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Socialist Democracy June-July 2018


8 June 2018

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Socialist Democracy

June-July 2018 Edition

3 YEARS OF BUHARI/OSINBAJO APC GOVERNMENT: Which Way Nigeria?

(Extract of the resolutions reached at 22nd DSM Congress held on 14 -15 April, 2018)

Perhaps more than any written texts could have done, the events of the past three years in Nigeria have in immeasurable ways confirmed the teachings of Marxism. In 2015, driven by anger over the 16-year misrule of the PDP, the working masses and youth pitched their tent with the so-called progressive wing of the capitalist class represented by the then opposition All Progressive Congress (APC). Partly this reflected a turn towards the ballot box after the January 2012 mass protest and general strike, despite being the ninth and most far-reaching general strike since 1999, had not removed the Jonathan presidency.

"An ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory" so said V.I Lenin, the leader of the October 1917 Russian Socialist revolution. The abysmal failure of the Buhari/Osinbajo All Progressive Congress (APC) government on the economic and political fronts despite the hope and expectation of over 15 million voters, the rising poverty and inequality despite exit from recession, etc. all of these are the ounce of example that is niw demonstrating in the consciousness of a deeply frustrated, angry and disenchanted working class and youth that nothing has really changed.

HOW AND WHY DID THE APC FAIL?

Over the last three years, we have written copiously about the Buhari/Osinbajo APC government and why it has failed. But as the popular saying goes; "So far bed bugs persist, there can be no end to blood stained finger nails". We will therefore reiterate in summary a few points about why it was inevitable that things are as they are at the moment.

The crisis of inequality, unemployment and underdevelopment in Nigeria is first and foremost a crisis of capitalism. Capitalism refers to a social and economic system under which the means of production and exchange (i.e. industries, oil and gas, energy, mines, commerce, ports, banks etc.) are under the control of a tiny fraction of the population while members of the working class can only survive by selling their labour power. By virtue of its ownership of the means of production, the capitalist class is able to corner over 80% of the country's wealth while leaving just 20% to the rest of the population. Since under capitalism, production is determined by the market and the profit-system, the result is periodic crises which capitalism tries to make the working and middle classes pay for.

It is the unequal relation to the means of production that is at the root of inequality and underdevelopment. Therefore Nigeria's problem is not simply a product of corruption, non-diversification of the economy, lack of visionary leadership and all the pretty but empty phrases which local and international liberal commentators and tragically the leadership of the labour movement often use to hoodwink the working masses. To the extent that they are of any use to understanding the problem, all the aforementioned causes are merely the by-products, not the fundamental factors, of the crises of capitalism especially in the condition of a neo-colony.

As a neo-colonial capitalist country, Nigeria's economy is dependent on the world market in line with the global division of labour between the advanced industrialized capitalist countries and the periphery. Fundamentally, this is what informs the character of Nigeria's national economy with a mono-export product i.e. crude oil, low industrial base and weak public infrastructures that can support investment. Also it is this condition of dependence and the narrow limits for capital acquisition and investment that in turn determines the prebendalist and comprador character of the local bourgeoisie as well as its political representatives. Only the overthrowing of the system and its replacement by a democratic socialist system can begin to permit the use of Nigeria's enormous wealth to develop all parts of the country and improve the lives of the majority.

But even if Nigeria's capitalist economy were, by a miracle, to be well diversified, industrialized and the government endowed with sincere, forward-looking and visionary leaders, the result would still be the same in terms of inequality and mass poverty for the majority. A look at South Africa, the most industrialized and developed economy on the continent which paradoxically is also one of the most unequal, clearly proves that without overthrowing capitalism, an industrialized or diversified economy i.e. a modern capitalist economy, will not automatically mean an improvement in the conditions of the working masses. Part of the reason for this also lies in the current unstable situation of world capitalism which prevents long periods of stable economic growth.

Therefore the fundamental reason Buhari/Osinbajo APC government failed is because it implemented the very capitalist economic policies like privatization, deregulation, underfunding, Public Private Partnership which were the hallmark of PDP's 16 years misrule. The result was that the regime deepened the private ownership of the means of production by sanctifying privatization including that of the power sector carried out by previous governments while trying to accomplish its own in the aviation and other sectors. In doing this, instead of improving the lots of the people, the regime succeeded at deepening the grinding poverty and inequality afflicting the mass majority.

SOCIAL INVESTMENT PROGRAMME

At the on-set of the administration, the Buhari government promised a set of Social Investment Programme (SIP) which includes a monthly Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) of N5, 000 each to one million vulnerable Nigerians, school feeding and a job creation scheme called N-Power Volunteers Corps. So far, all these promised social reforms have proven to be far below the requirements of the social crises of capitalism. Just like Sure-P which was established by the previous PDP administration of President Jonathan, the SIP has had little or no impact either on the poverty level or the rate of youth unemployment.

