RESOLUTION ON THE NIGERIA SITUATION
RESOLUTION ON THE NIGERIA SITUATION
NATIONAL COMMITTEE MEETING OF DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST MOVEMENT (DSM)
APRIL 18-19, 2015
1. The year 2015 as election year is expectedly a year of deep political reverberations and there has been no letting down. The year opened up with the heightening of electioneering by the major bourgeois political forces in the electoral contest.
2015 ELECTIONS AND THE WORKING MASSES
2. However, the first signal that the general elections will be attended with dramatic outcomes was the postponement of the general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from the originally scheduled dates of Saturday, February 14 and Saturday February 28, 2015 to Saturday 28 March 2015 and 11 April 2015 for the Presidential/ National Assembly and the Gubernatorial/ State House of Assembly respectively.
3. The fact that the postponement was perceived to be the shifting of the goal post by the Jonathan regime drew the ire of the broad layers of people in the society. In a statement by the Executive Committee of the Democratic Socialist Movement in condemning the postponement of the election, we stated that “â€¦the DSM and SPN hereby call on the labour movement to openly condemn the postponement of the election and call for a one-day nationwide mass protest to warn against any attempt to truncate the current civil rule. But this must be linked to an economic and social programme for change as well as the working class defence of democratic rights so it can use them in its struggle, and without promoting the illusion in Buhari. Without this approach the working masses may not see the point of defending elections whose result does not bring meaningful improvement. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) must particularly use the protest to unite the working masses across ethnic and religious divides especially given the acutely charged ethno-religious fault lines as a result of the capitalist politicians (from both the PDP and APC) relentless poking at these open sores throughout the period of the electioneering campaign”.
4. After the initial merry-go-round, the elections held and turned out to be what has been described as “historic” in the history of Nigeria. The March 28, 2015 presidential elections indeed stand unparalleled with the defeat of an incumbent regime by an opposition party. General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives’ Congress, a former military ruler in a fourth attempt was elected the President of Nigeria after scoring 15,424,921 votes (54%) to the incumbent’s (President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP) 12,853,162 thus winning with about 2.6 million votes. In addition to winning the Presidency, the APC also won over 60 seats in the Senate and won a majority in the House of Representatives thereby pitching the People’s Democratic Party into the minority. The PDP which has always boasted that it was the biggest party in Africa and has claimed that it would rule for 60 years was defeated just 16 years into civil rule.
5. The reality is that Jonathan never recovery from the huge protests, the largest in Nigeria’s history, in January 2012 against a surprise increase in full prices. Despite the general strike and protest being ended with a compromise that allowed Jonathan to remain in office he had no nationwide authority left. The subsequent resurgence of Boko Haram and growing corruption weakened him further. To cap this there was growing anger and a desire for change when the falling oil prices led to wage arrears and calls for austerity after an oil boom which most Nigerians had not significantly benefited from. But, as much as the election stands as a watershed, it represented only a shift of power from one section of the ruling class to another with the working masses left in the lurch .What is significant for genuine socialists and working class activists is the fact that the predominant consciousness of most of the voters was the effort to punish one bourgeois party with another. The votes cast for Buhari’s All Progressives’ Congress was to punish the Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party for the high level of ineptitude and massive failure. While this represents the fact that the broad layers of the working people are exhausted with all the bourgeois parties, the outcome of the elections can also lead to the realization for the working masses that an incumbent regime can be removed from power despite the armaments of state apparatus. What this can lead to in the likely events of mass upheavals is the emboldening of the masses to go all out to throw out successive regimes of capital in the journey that can open the road to socialist revolution.
6. However, despite the enthusiasm that the presidential election generated, it is worthy to note that less than half of the registered voters, 42.76%, officially voted, tens of millions felt that the election offered no choice or was irrelevant to their lives. A large number was alienated from the election based on the fact that the All Progressives’ Congress is not fundamentally different from the People’s Democratic Party. In specific instances, there were attempt to repeat the attempt at punishing a party with another, for example in Lagos, where the People’s Democratic Party won five House of Representatives’ Seats, reflecting a deep anger against the anti-poor attacks of the All Progressives Congress in Lagos. There was low turnout in Lagos where just 1,495,975 people voted out of the 5,827,846 on the register showed the disillusionment with both the APC and PDP, but no other force was seen as a credible alternative. While Buhari won 792,460 votes and Jonathan 632,327 in Lagos, the next highest candidate, the AD, gained just 4,453 votes.
