The term revolution is probably one of the most popular terms among the Nigerian masses and youth today. Clearly, revolution is most desired by the masses in the face of undue and unbearable hardship. Even key members of the Nigerian ruling class use the term revolution intermittently to warn themselves of the inevitable consequences of their recklessness and degeneration.
What is clear is that revolution is an inevitable in Nigeria. The five-day anti-fuel price increase revolt of January 2012 was just an example of what is to come. The January 2012 movement was no doubt a qualitative change in the movement of the Nigerian working class and the lesson is still very fresh in the consciousness of the masses.
It is impossible to predict the exact date of a revolution but it is quite possible to deduce scientifically that it is an inevitable. The objective conditions in Nigeria today confirm that the conditions for revolution are already rotten and major social explosions are impending.
A mass of data continues to expose the extreme hardship the huge majority is living under. Recently, the resident director of the World Bank in Nigeria said that over 100 million Nigerians currently live in slums.
The masses revolt not primarily because they subjectively want to; they revolt because they have to. They revolt because they have been pushed beyond the limit. They revolt because the existing order is too rotten to move society forward.
The essence of this document is to explain the developing process to the Nigerian working masses and youth; moreover, highlight the tasks for their liberation from the yoke of capitalist slavery. This is very necessary today in the face of so much confusion and distortion promoted by the ruling elites and their imperialist masters.
We will start with an evaluation of Nigeria within the global capitalist order, which is in crisis, and the ‘particularity’ of the Nigerian economic crisis.
Nigeria in the ‘Global Village’
Nigeria is one of the nation states created by imperialism about a hundred years ago in 1914, when two British administrations were fused into one, to form a single territorial unit known as Nigeria. [For more on this, see: http://www.onlinenigeria.com/politicalHistory.asp#ixzz2pczarlZS] The way the country was formed out of two provinces of the former British Empire followed the old and tested method of “Divide and Rule”. The British left behind a country made up of many different national, linguistic and religious groups, with the clear aim of bringing into being a country that could be easily dominated from outside, where one group could be played off against the other. To this day, we see the effects of this in the complicated National Question in Nigeria.
It is an integral and component part of the global capitalist economy and it is also heavily dependent on it. The global capitalist economy, however, entered an unprecedented crisis in 2008 with no hope of a solution in sight. This has a direct bearing on how the Nigerian economy will develop in the coming period. [For a detailed analysis of the world situation, we advise a reading of the IMT’s 2014 draft Perspectives for World Revolution 2014 document]
The Nigerian economy remains essentially in the hands of the big multinationals (imperialism), which plunder the country’s wealth. This exploitation and oppression are carried out with the active collaboration of the Nigerian bourgeois, who are incapable of playing a progressive role in society. This is primarily because they came late onto the scene of history. They were created by British imperialism at a time when direct colonialism was in decline. They remain stooges of imperialism even after more than 50 years of nominal independence since 1960. In spite of over 50 years of independence, the Nigerian ruling elites have been incapable of building industry and moving society forward; rather, they have further degenerated and have become one of the most corrupt ruling elites on the planet.
The biggest corporations in Nigeria remain in foreign hands, from oil to the main manufacturing base. The multinationals make billions of dollars and stash them abroad while the crumbs that remain are looted and mismanaged by the Nigerian bourgeois who control the Nigerian government.
Oil, gas, and several other raw materials are produced and exported from the country and in return, the country uses the proceeds it makes to import practically everything from machinery to clothes to the luxuries of the elite. Even the banking sector, which has within it a sizeable presence of Nigerian bourgeois, is still dominated largely by foreign capital. It is on record that the biggest banks in Nigeria have a very sizeable foreign capital in them. The majority of major capital projects in Nigeria are funded by loans from foreign banks, even now.
Even the Nigerian billionaires on Forbes List represent foreign interests, from Dangote to Otedola to Adenuga, etc. They became super-rich in record time due to their access to state funds (via contracts and dirty deals) and international corporations.
The Nigerian economy is very dependent on the world economy and the ongoing global economic crisis is having a major effect on it.
The USA, which is the main pillar of the global economy today, is facing a major economic crisis. It is heavily indebted with no hope of ever repaying back its debts and it is clear that it is only a matter of time before it defaults outright on its debt servicing. The European economy remains in crisis with the majority of the countries heavily indebted. China, India, Brazil and the “Asian tigers” are slowing down and the economic indices point to further crises ahead.
Debt, unemployment, poverty, hunger, pollution, and death are the common attributes of the current global situation. No country on the planet is spared.
The current situation did not suddenly emerge from nowhere. It is a consequence of a decaying global social system, capitalism. The crises of the past, the numerous attacks launched on the working masses globally and the criminal policies over the recent years have accumulated to form the crisis of today, which is in reality the biggest crisis of capitalism ever, with no hope of recovery in sight.
The main export and key determinant of the Nigeria economy remains oil. The oil sector is dominated by foreign multinationals. Oil and gas exports account for more than 98% of export earnings and more than 85% of federal government revenue. They also provide over 95% of foreign exchange reserves. The budget is always based on oil. In essence, oil and the multinationals decide the fate of Nigeria.
Since 1999, there has been a major raise in the price of oil internationally from about $15 in May 1999 to over $100 today. This price hike was due to the increased demand thanks to growth in China and some key advanced capitalist countries, together with speculation – a situation that led to a phenomenal increase in the country’s earnings but at the same time even more money went to the oil multinationals and into private hands.
However, a regime of high global oil prices will definitely not remain forever. After every high price comes a price crash. The crash in oil prices in 2008 is just child’s play compared to the impending crash today. The 2008 price crash was just a pointer to the inevitable. Already there is a global glut in oil. The slowdown in China, the development of Shale Oil, the commissioning of new oil fields and the development of alternative energy will inevitably lead to price falls.
