2023 Election: Tinubu and Package of Lies
None of Bourgeois Presidential Aspirants Can Resolve Nigeria’s Economic Woe
The electoral campaigns for 2023 presidential election have started with different capitalist politicians slugging out for the tickets of the two major parties: APC and PDP. Among the contestants is Bola Tinubu, the first governor of Lagos State since the return to civil rule in 1999. He has been able to build a behemoth electoral machine, fueled with the resources of the state, that ensures that his different protégés have been installed as the successive governors of the state since he left office in 2007. The man who the Financial Times aptly described as Nigeria’s Svengali, also played a principal role in the formation of the APC, which upstaged an incumbent government for the first time in Nigeria’s history, and the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari.
By Peluola Adewale
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a protégé of Tinubu, has also put his hat in the ring, something that has triggered a bitter civil war in the Southwest section of the APC as supporters of Tinubu condemn that decision. Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation and a former governor of oil rich Rivers state, is another strong contender in the party. Whoever emerges in the APC may likely face Atiku Abubakar from the PDP, former Vice President and a well-heeled, perennial presidential candidate. So, the contest both at the party level and in the general election does not seem to be a walkover for Tinubu despite his humongous election war chest. Meanwhile, according to Financial Times many Nigerians say a Tinubu-Abubakar run off would be depressing (FT February 14). This may not be unconnected to their old age and the fact the both are seen as the major symbols of corruption that many think is responsible for the woe of the country.
Having left a political office for many years, Tinubu believed he needed to brag about what he considered his achievement as a governor of Lagos in order to underscore his suitability for the position of President especially in the face of the current deepening economic crisis. But as it is often the case with bourgeois politicians, his bragging is usually a package of lies and half-truth.
For instance, at a recent public campaign meeting, he boasted:
“With zero allocation from FAAC, I turned Lagos State around and today, the State has become the largest economy in Africa. I reserve the right to brag. I want to bring same to bear as President of Nigeria.”
This quote, which was extracted and digitally highlighted by a national newspaper, was widely circulated by his supporters on the social media to present him as the man with the magic wand to turn around Nigeria’s economic crisis. Social media are actively dominated by young people, majority of whom may know little or nothing about events that happened close to two decades ago. Almost two-thirds of Nigeria’s population is said to under the age of 24. So, occasionally it could be incumbent on Socialists to expose lies or deceit by a bourgeois politician or institution and set the record straight without creating any illusion in, or line the working people behind, other bourgeois rivals or a section of the ruling elite.
No Zero Allocation
Tinubu’s claim of receiving zero allocation from the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) is an outright and blatant lie. There was no time that Lagos State got a zero allocation from FAAC. What President Olusegun Obasanjo withheld, albeit illegally, in 2004 was the allocation to the local governments as a separate tier of government. This was following the dispute between the state and federal governments over the creation of additional 37 local government areas by the state.
In other words, Lagos was paid completely what was due to it as a state government while the allocation to Local Governments was illegally seized for three out of the eight years of Tinubu’s governorship. The next President after Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, released the money, which was said to be about N10.8bn, to Lagos state in 2007.
However, this is not the first time Tinubu has tried to manipulate the fact of the withheld local government to fraudulently enrich his political capital. This was observed by the US diplomats that he met over the issue. In the cable dated ‘2005 March 18, 07:36 (Friday)’ which is part of the trove of classified correspondence and reports of the US embassies and secret agents globally that was released by Wikileaks, the US diplomats write:
“Comment: We think Tinubu is overstating the fiscal impact of the withheld local government council revenues. Lagos State continues to receive its state allocation from the Federal government and of all 36 states in the federation, it has the highest internally generated revenues (IGRs). Lagos State generates roughly 4 million Naira/month in IGR and receives an additional estimated 3.3 million Naira/month from the federal government as its state allocation. The withheld local government council revenues are approximately 2.4 million Naira/month. Separately, the Chair of the Finance Committee in the Lagos State House of Representatives confided to us that the State has enough money to cover recurring costs, implement capital projects, and provide social services as usual. A private economic consultant echoed this view.” The US Embassy apparently made an error of putting the figures in million instead of billion in the cable.
