2007: The Options before the Nigerian Working Masses

Yesterday attempts to amend the Nigerian Constitution to allow Obasanjo a third term in Office were defeated. Here we publish the latest Editorial of the Workers' Alternative written before the vote. Yes, we are living in dangerous times, a period where uncertainties, hardship and hopelessness reign supreme! We have never had it this terrible. It is as if we were in the end days, where everybody knows that the future is bleak and that things will definitely get worse if nothing is done urgently. This sums up the situation in Nigeria today.

The bourgeois media are always full of alarming and shocking tales of woe. It is one report about plots followed by plots, about massive frauds followed by massive scams, about deaths, poverty and about poverty-induced hardship, etc.

We see how the extreme minority of rich are having it very good while the mass majority are battling with poverty. How the masses are suffering in the midst of abundance!

The situation in Nigeria now is far worse than at any time in its history and it is very clear that situation is on the decline unless the masses stand up.

System Failure

Dominant in the bourgeois media today in Nigeria are the talks about ‘third-term agenda’ – Obasanjo’s dream of extending his reign. Typical of the bourgeoisie’s method of chasing shadows, the real issues concerning the masses are never put on the agenda. Rather what we hear are the pros and cons of a ‘third-term’.

We see the same old elements (‘gentlemen and ladies’) that have benefited from the looting of the wealth created by the working masses, destroyed the economy and basic fabric of a civilized society, now declaring support for either a third term or against. Whom can we really believe or trust among these elements? Is it Obasanjo or Atiku, or Tinubu, or Buhari, or IBB, etc?

New parties and alliances of the ruling elite are even being formed, ACD, MRDD, etc and everybody is claiming to once again be a “friend of the masses”. Meanwhile, they all still declaring support for the IMF-inspired reforms and still scoring Obasanjo high on crude implementation of the so-called reform programme. The chorus “oh, Obasanjo has really tried”, is common to these elements, so what is the difference between them?

In the midst of all these noises and crocodile tears of the ruling elite and their bootlickers, the take-home pay of workers cannot take them home. Unemployment can be seen everywhere; but thanks to the closing, and sacking of the workers, of the Federal Office of Statistic, FOS, we can no longer have figures. Power generation is at an all-time low; the PHCN is really the Power ‘Holden’ Company of Nigeria; it has withheld power.

The youth cannot get educated thanks to the ongoing privatisation and commercialisation of education. Poverty and disease reigns everywhere. Social infrastructures and services continue to collapse – roads, bridges, hospitals, etc. Pensions are not being paid and thousands of pensioners are dying in the process of waiting for their pension. Currently, the pension systems have been crudely replaced by a more draconian and corrupt system that would deprive most people of their pensions. Civil wars are raging in the Niger-Delta, Middle-Belt, and god knows where else.

The whole crisis is the direct manifestation of the failure of neo-colonial capitalism, for laymen, the result of the system of “monkey-dey-work Baboon-dey-chop”!

The continuing deteriorating situation in Nigeria today continues to confirm the realities that this system cannot take humanity forward nor can it be reformed. It is geared towards intensifying the exploitation of the working masses and must be overthrown.

Sucking Blood from Stone

Since the inception of this ‘civilian’ administration seven years ago the price of fuel has been increased eleven times. The naira has been devalued from the official rate of N22.00 to a dollar and the black-market rate of N85.00 in 1999 to currently N128.00 to the dollar officially and N148 to the dollar in the black world! The prices of goods and services have gone up multiple-folds. Hundreds of thousands of workers have been retrenched and are still being retrenched, wages of workers have been violently held down, and conditions of service have degenerated. The mass majority of the youth have no jobs and when they do get jobs, the conditions are terrible. The use of contract staff, better known as casuals is the order of the day.

These are the programmes and consequences of the so-called ‘home-grown’ reforms. The only thing ‘home-grown’ about it is the phrase ‘home-grown’. It is a programme of fully opening up the country to further massive plundering of both natural and human resources by the big multinational corporations and their local collaborators.

Right now, the big corporations are smiling to the banks after sucking the blood of the Nigerian workers and looting the natural resources. They have never had it so good.

For instance, MTN has made more than N100 billion profit over the past years, but officially, it has about 500 regular staff. The others are contract worker, casuals; they have no rights and they are mere slaves that they sack without notice or any benefit. The story is the same in practically all the corporations.