However, even with the delay in the fall in the price of oil, the Nigerian economy is already suffering serious income shortfalls and it is moving fast towards bankruptcy. We shall come back to this later.
GDP growth, Poverty and Underdevelopment
Over the past few years, Nigerian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown significantly. Nigeria’s growth rate was placed at about 6.6 percent, with a GDP of over $273 billion for 2012, when compared with the GDP of 1999, which stood at about $34.5 billion in nominal dollar terms. This is over 700 percent growth in GDP when compared with 1999 GDP.
However, GDP growth doesn’t always tell the true state of the economy. For one, it does not say anything about how the enormous wealth is distributed and how the wealth was created. This is why in spite of the huge growth in GDP since 2003, unemployment has also grown to over 50 percent; over 100 million live on less than one dollar per day. Over 70 percent are said to be officially living under the poverty line.
Also very importantly, Nigeria ranks 110th in industrial production growth rate scales with only a 2.5 percent industrial growth rate for 2012. This tells it all: a country with very high GDP figures but with very low industrial growth reveals the distorting effects of oil production. The reason for this is clear. It is the high global oil price that is responsible for the growth in the country’s financial earnings.
There could not have been significant industrial growth as the numerous austerity policies dictated by imperialism since the 1980s have destroyed the country’s little industrial base over the years. Manufacturing used to contribute about 15 percent to GDP in the 1970s and 1980s but today it contributes a token 3 percent.
The Nigerian economy has been in a state of crisis since the early 1980s, with the military wing of the ruling class and now the ‘civilians’ all continuing with Structural Adjustment Programmes, SAPs. This includes a series of anti-working people policies such as privatisations, devaluations of the Naira, mass sackings, fuel price increments, attacks on pensions, school fees hikes, etc.
Within the same period, we have also seen a qualitative further degeneration of the Nigerian bourgeois and neo-colonial capitalism. The Nigerian ruling elites are now much more corrupt, more shortsighted, more drunken, and more inept than ever before.
The result of these series of attacks, as we emphasized earlier, were the gross undermining of the economy and the debasement of the lives of the masses. However, even when billions of dollars came in, via the new oil boom, the Nigerian elites could not do anything progressive with their newfound wealth apart from plundering and mismanaging it.
If the Nigerian ruling class could not develop and advance society in the period of boom, what will happen when the oil boom goes bust?
On the verge of an unprecedented crisis
“A fool and his money are soon parted” is a wise saying that suits the current situation facing the Nigerian economy. Although, the answer as to whether Nigeria is broke is now negative, it is fast on the track towards bankruptcy.
The signals are quite clear. Already, the government at all levels is having serious problems meeting up with its financial obligations. The external reserves have been depleted, so also has the excess crude oil account. The country’s debt portfolio has been on the rapid rise. The current debt profile as published by Debt Management Office report of 31st of December 2013,for the federal and state government is put at N10.044trillion, that is about $64.51 billion, and it is growing. A further breakdown of the debt classifies N8.67trillion ($55.69billion) as domestic debt while N1.37 trillion ($8.82 billion) is foreign debt. This official debt profile released by the Debt Management Office, DMO, does not include the trillions of AMCON [Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria] debt. AMCON is the agency for bailing out the toxic debts of the Nigerian banks and it stands at about N6trillion. Last year’s report for AMCON states that the liabilities grew by N800billion.
Meanwhile, further speculative activities continue in the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The market capitalization as at February 15th 2014 stands at over N12.5 trillion. This is about the same level as 2008 when it crashed leading to the toxic asset crisis. It is clear the Nigerian bourgeois have learnt nothing and have forgotten everything very quickly.
The current debt level has emerged less than seven years after the so-called debt pay off where the Obasanjo regime paid out $12billion to settle the fraudulent foreign debt. The irony of the current situation is that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Finance Minister, who supervised the process then, is currently in the forefront of the process of accumulating more debt. The current debt level is now more than the level of pre-2006, which was placed at $35 billion.
The foreign reserves and the excess crude oil accounts have been on the steady decline. It is currently put at $41billion, down from $50billion at the beginning of 2013. The foreign reserves once stood at over $60billion at the peak of the oil boom.
The Goodluck Jonathan regime keeps on claiming that the reason why there is a serious fall in foreign income and government revenues is due to oil theft. It claims 400,000 barrels of oil are stolen per day. This is quite a serious indictment on the regime. This is a regime which is full of deceit and is extremely corrupt. The CBN [Central Bank of Nigeria] governor in late 2013 declared that $49.8billion of oil proceeds from January 2012 to July 2013 have gone “missing”! This is unprecedented. There is no way that such volumes of oil theft can take place without the active collaboration of top government officials, top military officers and the oil multinationals. In this regard, there are quite of lot of scandals blowing open now.
Goodluck responded by removing the governor for having brought out in public what people already knew, the fact that corruption under this regime has reached unprecedented proportions. Now we have the spectacle of the former Governor taking the President to court, challenging his right to intervene in the internal affairs of the Central Bank. This is another example of the divisions within the ruling elite spilling out into the public domain for all to see.
There are, however, other factors responsible for the continual drop in oil revenues. As we have already mentioned, the development of shale oil and other oil sources globally are also important factors. For instance, there has been a qualitative reduction in Nigerian oil exports to the USA, which normally buys about 30 percent of Nigeria’s oil. The USA has been reducing its oil imports from Nigeria since the last quarter of 2011. This is primarily due to the development of shale oil and the development of the Canadian oil fields. As at January 2006, the United States imported 38,042 million barrels but by January 2013, it imported only 14,835 million barrels. By August 2013, this has dropped to 5,165 million barrels. This data is according to the US Energy Information Administration.
