
This therefore confirms the fact that, no matter how bitter the internal crisis within the rank of the ruling elite can be, one cannot completely rule out the possibility of their reconciliation on the basis of the legendary corruption, 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, 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.
The conference has come and gone. However, we still agreed that, there are so many important social-political issues involve in the origin of Nigeria and its current shape that could benefit from a genuinely democratically constituted National Conference.
Example of situation whereby socialist can give utmost support to a demand for a national, democratic Conference/Assembly could be under a military dictatorship. This would be politically essential to pose a working peoples’ democratic alternative to military dictatorship. Equally, where the ruling capitalist class is forced by the peoples’ struggle to retreat and change its method of rule, like the 2011 defeat of capitalist/military regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, the question is posed of how to avoid powers being retained by the same forces just defeated by mass uprising. Then socialists would energetically urge leaders of the masses’ organizations and youths to fight for a provisional revolutionary government that is immediately able to allow the working masses and poor to debate and decide the future of their country
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. 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. The question therefore is that can this present vicious cycle be broken.
2015 General Election
In the next five months from now, the Nigeria will hold its 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 a faction of 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.
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 Central Bank, 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!
Reflecting the age-long unprincipled character and conduct of capitalist politicians in Nigeria, some of the prominent PDP figures that have initially defected to the APC have recently gone back to the PDP camp, while some prominent erstwhile APC members have 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
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, recently Buba Marwa and Nuru Ribadu, among several others, from the APC to PDP.
These crises, which mirror on smaller scale 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.
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.
Already the working masses have not just meekly reconciled themselves without a fight back to some of the capitalist-induced plights under which they groan. From a time after the massive supported January 2012 general strike there was a relative lull in struggles, partly because the Labour leaders who were frightened by the size and scope of that strike preferred to do nothing. However recently there have been a series of industrial strikes and demonstrations that have rocked different sector of the economy like education, health, oil and gas, judiciary, and aviation, there were also some community reactions that express the determination of the working people to fight back attacks on their right to decent atmosphere of living. But the Labour leaders are not offering a general solution to the crisis gripping Nigeria. The missing linking is the mass working people party that could link these struggles to the imperative of removing the anti-poor capitalist elites in power at all levels.
Now faced with desertion of Olusegun Mimiko, Ondo State governor, back to the PDP and what it calls “unpalatable developments” the NLC has announced that it will “convene a broad all-inclusive stakeholders’ forum to discuss the way forward for the political association it initiated, the Labour Party” (Vanguard, 2/10/14). But only a complete democratic restructuring and revival of the Labour Party can rescue it as a potential vehicle for working people. The necessary measures would have to include a refusal to support Jonathan and instead running its own candidate for President, opening up the LP so that its candidates are genuine Labour and socialist militants/activists etc. who will fight for working people. Without this nothing will have been learnt from the Mimiko debacle.
Class Struggle and Labour Leadership
There have been signs of a recovery from the lull in class struggle that developed after January 2012. However, the strikes have been sectoral (e.g. education workers, judiciary, etc) or on a state level. Presently the working class is not making generalised opposition to, let alone directly challenging, the ruling class. Along with the generalised crisis of society this is the hallmark of the current stage. The question is, in general terms, how and when this will change on a national level. For example, will the NLC and TUC push for some concessions before February’s election as they did in 2011? But, even in this case, many workers know that such concessions can be meaningless, they know that still today many workers are not getting the minimum wage set just before the 2011 election. However in the short term, the absence of a working class challenge to current policies etc. can result in a strengthening of reactionary developments (including Boko Haram).
The inability of the trade union leadership to come up with an initiative of forming and building a fighting political alternative capable of uniting the entire working people across the country in a struggle for a political power will continue to give the pro-capitalist ruling elite presiding over the economy to continue unleash attacks on the working people. Indeed, for a long time there has been the contradiction between the relatively weak state of trade union organisation and the huge appeal that “Labour” has. But we need to warn that this will not automatically continue indefinitely.
This means that the rank and file workers, trade union activists and socialists have to begin the campaign right from factory floors and workplaces for building of trade union movement with a fighting leadership. There is disconnect between ordinary workers and trade union leaders as a result of difference in their social being. The trade union leaders hardly feel the same socio-economic hardship as the average worker. This explains why trade union leaders hardly seriously intervene in the daily struggle for improvements at workplaces. Workers and activists should argue for election and recall of every trade union official who must earn the average salary of workers in the union. The delegates to trade union meetings and conventions have to be elected right from the workplaces. Besides, there must be spirited and consistent agitation for trade unions to embrace working class political and economic alternative as opposed to anti-poor capitalist neo-liberal agenda like privatisation which is apparently subscribed to by the current trade union leadership. Workers and activists must insist that struggles against casualisation and other anti-labour practices as well as in support of living wage and decent work must always be on the agenda of trade unions. The program, policy thrust and important decisions of trade unions have to be always subjected to democratic discussion right from the workplaces. All this and other measures will help build a fighting trade union movement that truly represents the aspiration and interest of workers and other sections of the working people economically and politically.
Most important is 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 basic needs of all and genuine economic development of Nigeria.
But the entire leadership of the trade unions movement, including its pro-capitalist Labour Party leadership, do not offer genuine anti-capitalist, pro-masses economic and political alternative to the ruinous policies of the capitalist ruling elite. The Labour Party supported Jonathan in 2011 and now appears to be preparing to do so again in 2015. 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. The SPN is being built as striking example of what is possible with a mass working people party on a socialist program which the members of DSM have been campaigning for since the inception of the organization in 1987.
Unfortunately, INEC has refused to register the SPN based on flimsy excuse. However, SPN has filed a case at the Federal High Court, Abuja on September 10, 2014 which in itself will flag off the legal battle to force INEC to register SPN. This will be combined with various other political activities like, protest rallies, picketing, press conferences/statements. Besides, SPN held a press conference on September 16, 2014 to kick-off the political actions and campaigns. Despite the fact that most likely we may not intervene in the 2015 general election, we may still make more gains if we challenge INEC and the ruling elite vigorously as a means of popularizing SPN.
Given all this background it is important to state that we of DSM are not surprise by the express refusal of INEC to register the SPN. As a matter of fact the refusal absolutely confirm our prognosis raised in the last NC document that, “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, the INEC refusal to register SPN should be seen as a challenge by all DSM members to double our effort of organizing regular programmes and activities in our various branches as one of the major ways to continue to build SPN towards the formation of a serious and genuine effort within the broader workers’ movement to build a genuine political movement.