UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS: Only a Socialist Programme of Planned, Nationalised Economy can Stamp out Unemp
UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS: Only a Socialist Programme of Planned, Nationalised Economy can Stamp out Unemployment and Industrialise Nigeria
By Wole Olabanji Engels
As at the moment of writing this piece, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has not updated its data to reflect the current rate of unemployment or underemployment in the country. However, in an interview with Sunday Tribune of 2nd September 2018, the Statistician General and head of the NBS, Mr. Yemi Kale, has anticipated the depressing figures that might characterise the new data set to be published by the NBS.
“He [Yemi Kale] was, however, under no illusion that the new figures will present any succour,” Sunday Tribune noted. “According to him, Nigeria must create four million new jobs annually to begin to make any dent in the ballooning figures. This, he said, is exclusive of any loss of already existing jobs,” the newspaper further reported. Back in 2016, Mr. Yemi Kale had suggested to the media that Nigeria would require creation of two million jobs annually as a minimum target of any serious job creation strategy. That, within two years, the minimum target has upped to four million jobs from two million shows that two million more people have entered the labour force without jobs since 2016, excluding the unknown figure of those losing their jobs to widespread downsizing widespread in the private sector.
Relying on the data published by the NBS, tradingeconomics.com paints on its website a graphic and comparative picture of the steady growth of unemployment rate in the country that has steadily “increased to 18.80 percent in the third quarter of 2017 from 16.20 percent in the second quarter of 2017.” The Buhari-Osinbajo government has unfortunately approached the reality of unemployment in the country with a policy of denial and embellishment, which is consistent with the approach of his predecessor who also presented YOUWIN and other tokenist measures as a job creation policy under the most self-adulatory circumstances. Mr. Chris Ngige, the garrulous Minister of Labour, was not spared by fact-checkers when he falsified the impact of the government’s programmes on the rate of unemployment in the country. In reality, the cul de sac currently faced by the Buhari-Osinbajo regime shows the inherent incapacity of a neo-colonial capitalist economy like Nigeria’s to create jobs or pursue industrialisation under the framework of capitalism.
Mr. Chris Ngige, providing some insight into the disposition of the ruling section of the Nigeria’s capitalist class to job creation, boasted before the media in November 2017 that “(we (the Buhari government) promised jobs but what has happened is that people tried to quantify jobs in terms of white-collar jobs for graduates from universities and polytechnics, but they don’t want to look at the blue collar jobs. Agriculture and agric value chain alone have created more than 5-7 million jobs.” He added that government has also created millions of jobs from the Npower scheme, which is a segment of the Buhari’s Social Investment Programme.
Concluding that Ngige (just like most publicists of the Buhari regime) was falsifying concrete facts, DUBAWA (a fact-checking organisation in the country) analyzed the official data on job creation in the country between April 2015 and September 2016. In its submission, the fact-checker noted that “…data shows that on the average, 256, 367 jobs were created in each quarter between Q2, 2015 and Q3, 2016… At an average of 256, 367 jobs created quarterly since Mr. Buhari assumed office, the estimated job creation for the five quarters (Q4, 2016 to Q4, 2017) becomes 1.2 million… While the 1.2 million jobs is an extrapolation, the possibility that the actual number will be more than that is low as Nigeria’s economy was in recession for most of the period under review.” (Premiumtimesng.com, March 15, 2018).
If wishes were horses, beggars would fly. Never make the mistake of thinking that it is only a naive, wishful thinking that has led the handlers of President Buhari to such shameless embellishment of our sordid reality. Rather it is a government consciously aware of the limitations posed by the capitalist principles that govern its day to day activities that is creating the false impression of giving its possible best to a bewildered and disappointed electorate.