In Nigeria now, the gap between the rich and the poor is unimaginable. Within the past 7 years, we have seen the emergence of world-class billionaires and millionaires in Nigeria, all of them having some access or the other to state funds.

Decadency throughout

Despite the monumental failure the entire ‘home-grown reform programme’ and degenerating conditions in all ramifications, which are just too visible, those responsible still arrogantly declare in the media that all is very well and the reforms are wonderful and working. The situation is similar to the naked king going about in the market believing that he is wearing the most beautiful outfit.

It is decadency throughout. The current day ruling bourgeois elite are complete degenerates in all ramifications. All forms of values that they preached in the past are dead and meaningless to them. They are servile dogs of the IMF and imperialism; they implement without question or reasoning anything brought before them by their masters. Their ranks swell with 419ers, fraudsters, ritual killers, cultists, big time armed robbers, drug barons, and all sorts of degenerates who are ready to do anything for money. These are individuals with very little moral standing, people without conscience.

How else can one describe people who commit heinous crimes against humanity yet call them “gains of democracy” and the “results of reforms” (sic). And when they are boxed into a tight corner, i.e. when the problem is too glaring, they blame the problem on the “long years of military rule”! However, it has been over seven years that the ‘civilians’ have taken over with more foreign currency coming into the country due to the high price of oil.

We have seen how billions of dollars/nairas have been plundered and wasted within the past seven years. The country has made more money from oil within the past seven years than all the income from oil of the pre-1999 period combined! Yet there is no evidence of such massive wealth being made.

From the Obasanjo-led federal government to the state government and local government the story is the same.

In spite of these abysmal results and devaluation of living conditions, the ruling elite still put their highly selfish and greedy interests over any other things. This explains why sections of the Nigerian ruling elite are jumping over their heads in support for tenure extension. That is the third-term agenda.

Those of them who claim that they are against third-term agenda are not different in anyway from the pro-third term elements. They too stand for the continuous implementation of the various IMF inspired mispolicies. They too continue to commit crimes against humanity. We see how these elements are all trying to claim credit for the so-called reform program.

The third-term agenda is not only about Obasanjo’s extension dream; practically most of those holding public offices today want one form of extension or another. Those who are not seeking extension are seeking higher offices. Third-term agenda confirms decadency, a dream by people who are inhuman.

Crudest methods in history

The unfolding drama in Nigeria is quite shocking to any normal person. We see the crudest methods being implemented before our very eyes. All these are actually a warning to the Nigerian working masses. The Nigerian ruling class are moving more and more towards plunging the country into another barbaric state due to their selfish interests and the inability of their system to solve any problem of the society.

Within the past period, we have seen greed and desperation at work. We have seen all sorts of corrupt attempt towards imposing tenure extension on the masses. Billions of naira has been spent and more are still being spent towards actualising this evil agenda. Those sections of the ruling elites opposed to the third-term are themselves not any better.

Apart from the huge resources being thrown into the third term dream by the Obasanjo regime, quite a lot of desperate actions have been taken. Such as the impeachment of two governors, Ladoja and Alamieyeseigha, and the third impeachment is still in progress but has proved to be very difficult to pull through, i.e. the Dariye case. The EFCC has thrown many of the elements that fell out with the regime into its jails as a warning to the others.

Money and oil blocs are being offered to greedy and selfish politicians and the elite. Quite a few of the Nigerian ruling elite are quite behind this agenda.

Crude public hearings were conducted in six centres for three days for the so-called constitutional review and each participant was given 15 minutes each to present their positions! There are 36 states in Nigeria and 774 local government areas. At the end of the ‘exercise’, the Mantu led senate hearing committee declared that Nigerians want third term. Mantu is currently being investigated for all sorts of crude corrupt practices.

Why, why, why

Any student of class history, who takes the pains to study the last phases of empires and civilizations, classes struggle and the history of revolutions, would not find the situation in Nigeria difficult to understand.

It is very clear that neo-colonial capitalism has landed the country into dangerous waters and it is in its end days. The system cannot advance society, rather things are continuing to decay and are getting more rotten at an exponential rate.

The Nigerian ruling elite can only play a houseboy role to their imperialist masters who are only interested in the continuous plundering of the country. All the policies emanate from them and they do not give a damn about anything so long as their huge profits are guaranteed.

