Nigeria

In March millions of Nigerian were forced to stay at home for the day as government officials carried out a head and property count. The regime claimed this would allow for a serious calculation of the level of unemployment and thus allow for “job-creation” to go ahead. The operation was inefficient and plagued by corruption. In the real world Nigerians continue to lose their jobs, pensions, education…

Recently Nigeria paid a sum of $12billion to the Paris Club, thus cancelling its foreign debt. The fact that through the servicing of the debt, Nigeria had already paid back more than it has borrowed is conveniently skipped over. Those $12bn could have been used to improve the miserable lives of most Nigerians.

Pensions have been privatised, 92% of Nigerians are living on less than $2 per day, the interest rate stands at 36%, the (official) inflation rate at 15%, millions are either unemployed or not gainfully employed, life expectancy stands at 45 years, annual per capita GDP at $200 and incredible sums of debt hang over the head of the poor. There is no way out on the path of capitalism.

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.

Everywhere we look in the world the same process is taking place, privatisation, cuts in welfare, cuts in pensions, job losses and so on. In Nigeria this IMF/World Bank-inspired anti-working class programme is being carried out by the Obasanjo regime. But the workers are fighting back. Here we provide a sample of articles from the Nigerian Marxist journal, the Workers’ Alternative and its programme to combat the regime effectively.

The problem of unrepresentative trade union leadership is a worldwide one. Here we have an example of the corrupt leaders of a steel workers' union in Nigeria. As a result several branches have broken away and joined what they perceive as a more radical union. But the corrupt leaders of the steel workers are still there. It is the whole leadership that needs to be changed!

Venezuela and Nigeria are both oil-rich countries. But in Venezuela we have a genuine attempt at poverty alleviation, which has brought the Bolivarian regime into conflict with imperialism. In Nigeria, where Obasanjo even refuses to acknowledge that poverty exists, the regime has very good relations with imperialism

Thousands of people in Nigeria are driven by hunger to sell their bodies and souls to live; thousands of people, wretched and living in misery and appalling squalor, struggle to earn just enough to keep themselves alive; willing to work and begging for a chance, yet starving, condemned to hunger, dirt and disease. And yet president Obasanjo appearing on TV claims no one goes hungry in Nigeria! In which Nigeria does he live?

LASCO is an umbrella body that has emerged in Nigeria which purports to have a wider representation than the unions themselves. In reality it is a body with no powers and the top union bureaucrats simply hide behind it to defuse the movement whenever it erupts and then they put it to one side once this job is done. It is time to build action committees in all the workplaces, elected by the workers and recallable.

September witnessed an unprecedented wave of protest across the whole of Nigeria, with mass trade union rallies in all the major cities. The spark that set the movement in motion as the latest increase in the price of fuel, but the demands being raised, such as the call for the government to resign, and the mood displayed on the rallies all serve to underline that Nigeria is moving towards a revolutionary upheaval. An editorial statement from the Nigerian Marxist journal, the Workers’ Alternative.

Millions of people are facing starvation in Niger. Are we to believe that this is another “natural” disaster, as the media would like us to? The fact is that there is food available in the markets of Niger, but the people cannot afford to buy it. Again, profit comes before the lives of the poor.

In spite of being rich in oil Nigeria is in a state of collapse. Healthcare, education, transport, pensions and so on are all coming under attack. Unemployment is growing everywhere. An explosive mood is developing from below, while at the top the political leaders offer nothing but conferences, talk shops and so on. And yet it could be different, very different. It is in the hands of the leadership of the labour movement.

Yesterday there was a gigantic rally of protest in Lagos. The mood of anger simmering below the surface for so long is now erupting onto the streets of the cities and towns of Nigeria. This process marks the beginning of the end of the Obasanjo regime. Nigeria is poised to join the many other countries where the masses have successfully overthrown rotten regimes that are there only to serve the rich.

At the end of August the Obasanjo regime in Nigeria upped the price of fuel massively. This has provoked widespread anger among the workers and poor. Today the first of a series of rallies is taking place. Here we publish the text of a special leaflet produced for the occasion by the Nigerian Marxists of the Workers’ Alternative journal.

