BUHARI’S INAUGURATION: THE TASKS AHEAD FOR WORKERS AND YOUTH
BUHARI’S INAUGURATION: THE TASKS AHEAD FOR WORKERS AND YOUTH
By Ayo Ademiluyi
Muhammadu Buhari, former Military Head of State was formally sworn in as a democratically-elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 29th May, 2015. This was after an election that has been regarded as “historic” due to the defeat of the incumbent for the first time in a presidential election in Nigeria. His electioneering campaign was full of promises on raising living standards and turning around the economy. Among many working people there are high expectations that the Buhari regime will hit the ground running to deliver on his huge promises.
The central question facing the workers’ and youth movement is the task ahead of them in defending their basic interests under the Buhari regime. This is drawn against the background of lower oil export prices and industrial actions by workers fighting for the payment of their unpaid salaries which have rocked both APC and PDP controlled states.
BUHARI’S INAUGURAL SPEECH: BIG PROMISES UNDER PRO-CAPITALIST BASIS BOUND FOR FAILURE
In his inaugural speech, Buhari promised to check the “gross corruption” that bedevils the Local Government Joint Account which has been mismanaged by successive states’ governments. This is in line with the main thrust of the Buhari’s campaign which is the promise to defeat corruption. However, Buhari’s anti-corruption mantra stops at the table of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, his closest political associates, who footed the bill of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) electioneering campaign. Aside from these facts is that the Buhari’s anti-corruption fight will be limited by the vagaries of interests in the APC, who are baying for blood to grab their return-on-investments after a capital-sapping campaign.
While there is no doubt at all that Nigeria’s development has been grossly handicapped by massive corruption and looting, this is not the only factor holding the country back. An anti-corruption campaign may, at least temporarily, increase the state’s resources. But the Nigerian ruling class’s continual stealing is testament to the fact that this is the main way in which they make their money. Of course a few capitalists have invested in industries selling directly to Nigerians, like food stuffs and building materials, but there has been no attempt to develop a broader based economy. Therefore given that looting is a central source of the ruling class’s income, Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign will ultimately end in outright failure as his regime operates within the precincts of capitalism.
He has equally promised to “rescue the Chibok girls”, making reference to over two hundred girls kidnapped last year by Boko Haram elements. This is part of what he calls the “fight against Boko Haram”. While the activities of the terrorists’ sect, Boko Haram has reduced in the recent period, the sect still remains a threat as it continues strident and guerrilla attacks on communities in the North-eastern part of Nigeria. Buhari has shown that he is not essentially different from the past successive regimes that have consistently employed arm-twisting militarist strategy as the final solution to terrorism. This is usually without the preparedness to resolve the underlying causes of the crisis including, but not limited to, mass impoverishment, joblessness and economic deprivation. As long as these underlying causes are not removed, Boko Haram, or any other “Frankenstein monsters”, will develop under Buhari or any other successive capitalist regimes in power.
On the Niger Delta, Buhari acknowledges that the amnesty programme for the Niger Delta militants is due to end in December and promises to “invest heavily in the projects and programmes currently in place”. The Niger Delta remains an important subject for Buhari’s regime as the emergence of a President of Northern extraction can spur a renewed militancy by the Niger Delta insurgents, who will be under the perception that their means of wealth accumulation through the Amnesty Programme will be cut off.
He promises to attack frontally the unemployment scourge with the “revival of agriculture, solid minerals mining as well as credits to small and medium size businesses to kick start enterprises”. To further give reassurance, he proclaimed that “careful studies are under way during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians”.
Given that Buhari will operate through the profit-first neo-liberal policies of Public-Private Partnership, liberalization and privatization, the regime will not, in the end, be able to fulfill the grandiose promises it has made to the mass of the working people. What is urgently needed is for the working people and their mass organisations to be prepared to take on the Buhari’s regime without illusions in his bogus promises and build a genuine working people’s political alternative.
DIVIDED WORKERS’ MOVEMENT AND THE DANGER OF CLASS COLLABORATIONISM
Strike actions have broken out in many states against unpaid salaries. These have come against the background of a divided labour leadership that seem to be in contention of who between them will be a favourable partner of Buhari regime and the respective states’ governments in class collaborationist politics. Genuine trade union activists and socialists must intervene to strengthen rank-and-file working class efforts and build a movement from below that will raise the demands of a minimum wage increment, creation of decent and safe jobs and resist mass retrenchment of workers by the government as well as a call for a national strike on the unpaid salaries and pensions.
The stakes cannot be higher for the workers’ movement in Nigeria and the attempt to travel the slippery and dangerous road of class collaborationism with the Buhari’s regime will only be a dead end for the interests and struggles of the trade union movement and specifically the rank-and-file.
It is high time that the workers’ movement was rebuilt from below as a fighting, rank-and-file controlled, democratically-accountable mass-based organisation of the working people that will be prepared to defend the mass of working people against neo-liberal attacks.
CHALLENGE OF GENUINE MASS WORKING PEOPLE’S POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE
This will be coupled with the challenge to build a genuine mass working people’s political alternative standing on a clear democratic socialist programme. As far as the top labour bureaucrats are concerned, this seems not to be a task for them, as they claim their place in the evolving rearrangement of forces under the Buhari’s regime.
However, as the Buhari’s regime flounders and mass anger builds up against the regime, the need for a genuine working people’s political alternative will return to the agenda. There could be different efforts to prevent such a development taking place. Some elements in the PDP could try to put themselves at the head of populist opposition to Buhari and the APC. There could be an attempt to tinker with the mis-named Labour Party, which has become a completely bankrupt party with no credibility among the working people. But what is needed is a really independent movement of working people fighting for its own demands, not giving careerists a platform to exploit.
The task ahead of working class activists and genuine socialists is to link the struggle to rebuild the trade union movement with the struggle to build a fighting rank-and-file movement that can put in place a fighting leadership that will be prepared to put the enormous resources of the workers’ movement into building a new, fighting working people’s party. There can be many starting points to create such a movement, the issues of work, pay, electricity, healthcare, schooling, safe water, housing can be the starting points for mobilisations which can help lay the foundations for a working people’s party.
The period ahead also places an important task on the members of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) in fighting to conclusion the struggle for the registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Alongside popular struggles, registration would also create the possibilities for the SPN to intervene in the electoral space where it is possible as the working masses continue the search for a genuine working people’s alternative to the APC. The SPN can represent a step in the campaign for a new, genuine, fighting working people’s party standing expressly on a clear socialist programme.