It is estimated that by this year, 2014, the United States will start exporting its shale oil. Currently, the United States has surpassed several big OPEC countries in oil production. The development of shale oil and other oil fields around the world explains why several of the oil multinationals are divesting from the Nigerian oil fields. Several of them are sacking workers. China and India are also developing their shale gas capabilities. Currently, due to the reduction in the United States’ request for Nigerian oil, India is the biggest buyer of Nigeria’s oil followed by Europe.
What is certain is that the market for Nigeria’s oil is shrinking by the day and it is only a matter of time before oil prices start going down globally. We already have signs of this with the price of Brent falling below $109 per barrel at the beginning of January. Currently, the country is producing about 1.8 million barrels per day. This is a far cry from what the 2013 budget was based on, which is about 2.6 million barrels per day. However, this is still a very large volume, although not enough to meet the greedy appetite of the Nigerian ruling elites.
Clearly, the bulk of the wealth created over the past ten years has been looted and mismanaged by the Nigerian ruling elites. New rounds of crises are inevitable in spite of the numerous doctored reports that the regime has sponsored to cover up the true state of the economy.
In spite of the huge resources, numerous government agencies have gone broke. The government at various levels is having serious problems paying bills and workers’ wages. And as the political crisis that has engulfed the ruling elites becomes sharper so also the economic crisis will intensify. Already, there is an ongoing conflict over the 2014 budget, which explains why it has not been presented officially by the president to the national assembly.
Nigeria may not be broke yet, but with the rate at which the plundering of the economy and the contradictions of neo-colonial capitalism are going, bankruptcy is not too far away.
Growing Political Instability
As the economic crisis continues to worsen, so also the political crisis continues to deepen resulting in more instability. The current political crisis is actually the worst in the history of the country. This is not surprising at all. Currently, practically all the political parties of the Nigerian ruling elites are in crisis. This has triggered off numerous splits and mergers.
The rule of the Nigerian bourgeois is in deep crisis because, apart from their corrupt and degenerate nature, all the policies they continue to impose end up having negative results and worsening the crisis even further.
For instance, the privatization of public corporations has led to the death of over 90 percent of the sold off corporations; the devaluation of the naira has led to the further destruction of the economy; fuel price increments have devalued the lives of the huge majority and also killed lots of industry… the list is endless. This situation has led to society moving even more backwards. The consequence of all this have been tragic for the toiling masses.
There are currently several mini-wars going on around the country. Officially, there are states of emergencies in three north-eastern states since May 2013 due to the Boko Haram insurgency in the north. This has been extended by another six months to May 2014. Unofficially, several other communities are also under states of emergencies and siege.
State terror has not in any way undermined the menace of Islamic fundamentalism (Boko Haram) in northern Nigeria. It has actually aided it, as it has ended up pushing scores into the hands of Boko Haram. The root cause of this crisis has not been addressed in any way and whichever way one looks at the situation, the responsibility of the crisis always falls on the shoulders of the ruling elites. They are actually the main sponsors of Boko Haram, and numerous other right-wing militants and gangsters.
According to Goodluck Jonathan, in his speech declaring the state of emergency in the three north-eastern states on May 14, 2013, he acknowledged that there are “protracted security challenges” in eleven states in northern Nigeria.
The situation is the same in southern Nigeria. Crime rates have shot up tremendously, with growing numbers of kidnappings, armed robberies, 419s, etc. In the Niger Delta, the communities remain restive in spite of the so-called amnesty programme that has only been to the benefit of top criminal gangsters who are actually foot soldiers of the elites. Armed conflicts have actually continued in the Niger Delta and numerous community feuds remain with high causalities. The masses of the Niger Delta have in no way benefited. Their communities are still being raped and polluted by the oil multinationals. The Niger Delta is now the most polluted delta in the world.
Obviously, we cannot list here the full catalogue of atrocities carried out by the Nigerian ruling elites. However, what is certain is that the list is ever growing and will continue to do so as long as neo-colonial capitalism and the current ruling elites are not overthrown in Nigeria.
In 54 years of postcolonial independence, Nigeria has had 29 years of military rule and 24 years of so-called civil rule. However, the current 14-year reign of the ‘civilians’, called the fourth republic, is the longest in its history – 1999 until date.
One of the major reasons why the current fourth republic has lasted this long is partly due to the unbearable conditions that the Nigerian masses were subjected to under previous military rule and the heroic resistance they put up against the past military-police dictatorship. It is also due to the pressures of imperialism, which in the recent period has understood that formally bourgeois-democratic regimes are much more pliable and can be more easily bent to the wishes of the imperialist masters.
Having said this, we must never forget that in the long run the Nigerian ruling elite, with the backing of imperialism, will reach the conclusion that formal bourgeois democracy is no longer a useful tool. But before they can go down that road many events must unfold. First and foremost, they must lead the working class to losing all hope of any change, all hope in the possibility of any alternative. This can only come about after several waves of mass mobilisations, during which the Nigerian working class will use its might in an attempt to change society. The present leadership of Nigerian labour will do everything to hold back such a movement. In this process the workers will learn the true nature of these leaders. If the Marxists build a sufficiently strong left opposition within the trade unions and the wider labour movement, they will be able to emerge first as a sizeable force, then a mass tendency and finally challenge for the leadership. If they fail in this task, then the workers will eventually be defeated. At that point the balance of class forces would become more favourable for the bourgeois who would move in a bonapartist direction.
The ruling class can rule with brute force via military-police dictatorship or through deceitful civil rule. The fact is that more economic attacks have actually been launched on the masses under the current ‘civil rule’ than under military rule. Deceit is the main pillar of bourgeois civil rule. It is the rule of the professional conmen.
