Incurable socio-political crisis requires an urgent working class alternative
It is debatable whether currently there is any other country in the whole world afflicted with a greater socio-political crisis than Nigeria. Potentially, Nigeria should be a success story. With a huge population of about 180 million, two-thirds of whom are estimated to be below 25 years of age, Nigeria should be a flourishing and veritable ground for production of goods and services that give meaning to existence. On top of these high stupendous human resources, Nigeria is also the 7th largest crude oil exporter in the world, with stupendous gas resources yet to be fully explored, plus several other key mineral resources and huge agriculturally fertile land across the country that can make a nation’s economy buoyant.
Despite this prodigious potential for socio-economic greatness, Nigeria has stubbornly remained on the last scale of ladder of development and civilization. “The Economist Intelligence Unit (EUI), a sister company of The Economist Magazine (London) released results of its Where-To-Be-Born Index, 2012 edition, Nigeria is ranked as no. 80 out of the 80 countries assessed, making it the worst country to be born in amongst the countries analysed. Put differently, Nigeria is the least or even the last place the sampled respondents would want to be born. Nigeria is the worst place for a baby to enter the world in 2013, says the survey. According to the EIU, the research "earnestly attempts to measure which country will provide the best opportunities for a healthy, safe and prosperous life in the years ahead”. (ThisDay, November 23, 2012).
Sadly to note, this debilitating socio-economic conditions would most probably become worse in the next two years or so before the next scheduled elections. This is an ugly certainty, not scare mongering. In the midst of Nigeria’s currently pitiable conditions, President Jonathan recently, on a visit to Pakistan, told the media: “Presently, we are generating more than what our transmission capability can evacuate. We have over 1000 megawatts of power that we cannot evacuate because of the transmission infrastructure that have been weak over the years and it was very recently that government started the intervention. But, we have projects that are going on, so before the end of the second quarter, almost middle of next year, most of these projects would have been inaugurated and we will be evacuating power generated. At that time, quite a number of cities will begin to have 24 hour of light. When we get to that point you will see that small scale enterprises will begin to make returns and that is the way we can create jobs”. (Vanguard, November 22, 2012).
The DSM strongly urges the working masses not to believe Jonathan’s Cock and Bull story of future prosperity. South Africa has about a third of Nigeria’s population but produces about 40,000 megawatts of electricity. Currently, Nigeria produces between 3,000 – 4,000 megawatts. According to Jonathan himself, 1,000 megawatts of these cannot be distributed “because of the transmission infrastructure that have been weak over the years”.
Even in South Africa where the capitalist government generates 40,000 megawatts of electricity annually, a considerable portion of the population still have no access to electricity; not to talk of the hardship being faced by the multitude of the working masses to pay for the electricity they have. Thus, for sure, on the basis of the prevailing numerous anti-poor, pro-rich policies and Jonathan’s parlous economic prognosis, life for the vast majority of the working masses/poor can only become a greater nightmare, come 2015 and thereafter.
THE NIGERIAN LABOUR CONGRESS AND 2015 GENERAL ELECTIONS
To halt and end the prevailing socio-economic rot, the perennial mass misery in the midst of abundant human and natural resources, there is the urgent need for the labour movement to proffer a coherent socio-political alternative that places people as the centre of existence and development. This is the template upon which the DSM assesses a recent declaration by the president of AUPCTRE and NLC’s Vice President, Emmanuel Ajoku “that the congress had resolved to take full control of the LP to provide an alternative platform for Nigerians so as to have good governance in the polity”.
The DSM boldly assert that the primary reason for mass misery in the midst of abundant human and natural resources is because of the inherently elitist, profit-driven nature of capitalism. Today, hundreds of thousands of able bodied and skilled manpower are wasting because there are not enough profitable ventures that can give them employment. Presently while the country is still largely under stone-age conditions, the capitalist rulers across parties are not prepared to implement policies that would make it possible to guarantee decent accommodation and food, health care and qualitative education, etc. for the vast majority of Nigerians. Instead, every basic social need of life is to be made available for only those that have sufficient money for food, accommodation, health care, education, transportation, telecommunications, etc.
Suffice to stress, this approach has ab initio limited the number of quality jobs that can be provided at any given time. Fundamentally this is why the capitalist governments, internationally in the traditionally advanced countries of Europe and USA, China along with, Africa, Latin America and Asia have never been able to satisfactorily meet the needs and aspirations of the world working masses and poor. Indeed, for years now, the living standards of workers in Europe and the USA have been under attack. In Nigeria this explains why all the existing ruling parties are led by virtual crooks that are just out to use whatever positions they occupy to enrich themselves at the expense of the people they are supposed to be leading.
The central economic strategy to stop the kind of disharmony of mass misery in the midst of abundance is to put in place a system of collective ownership of the key sectors of the economy under public ownership and democratic control and management of the working masses themselves. Only in this way can the abundant human and natural resources of Nigeria or the world for that matter can be harnessed and equitably distributed amongst the entire populace.
Unfortunately, going by its pronouncement and actions, the main trade union leadership for several years now has not been able to consistently proffer a coherent working people’s driven agenda that will struggle to permanently end the absurdity of mass misery in the midst of abundance. Yes, in recent years, the main trade union organizations, the NLC and TUC have organized several general strikes against the frequent hike of petroleum prices, agitated for the new monthly minimum wage of N18,000 ($ 114), threatened strike over non-payment of workers’ severance pay as the capitalist government steps up the plans to privatize the publicly owned electricity corporation, PHCN, etc. Sadly however, each of the above-cited struggles have been done with incoherent organizational and inadequate working class political strategy.
