BUHARI GOVERNMENT AND THE WORKING MASSES
BUHARI GOVERNMENT AND THE WORKING MASSES
By Ayo Ademiluyi
A lot of hopes, which were in fact illusions, attended the electoral campaign of Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives’ Congress and his subsequent inauguration as President of Nigeria. This is based on the fact that the electoral victory in itself is an historical event with the coming into power, for the first time, of an opposition candidate as President of Nigeria alongside the ousting of the discredited Jonathan regime.
Buhari equally raised populist slogans of “anti-corruption”, etc among others. Claiming to be a “reformed” democrat, given the odious character of the military regime of Buhari in the mid-1980s, he swept to power on the crest of serious mass illusions.
However, over two months after, the question is that: to what extent, if any, has Buhari been able to meet the expectations of the broad masses? As far as genuine socialists are concerned, the fact that the Buhari government will operate within the precincts of capitalism will set it against the fundamental interests of the working masses and a renewed period of bitter mass struggles will open up, as the regime unfolds neo-liberal attacks.
Unending intra-class wrangling under the Buhari Presidency
The first series of events that immediately put the broad masses in the perspective that the state of events under the Buhari regime will not be fundamentally different from the former regimes is the leadership crisis that ravaged the National Assembly. The competing material interests within the All Progressives Congress came to the fore as fighting broke out into the open over “who” becomes “what” in the positions of the leadership of the National Assembly.
This only confirms the position of genuine socialists that the current issue of contention within the entire ruling class, irrespective of their different political shades is not about neo-liberal economic policies, but about their “cuts” from the “big loots”. The Buhari regime and all the elements in the All Progressives Congress do not disagree about privatization, deregulation, commercialization but who to appropriately share “offices”, which are the means of self-enrichment within the ruling class.
Buhari’s “anti-corruption campaign”: A Chase after Former Shadows
To keep true to his election promises, the Buhari regime has kick-started an “anti-corruption” campaign with the planned probe of the ministers of the outgone Jonathan regime. This is generating illusions that the Buhari regime is about to “shake up the system”.
It is clear that the “anti-corruption campaign” will be a largely “public relations” stunt to give the regime a populist boost, as it falters to meet the aspirations and expectations of the working people. Of course, a few looters may be chased and even imprisoned, but it will only be a few, mainly those out of favor with the current regime. It is not at all accidental that the All Progressives Congress’s membership has swelled with the same-of-the-same traditional bourgeois politicians, who should be behind the bars. The “smartest” have found a big shield from the “anti-corruption campaign” by crossing from the “sinking ship” of the People’s Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.
Pay cut for President and Vice-President
Apparently to show “solidarity” with the oppressed poor in the face of the economic crisis, the President, Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo made a “pay cut” by slashing their annual salaries by half. However, the reality is that this represents a piecemeal off the “big chunk” given to these two dominant capitalist elements.
Buhari could not dare extend these “pay cut”, as little as it seems, to the political office holders as this would be shot down by the voracious ruling class elements hell-bent on self-enrichment. Socialists argue that candidates that emerge from a genuine working class political platform must take the average wage of a skilled worker. However, within the capitalist basis upon which the Buhari regime operates, it cannot implement such measures.
Labour Movement and the Buhari regime
However, rank-and-file workers are faced with the hurdle of a passive and divided leadership in the labour movement and must be prepared to surmount that hurdle to wage successful struggles in the coming period. Both the two competing factions of the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Wabba-led and Ajaero-led groupings, have refused and neglected to come out with a comprehensive working class agenda upon which they would task the regime.
While it was reported that the Wabba-led faction upon a visit to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, demanded an upward review of the N18, 000 minimum wage, so far there is no clear sign of any programme of action to push the demand for increase. Unfortunately the same is true of the Ajaero-led which called for a N90, 000 minimum wage at its Lagos May Day rally this year. The danger is that we could just see a verbal bidding war between the two factions but no serious campaigning by either Wabba or Ajaero. There is equally no plan to lead a concerted national action on the issue of unpaid workers’ salaries. Workers in different states are left to slug it out with their respective State Governors and this is in the face of unwilling labour leaderships in the states, who are most times on the payroll of the State Governors.
This lackluster picture of the labour movement cannot be separated from the steady degeneration of the trade unions through the crass opportunism of the labour leaders, personal battle for positions and absence of input of the rank-and-file workers into the democratic running of the trade unions. The challenge before rank-and-file workers and genuine socialist activists is to strive to reclaim the trade unions as mass fighting organisations of the working people.
