Nigeria: 2015 general elections and the working masses

Under the timetable of Nigeria’s current constitution, the working may have to endure the country’s rulers until the next general elections twenty months away!

But so huge is the level of economic and political failure of all the ruling political parties that, if given a clear cut social political alternative, the overwhelming majority of Nigerians would unhesitatingly demand an immediate end to the prevailing political dispensation.

Unfortunately, given the fact that majority of the leadership of the organizations of the working masses and youths are totally devoid of socialist political ideas and strategy, which can ensure that Nigeria’s abundant human and natural resources are mobilized to abolish underdevelopment and mass misery, the current rulers and looters may remain in power till 2015 general elections. But will the 2015 general election bring forth a different dispensation, where the death grip of both international and local exploiters on Nigeria’s human and natural resources will be broken?

Nigeria currently faces gargantuan problems in all areas of socio-economic and political endeavors. The nation’s economy has further nosedived under the President Jonathan-led federal government, lower than any other time since 1999. "81% of Nigerians assessed government’s performance in managing the economy as very bad and fairly bad; but only 19% assessed the government’s performance as very well and fairly well. 85% of Nigerians think the present government has performed very badly in improving the living standard of the poor while only 15% think the government is doing very well in improving the living standard of the poor". (Leadership, March 26, 2013).

Not darkest Africa, but darkest Nigeria – 120 million without electricity. Nigeria’s population of over 160 million people and the country’s large industrial concerns share a mere 4,000 megawatts of electricity. South Africa which roughly has a third of Nigeria’s population produces 45,000 megawatts! Yet, not all South Africans have electricity. The US government’s Energy Information Agency drily notes, "Nigeria has vast natural gas, coal and renewable energy resources that could be used for domestic electricity generation. However, the country lacks policies to harness resources and develop new (and improve current) electricity infrastructure."

The roads have become congested and degraded with transport costs, times and accident rates all increasing over time. A reliable railfreight service would boost the economy. "By the time it was shut in 2009, the number of annual passenger rail trips in Nigeria had fallen to 1.3m, down from 11.3m in 1963. The drop in goods moved was even steeper from 3m tones to 500,000 tones. In the continent second biggest economy, growing consistently at more than 6% a year, rail transport was effectively dead" (Financial Times – London March 27, 2013). Nigeria is forced to import most of petroleum products because of poor and inadequate infrastructure. Crude oil production in Nigeria has also suffered in recent years, because of militant campaigns and sabotage in the Niger Delta region.

To be sure, mass poverty and poor living standard is not a peculiar phenomenon of the mass of Nigeria nor that of Africa and other under-developed capitalist societies. It is a phenomenon that is characteristic of capitalist economic relations and governance, even in countries regarded as most developed. For instance, "four out of 5 US adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream. For the first time since 1975, the number of white single-mother households living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade, spurred by job losses and faster rates of out-of-wedlock births among whites. White single-mother families in poverty stood at nearly 1.5 million in 2011, comparable to the number for blacks. Hispanic single-mother families in poverty trailed at 1.2 million. Since 2000, the poverty rate among working class whites has grown faster than among working class non-whites, rising 3 percentage points to 11 percent as the recession took a bigger toll among lower-wage workers." (The Associated Press, July 29, 2013).

Politically, Nigeria faces ferocious ethno-religious conflict across the country. Presently, agitations by armed groups in Niger Delta for "Resource Control" or self-determination seem to have considerably gone down. However, to sustain the present truce, tens of billions of naira are being paid to militia leaders and their supporters under an amnesty package implemented since the time of late president Musa Yar’Adua. Notwithstanding, Nigeria is currently losing, an approximated revenue of about N6 billion monthly due to crude oil theft allegedly being perpetrated by members and supports of the Niger Delta militia groups. In the neighboring South-East region, cacophonic agitation by MOSOB for a Biafra Republic has been raging for several years with lots of killings perpetrated by the state forces striving to forcibly quell this movement. Since around 1997 before the present civilian dispensation, a onetime politically powerful ethno-nationalist movement called Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) has developed in the South West of the country demanding self-determination for the descendants of Oduduwa – under a local rallying call of "Ileya, Ileya o, OmoOduduwa, Ileya". Since the return to civil rule in 1999, parts of Middle-Belt, particularly Benue and Plateau States have been gripped by persistent murderous ethno-religious conflicts which have caused tens of thousands death with hundreds of thousands dislocated from their homes and means of livelihood.