Nigeria has further been converted into an obedient tool that provides them with huge profits, thanks to the active connivance of our own ruling elite. The IMF/World Bank directly control the financial ministries, the central bank, and other financial institutions with their appointed agents, many of whom are still on their payroll. The finance minister is a top staff at the World Bank and is paid in dollars.

The imperialists are mainly interested in massive oil stocks, mineral resources and human resources. They want to have unfettered access to ruthlessly exploit these resources.

The IMF and World Bank are to ensure this inhuman agenda is carried out. This accounts for the various draconian policies imposed. All are geared to this criminal agenda, from the continuous increment in the price of fuel, to low ages, to retrenchments, to privatisation, to non-payment of pensions, to destruction of social services, etc.

It takes individuals without conscience, values, hope and self-esteem to carry out these treacherous acts. To the Nigerian ruling class their selfish interests come first. They are interested in issuing fraudulent contracts, allocating ‘oil blocs’, access to the state treasury, etc. So long as they can make money every other thing can go to hell, including society. They are not interested in the number of people who sleep under the bridge, who cannot eat, etc.

However, it is in the process of carrying out their plundering that they come into conflict with one another. It is similar to the conflict between of armed robbers.

The ‘Third term agenda’

The third term agenda is an attempt by some sections of the Nigerian ruling elite, in active collaboration with some imperialist interests, to maintain their unfettered access to plundering the resources of the country.

In backward ex-colonial capitalist economies like Nigeria, this situation is usually the case and it always ends up in more crises. The greedy interests of the ruling elite always comes in conflict with the needs of the majority in society, i.e. the working masses and youth. A situation that leads to the ruling elite opting for more repression, in the process of repression they normally build a beast that would start seeing himself as a messiah and indispensable   beast that usually grows out of control.

This is the situation with Obasanjo and his cronies. Within the past seven years, the Obasanjo civilian regime has carried out more attacks on the living standards of the people than the past military regimes combined. He and the other civilian arms of government have carried out the dictates of the IMF/World Bank to the letter. They have committed numerous crimes against ‘humanity’!

They have privatised, they have sacked workers, they have rendered hundreds of thousands homeless, they have introduced school fees, etc. Most of these policies could not be carried out by the past military regime. Hand in hand, they have looted the treasury in the most unheard of way. In the process, they have created a terrible situation and built new contradictions.

They fear leaving power and desire to maintain a firm hold on their offices for obvious reasons. They want to continue to loot, cover up their numerous crimes, maintain their corrupt privileges, etc. However, other elements also within their class want to have access to further their own selfish interests and nothing more. They also want to be the ones to allocate the oil blocs, the contracts, have access to the state funds, etc. This is why the arguments of both sides are not sincere in anyway.

However, the processes that they have both set in motion now is definitely going to snowball into a major political crisis in the immediate coming period. The greedy and selfish interests of the various wings of the Nigerian ruling elite are definitely preparing the grounds for chaos and barbarism on a monumental scale in the coming period if the working masses do not come in.

Obasanjo’s third term coup has already been set in full motion and would definitely meet very stiff resistances not only from the greedy ruling elite but also more powerfully from the working masses in the coming period.

The processes the Obasanjo people have set in motion are definitely not reversible; they have blown up the retreat bridges themselves. Failure would spell doom to their selfish business and political interests. Behind their arrogance, foolishness and desperation lay uncertainties, a very bleak future and imminent collapse. It is much easier for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for Obasanjo to get a third term on a platter of gold in spite of the huge resources deployed.

This is why they are using the crudest means available to get the dream actualised. However, even if they crudely scale through the cycles of the elites – the national assembly and state assemblies, they would now have to face the mighty force of the working class.

The imperialists are playing, as usual, a very treacherous role; no doubt, quite a few of them want Obasanjo back to continue to defend their interests but they would not think twice to dump him like a bad tyre when the crisis intensifies. This will definitely be the case when the whole project backfires.

Another four-year term for Obasanjo would definitely be very unstable, weak and would definitely collapse. It is very unlikely that it would come to pass and would probably remain a costly dream. The mass movement would be the determining factor.