The current political crisis confronting the Goodluck Jonathan regime and the fourth republic in general is a confirmation of this reality. After 14 years of civil rule, rather than society moving forward it has moved much more backwards. What is certain is that there are bound to be more crises and turbulence.
As the 2015 general election draws near, so also is the political crisis getting deeper. 2015 is still a year away, and yet various sections of the ruling elites are daggers drawn against each other. All forms of dirty intrigues are at play. The recently conducted gubernatorial elections in Anambra State, where widespread irregularities were reported, provide a glimpse of what we can expect come the 2015 elections – that is, if the current regime survives till 2015.
The War among the Ruling Class
It is said that the wind blows first the top branches of the tree before the trunk. One of the signs of an impending revolution is the emergence of conflicts within the ruling elites. The current intra-class conflicts within the Nigerian ruling class are an indication of the crisis they have plunged the country into and it is only a matter of time before the masses revolt.
It is important to note that the conflicts within the ruling elite, the inner-party manoeuvres within the PDP itself with the emergence of the nPDP, the crossing over of PDP state governors, MPs and Senators to the APC, the conflict between the President and the Governor of the Central Bank and all the rest, are symptoms of the deep crisis of the whole system. [Note: PDP is the People’s Democratic Party, the party that has been in power since the end of the Abacha military dictatorship in 1999; the nPDP, the New People’s Democratic Party, was a recent split away group from the PDP that later merged with the APC; the APC is the All Progressives Congress, a party formed last year from a merger of several smaller opposition parties].
The January 2012 mass movement, which revealed the real mood of the Nigerian masses, was an important factor in preparing the present situation. First and foremost, it showed to the ruling class – or at least its more intelligent components – and to the imperialists, that the working people are close to the limit of what they can take. It explains the panic that has set in at the top. They require a government that has enough authority to hold back the masses while at the same time pushing through severe austerity measures. This is a very difficult task indeed, as the working masses and youth are already seeing the various sections of the ruling class for what they truly are, rotten degenerates. And yet, in reality, the working class barely flexed its muscles in 2012; the bigger movements are yet to come.
As of now, all the sections of the Nigerian ruling class have lost their social base and are seriously discredited. The numerous draconian economic policies have ensured the destruction of the real sectors of the economy and made looting government funds the most viable economic activity. It is on record that Nigerian ‘elected’ officials and associates are the highest paid in the world. Nigerian senators currently earn more than the president of the USA. It is officially reported that 25 percent of the government’s overhead goes into the pockets of the politicians in the National Assembly and a total of over N8trillion have been spent on them within the past eight years. Since 2005, a sum of N1trillion has been allocated to the National Assembly members, according to Ezekwesili, a former minister and an agent of the World Bank.
Worldwide, we can see how the global economic crisis has triggered off political conflicts among the ruling elites globally. In the United States, we recently saw the shutdown of government due to the conflict between the Democrats and Republicans; the situation is the same in Europe. These conflicts are still ongoing.
However, in Nigeria the situation is even more unstable. While the ruling elites here are united over the continuation of all forms of draconian, imperialist dictated policies, what primarily divides them is who can do it better and who can deceive the people better, without provoking a revolt from below. Their extremely selfish economic interests come first and they are prepared to do anything to defend those interests.
There is a common perception among many that the Nigerian bourgeois political parties and politicians do not have an ideology, but this logically cannot be true as “no ideology” is actually an ideology, philosophically speaking. However, the real reason why they don’t seem to have “ideology” is primarily because they all have the same stance – the same ideology. They all subscribe to the same policies of plundering and shifting the burden of the crisis they created onto the heads of the working masses.
This is why the manifestoes and programmes of all the mainstream bourgeois parties practically say the same thing, although maybe at times, they say the same things in different ways. When APC politicians were asked at the founding days of the party, why they set up the APC, their reply was that they set up the APC to take power from the PDP, not that they have policies different from the PDP.
The major reason why several sections of the Nigerian ruling elites want Goodluck Jonathan out is because they understand that although the Goodluck regime has implemented draconian programmes within the short years it has been in power. The result of all this is that the regime has been exposed to the mass majority and has become very unpopular and incapable of deceiving any longer the overwhelming majority of the working people and poor. This has weakened the regime further and made it a liability for the ruling elites as a whole. The regime’s increment of the fuel price in January 2012 triggered a major mass movement around the country that lasted for nine days. All the ethnic sentiments around the regime were exposed immediately. It became quite clear to the masses that this is just another regime out to put more burdens on their heads.
Herein lies the major contradiction of the current situation. Looting, ruinous economic policies and attacks on the masses lead to revolts and make the elements in government unpopular, but these are the only policies capitalism has to offer. The imperialists too are moving against the regime for similar reasons.
As the economic crisis deepens in the coming period, any attempt by Goodluck to launch a major attack on the masses, such as further fuel price increases, will definitely trigger off a revolutionary fight back with devastating consequence for the ruling elites. In addition, as the consequence of the already imposed policies bite harder, a mass uprising is inevitable. These are the fears of the sections of the elites shopping for a replacement for Goodluck Jonathan, although their greed for state power for personal economic benefits is also a factor. In essence, maintaining Goodluck in power is like going into a fuel tank farm with open flames.
However, Goodluck and the section of the ruling elites behind him can’t see this reality for now. The reason for this is clear. They have so much to lose economically and some of them believe that the devil you know is better than an unknown saint. They are going to fight to defend their interests using the crudest means. The Goodluck regime is basing itself on very thin ethnic and religious layers within society. It is clear the regime is getting more isolated by the day.