Despite several general strikes, the price of litre of petrol has risen from N20.00 in 1999 to N97.00 officially since 2012. For several months now, the country has been undergoing crippling fuel shortages forcing fuel users to pay as much as N150.00 per litre when they can get to buy. The monthly minimum wage has been officially legislated at N18,000 since around April 2011. Up till this moment, no state government, nor the federal government, has fully implemented this even poverty wage. Electricity tariffs have gone up repeatedly without any significant improvement in service. Sadly too, the manner in which the NLC leadership is addressing the issue of the labour party clearly shows that the top trade union leaders have not yet woken up to the reality of building a genuine political party of labouring masses and the poor which will be truly committed to a political agenda of utilizing Nigeria’s abundant human and natural resources for the benefit of all, as against the current capitalist system that favours only the rich few and then perpetuate mass misery in the midst of stupendous abundance.
NLC’S MISSION TO RE-CLAIM LABOUR PARTY
Against background of the fact that all the ruling political parties at the central level and in the states are committed to pro-rich, anti-poor, socio-economic policies, NLC leadership decision to take control of the running of the Labour Party ought to be automatically applauded and supported by socialists and all genuine change seeking elements. What would be needed would be firm action to build the Labour Party as a democratic, campaigning force of worker and radical activists that clearly broke with all the rotten, looting traditions of the Nigerian political class. However, going by the political template upon which this decision is based and being implemented, it is almost certain that the current effort will not be able to provide the urgently needed working class socio-political alternative to bring to an end the capitalist socio-political miasma. Hear NLC Vice President Ajoku: “the congress had commenced moves across the country to search for people of proven integrity and credentials that would be used for the exercise in the next general election.” (ThisDay, 22 November, 2012) or “seasoned politicians that would be labour-friendly and willing to churn out the true benefits of democracy to Nigerians”. (The Guardian, 22 November, 2012).
On the basis of this template the DSM is absolutely convinced that the NLC leaders are not out to build a genuine Labour Party that can “provide an alternative platform for Nigerians so as to have good governance in the polity” (ThisDay, 22 November, 2012 ). In contemporary situation that prevails internationally and the specific political climate within Nigeria there is no sections of politicians that can be truly described as “labour friendly”. All the ruling political parties, and unfortunately including the Labour Party presently support and implement pro-capitalist policies of privatisation, deregulation, public private partnership, etc. Even where there are a few pro-capitalist politicians who sound “labour friendly” at the end of the day they will side with the capitalist class if Labour seriously challenges the existence of capitalism. Therefore setting out to shop for “labour friendly” politicians is doomed and fruitless exercise from the beginning.
Very significant also is the regime of "cash and carry" which presently dominates the political physiognomy of the Labour Party. For instance, to merely express the intention to run for political offices either within the party or for public position prospective candidate s must be prepared to pay the party leaders hundreds of thousands of naira.
If an aspirant is then picked as candidate here are the details of the outrageous fees applicable to different positions:
• Ward councillor – N50, 000 ($ 318)
• Local Government Chairperson – N300, 000 ( $ 1,910)
• House of Representatives – N500, 000 ( $ 3,185)
• Senator – N1million ($ 6,370)
• Governor – N5million ($ 31,850)
• President – N10million ($ 63,700)
The same applies to stand for Party executive positions:
• Ward Chairman N5, 000 ($ 32)
• Ward Secretary N2, 000 ($ 13)
• Local Govt. Chairman N15, 000 ($ 96)
• Local Govt. Secretary N10, 0000 ($ 192)
• State Chairman N30, 000
• State Secretary N20, 000
• National Chairman N100, 000
• National Secretary N80, 000
Evidently from this premise the NLC leaders are only making political signals to politicians from PDP, ACN, APGA, CPC, ANPP, etc. who certainly would fail to “win” nominations by the time these money bag political parties conclude their “primaries”.
Unfortunately, these are some on the left who are in the Labour Party and claim they are speaking for socialist workers or providing an alternative but have maintained a studious silence over this obvious political robbery and crime against the working class people and the poor in general.
Right from its inception the DSM has always agitated for the formation of genuine working class/labour political party. In 1989, under the Babangida military junta, members of DSM played active roles in the actual building of the short-lived Nigeria Labour Party formed by the NLC under the leadership of Pascal Bafyau, the late ex-president of NLC. The DSM members also politically struggled for several years to build the current Labour Party as a genuine working class political party that could provide the true alternative platform to the working masses and the poor without success. But it was virtually impossible in some states like Lagos to even join the Labour Party as its leaders, including some who proclaimed themselves as “lefts”, sought to prevent not just DSM members, but also non-affiliated worker activists from joining the Party. This actually helped lay the basis for the Labour Party’s conversion into a political platform for rejected capitalist politicians
This is why members of DSM have now taken the initiative to build the Socialist Party of Nigeria with the central aim of providing a genuine political alternative platform for the working masses and poor of Nigeria. We consequently call on rank and file working masses and poor to join in building this party. Of course if the trade union leaders are seriously out to reclaim the Labour Party and build it as a true political platform of the working people that will be ready to utilise Nigerian’s abundant human and natural resources for the benefit of all Nigerians and not just the capitalist looters as is presently the case, then the DSM members would be fully committed to such an end. But today, we have to emphatically warn that this is not what the NLC leaders presently seek to do.