The impotence of the SIP is graphically illustrated by the following media report at the beginning of this year: "On Jan. 1, Nigeria welcomed 20,210 babies and accounted for the third highest number on newborns on the first day of the New Year behind only India and China. That statistic has proven yet another reminder of the population boom in Africa's most populous country. Much of the current data suggests the population growth spurt isn't slowing down anytime soon. A UN report last year projected that, by 2050, Nigeria will become the world's third largest country by population and one of the six nations with a population of over 300 million" (Quartz Africa, January 5, 2018).

The quotes above show the terrible disaster awaiting the country. Roughly, 80 million people, 41 percent of Nigeria's population, are under the age of 15. Anything short of redirecting economy away from profit to providing free public education, health care, decent jobs for all and massive public housing projects will be insufficient to prevent this disaster. According to the nation's Statistician General, Nigeria needs to create 2 million jobs annually to be able to reverse the growing rate of unemployment (The Cable, 15 December, 2016).

Meanwhile according to Oxfam International, the combined wealth of five of Nigeria's "richest citizens (Aliko Dangote; Mike Adenuga; Femi Otedola; Folorunsho Alakija, and Abdulsamad Rabiu), put at about $29.9bn, could end extreme poverty in the nation." (Punch, 18 May 2017). It is this kind of injustice in wealth distribution, a key feature of capitalism that is behind the enormous poverty and lack of opportunity for young people. By taking the wealth off the one percent through collective ownership of key sectors of the economy under public democratic control and management, it will be possible to provide free public education, health care, housing and jobs for all.

BUHARI'S ANTI-CORRUPTION WAR

One of the cardinal campaign agenda of the Buhari/All Progressive Congress (APC) is the fight against corruption, reduction of waste and profligacy. However, three years on, the anti-corruption war has unravelled. Neither has corruption and cost of governance sufficiently reduced.

Ultimately, it is illusory to expect any wing of the capitalist political class to fight corruption genuinely, when the system they defend and their route to power are rooted in brazen corruption. Socialists do not deny that real action against corruption could free resources to implement some reforms. But, while welcome, such actions would not solve the fundamental issues of development and corruption. Capitalism itself is corrupt. Only its overthrow can begin to halt the looting of the country.

NATIONAL QUESTION

Ethno-religious relation is rapidly deteriorating under the Buhari APC administration. Just in the last three years, the Buhari government which met a fiery Boko Haram insurgency has been confronted by new conflicts like the massacre of Shiites, IPOB and Biafra agitation, herdsmen versus farmers' conflicts and killings by militias and armed gang.

While the government claims to have "technically" defeated Boko Haram, the recent Dapchi abduction shows that the insurgency is far from over even if the insurgents are weakened. But at this stage, it cannot be entirely ruled out that some "solution" can be found leading an end to armed hostilities. But so long the parlous socio-economic situation in the North East remain the same then it is only a matter of time before violence breaks out again.

HERDSMEN AND FARMERS CONFLICT

At the moment, the hottest and bloodiest aspect of the national question is the herdsmen and farmers conflict. This conflict has left a trail of bodies, destruction and anxiety across communities in the North Central and North West zones of the country. In clear and unmistakable terms, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) condemns the killings. We reject the attempts by Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBA), Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and other characters who claim to speak for Fulani herdsmen to justify the Benue killings.

At the same time, attacks by farming communities, including reprisals, in which ordinary Fulani people, herdsmen and their livestock have been targeted stands equally condemnable. While communities under attack have the right to defend themselves, with arms if necessary, by forming democratic defense committees, Socialists strongly condemn such reprisal attacks like the lynching of seven random Fulani men at a bus park in Benue State. In the meantime we call for joint, multi-ethnic and multi-religious defense committees comprising farmers and pastoralists and armed if necessary to defend their communities, people, farmlands/farm produce and cattle against attacks.

The herdsmen and farmers conflict is clearly a struggle for survival and economic sustenance by farmers and pastoralists. It is payment for decades of lack of plan for rational use of natural resource. Furthermore, it also reflects the limitation placed on capitalist development in a neo-colonial country like Nigeria by imperialism. Without ranching, any steps taken to resolve the crisis will only bring temporary relief. The government has to step in to establish public ranches for use by cattle breeders in exchange for a fee. But none of these measures can be truly implemented or sustained so long as capitalism exists.

Therefore the permanent solution to end farmers and pastoralist conflict require the coming to power both in Nigeria and Africa of workers and poor people's governments based on mass movements and armed with socialist programmes of collective ownership of agriculture and other key sectors of the economy under working people's control and management.

RESTRUCTURING

Once again, especially as intra-class rivalry within the ruling elite intensifies, there are strident calls for restructuring. In the wisdom of a section of the bourgeoisie, a return to the regional system of government or a reworking of the political system to take more power from the centre to the states will automatically resolve the crises of poverty and underdevelopment bedevilling Nigeria. The Buhari government has responded with its characteristic nonchalance or outright rejection of the calls for restructuring.

The attitude of the Buhari government clearly shows it has no interest to even make attempts, even if symbolic, to redress the structural crisis in the political system. But even if it tries to, the reality is that no measure can ever make the rotten political system to work fairly. Previous efforts, including state creation, have only created new contradictions.