However, all the aforementioned events appear as a child’s play, when placed side by side with the raging Boko Haram insurgency in North East since 2009. Up till date, an estimated 5,000 persons have lost their lives to the murderous armed campaigns by the Boko Haram insurgents who have been repeatedly demanding that part or the whole country to become an Islamic state and the state security forces allegedly striving to forcibly suppress the insurgents. Currently, government has imposed a full state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, in the quest to forcibly bring the Boko Haram menace to an end. So far, this has only had little effect on the murderous campaigns of the insurgents, while hundreds are still being frequently killed by Boko Haram and the state security forces in the states under state of emergency.

On the basis of the above highlighted debilitating economic conditions and murderous/explosive political situation, the 2015 general elections could not be expected to bring forth a positive respite for the overwhelming majority of Nigerians presently languishing in absolute poverty and oppression. Only a socialist government of the workers and poor that is committed to public ownership of the main means of production and natural resources including Banks and Finance Institutions and steadfastly committed to working class democracy can utilize Nigeria’s abundant human an natural resources for the benefit of all and not just the capitalist few rich, which dominate the economy and society nationally and internationally.

The emergence of APC

Just at the end of July 2013, three of the ruling opposition parties namely Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), fused together to form the new party called All Progressive Congress (APC). Here is how the APC and some of its leaders interpreted their registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in the first official statement issued to announce the registration of APC has inter alia stated: "With the approval of our merger by INEC and the emergence of APC, today marks the beginning of a new dawn for our country and her long suffering people. We promise not to disappoint Nigerians. We will also be unveiling our plans to turn today’s hopelessness into a time of great opportunities to reverse the downward slide in our socio-economic development and to ensure that every Nigerian benefits from the commonwealth, instead of the present situation in which a few fat cats are milking the system dry at the expense of the citizenry." (Guardian August 1, 2013).

Earlier, the Premium Times publication of April 19, 2013 has reported the "adopted manifesto" of the APC agreed by the merging parties. In the document, the APC claimed that its government "shall plug all leakages which accelerate monumental corruption, recover looted funds, cap and trim unwarranted allowances to public office holders." Also, the manifesto promised that the APC government shall "negotiate oil deals, unveil the secrecy surrounding the ownership of 49% of the Nigeria Liquefied, NLNG, query the over N50 trillion oil revenue which accrued to the federation account between 2000 and 2013 and recover billions of US Dollars which Ministries, Departments and Agencies failed to remit to the federation account. The party will also work assiduously at making available power from renewable energy sources such as coal solar, wind and biomass for domestic and industrial use, whenever thee prove viable. APC believes that our politics is broke. Our nation urgently needs fundamental political reform and improvement in governance to make it more transparent and accountable. The adopted manifesto also promised "to assist Nollywood to fully develop into world-class industry that can compete effectively with Hollywood and Bollywood in due course."

In a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Osita Okechuckwu, CNPP said the emergence of APC has taken "our democracy to the next level. Nigerians now have a golden opportunity to make choice between two dominant political parties: one anchored on social democracy and is pro-people; and one anchored on conservative and anti-people programmes as is the case in all liberal democracies". If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, so goes a saying. If the above quoted sentiments can be believed, then the suffering working masses can begin to hope that their living conditions can become better in the aftermath of 2015 election. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Meanwhile, an historical streak has been voiced by a top official of one of the merging parties, the National Publicity Secretary of CPC, Rotimi Fashakin, which when critically examined points to the fact that the current merger of capitalist parties of the pre and past independence Nigeria. Rotimi Fashakin told This Day newspaper that the next task before the parties will be to take inventories of their assets and liabilities for onward fusion into the APC. Fashakin, said the opposition parties merging under APC would henceforth forge a common front in campaigning for victory at future elections, beginning with the governorship election coming up in Anambra State. (ThisDay August 1, 2013). Ipso facto, this means that the primary preoccupation of the merging parties will be how "to take inventories of their assets and liabilities". And most important by that APC was created as a more formidable platform against PDP to fight for spoils of offices.