They added: “The real issue is that local government revenues are the “pork” that governors spread to shore up their power base. Tinubu is no exception among governors in this practice. However, as the sole AD governor in the country, Tinubu really feels the political pinch when his “pork” goes missing.” To understand what these US diplomats meant it is necessary to know that in the US “pork” or “pork barrel” politics refers to politicians spending taxpayers’ money on bribes or on their own constituents in order to gather or maintain support.
The FAAC allocation to all local governments in a state is paid into a joint account between the state and local governments. The state is required to share the allocation to each local government. But all state governors either appropriate this allocation to the state government or give a fraction to the local government. This is why they hardly organize local government election or when they do it is a farce to “legally” put their stooges in the local councils. This is a major reason for the agitation for local government autonomy.
Africa’s Largest Economy
Tinubu also bragged that Lagos is now the largest economy in Africa as a result of his purported turnaround of the state. This is apparently a slip. Maybe, he wanted to say Africa’s city with the largest economy. But it is debatable whether that itself is a fact. What is widely acknowledged is that Lagos, if it were a country, is Africa’s 7th largest economy.
In any case, Tinubu promised to bring to bear in Nigeria how he purportedly helped grow Lagos to become Africa’s largest economy. But Nigeria is already, largely by virtue of its huge population and oil, the largest economy in the continent in spite of him, and with nothing fundamentally to show for it in terms of infrastructure and decent living condition. Given what obtains in Lagos where Tinubu still calls the shots as the godfather, clearly the situation of Nigeria will not change, even If it does not get worse, with him as President.
The fact is that Lagos is able to generate a huge revenue relatively compared to other states primarily because of its position as the commercial capital and economic hub of Nigeria. It has enormous tax base including a huge population. For instance, in 2020 it generated N412.99bn which is 32 percent of the total IGR realized by the 36 states of the federation. However, this humongous revenue at the disposal of Lagos state, part of which are generated from the criminal super exploitation of the ordinary people, in addition to its huge borrowing, does not translate into a corresponding level of social services provision (functional public education, health care, housing, water) and infrastructure development. For instance, a report by World Bank in 2016 reveals that two out of three people in Lagos live in slums. Workplaces, shops and houses of the poor are demolished without provision of alternative. Public schools and hospitals are grossly understaffed. So, why would Nigeria need again a leader who generates revenue but for a tiny robber elite and not to guarantee a decent life for the vast majority?
Truly, on the basis of capitalist arrangement in a neo colonial economy with parasitic and primitive ruling elite and in the face of the current crisis of global capitalism, Nigeria has a revenue problem. But the much greater problem is the deep economic inequality. This explains why the immediate past oil boom did not translate into mass jobs or lifting ordinary people out of poverty.
There is none of the capitalist politicians or so-called technocrats, especially the neo-liberal goons, subservient to imperialism and market orthodoxy, that can resolve or considerably mitigate the problem of economic and social inequality as a result of the logic of their iniquitous system.
For instance, in the immediate past government of President Jonathan, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, former Manager Director of World Bank and current Director General of World Trade Organisation, was the Coordinating Minister of Economy. Yet, she superintended over the biggest oil boom in Nigeria’s history and had nothing to show in terms of mass jobs, poverty reduction and infrastructure, and even saving for a rainy day, despite Nigeria having become Africa’s biggest economy.
Capitalism has to be defeated in Nigeria through a socialist revolution before its huge human and materials resources can be adequately mobilized, through a socialist planning, to truly develop the country and for the benefit of working people, youth and the poor, and thereby begin to resolve the economic and social inequality. To take a major step in this direction requires the formation and building of a mass workers’ party with a socialist programme that identifies with the daily struggles of ordinary people and can build a mass movement to wrest political power from the thieving capitalist ruling elite.
Meanwhile, given the current crisis over oil production and revenue, public debt burden and petrol subsidy payment, the masses should expect intensification of attacks on living conditions regardless of who emerges as president among the bourgeois politicians in 2023. So, workers, youth, pro-masses’ organisations and labour movement have to be prepared to organise to resist these attacks and anti-poor policies side by side with the need for building a mass workers’ party.