In reality, it is the economic principle of the present government, well captured under the clichÃ© that “government has no business with business” that has allowed the current chaos of unemployment and poverty to continue in a country that is richly blessed with immense human and material resources. It is often agreed that the country must consciously embark on massive industrialisation and modernisation in order to maximise local economic production and engage our booming population as creators of real economic values. But achieving this is an entirely different question. The present government, as well as previous ones, have only consistently paid lip services to programmes of industrialisation. Instead it has sustained the policy of relying on capitalism, selling critical economic infrastructures to political cronies, such as the ill-fated and failed privatisation of the power sector, and shown in deeds to be rather lackadaisical towards creating industries. It is instructive to note that the largely forgotten Ajaokuta steel mill and the parlous state of our refineries show how the occasional thoughts of Nigeria’s capitalism about industrialisation, for example, does not match up to its acts of conscious omission. The ruling elite and the government confuse industrialisation to issuing license to mostly foreign private firms which is a bankrupt way of pursuing industrialisation. Industrialising the Nigerian economy will require pursuing policies that will harness the potentials of the country and ensure adequate public investment in the major sectors of the economy such that lead to setting up big corporations that efficiently produce faster and in adequate quantity.
The case of the textile industry, which during its heydays was the second largest employer of labour in the country, illustrates better how the capitalist system and principles could wreak havoc on industries in a neo-colonial economy. Today, the nation’s textile industry is a shadow of its old self, gradually folding up with an evaporating workforce.
Walter Rodney had argued in “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” that considering the lateness of Africa to the uneven market of global capitalism, it would be difficult or almost impossible for indigenous African bourgeoisie to compete with manufacturing interests of advanced capitalist societies of Europe and America.. Rodney was right and still correct today that it is only a policy of intensive concentration of state’s resources towards shifting African societies from supplier of raw material to an industrialised society capable of processing its raw materials that could hasten the development of Africa to such degree of development obtainable in Europe and America. But this is not possible in a world economy dominated by imperialism, as the main capitalist powers’ control of the market generally does not allow the development of new rivals unless, like in Malaysia and South Korea, the imperialists had strategic reasons to let these countries develop. This is an illustration of how a capitalist economy operates essentially on the principle of securing first and foremost profits for the few, privileged elites called the ruling class. In Nigeria, the ruling class accumulates enough wealth from the sales of crude oil, with more than enough pecks from unlawful access to public funds through the fraudulent contract-system and outright conversion of national asset for private ownership; and therefore does not see it as profitable to develop the wider economy
There is the fear by the ruling class of potential revolt of a frustrated population of unemployed and impoverished people; and former President Olusegun Obasanjo has been warning his capitalist colleagues of the threat that an unemployed youthful population pose to the collective interest of Nigeria’s capitalism. This explains the tokens that are vaunted by the ruling class as job creation strategy, which are only intended to confuse the masses and give the false impression of action. The Npower programme for example has only succeeded in enrolling 500, 000 graduates for a monthly allowance of N30, 000 in a scheme that could pass as an upgraded version of the National Youth Service Corps scheme meanwhile NYSC pays 19, 800 monthly for a year and Npower pays 30, 000 monthly for two years of volunteering work, with both schemes sharing the quality of casual work, job insecurity and not being pensionable. No pro-people government would tie the future of a teeming population of young people and millennials to such temporary half-measured programme.
A socialist government would address the question of job creation differently. As part of socialist plan, it shall immediately renationalise major public infrastructures and assets that have been sold or concessioned to private concerns, in order to ensure that infrastructures such as electricity, steel, banking, oil and gas, maritime, etc. that are crucial to a productive economy are controlled by the people. It shall also put the nationalised industries under the democratic control of Nigerian working people and masses. The economy will be consciously planned to create jobs, build affordable houses, modern transport systems, good health care and education. Corrupt practices rooted in the contract-system, and embraced by successive sections of the Nigerian ruling class, shall be replaced by a functioning and democratically-controlled public works department. It is this kind of arrangement that would put an end to the hold of a few privileged elites over the collective interest of the Nigerian people that can open up new jobs while building our country into a modern, industrialised society. It would set an example for other countries to follow, thereby contributing to the struggle against imperialism.
Neither the Buhari’s APC (that has adopted almost every policy of his predecessor under different acronyms) nor the PDP alternative (led by Abubakar Atiku who chaired the National Council on Privatisation that sold out much of this country’s assets to political cronies) can change their skin and betray the wealthy interest funding their current electoral ambitions. It is only a political party, such as the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), with programmes that would abolish the control of a few privileged elites over our common wealth that can implement such radical measures that would turn this country around for good.