The 2015 General election is expectedly taking the centre stage in the public discourse as the date approaches. For a significant section of the advanced layer of the youth and working class, the coming election is being awaited with lot of scepticism; but for the overwhelming majority of Nigerian masses, attention is being drawn gradually towards this electoral event, which has been slated to commence on February 14, 2015.
2015 General Election and the Crisis of Alternative
From all indications, it is going to be a battle between the ruling PDP and the new formed APC (from the mergers of most opposition parties), that is, an electoral battle between two wings of the Nigerian ruling elite. Having been in power for 15 years, which is the entire period of this bourgeois civilian rule, with 8 general strikes till date, coupled with the 2012 January uprising, the PDP has almost completely lost its social base and has suffered a major implosion that is getting more and more difficult for it to come out of. What is still sustaining the party is the lack of genuine working class political alternative for the mass of already restless Nigerians, and the fact that the APC is not fundamentally different from the PDP.
The patched-up alternative organized by the other wing of the Nigerian bourgeois organized around the APC, because of its bourgeois nature, is incapable of arousing enough hope in the mass of people, enough hope to guarantee a mass mobilization behind it. It is only growing at the expense of the collapsing PDP, but for a huge layer of the advanced workers and youth, the APC is essentially the same thing as the ruinous PDP. The APC situation is made worse by the fact that the main parties that merged to form it have been individually tested in various regions of the country, the ACN in the South-West and the ANPP/CPC in the North. Their time in office at state level has not done them any favours, as they were partially exposed through the policies they applied in the states they controlled. That explains why they are not in a position to elicit hope among the advanced layers of the working class and youth. This creates a contradictory situation, whereby they can be more popular where they have not governed locally, but less attractive where they have been in power.
The fact that the APC has been attracting many PDP politicians at national and local level also sends a message to the masses that what we have here is simply a shifting from one banner to another of the same corrupt politicians. This is also in the tradition of Nigerian politics, where politicians who have failed to get a ticket in their own party, simply shift to another, which is prepared to give them such tickets.
The APC also has to find a candidate that can muster support across the country. This is something the PDP at its peak was able to do, presenting itself thus as a truly “national” party. There is now much speculation as to who the APC presidential candidate should be. They clearly need someone who they think can muster enough support across the whole country, not just in those states where the APC component factions already have a strong base. Whether they can find such a candidate is another matter, as there will be many contenders for the candidature each representing different factional interests within the ruling elite.
The name of Buhari has been thrown in. It is not our task to predict whether he will be their candidate or not. We must explain as of now that whoever runs for the APC would be a representative of the interests of the bourgeois class would implement the programmes of the bourgeois which is cuts, cuts and more cuts, which would very quickly mean he would become discredited. The reason why Buhari is a possible candidate is that he would most likely get big support in the north. However, he would find it difficult to get sufficient support in the South. That explains why one option that has been raised is to run as his vice-presidential candidate Adams Oshiomhole, who still maintains a degree of authority thanks to his past role as NLC leader, having led many general strikes. [Note; the NLC is the Nigerian Labour Congress, Nigeria’s main trade union federation]. This could bring behind the APC many votes that really belong to a working class party, as happened in the gubernatorial elections in Edo State, where Oshiomhole stood on the AC ticket winning massively.
There are other smaller parties apart from these two main bourgeois parties, but they are all in alliances with one or other of these two main parties. Unfortunately, the Labour Party, which is a party formed and nurtured by the NLC and TUC has completely buried itself in an alliance with the collapsing PDP. [Note: The TUC is the Trade Union Congress that organises mainly senior staff]. The Labour Party is now effectively under the control of an extremely corrupt and degenerate leadership. It is precisely now at a time when even the previous leaderships of the PDP are jumping ship and strengthening the alternative bourgeois party, the APC, that the Labour Party leadership is strengthening its romance with the imploding PDP. This has woefully discredited the party in the eyes of the advanced layers of the masses and the party leadership seems to be shamefully unconcerned with this. This misfortune is arrived at because the leadership of the NLC and TUC, who are themselves also highly corrupt, have blatantly refused to mobilize the rank and file of the working class into the party.
Having realized that it is still not strong enough to be sure of winning a simple majority, the APC will do everything possible to present itself as a genuine alternative to the ruling PDP. That explains why its leaders now talk of democracy, of the issues that concern working people such as jobs, education and housing. They make a lot of noise particularly about corruption, conveniently ignoring their own corrupt practices where they are in power. This party has realized that it has to have the overwhelming majority of the people behind it to sweep away the ruling PDP, which still has state power in its hand and is still capable of rigging and imposing its will by use of violence.
In analysing the different options that could emerge from next year’s elections, we have to consider that the gangsters at the top have gotten used to being in power and creaming off much wealth for themselves. The PDP has "won" every election since 1999 and with this has developed an increasing arrogance on their part. They feel no one can remove them and even claimed they will rule for another 60 more years, and with this has come ever more corruption. The "revelations" of the ousted governor of the Central Bank show two things: 1) the extent of the plundering by these people and 2) an attempt to curb Goodluck. Instead what we have is an open conflict between two important parts of the state.
For 100 years of its existence, the various ruling elites that have ruled and plundered this country have been glaringly incapable of uniting various ethnic nationalities on a solid and genuine basis, but rather have left people much more divided; to cleanly sweep away the PDP from power without it degenerating into ethnic confusion would require a party that is not only national, but has a genuine appeal among the working class and overwhelming majority of the masses in general, irrespective of their ethnic group and religion. Only a working class political alternative resting on the trade unions is obviously capable of offering this needed alternative, an alternative which unfortunately is not available in this coming general election.