CAPITALISM SUFFERS A CRISIS OF POLITICAL REPRESENTATION

As the 2019 general elections draws near, the growing division among the capitalist ruling elite has become so irreconcilable. The internal crises in the APC which most likely would lead to the sacrificing of Party chairman Oyegun by June is symptomatic of the division. So also is the inability of the PDP to serve as a credible alternative. In fact despite mass disappointment in the ruling APC, many still view the PDP with justified disgust and indignation.

Underlying this division is their inability to agree on a credible political representation for their capitalist system of exploitation and its basically neo-liberal policies which they hope to continue to force through the throat of the Nigeria working people after the 2019 general elections. The Buhari regime's approval rating slumped to 45% in December 2017, from a high of 80% in October 2015. What this implies is that the political credibility needed by Buhari/APC regime to continue to preside over the capitalist system of exploitation and the fundamentally neo-liberal agenda of the local ruling elite and their imperialist masters has suffered a huge decline. Meanwhile, the ruling elite are conscious of the fact that without such credibility it will be difficult to sustain the implementation of the anti-poor policies and orientation of the government after 2019 general election without a massive resistance from the working people.

However unlike Jonathan in 2015, there still exists a prospect for Buhari's re-election in 2019 (that is if he does not succumb to pressure not to run on account of his age and health) despite the decline in his support base. Buhari hails from the hugely-populated North where he has a significant support base with huge existence of ethno-religious bias, in addition to his cult-hero status in Northwest and Northeast that has potential to attract big votes in his favour.

But it is not all certain that the North will act in unison as it did in 2015. Adding to the uncertainty over a united Northern vote for Buhari is the herdsmen versus farmers' conflict and the anger at how the Buhari government has handled it. Buhari's candidacy may face a lot of opposition in some North Central states and we cannot rule out Governor Ortom of Benue state defecting from the ruling party. It is equally possible that other Northern candidates like Atiku could benefit from this situation by garnering the Northern vote in these areas. But whether President Buhari seeks a re-election or not, the 2019 general election might still suffer from apathy. Even in 2015, according to INEC's official figures, only a minority of registered voters, 43.65%, bothered to vote. A further sign of this questioning of elections is that there are still 7.9 million people who registered before the 2015 general elections who have not yet claimed their permanent voters' cards (PVCs).

The reality of course is that in the absence of a working class political party like SPN coming into power, the 2019 general election will as usual end up producing a government whose objective will be to continue to force down the throat of the masses, anti-poor, neo-liberal policies, while safeguarding the interests of big business. More anti-poor policies await the working masses should this happen. Surely, these attacks will meet mass resistance, as the labour leadership may be compelled to lead mass struggle. The masses, having exhausted all 'peaceful' means may move to the arena of struggle. But without clear measures to fight back against these anti-masses policies by the labour leaderships there could be the danger of further slide into ethnic or religious violence or conflict, something which could be encouraged by the rival sections of the ruling elites.

SPN AND 2019 GENERAL ELECTION

The 2019 general elections will no doubt offer an opportunity for socialists and students, youth and labour activist to campaign and win support for a revolutionary programme. Although, the current political strength of SPN may not be sufficient at the present time to stop Obasanjo and other characters in the ruling class from again imposing either Buhari or another effigy come 2019, however, given the yearning for fresh ideas and alternative, it is potentially possible for the SPN to win a few seats at Local Government and Houses of Assembly levels. What is required is for the party to concentrate its small force and mobilise popular support in areas of significant presence and where victory is secured, use the opportunity to demonstrate what the party can do in power.

But the SPN's impact could be far greater if the trade unions and other popular organisations joined in its work to build a working peoples' alternative. Unfortunately some trade union leaders look to follow Adams Oshiomhole's example of pursuing a political career in a capitalist party. Some simply support so-called "workers' friendly" capitalist politicians without seriously examining what they doing. Others talk about "taking back" the Labour Party without drawing any lessons from its degeneration or putting forward any coherent programme. At the recent NLC 40th anniversary celebration its president, Ayuba Wabba, spoke abstractly about "the need for the working class to wrest power from the current political elites through the Labour Party" (Business Day, February 26, 2018), but the NLC leaders have done nothing seriously to put such radical words into practice. However it cannot be ruled out that some union leaders may try to use the Labour Party banner both in attempt to cut across genuine moves towards a working peoples' party and also to have a bargaining chip to use with in negotiations with capitalist politicians.

The Labour Party's failure is a central reason why the SPN was formed and is attempting to take steps towards building a working peoples' party independent from the parties of the elite. Even in a situation where the SPN did not win any seats next year, its involvement in the coming election alone will help to popularize the fact that there exists a better but alternative way through which society can be organized for the benefit of all against the prevailing situation whereby the profit interests of the few members of the capitalist class determine the basis of running the society.

We are demanding for a probe of the power sector since 1999 including the over $16 billion expended on the power sector as well as the activities of the Generating, Transmission and Distribution companies. The probe panel should be made up of elected representatives of workers, professionals, unions, pro-people organisations etc. We are also demanding the nationalization of the power sector and its placement under democratic management of workers and consumers as one major step at reorganizing the power sector to meet the electricity needs of all.