To an ordinary sincere observer, a recent clampdown on a few corrupt officials by the Obasanjo administration is just a difficult to unravel riddle. How come an Obasanjo who did everything possible to cover up the certificate forgery scandal of the then speaker of the Federal House Of Representatives (Alhaji Buhari), even planned to reinstate him back after impeachment, could have become a saint overnight? Is this the Obasanjo who entered a deal with Abacha’s son, that all that he wanted back was half of what they stole? Now this same Obasanjo is prepared to stake everything to imprison these criminals.

The impasse of the Obasanjo regime has provoked one general strike after another. The situation is very explosive. To try and divert attention from the real issues the regime has now come up with the idea of a delegate conference known as “National Dialogue”, which opened on February 21. The petit-bourgeois opposition is calling for an alternative conference. Both are clearly diversions aimed at holding back the movement of the masses. The only way out is for the NLC leaders to break with all these manoeuvres and build a party of labour.

The planned November 16 general strike in Nigeria was called off at the last minute after the government accepted a small reduction in the price of fuel. We have seen this scenario before. The government has been let off the hook yet again, but for how long?

After the four-day warning general strike, the Nigerian unions are calling on workers to resume strike action on November 16. This time it will no longer be limited to the issue of the price of fuel. The situation is becoming very tense. The workers have reached the limit of what they can take. They are putting immense pressure on the leadership of the NLC to act decisively.

This article was written by a member of the Editorial Board of the Nigerian Marxist journal, the Workers’ Alternative. Shortly after we received it we were informed that the government has increased the price of fuel by a further 15 Naira. This can only be seen as a serious provocation. It exposes the government for what it is. And it renders almost impossible any idea of a deal between the unions and the government. If the government does not back off on this then the leaders of the Nigerian unions have no choice but to pull out all the workers again.

After last week’s general strike in Nigeria the leaders of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) gave the government until October 27th to come up with a reasonable proposal on the price of fuel, otherwise the strike would resume. The leader of the NLC, Adamas Oshiomhole, has said that in such a secenario the unions would make the country “ungovernable”.

Today is the fourth day of the Nigerian Labour Congress’ four-day warning general strike. However, the strike may be resumed on Monday after the police have killed, arrested and beaten workers and trade union leaders. The general strike is posing the question of power, but the union leaders refuse to call for the downfall of the government.

The leaders of the NLC have confirmed the strike is going ahead today. Saturday’s arrest and injury of Adams Oshiomhole, President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, is an indication of the tension building up.

The price of fuel has been increased by 25% and the Nigerian unions have called a general strike for Monday, October 11. The logical next step is for the unions to call for the resignation of the government and for them to build their own party and challenge for power.

The price of crude oil has broken through the $50 barrier. A series of events have contributed to this, the latest being the crisis in the Niger Delta in Nigeria, where Ijaw rebels are threatening to attack oil pipelines. These events are merely the extreme expression of a more widespread crisis that Nigeria is facing.

If the rate of US$2 per day is used to measure the poverty level, the percentage of those living below the poverty line in Nigeria stands at 90.8 percent of the population. At the same time the country has a foreign debt of $32.9 billion, on which it pays annually close to $3billion in interest. The imperialists together with their local lackeys, the Nigerian ruling class, are literally sucking the blood of the Nigerian masses.

In just four years since the year 2000, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has called mass strike action 7 times. Repeatedly the leaders of the NLC have let down the workers. It is time to move on. Ther wokers of Nigeria need a fighting trade union leadership and their own party. Workers’ Alternative Editorial Statement.

Education, universally, has evidently proven itself to be the sine qua non to the development, progress and advancement of a nation. As a result of this, it plays a pivotal role in the development, progress and advancement of all other sectors of the social, political and economic enclave of such a nation. Pathetically however, despite this indisputable fact, the story of education continues, day-in and day-out, to remain one of tragedy in Nigeria. Education, particularly (though not singularly) tertiary education, continually suffers from abject neglect by the Nigerian ruling class, which starves the tertiary institutions of funds. According to a UNESCO report, the average budgetary

...

The crisis in the Nigerian pension scheme can be best appreciated when one has a graphic view of the inhuman and highly degrading conditions pensioners have been subjected to. It is either a case of non-payment of pensions and gratuity, or the creation of undue bottlenecks to frustrate and kill pensioners. They are constantly to go for worthless “identification parades”, and “verification exercises”, tortured in long queues, receive insults from dubious government officials or their servants, etc. The following examples show what the situation is.

As we go to press [July 2004], the strike called by the medical and health workers of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital has entered its third week, 38 days to be exact and the workers remain resolved to see it through in spite of heavy threats from management and government.