Looming Neo-liberal Attacks and Preparing for the Mass Fightback
This is even more so as neo-liberal attacks loom in the coming period. The Buhari regime has unashamedly stated that it will continue privatization, albeit in a “clean manner”. With the agitation over the rot in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), a leading propagandist of the All Progressives Congress and the Kaduna State Governor, Ahmed El-Rufai, has called for the privatization of the NNPC. The privatization of NNPC would mean handing over the single source of state revenue to the hands of private sharks.
However, it should be stressed that while the NNPC is at present supposedly publicly owned the fact is that it is being run to gratify greed and self-serving interests of a few in the position of authority and their lackeys. Socialists argue that for the NNPC to serve the economy and generate resources to meet the needs of the working masses it has to be put under a democratic control by elected representatives of the working people. But this arrangement cannot be initiated or supported by a capitalist government like Buhari’s.
Pushing for a genuine working people’s political alternative
This is one of the reasons that all the struggles for a better deal and improvement under Buhari government must be linked to the quest for a genuine working people’s political alternative. The struggle to reclaim the trade unions must be linked to the struggle to build a genuine mass working people’s political alternative that encompasses the broader trade union movement.
It was recently reported that the former National Chairman of the Labour Party, Dan Iwuanyanwu handed over the Certificate of Registration of the party, in his custody, to the Ayuba Wabba-led faction of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). While this action is dramatic, it also symbolizes the unending striving for control of the Party between the labour bureaucrats and the party leadership.
It would be recalled that last year, towards the end of the Abdulwahed Omar-led leadership of the NLC, there was an attempt to “take over” the party by the NLC, which was stoutly resisted by the outgoing Iwuanyanwu-led Labour Party leadership. This in turn led to the constitution of the Salisu Muhammed-led Caretaker Committee by the NLC, which hopes that the trade unions will recruit two million members for the version of the Labour Party it claims to lead.
Why the turnaround by Dan Iwuanyanwu to surrender the party’s Certificate to the NLC? One, it reflects the no lost love between Iwuanyanwu and the current Labour Party leadership, in fact Iwuanyanwu sent a letter last February 13 resigning from the Party. Two, it also reflects the possible bond between Iwuanyanwu and the Wabba-led faction shown in the handing over of the party’s Certificate to the “original owners”, maybe Iwuanyanwu is looking for a new installment of his political career in a NLC sponsored party.
It is equally another issue whether a substantively-elected National Executive Committee by a National Convention observed by the Independent National Electoral Commission can be supplanted by a mere possession of the Certificate of Registration. This is added to the fact that the Wabba-led NLC faction is without numerical support within the registered Party to call a factional National Convention that can elect a factional National Executive Committee. It remains to be seen whether the trade unions really sign up two million members into their Labour Party grouping and, if they do so, whether they are real, active members or a passive, paper membership enrolled by their trade union leaders.
Meanwhile the official, INEC recognized, Abdulkadir Salam led Labour Party has moved to distance itself a little from the PDP, verbally pretend it is linked to the trade unions and make a little media show to demonstrate that it’s still alive. Clearly it will fight to retain its INEC registration.
But these sort of maneuvers mean nothing to the great mass of Nigerians who have no party of their own that genuinely fights for their interests. The outstanding reality is that the task of a new party is posed, if at all the leadership of the labour movement is serious or keen. However, given that the Wabba-led faction does not represent any break from the general run of the same-of-the-same labour bureaucrats, the claims to reposition the Party may not be different from the search for moneybag candidates clothed as “credible candidates”.
The state of Labour Party reflects the sad picturesque of the workers’ movement in Nigeria, politically disarmed and lacking a visionary leadership. Genuine socialists, while observing closely the recent developments within the Labour Party, would continue to push the agenda of a genuine working people’s political alternative that emerges from the rebuilt sinews of the workers’ movement on a clear working class programme, which includes the democratic running of the party by the rank-and-file.
This is why the current effort to battle for the registration of the Socialist Party of Nigeria, initiated by the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and other working class elements is important. A successful struggle for the registration of the SPN would open wider opportunities to lay the basis for the working class and poor to build and be active in their own political movement that can struggle for change, stand working class candidates in the coming election and push socialist programmes. This would serve as a striking example to the wider workers’ movement in the search for a genuine mass working people’s political alternative. This is why we of the DSM combine the struggle to register SPN with the campaign for a mass working people party on socialist programme.