We therefore have to look at what could happen if the PDP is seen to have openly rigged the elections, which would undoubtedly provoke mass protests – at least in the North – that would create more confusion among the masses, as to the true nature of the APC as an opposition party. It is in fact merely another voice of the discredited ruling elite, and has nothing progressive about it. We saw a similar scenario in the aftermath of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, where the multibillionaire and renowned former Vice-president of imperialist multinational corporation International Telegraph and Telecommunication (ITT), M.K.O Abiola, the leading candidate in the election, was promoted as the face of the opposition to the military dictatorship.
It is common knowledge that electoral fraud is a given in the Nigerian situation. But if a mood develops whereby people feel that the big majority want the PDP out and then blatant electoral fraud is organised on a grand scale, this could trigger enormous anger, not in support of the APC, but against the PDP. This may be the case particularly in the north.
If we look at the votes and percentages cast in the 2011 elections in each state we see that there are some states, mostly in the north, but not only, where the PDP was already a minority, but there are also many where it would not take much of a swing for the PDP to lose its majority. If people go into the elections convinced that the general mood is one of opposition to the PDP, but then the PDP is declared the winner, this time it could provoke an angry reaction. This may not be a nationwide phenomenon, but could mix in with the national/religious question. This would further destabilise the situation and make it difficult for the bourgeois to govern the country. (This is something that the imperialists must also be concerned about.)
This is a possible scenario, not an inevitability. But in such a scenario Marxists would have to stand firm and resist the pressures that could present themselves. We would not support the APC in any way in such a scenario. We would point to the bourgeois nature of both parties and raise the banner of the need for an independent workers' party.
With the heavy burden of the challenges of credibility, the APC, while growing, may not succeed in garnering enough mass following between now and next general election that would guarantee a clean sweep of the PDP from power. The inability of the APC to cleanly sweep the PDP from power and the continuous declining fortunes of the PDP could lead to a situation where neither of the two major parties wins enough to have an outright majority, or at least a strong majority. The serious bourgeois commentators can see the crisis of the PDP and envisage for the first time in 15 years a very closely run election.
Should such a scenario materialise, the bourgeois would have to find a way of governing the country. We have seen how in other countries where no party is able to muster enough support to win outright the elections, the bourgeoisie has imposed coalition politics as a means of governing… always in the interests of the same class. We have seen this in Greece and Italy, but also in Britain.
It is not therefore excluded that at some stage the two major parties could find themselves sharing power in a government of national unity. The advantages of coalition governments is that each member of the government can blame the other for the lack of progress in improving the lives of working people, meanwhile continuing with severe austerity measures. Such a government would be very weak, however, and would only survive so long as the mass workers’ organisations, the NLC in particular, are capable of holding the masses back.
But suffice to point out, that such a Government will not arise without serious upheaval that will likely follow the election clashes. Irrespective of how it emerges, the post election Government will be very weak to handle the deepening economic crisis. The crisis requires a government that will be capable of implementing stiffer and more draconian austerity measures, such a Government is too far away from the kind of Government that will emerge from next year’s general election.
The most decisive factor in this process remains the intervention of the masses in the whole process. When the masses decisively move into the arena of politics, this process will become accelerated. With the worsening economic crisis, the continuing leftward shift of the consciousness of the Nigerian masses, the global revolutionary waves visiting one country after another, it is obvious that Nigerian revolutionary upheavals are not too far down the road. The coming revolutionary wave will shake the mass organizations of the working class, will tear the bourgeois parties to pieces and, once again, the question of what to do with the strangulated Labour Party will be placed firmly back in the public discourse of the Nigerian working class and youth. Either this party is promoted as the true voice of the Nigerian working masses by the NLC leaders, or the workers will find another channel to express themselves through.
“National Dialogue”: Scam & Sham
On October 1, 2013, Independence Day, Goodluck announced his intention to organize a “national dialogue”. A committee was set up to go round the country and advise the government on the issue. Since the early 1990s, sections of the liberal bourgeois and petty bourgeois elements, mainly from Southern Nigeria, have been calling for a sovereign national conference of the ethnic nationalities to discuss the state of the country and the “national question”, ethnic imbalances, resource control, etc.
This was never a progressive slogan, as it was based on so many wrong premises and the true intentions of the sections of the bourgeois that promote the call for such a conference were never for anything progressive. The southern reactionary petty bourgeois elements that back the call see it is a means of splitting the country, while the northern bourgeois and petty bourgeois have always approached this question with suspicion.
Goodluck calling for this “national dialogue” days after the PDP imploded is an attempt to divert attention and undermine the ever-growing opposition by promoting divisions on ethnic and religious lines. When one evaluates it closely, it is clear that it is nothing but a fraud and sham.
What they are planning to organize is a handpicked assembly of bourgeois and petty bourgeois elements on an ethnic and religious basis, and later the regime and the Senate would review its deliberations. In essence, it would be a mere talking shop with no powers composed of handpicked delegates mainly from the same class of people responsible for the crisis afflicting the country.
The whole agenda is to have an assembly where ethnic and religious bigots will have the day and undermine the unity of the masses. This so-called dialogue is to commence s in March 2014 and last for months.
Unfortunately, for Goodluck the movement against the regime and neo-colonial capitalism is very real and intense for a mere talking shop to be able to undermine it. Although the attempts by the regime and the ruling elites to split the masses along ethnic and religious lines is quite dangerous and poses a real threat, what is certain is that under the hammer blows of the crisis of capitalism the masses would inevitably unite and fight.
Labour unions and leadership
There have been a total of eight general strikes within the lifespan of this “civilian” democracy. The peak of these was reached in the January 2012 mass uprising against the removal of the oil subsidy. As we have already seen, this mass uprising did not only terrify the ruling class, but also terrified the leadership of the trade unions, who never expected the magnitude of the movement it was forced to lead. The way and manner the leadership of the trade unions betrayed this heroic movement of January 2012, led to a colossal loss in credibility on the part of the leadership. Up till today, the leadership of the union is still struggling to win back its credibility.