7. However, the predominant factor in the presidential elections was the candidacy of General Muhammadu Buhari – a former Military dictator who ruled Nigeria from December 1983 until August 1985 when he was removed in a coup. Buhari, despite all these pro-capitalist and infamous characteristics that was expressed in his first coming to power, he is largely seen by the poor of the North and now by a substantial section of the working masses and urban youth in the South, as an ascetic, austere and incorruptible person who had the chance to amass wealth while in government but instead lived a modest life compared to the opulence in which past rulers live. The poor of the North also see Buhari as not being a member of the establishment or what is called the Hausa/Fulani ruling oligarchy.
8. In the absence of a genuine working people’s political alternative, the mass illusion in Buhari was equally fuelled by the mantra of “change” by the All Progressives’ Congress, which gained an echo. This was not inevitable, but took place because for years the Labour leaders have not seriously attempted to a political movement that could challenge the pro-capitalist parties. The major lesson for the working class movement in the 2015 polls is the urgent need to step up the efforts to build a genuine mass working people’s political alternative that can embrace the working masses and youth of all ethnic stripes in the struggle for genuine socialist change.
9. The unresolved national question raised its ugly head as both Jonathan and Buhari got huge and decisive votes primarily from the region where they hail from. For instance, Buhari – a Northern Muslim – got 1.9 million votes from Northern city of Kano while Jonathan – a southern Christian – got 1.4 million votes from Rivers State. Also the turnout of eligible voters in both the North and the South were way ahead of the turnout in the Southwest. Given the presidential election voting pattern there is danger that, in the absence of a consistent working class alternative, dissatisfaction with Buhari can be reflected in ethnic and religious tensions/clashes etc.The possibility for the resurgence of the Niger Delta militancy in the coming period on the basis of the fact that they have been ruled out of the sharing of the national cake cannot be ruled out.
BUHARI’S NEW REGIME: WHAT PROSPECT FOR THE WORKING MASSES?
10. The major poser is can Buhari meet the huge expectations for socio-economic change of the working people? At his Chatham House London speech before the elections, Buhari said, “in the face of dwindling revenues, a good place to start the repositioning of Nigeria’s economy is to swiftly tackle two ills that have ballooned under the present administration: waste and corruption. And in doing this, I will, if elected, lead the way, with the force of personal example. On corruption, there will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt will not be appointed into my administration” In the same speech, he added, “we will plug the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue producing entities such as NNPC and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only. Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference.” To broad layers of the working masses, the major reason behind the failure of the Jonathan regime was the monumental corruption that characterized the regime. There is enormous illusion that the Buhari regime will “fight corruption”.
11. However, while Buhari has explained how to create measures to mitigate corrupt practices in the revenue collection, for the expenditure of the resources he seems to rely only “on the force of personal example” and non-appointment of the corrupt in his administration. This is obviously utopian. First, a major avenue of corruption is contract system in which the contract sum is usually inflated. Without the democratic control of resources and projects by the elected representatives of workers and relevant professional, there is no guarantee for judicious spending of any allocation. This for instance explains why all the resources that have been spent on the power sector since the Obasanjo government have largely gone down the drain.
12. But this does not mean that there will be no action taken against the most corrupt, particularly if they are either opposed to Buhari or threaten to embarrass him. However, many of the characters around Buhari are as corrupt as can be found in any administration since the return to civil rule. Many of them will see the financial contribution to his campaign, albeit from the looted public fund, as an investment that must be recouped with a return. More importantly, it is capitalism especially the neo-liberal agenda which Buhari has subscribed to, albeit with a tinge of statism that promotes corruption as it discourages public spending on infrastructure and social program and therefore leaves more resources for looting. Privatisation policy, for instance, which the Buhari administration will continue, is the mother of all corruption as already revealed in the power sector privatization where the public utility was sold at giveaway price in order to satisfy the profit-first interest of the so-called private investors.
13. However, the major challenge of Buhari is how to meet the expectation of the masses that have built huge illusion in him. Many capitalist commentators have already started making excuse on his behalf. For instance, Renaissance Capital stated that Buhari would be coming into office at a time when Nigeria’s fiscal and external buffers (Excess Crude Account and Foreign Reserves) are at their lowest in several years which implies no access to savings to offset the decline in revenue. The group also estimated that based on the reduction of budget benchmark from $77.5 per barrel in 2014 to the proposed $53 in 2015 the revenue is likely to drop by one-third compared with the fiscal last year. It therefore concluded: “Buhari’s administration will have to work with very limited resources, which will significantly constrain its ability to fulfil its election promises.” (Guardian, April 8, 2015).