From the historical experience of past and present character of the self-serving capitalist politicians, the present merger can yet be shipwrecked or rendered politically ineffective on the basis of conflicts that will certainly develop as individuals within the merging parties struggle to secure for themselves and their cronies the most powerful and profitable positions within the party itself. Needless to stress, this predictable characteristic of capitalist politicians may in fact create a situation where the "new" APC may never be able to put forth a formidable challenge to the ruling PDP come 2015 general elections.

Reacting to the manifesto of the APC in the Premium Times of April 20, 2013, the spokesperson of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, in a statement on Saturday said though the ruling party "hailed the manifesto of the merging opposition, All Progressive Congress (APC)", it is "a very poor imitation, a bland parody of the manifesto of the Peoples Democratic Party." An uncritical observer may choose to believe the baseless fiction painted above by Okechukwu, but the truth is that the PDP spokesperson’s comment was more apt with the description of APC as "a very poor imitation, a bland parody of the manifesto of the Peoples Democratic Party."

For socialists and consciously working class elements, the fact that the newly emerged APC can do nothing more than the other side of a bad coin which the PDP is should not be a difficult riddle to untangle. Workers, youths and the poor must know that both the PDP and all the merging parties that formed the APC severally and collectively subscribe to the self-serving, individualistic capitalist system and policies which constitute the bedrock of mass misery of the vast majority of Nigerians in the face prodigious human and natural resources.

For instance, the states of Lagos and Osun, to mention just these two, both under the governance of ACN, the largest of the parties that fused to form APC currently operate the most expensive public tuition fee throughout the country in its universities! Expectedly, this has resulted in sharp decline in the number of students able to go to these institutions. The Lagos state government under the capitalist strategy of public robbery dubbed Public, Private Partnership (PPP) started the expansion a 49 kilometres road from Victoria Island in Lagos to Epe since around 2006. Up till now, it has not completed the expansion beyond Victoria Garden City, a distance less than half of 49 kilometes!

This notwithstanding, the state government has erected two toll gates on this incomplete project where it collects huge revenues on daily basis! The ACN government daily shouts at roof tops that it is converting Lagos to a mega city. Yet, apart from the roads in few areas inhabited by the very rich like Ikoyi, Victoria Island and major inter-local government roads within the state, the vast bulk of Lagos and its hapless population have been condemned to nightmare of living in communities with unpaved roads! Provision of pipe borne water was regarded as an essential infrastructure of cities. However in the propaganda mega city of today, four-fifth of the entire communities in Lagos lack publicly run pipe borne water. Under the present civilian dispensation, all the elected executives and parliamentarians of the parties that formed the APC have severally and collectively with the PDP sold themselves and their capitalist friends all the public houses built for government officials from colonial era till now, implementing the notorious policy of privatization and commercialization.

As things stand today, the APC does not have any virtue or policy that can endear it to the vast majority of Nigerians genuinely desiring positive change in their economic, social and living conditions. In this situation the "winners" of the 2015 general elections should be expected to be determined by politicians that can deploy more state powers of manipulation, coercion and most especially money power.

A socialist alternative

Under the prevailing PDP government and or under the unlikely APC government, the economic conditions of Nigeria and the living conditions of the vast majority of its people could only be expected to nose dive. There are increasing questions over the future level of oil revenue, but apart from their "take the money and run" attitude the ruling elite have no serious alternative plans for Nigeria.Roughly about 120 days to her one hundred years birthday, Nigeria’s capitalist rulers hinge on the profit motiveall the hopes of generating and transmitting the electricity needed to drive the economy and society from its present primitivity to meet industrial and social needs. To achieve this lofty goal, government at all levels irrespective of political party has totally adopted a private sector driven strategy, something which has never provided planned and balanced development.