The January 2012 mass mobilisations were very powerful, but not powerful enough to lead to a complete overhauling of the mass organizations of the working class. The reason for this is that there is not yet a credible alternative within these mass organisations, a left opposition that the radicalised workers can turn to. However, although it did not lead to the overthrow of the right-wing reformist leadership of the Nigerian trade unions, it gave us a very clear idea of what is to come.
The working class has not been defeated; it only feels let down by its leadership and this is an important factor in this period and the coming period. A lot of lessons have been learnt and these lessons will be put to use when next the working class is on the march again.
The recently concluded ASUU [University lecturers] strike is a major indictment of the leadership of labour. Workers and youth saw how a union can fight and win concessions. Had the present leaders of the NLC led the strike, it would have ended badly a long time ago.
ASUU is an affiliated member of the NLC, but its leadership is much more in touch with the rank and file and is also left leaning. The union has been structured in such a way as to allow for democratic management of the affairs of the union and all units [branches] have a right to have a say in its affairs. Strikes are called and called off by referendums of its units.
It is clear that in the coming period workers are going to come into conflict with corrupt union leaders who are acting as the agents of the bourgeois within the labour movement. The example of the ASUU struggle will inevitably have serious effects on the consciousness of Nigerian workers and youth.
Joint Action Front (JAF)
The Joint Action Front, JAF, has been playing a major role within the Nigerian labour movement for the past ten years. Its links to the official trade unions, its links to ASUU, and its links to several other organized working class organizations, put it in a strategic position in the Nigerian labour movement.
All general strikes called over the past 14 years of civil rule have been called with its participation and – on paper – under the banner of LASCO, Labour and Civil Society Coalition. LASCO is made up of the leadership of the NLC, TUC and pro-Labour organisations. However, although it is the platform created by the leadership of labour to call strikes, when it comes to calling them off it does so without any input from JAF. JAF is the coalition of pro-labour organizations within LASCO and the leadership of JAF is in fact the nominal leadership of LASCO.
Apart from the general strikes, JAF has been invited on several occasions by the leadership of the trade unions to participate in various strikes, from doctors’ strikes, to teachers’ strikes, to ASUU strikes, to the struggles of the electricity (PHCN) workers, to the struggles of the unorganized workers and poor in general.
JAF over the years has been filling a vacuum left by the leadership of labour, in spite of its small size and structure. And it has been attracting the youth and the advanced layers of the Nigerian working class due to its radical stance. Had the leadership of the Labour Party maintained such stance, the party would have attracted millions into its fold.
JAF played a major role in putting pressure on the leadership of labour to declare the January 2012 general strike. It is on record that the JAF protest march organized in Lagos on January 3, 2012 put the leadership of the unions under a lot of pressure. And JAF’s open criticisms of the NLC and TUC leaders on the way they called off the strike still has an effect on the labour leadership.
No doubt, JAF will play a major role in the impending movement of the working class and youth in Nigeria. However, it is clear that activism alone is not enough. There is the urgent need for the political forces of the working class in Nigeria to start getting organized. JAF can play a role in organizing these forces and starting the processing of building the Nigerian working class political alternative within the labour movement. Interestingly, the recent convention of JAF held in January 2014 resolved that the much publicised system change in its programmatic demands cannot be anything but a change from the present capitalist misery to a new system based on socialism.
More than 60 percent of Nigeria’s population of 170 million is youth. The figure is most likely higher as it has been estimated that over 2 million youth enter the labour market every year. Yearly, over 1.7 million youth apply to enter Nigerian universities, which in spite of trillions made over the years, still have places for only less than 500,000 students.
The youth have been on the receiving end of the numerous draconian capitalist policies over the years. These mis-policies, which are dictated by the World Bank and IMF, have over the years created terrible conditions for the mass majority of the youth. For one, there is mass poverty as the overwhelming majority are unemployed. There are millions of unemployed graduates. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2012, 54% of Nigeria’s youth are unemployed.
Millions of youth have been denied basic education, and higher education is practically out of reach for the overwhelming majority due to the high fees and privatization of education.
Today, public education has collapsed at all levels. The children of the rich no longer use any of the public institutions. In fact, several regimes in the country, who claim on paper that they are giving free education, do not have their own wards in public schools.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of a truly revolutionary working class political organization, the youth also do not have a political expression. The National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, which used to represent the Nigeria students has degenerated since the mid-1990s and has since been hijacked by right-wing criminal elements loyal to the various sections of the Nigerian ruling class.
This led to a situation where the most draconian policies could be implemented on Nigerian campuses without serious coordinated resistance from students nationally. These were policies that even the military couldn’t implement, such as the introduction of tuition fees on campuses. The imposition of these draconian policies has led to the collapse of education in Nigeria.
Secondly, practically all the local units of NANS have suffered attacks from the State. Scores of student activists have been victimized on all Nigerian campuses and scores have been killed. Secret cult gangsters were promoted in the 1980s and 1990s to attack the student movement. These are right-wing neo-fascist gangs. Today, secret cultism is a major menace on the campuses.
The right to independent students’ unionism has been attacked over the years. There are campuses today where the students’ union has been banned for more than 15 years. Most of the students’ unions existing today lack independence, as the management have imposed several conditions to limit the rights of students.
All these created the conditions for a tiny right-wing opportunist clique to maintain control over NANS at the national level. Many of these elements are not even students.
However, due to all these attacks and terrible conditions on the campuses, there has been growing radicalization of the students. There have been several spontaneous fight backs and protests breaking out on campuses. This has intensified more over the past few years. Students have continued to protest against fee hikes, repressive policies, and terrible conditions.