14. The masses should expect attempts to implement austerity policies as administered by Buhari in his previous stint in office between 1983 and 1985. Then, according to the Renascence Capital, “his administration cut spending by 15 per cent, temporarily banned hiring, hiked interest rates, froze capital projects, and cut imports to reduce the balance of payments deficit.” Already, the outgoing government has made some difficult decisions behind which Buhari administration can try to hide to continue anti-poor policies. For instance, the capital expenditure has been cut to N700 billion for 2015 as compared to N1.1 trillion in 2014. Indeed, the capital budget on road network was cut from about N100 billion to a paltry N11 billion. The Senate has also approved the increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5% to 10%. The government has also applied for $2bn loan facility from the World Bank to finance the budget deficit. Already, the government has budgeted N943 billion (more than capital expenditure) to service a total debt profile put at $67.7 billion (N11.2 trillion) as at December 31, 2014. The government which had earlier increased the electricity tariff by 50% in January has given the distribution companies the license to impose charges on the consumers as they wish. But Buhari will be under two conflicting pressures, ordinary Nigerians’ expectations and the demands of a worsening capitalist economy. This can create the situation where mass pressure or struggle forces Buhari to give temporal concessions to working people which the government and capitalists may try to undermine.
15. Despite the falling price in crude oil, monumental resources can still be made available for diversification of the economy, provision of basic infrastructure and creation of jobs if only government abandons neo-liberal capitalist policies as well as nationalize the commanding height of the economy and placed under democratic control and management of the working class. But this would need a government representing working and poor Nigerians that would break the grip of capitalism so that it could begin to plan the use of Nigeria’s tremendous resources in the interests of the majority, not a tiny handful. Until that happens the best we can get in a capitalist economy like Nigeria’s which is dominated by the major imperialist powers/investment is that a number of the ruling class will invest in simpler products like building materials, refining and foodstuffs or assembling foreign produced goods like autos. But even this limited investment is also threatened by the dwindling public funds since state intervention in form of bailout, tax holiday, sales of government bonds, import duties exemption etc., will not be as available as is used to be.
CRISIS IN THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT AND THE CHALLENGE OF BUILDING A FIGHTBACK AGAINST LOOMING AUSTERITY ATTACKS
16. Unfortunately, the labour leaders seem prepared to turn a blind eye to the austerity policies that will be implemented by the incoming administration of Buhari. In a statement, the General Secretary of the NLC Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said, “There is no pretence that the collapse of the global oil prices, which put the Nigerian economy in crisis, is still very much on ground. The new administration is coming in at a time in which these challenges are still there and there is not much happening around the world to alter the situation, for instance, the oil prices.” (Guardian, April 8, 2015).
17. The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Dr Nasir Fagge, has also been reported to have called on Nigerians to rally round Buhari in order to give him the desired support needed in moving the country to the next level. He was also said to have assured that on the part of ASUU, the union would do everything possible to ensure that it worked with the incoming administration to move the country in the right direction. Also betraying the illusion in Buhari, Fagge was quoted to have said, “With a new administration in place, it is my belief that issues surrounding insurgency, education, power and health will be given priority attention”. (Vanguard, April 1, 2015).
18. It is not for the labour leaders to show understanding or help resolve the crisis of capitalism. If Buhari does not want heat he should not have come to the kitchen. The trade unions must place the demands on the new administration and plan to resist attacks on the working people. The NLC and TUC must not shy away from demanding a new national minimum wage as the current one has been rendered untenable by inflation. The government should not be allowed to make the working people and the poor pay for the crisis of capitalism. Trade unions must demand that all the political office holders are placed on the salary structure of civil servant as well as democratic control of projects and allocations by the elected representatives of the relevant working people. A key demand in the fight against corruption and looting is for ‘Opening the Books’ to allow a democratically controlled investigation into where the money has gone.
19. Buhari has already said, “We will use savings that arise from blocking leakages and the proceeds recovered from corruption to fund our party’s social investments programmes in education, health, and safety nets such as free school meals for children, emergency public works for unemployed youth and pensions for the elderly”. The trade unions and other mass organizations of the working people must be prepared to force Buhari to fulfil this electoral promise. The trade unions must also ensure that the jobs that the incoming ruling party has promised to create are not the slave, insecure jobs like Osun state OYES where the workers are paid party N10, 000 per month and without right to trade union.
20. Given the disposition of many labour leaders, who appear currently in love with Buhari and helped promote mass illusion in him, there may be hiatus in class struggles in the coming period. But this may not last long as the struggles, in spite of the labour leaders, will break out as the impact of the austerity policies becomes no longer unbearable to workers and masses.
