Economist Magazine Endorses Obi
But there is no genuine option for working people among Obi, Tinubu and Atiku
DSM calls on Working People and Youth to vote Sowore
By Peluola Adewale
The British Economist magazine, a prominent organ of global capitalism, has endorsed Peter Obi in Nigeria’s 2023 presidential election taking place on Saturday February 25. It similarly backed Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, albeit “with a heavy heart”.
In its February 18 editorial in which it backs Obi, the Economist pillories Bola Tinubu of the APC and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP
It dismisses Tinubu’s manifesto as veering “from the fanciful (tackling jihadists by topping up the water in Lake Chad) to the incoherent (claiming to back both import substitution and the African Continental Free Trade Area)”.
Atiku is equally said not to be better. His ideas for industrialisation and 1 million new police officers are said not only to be grandiose but also that he has no plan for how to pay for them.
The Economist clearly has a soft spot for Obi. But it finds it difficult to turn a blind eye to what is obvious to any dispassionate listener to Obi, which is the lack of coherence and clarity on how to resolve Nigeria’s economic woes in his plan. The Editorial says: “He diagnoses the country’s failings more precisely than his rivals, though he is not much better at explaining how he would fix them”. What the wiseacres of this capitalist mouthpiece refuse to acknowledge is that Obi promote the same economic model as his rivals, even though with a populist bent. On at least one occasion, he has publicly disavowed any fundamental disagreement with Atiku on policy issues.
The fact is that in the face of deepening global capitalist crisis and the egregious fiscal mess to be inherited from Buhari, none of the three musketeers has silver bullet to turn around the economy.
Some perceptive strategists of capitalism have begun to come to a similar conclusion.
Bloomberg did a report on Monday February 20 titled “Investors Already Bet Nigeria’s Next Leader Has No Chance of Fixing Fiscal Crisis”.
“Difficult Policy Decisions”
But while they cannot fix the crisis, they Tinubu, Atiku and Obi have all promised to compound the current hardship in the name of a solution.
On the basis of capitalism especially in a neo-colonial country, whatever is preferred as a solution usually compounds the same economic problem.
The United Kingdom’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has met the trio and also Rabiu Kwankwaso on behalf of western imperialism. She told Channels TV on February 21: “They have all published their manifestoes. What is quite striking is how similar they are. I did not see huge policy differences among the big four. They have all told us how important it is to take those difficult policy decisions.” (Premium Times, February 22).
She underscores the fact that their policies are similar. But what are the difficult policy decisions they have assured the western imperialism they would implement?
These are contained in their manifestoes and speeches.
They plan to increase petrol prices under the guise of petrol subsidy removal. The provision for petrol subsidy in this year budget ends in June. So, Buhari has already passed on the burden of that “difficult policy decision” to the next president who will be inaugurated on May 29. Petrol is currently selling between N185 and N300. After the removal of the so-called subsidy the prices may be high as N800, the current price of diesel which is fully deregulated. Also, working people must not be deceived by the propaganda of the ruling elite and media. Having local private refineries does not mean the prices of petrol will be low. A good example is the rising prices of cement despite being locally produced. The working people will pay high prices for Dangote’s petrol. He is in the business for super profit. Atiku, Tinubu or Obi are not prepared to build public refineries. Indeed, the three of them are vicariously liable for the country’s inability to build new public refineries in the last 24 years. Atiku was vice president of Obasanjo government. Obi was an economic adviser to Jonathan. Tinubu is the national leader of Buhari’s APC.
They plan to devalue naira note ostensibly in order to tackle the multiple foreign exchange rates. Unfortunately, the expected inability to significantly improve the forex supply side in an import dependent economy means that the objective is not likely to be achieved as there will still be a considerable spread between official rate and black-market rate. Yet, a naira devaluation and higher prices of petrol will feed into the already excruciating inflationary pressure. This should be a lesson learned from the Buhari/Osinbajo misadventures in 2016.
To tackle the crisis of funding of universities and the incessant strikes, they plan to deny children from working class and poor backgrounds access to university education by imposing high tuition fees rather than increase education funding.
The above are just part of a package of the anti-poor capitalist policies that the three leading capitalist candidates plan to implement. A vote for any of them is an open support for the planned capitalist assault on working people and the poor. The Economist is apparently supporting Obi because as its editorial says “Obi talks of supporting business, freer trade, and getting a grip on Nigeria’s mounting debts.” In other words, he is best suited to implement those “difficult policy decisions” i.e. neo-liberal policies and austerity measures. But even so the Economist feels compelled to point out that “Obi is not entirely a new broom. He was Mr Abubakar’s vice-presidential running-mate in 2019 before switching parties. He has faced questions over undeclared offshore assets”.
By and large, given the lack of any real difference among the trio, the only way to fully understand the Economist’s endorsement of Obi is imperialism’s morbid fear that a victory for either Atiku or Tinubu would not guarantee stability for the system in the next period. Due to how they are perceived as old and part of the rotten establishment, they are afraid that a victory for either of the two would accelerate the process of the class struggle whereas a victory for Obi, due to his populism and his candidacy on the platform of a Labour Party, can act as a brake on the movement allowing for a much easier implementation of brutal economic reforms.
Nonetheless, regardless of who wins among the trio, the working people and youth have to be prepared to struggle to defeat the policies.
The leaderships of both Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress have called on workers to vote Obi. This is despite the fact that Obi’s neo-liberal programme is clearly antithetical to the interests of workers including the limited ‘Workers Charter of Demands’. Workers should be prepared to force the labour leaders to organize mass struggle and resistance if Obi wins.
We of the DSM are giving critical support to Omoyele Sowore in the election. Despite the limitation of his programme, he is the only one with a fighting programme around which the change seeking people can be mobilised and engaged in the struggle against the mainstream anti poor capitalist agenda of the leading parties. As we argue in our statement of critical support for Sowore, his programme though limited can serve as a starting point for conversations about what Socialism is all about and how a movement and party that stand for the programmes of Socialism can be built.
Therefore, the class struggle that may break out after the election given the anti-poor plan of any of the likely winners, highlighted above, has to be linked to the need for building of a mass working people party with a socialist programme. We of the DSM will continue to be involved in such a process.