Third term without Obasanjo

There is no way one can believe that Atiku, IBB, Marwa, Buhari, Tinubu, etc, represent an alternative for the masses or are friends of the working people or can lead us to salvation. It is very clear that the greedy and selfish interests of these elements are responsible for the disagreements between them. They are all members of the ruling elite. All of them are active supporters of the ‘reform programme’. They are even struggling among themselves as regards who is really the originator of the programme! They are all agents of the imperialists and are no friend of the masses.

In essence, even if the third term dreams of Obasanjo and his cronies are not actualised, other members of the ruling elites can still carry out the IMF/World Bank programmes. When the ruling class and their imperialist masters see that Obasanjo can no longer guarantee their interests, they would get rid of him in spite of whatever resistance he puts up.

The impending crisis that would develop within the coming period would force the ruling elite and their imperialist masters to look for an alternative means and persons to fool the masses and continue with the plundering.

However, dumping Obasanjo or the failure of the third term agenda to sail through would not mean an end to the crisis. Far from it; it is rather going to open the gates of hell. The crisis is a reflection of the organic contradictions of the system not the individuals. The ruling elite can no longer advance society; they are rather going to be the agents of destruction.

A defeat of the third term bid by a section of the ruling class would sharpen the political conflicts within them and would speed up the decay of the Obasanjo regime. As they would all move in like a pack of hungry scavenger dogs that don’t give a damn about the consequences of their actions. The consequences of all these would be devastating on the masses if the working masses do not have their own political alternative to the rottenness of the ruling elites.

Labour must prepare for Power!

Unfortunately, in the midst of all these developments the leadership of labour has kept a dangerous silence and has remained very inactive. This applies to the three trade union centres – NLC, TUC and CFTU. They have kept quiet on numerous issues and have not provided a lead for the working masses in the face of the monstrous attacks launched by the ruling elite on the masses.

Within the past seven years, it is no longer debatable that the Nigerian working class represents the most powerful force in society and that it has the potential to change society. The experience of the past general strikes and the protest rallies of last year reaffirm this reality.

However, the leadership of the Nigerian trade union movement have consciously held back the Nigerian workers and allowed the ruling elite to impose their killer policies. The reality today is that Obasanjo and the ruling elite are in power thanks to the labour leaders!

They have only acted when the workers force them to act, and even then they work towards undermining the struggle. The experiences of the way they ended the past struggles comes in useful.

They have refused to build a Labour Party that could readily provide the masses with a much better alternative to the various rotten parties of the ruling elite and have refused to come out against the attempt to extend the reign of Obasanjo and his cronies in the states governments.

Rather we can see how they are joining up with the parties of the ruling elite at the expense of the labour movement. For instance, it is clear that the NLC president Adams Oshiomhole is aspiring to be the governor of Edo State but he is not building the Labour Party, rather he wants to go through from one of the hated parties of the elite. In addition, some labour leaders are up to their necks in the pro-third term bid, while some are on the other side with the Atikus.

On a daily basis, it is getting clearer that only the working masses can save the country from a barbaric decay. The problems the Nigerian working masses are facing are due the neo-colonial capitalist system imposed on the country, which cannot solve the growing problems facing humanity. The ruling class who are the agents of the imperialists and who uphold this system cannot advance society, as their greedy and selfish interests would not allow this.

The only solution is for the working class to take power and lead society out of this chaos via a socialist transformation of society. The workers, in active alliance with all the other poor strata of society, have more than enough strength to carry out these tasks.

What is very essential in the immediate coming period is for Nigerian workers to transform the leadership of the labour movement; transform in the sense of getting active in the trade unions, booting out corrupt and sell-out leaders, building a Labour Party with a socialist programme and challenging all the attacks the ruling elite launch against the working class.

Like every empire in its death throes, the ruling elite would always want to drag the whole of society into their graves; they never want to die alone, they always want the masses to die on their behalf. They always want to trick the masses into fighting for their selfish interests and later compensate the masses with draconian policies. The experience of ‘June 12’ and ‘pro-democracy’ struggles are there for all to see.

Right now, the Atikus, Tinubus, Ogbehs, IBBs, Buharis, Afeniferes, etc, want to trick us again. They are no friends of the masses; they are actually dangerous snakes who are part of the rottenness and must be destroyed along with their rotten partners.

The current splits and open conflicts within the ruling class confirm the fact that the conditions for a workers’ revolution are very ripe in Nigeria. However, if the Nigerian working masses do not pose their independent alternative, a major disaster is in the making in Nigeria.

May 2006