Few years back, starting under president Obasanjo’s presidency, government has appropriated close to $50b supposedly to guarantee stable electricity for industrial and social needs. Presently government has sold all the plants built to attain this end to private profit merchants named "independent producers" for less than $2b! Independent Power Producers Association of Nigeria (IPPAN) has held a meeting with government officials listing numerous "challenges" that stand between the country and stable electricity. According to IPPAN chairman, Prof. Jerry Gana, "Nigeria has enough gas reserve. This is not in doubt, but there is a number of bottle necks concerning the supply in the private power projects". To mitigate these "challenges", IPPAN has called on government to further invest in electricity projects after privatization!

"There should be an interim intervention by the federal government to facilitate the supply of prepaid meter, especially in the new era of private power sector.Now on transmission. From the very first day I came on board, I started crying on the transmission. There are some hitches and that is why I don’t talk about megawatts anymore. We might come up with 10,000mws and might not be able to transmit all. That is why a huge sum of what is being realized as proceeds of the sale of the NIPP project, about $1.6 billion, has been set out to finance transmission. In addition, the World Bank is funding with $800 million, from African Development Bank (AfDB). French Development Bank is funding with another $170 million to aid transmission. When you look at this, we would say there is a huge investment going on for transmission. We hope with these, we will be able to produce the 10,000mws and at the same time wheel it out for full distribution. I forgot to mention the $500 million we got from the Chinese EXIM bank still for transmission." (Guardian August 19, 2013).

As we write, Nigeria is the only major oil exporting country that does not have sufficient and functional infrastructure to produce the fuel and gas it needs, and as such appropriate close to one trillion naira annually for importation of petroleum products! Allegedly to end this sheer system madness all the ruling capitalist political parties have accepted to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) fervently being canvassed by multinational oil corporations and their local partners. When this happens, the present limited control which Nigeria has over its oil and gas wealth will be completely transferred to international oil barons. This, the masses are being told is the best way to guarantee petroleum products.

Instinctively the working masses in all sectors seem to have seen the futility of waiting for capitalist elite to guarantee their basic needs. In all sectors, pressure and agitations by the working masses have developed with demands for better living conditions. Currently, the entire education workers from primary to tertiary levels are up in arms with government for implementation of agreement on conditions and wages struck with government several years ago. So widespread is the level of mass dissatisfaction that if given a clear political alternative the working masses across the country will demand an immediate end to the prevailing mass misery in the midst of stupendous abundance. Unfortunately most leaders of the organizations of the working masses and youths have totally failed to proffer the necessary alternative.

This is not accidental; most trade unions leaders do no longer depend on check off dues of ordinary workers for the running of the unions. In fact, trade union organizations no longer have independent view points on how to run the economy and society. Present day trade union leaders slavishly support a private sector driven agenda being propagated by the capitalist strategists. Despite massive unemployment and poor wages, trade union leaders are not proffering strategy that can ensure that enough jobs are created nor fight for decent working conditions for the lucky few that have jobs. Meanwhile most trade union leaders now have access to frequent international travels and lavish estacodes being paid for by capitalist government and their international trade union agencies and organizations.

As 2015 general elections inches closer, there are no visible signs that the trade union leaders are committed to reclaim the Labour Party, which they themselves formed, from elements who run the party ideologically and organizationally like just another capitalist party. Instead, their last murmuring in this respect is to go out and look for "Labour Friendly" candidates to come and run under the Labour Party’s platform!

Against this blind and ruinous strategy, members of the DSM since 2012 have decided to offer a Socialist alternative platform for the working masses in their daily struggles and especially during general elections. Rank and file workers, the poor masses and especially the youths are urged to embrace the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and build it into a formidable political alternative that can win political power and ensure that Nigeria’s abundant human and natural resources are properly harnessed and developed to meet the needs of all as against the prevailing capitalist arrangement that perpetuate mass misery in the midst of stupendous abundance.

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September 2013