During the just concluded ASUU strike, students under the leadership of NANS Zone D representing students from south-western Nigeria, actively supported the lecturers and staged several public protests. This is in spite of the betrayal of the NANS leadership that openly rallied round the Goodluck regime.
The struggles of the lecturers – ASUU, ASUP and COEASU – have further exposed the true state of things on the campuses and have further radicalized several layers of students.
It is only a matter of time before Nigerian students take on the corrupt leadership. The struggles for independent students’ unionism and against fees are bound to break out with more intensity in the immediate coming period.
One of the main tasks before the Nigerian students remains to boot out the corrupt leadership from NANS and rebuild independent students’ union on all campuses. These are necessary organs in their struggle against numerous draconian policies imposed on them. However, this will not be enough, they also need to link up with the working class and build a major political alternative to fight the current rot.
In the coming period, more struggles are bound to break out on Nigerian campuses as more austerity measures are implemented. The ruling elites have nothing to offer the Nigerian youth apart from more pain and poverty. They have no intention of educating them or creating jobs and advancing society. As the economic crisis, which they are responsible for heats up, they will make more attempts to attack further the youth.
On the campuses, a united front of students, lecturers and non-academic workers is needed in order to wage a unite struggle against these attacks.
It is quite clear that there are going to be massive social explosions in Nigeria. All the conditions for this are in place. We may not know what straw will break the back of the camel or what event will trigger the Nigerian revolution. What we know is that the Nigerian masses will inevitably rise up and defend themselves.
Nobody could predict what triggered the Arab Spring, but what was certain was that the Arab masses would not continue forever to take lying down the attacks of the Arab elite. The same applies to Nigeria.
As the economic crisis continues to deepen, the ruling elites will continue to insist that the burden of the crisis they created be transferred onto the shoulders of the masses. They will continue to insist on the imposition of more austerity measures and more attacks on the masses, such as fuel price increments, hikes in all prices, privatization of the remaining public corporations and services, etc. They will continue to take the masses for granted and push them against the wall.
The prospects for the economy based on the “free market”, i.e. on capitalism, remain bleak. The country is on the road towards bankruptcy. The unfolding political crisis and growing instability also continue to add more pressure of the masses. Scores of innocents are falling victims of this crisis and barbaric conditions already exist in several parts of the country. Civilization itself is actually under threat.
The conflicts within the ruling elites continue to expose their rottenness to the masses. It will demystify them in the consciousness of the masses. These wars among thieves are taking place before the movement of the Nigerian working class. When the working class rises up, the whole political equation will become complicated for the ruling elites and no amount of intrigues and manoeuvres will save them. All the current bourgeois political parties and politicians will get more discredited; and this includes the most pretentious of them.
The attempt to undermine the movement through reactionary talk-shops such as “national dialogue” or “national sovereign conferences” will be challenged by concrete realities. The true colours of ethnic and religious bigots will be exposed in the face of growing economic attacks on the masses. These bigots will side with the ruling elites in their attacks on the masses, and will fall with them also.
The leadership of labour will find it more and more difficult to continue to hold down the working class. The mass movement will definitely blow up when they least expect it.
The role of perspectives
The purpose of scientifically working out perspectives is to have a guide to action; it is a question of having “foresight over astonishment”. However, perspectives cannot be considered a blueprint of exactly how things are going to develop. It is not a question of gazing into a crystal ball.
Marxists look at all the facts and figures and, basing themselves on the history of the class struggle globally, look at the most likely developments that could materialise in the coming period.
The basic facts are that the masses of Nigerian workers and poor are being pushed to the limit of what is humanly tolerable. A glimpse of what is to come was provided by the January 2012 mass movement. That revealed the real balance of class forces in Nigerian society, which must be giving the serious bourgeois nightmares about the future.
They are desperately trying to find a way out of the impasse they are facing. This explains the growing number of politicians abandoning the PDP. It also explains the coming together of disparate forces to form the APC, as they attempt to create a party capable of capturing the votes the PDP is losing.
Whatever the outcome of the elections – and electoral perspectives are the most difficult to develop, especially in such turbulent times – Marxists stand firm on their principles. The PDP is sinking but the APC is not an alternative the workers and youth can have any trust in. In some parts of the country, possibly in the North, there may be more illusions about the APC. Marxists must explain the real nature of such a party and the class interests it defends, i.e. the interests of the same ruling bourgeois elite as the PDP.
A significant layer of the masses, for lack of any other credible alternative, could cast a vote for the APC. However, very soon, reality would teach these same masses that there is no fundamental difference between the APC and the PDP.
The advanced layers already can see this. They instinctively do not trust either of these two parties. The tragedy is that the labour leaders, in the first place the NLC leaders, have played a key role in further enhancing this state of confusion, by not boldly building a party based on the trade unions. The task of the Marxists is to explain all this to the advanced layers, and raise the slogan of a mass workers’ alternative that must be built.
The crisis plaguing Nigeria today and indeed the world is the crisis of capitalism. This is the deepest and most serious economic crisis in capitalism’s history and there is no sign of a solution in sight. The contradictions of the system will continue to haunt it.
Karl Marx said, “Philosophers have interpreted the world, the point is to change it”. The major task before the working class today is to save humanity from the yoke of capitalism.
The crisis plaguing Nigeria today has no solution under capitalism, nor can the ruling elites solve them. They will rather create more problems, unless the Nigerian working class overthrows them and establishes a workers’ government that implements a socialist programme, which would include the nationalization of the command heights of the economy under workers’ democratic control and management.
The banks must be nationalized and credits used to develop the economy. The ill-gotten wealth of the Nigerian ruling elites must be seized without compensation and used towards advancing society. The socialist path is the only solution to the crises plaguing Nigeria and indeed the whole world.