21. This class collaborationist approach of the labour leaders cannot be separated from the ideological and political disorientation that is currently bedevilling the workers’ movement. This is against the background of the degeneration of the trade union movement with ethnic sentiments and pro-establishment loyalties promoted over and above the interests of the rank and file of the workers’ movement.
22. Nothing confirms this position other than the events that trailed the 11th Delegate Conference of the Nigerian Labour Congress that was held on February 8 and 12, 2015 in Abuja but was concluded on March 14, 2015. This was after the earlier session held between became inconclusive amidst complaints and disputes by some industrial unions, including the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and National Union of Petroleum Employees of Nigeria (NUPENG), about irregularities in the ballot booklets that were being used for the elections. The March 12 to 14, 2015, continuation of the 11th Delegates Conference eventually produced Ayuba Wabba from the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) as the president of NLC with 1,695 votes while the runner-up, Joe Ajaero of NUEE, got about1, 400 votes.
23. The Joe Ajaero-led grouping, known as the ‘Restoration Group’ and reportedly comprising not less than 18 industrial unions rejected the outcome of the election and organised a Special Delegate Conference on March 19, 2015 in Lagos and elected its own leadership. Prominent in Joe Ajaero’s faction is Igwe Achese, the President of the National Union of Petroleum and National Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Issa Aremu, the General Secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), both of whom lost the NLC Deputy Presidential positions. The group claimed that the election which produced Ayuba Wabba as President was flawed and not credible.
24. The splits that attended the recently concluded Delegate Conference of the NLC is an unfortunate and open manifestation of the growing degeneracy in the trade union movement. At present there appear to be no clear policy differences between the two groupings, although that can develop later. The way in which this split developed unfortunately showed how most of the current trade union leaders have abandoned the very essence of the working class movement which is to advance and defend the economic and political interest of the poor working people, especially those organized in trade unions and operating under the umbrella of the NLC. All the features of right-wing bourgeois politicking were eminent in the processes leading to the Delegate Conference and the conference proper. These include: the top-down undemocratic selection of the delegates by all the industrial unions; the monetization syndrome that solely determined the allocation of delegates to the affiliated unions by the NLC; the alleged ethnic configuration of delegates’ list of the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria and Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU); alleged mobilization of non-union members to vote; and the alleged bribing of delegate to influence votes by candidates. All this represents a serious backward slide in the central labour movement.
25. What the fallout of the NLC Delegates’ Conference represents is the obvious absence of fighting leadership in defense of the socio-economic and political interests of the working class. Casualization, contract staffing and other anti-labour practices have been largely left to flourish unchallenged. Before the NLC Delegate Conference little or no concrete intervention had been made by either of the factional labour leaders to secure full implementation of the N18,000 minimum wage which, while being actually a poverty wage, has not been fully implemented by governments at all levels as well as most private sector employers. Despite their statements in the last few days there is little hope that the new NLC leaders or the emerging factions will, unless they are faced with a rank and file movement, pursue negotiation and implementation of a new minimum wage that will take into account the growing rate of inflation.
26. Some state governors owe workers several months of salaries. The Wabba’s NLC has set up a committee over the unpaid salaries. This is welcome but without fighting tactics to force the governors to pay, nothing concrete will come out. In the same vein, both factions before and after the Delegates’ Conference failed to state concretely how to build a working class political alternative especially given the fact that the Labour Party, formed by the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC), has become just one of the capitalist parties. While Wabba’s NLC has not stated how to reclaim Labour Party or build a working class political party, Joe’s NLC is recognizing the caretaker committee led by Salisu Muhammed set up by the NLC last year to “oversee and reposition” the Labour party and convene a credible national convention. It will be recalled that this committee was set up by the NLC and TUC after Olusegun Mimiko, the Ondo State Governor defected back to PDP and the scheduled convention was to hold in Ondo State. With the defeat of their preferred presidential candidate, Jonathan, the future is not clear for the official Labour Party but unless there is a complete purging and reconstruction of the party as a campaigning workers’ force it will not be Labour’s political wing. Unfortunately the current reality is that both factions of the NLC have not drawn the right conclusion and is not taking the right steps aimed at building a party for workers and the poor.
27. The factionalisation of the NLC on the basis of an election outcome and without working class issues being clearly outlined can never be a means of building a trade union movement that represents the interests and aspirations of the working people. It is regrettable that the issue degenerated into the factionalisation of the NLC simply on the basis of a disputed election. As we oppose unprincipled splits we call on both factions to strive to build the NLC as a united, democratic and fighting platform with a working class economic and political alternative. If there are different positions and polices within Labour there is nothing stopping individual unions or coalitions of unions waging campaigns and struggles that would both advance the interest of labour and be an example for other unions and unionists to follow. For as long as this division between trade unions exists we will continue to campaign for united workers’ action to win our demands.