On June 9 the workers of Nigeria embarked on yet another general strike. Two days later it had already been called off. There is a stalemate situation that has developed between the classes that must be resolved one way or the other. For the workers to come out on top they need their own party.

In May Obasanjo, the President of Nigeria, imposed a state of emergency on Plateau State, removing the local state governor. The measures were taken after serious ethnic conflicts erupted in the area, but behind all this lies a more sinister agenda. The central government is preparing the ground for more bonapartist measures, that are ultimately aimed against the labour movement.

The Nigerian Labour Congress (the main trade union federation in Nigeria) has been under pressure to launch its own party. The leaders of the NLC have unfortunately always run after the coat-tails of Obasanjo's PDP. Earlier this year some elements within the NLC did indeed launch a party, the PSD (Party for Social Democracy). But they did so without really doing anything to seriously publicise the party and take it to the workers. The NLC was not seen to be officially backing it. This led to its disastrous electoral results earlier this year. Here we publish an article from the Workers' Alternative on the party's programme.

The Nigerian ruling class is famous for its levels of corruption and incompetence. What is even more striking is the way it was created. The irony of the situation in Nigeria is that the working class came into being long before the “ruling class”. This was due to the colonial domination on the part of British imperialism. Here a Nigerian Marxist looks at this apparent contradiction.

Wole Soyinka is a prominent Nigerian playwright, and in 1986, he became the first African writer ever to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In October 1965, Soyinka was arrested for allegedly seizing the Western Region radio studios and using them to publicly dispute the published results of the recent elections, but in December of the same year, he was acquitted. Didi Cheeka of the Workers' Alternative Editorial Board looks at the ideas and works of this well known writer.

In Part Two of his article, Didi Cheeka shows how Soyinka's works express the struggle for " the liberation of the individual, for the individual, by the individual and the removal of general liberation for the mass of the people". It arises from the petit-bourgeois intellectual's conception of human nature in completely individualistic terms, divorced from all social being. It is, nevertheless, a tribute to Soyinka that at the height of the ethnic cleansing that presaged the Nigeria/Biafra civil war he was shrill in his condemnation of the perpetrators. He paid for this with 27 months in detention. Again he protested against the brutal repression of students in 1978. But his...

Wole Soyinka is a prominent Nigerian playwright, and in 1986, he became the first African writer ever to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In October 1965, Soyinka was arrested for allegedly seizing the Western Region radio studios and using them to publicly dispute the published results of the recent elections, but in December of the same year, he was acquitted. Didi Cheeka of the Workers' Alternative Editorial Board looks at the ideas and works of this well known writer.

Since Obasanjo came to power in 1999, the regime has been trying to portray a picture of itself as “modernising”, anti-corruption and generally a new type of regime based on rectitude and respect for democratic principles. In reality beneath this façade lies the same old corrupt, despotic ruling class. This is the case of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, who two years ago sacked more than sixty lecturers. In Nigeria this question has made front page headlines and is still attracting a lot of attention. Our correspondent in Ilorin interviewed the chairman of the Ilroin branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Yesterday's announced general strike was called off as the Obasanjo regime was forced to give in to the demands of the trade unions. The mere threat of a strike has been enough to gain victory. This now poses a dilemma before the ruling elite in Nigeria: how to govern the country in the face of such a militant and organised working class?

Tomorrow, Thursday, October 9, an indefinite general strike is scheduled to start in Nigeria. The reason for the announced strike is another increase in the price of fuel, which follows on from last June's increase which provoked an 8-day general strike. The country is now bracing itself for a major confrontation between the classes. What is being prepared is a colossal clash between the mass of working people and the privileged few who sit at the top.

We only received this analysis of last June's general strike in Nigeria a few weeks after it was written. This was due to technical reasons. Although we published several articles at the time of the strike, we believe the present article will be of interest to our readers as it was written by Nigerian Marxists inside the country.

Last week's general strike in Nigeria revealed the enormous power of the working class. Unfortunately, once again they have been betrayed by their leaders. The government has got away with a 30% increase in the price of fuel! It is time to build the left in the unions and a mass workers' party.

An Editorial Board statement of the Workers' Alternative on the outcome of the June general strike and the political conclusions that can be drawn from it.

Join us!

Help build the forces of Marxism worldwide!

Join the IMT!