28. The challenge now facing the broad layers of rank-and-file workers and working class activists is the task of rebuilding of the trade union movement as a democratic movement with a fighting platform with the mandate to advance and defend the socio-economic and political interest of the working class, including building a mass based working class political party with a clear alternative different from the capitalist neo-liberal, anti-poor programs. Unless this is done there is a grave danger that Labour will be weakened at a time when the employers and state are preparing an austerity offensive against working people.
WORSENING WORKERS’ CONDITIONS ACROSS THE STATES AND MASS STRUGGLE ON THE HORIZON
29. Despite the honeymoon that heralds Buhari’ s victory and the shifty nature of the labour leaders, there is serious erosion of the living standards of the working class that will open up an hot autumn of struggle in the shortest period ahead. Workers across different states are being owed salaries for months on the false pretext that crude oil revenue has dwindled. Meanwhile, the same fall in the oil revenue has not stopped ruling politicians from looting the country’s coffer dry for election and other private uses. In fact, when the revenue was booming, working people got little or nothing from it; however, when there is a shortfall as a result of massive looting and mismanagement of the mono-cultural economy, working people are made to pay the price.
30. Private sector workers are not also excluded from these neo-liberal attacks as they are subjected to casaulisation and down-sizing by fat cats of capital, who are looking for cheap labour. The rank-and-file of the police are not also excluded from the blows of the socio-economic crisis as they threatened to call a strike action. The fact that the incoming state governments of both APC and PDP, given that they operate within the precincts of capitalism, will not meet the aspirations of the working masses will lead to an hot autumn of bitter struggles of workers from below.
CHALLENGE OF BUILDING A GENUINE MASS WORKING PEOPLE’S POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE AND THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF NIGERIA: WHAT ARE THE TASKS AHEAD OF SOCIALISTS?
31. The central challenge of the current period is the task of building a genuine mass working people’s political party. The awful reality is that the current crop of labour leaders, steeped in the bankrupt class collaborationist lack the necessary vision and direction to frontally take up this task. Socialists have to aggressively campaign for the formation of such a party. Initiatives would have to been taken from below by rank-and-file workers, youth and genuine socialists. While we continue to campaign for a mass party of the working people to be formed by the broad labour movement, it should be noted that the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) is an initiative that can act as a pole of attraction for genuine change seeking elements that will be thrown into struggle by the disillusionment in the All Progressives Congress (APC). In other words, the struggle for the registration of the SPN must be fought to conclusion and combined with the stepping up of the campaign for a mass working people’s party.
32. This must also be combined with the task of intervening in the day-to-day struggles of the rank-and-file workers with the aim of building a rank-and-file movement that can rebuild the trade unions and put in place a fighting democratically-controlled leadership, subject to recall. Such a rank-and-file controlled leadership in the trade union movement must be prepared to put the enormous resources in the workers’ movement in building a new fighting working people’s political alternative standing on a socialist programme.
33. It can be submitted that the tasks facing genuine socialist activists in the current changing period are as follows:
a. To intensify the campaign for a mass working people party.
b. To build the Socialist Party of Nigeria in the communities, local governments and state levels and intensify party propaganda work by regular issuance of press statements to review developments within their areas of influence with the aim of winning change-seeking elements to the banner of the SPN.
c. To deepen intervention in the rank-and-file struggles of workers by setting up structures of the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights in the students’ and communities’ branches. This is to be combined with regular and planned sales of the Socialist Democracy among workers in the factories, state and local governments and wherever workers embark on struggle.
d. To intensify propaganda work both nationally and across the states where we have structures to expose the anti-worker policies of the ruling parties both at federal and state levels with readiness to intervene in the struggles for payment of unpaid salaries that will break out across the states.
e. To carry out regular and planned public activities, including but not limited to tablings, mass distribution of leaflets and sales of the Socialist Democracy at workplaces, communities and schools.
f. To rebuild the combativeness of the students’ movement through the building of students’ branches in the states where we have influence and structures with the readiness to lead the fightback of students and youth through the Education Rights Campaign against looming austerity attacks on the education sector.
g. To build a new layer of revolutionary socialist cadres and the rehabilitation of disoriented old layers through the rediscovery of genuine Marxist ideas via the exploration of the ideological materials across the branches of the Democratic Socialist Movement.