Nigeria

Of Nigeria’s 150 million population 40 million are unemployed. As 45% of the population is between the ages of 15 to 40 years, this means unemployment mainly affects the youth. The Nigerian ruling class is incapable of solving this problem. Only the working class can take on the task of eradicating unemployment.

On October 1st Nigeria celebrates 50 years of independence. A lot of money is going to be spent on the celebrations by the present ruling elite. But what is there to celebrate for the teeming masses of poor? The already terrible living conditions are getting worse as each day passes.

Nigerian Marxists have always called for the setting up of a trade union based mass workers’ party. The Nigerian trade unions have the authority, the power and the mass following to do this. A few years ago a half-hearted attempt was made to launch the Nigerian Labour Party without much success. The union leaders didn’t give their full backing. Now, however, the party is becoming more attractive and in some states large numbers of workers are joining. Here we publish an editorial from the December 2009 edition of the Workers’ Alternative on this question.

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) recently set up a Commission to investigate the extent of workers’ participation in and desire for the Labour Party. In spite of the Labour leadership’s claims that Nigerian workers do not desire a party of their own, the report of the investigation revealed the contrary.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the assassination of Leon Trotsky, the Nigerian section of the International Marxist Tendency organised a Marxist weekend school on August 27-28, where they discussed the history of the workers’ internationals and other questions. Comrades were very happy with the school and look forward to more such events.

Over 70% of the Nigerian population lives below the poverty line; life expectancy stands at 43 years; and 50,000 Nigerian women die from childbirth every year. Instead of finding a solution to these burning problems, the corrupt Nigerian elite is now playing with the idea of “electoral reform” and the labour leaders are falling for this. What is required is an independent party of the working class capable of leading the workers in a struggle to change society.

This year there was a massive display of working class militancy at the May Day rallies in Nigeria. What was evident, however, was the glaring contradiction between the main speeches calling for “dialogue” and the desire to take the road of militant strike action by the rank and file. The Marxists of the Workers’ Alternative intervened successfully with a huge sale of their paper and with many workers showing a keen interest in their ideas.

Inmates at a Kaduna Prison in Nigeria last Tuesday attempted a jailbreak, and no fewer than 15 of them are feared dead as security forces were called in to regain control of the situation. At the root of this situation are the appalling conditions in which the prisoners are kept, and beyond the prison itself the appalling living conditions of millions of Nigerian poor.

The Nigerian workers’ genuine mass organised expression is the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), a powerful trade union body. But they lacked a political expression, a genuine workers’ party. In recent times a Nigerian Labour Party has been formed, which has attracted some attention from activist within the movement. The problem is that the NLC has not put its full backing behind it, leaving it in a kind of half-way house, limbo state. What is required is to transform it into a genuine mass party with the full backing of the NLC.

Over the weekend of March 6-7, hundreds of people, including many women and children, were butchered like animals in ethnic conflicts near the city of Jos in Nigeria. This is not the first time such ethnic strife has erupted. It is a symptom of the decay of Nigerian society under the rule of a parasitic local bourgeoisie at the service of imperialism.

The physical ill-health of the present President of Nigeria is compounding the crisis of the regime. But whoever the ruling class replace him with, the anti-worker policies will stay the same. What is required is for the Nigerian Labour Party to break with the bourgeois elements and pose as a completely independent party of the working class.

After the blow to the Nigerian economy by the sharp fall in the price of oil, due to falling demand on a global scale, now that there are signs of recovery in the advanced capitalist economies, the price of oil has been rising for some time, although not reaching anywhere near the peak of over US$140 per barrel. Thus, Nigeria is also set to grow, but all this hides the real underlying weaknesses of the Nigerian economy.

A Labour Party was created in the recent period in Nigeria. This had been a long time coming, but unfortunately many renegades from various bourgeois parties have jumped on the bandwagon using the party to promote their own careers. The Marxists maintain that the party must be tightly linked to the Nigerian Labour Congress and the workers must take control of the party if it is to become the true voice of the Nigerian working class.

A Labour Party has been formed in Nigeria, but it has not received the official backing of the NLC national leadership, although trade union activists are members and work within it. Unfortunately, the present leadership is not pushing for a stronger trade union link. On the contrary, it wishes to distance the party even further from the trade unions. What is required is for the trade union movement to put its full backing behind the party and transform it into a fighting working class organisation.

Initially Nigerian so-called economic experts were denying the world crisis would affect Nigeria. Then reality hit them with a bang! There had been a frenzy of speculation, as the investors believed they could money from money, without actually producing anything. Now the financial mess is clear to all, and the only answer the ruling class has is to throw more money at the speculators, while squeezing the Nigerian masses.

A militant strike has been going on of the University academic staff in Nigeria. Significantly this time they have linked up with the non-academic staff. The education system in Nigeria is in a dismal state, with the best academics leaving in droves for the advanced capitalist west. This very fact is a condemnation of the corrupt Nigerian ruling elite.

Earlier this year, in May, the Niger Delta region of Nigeria was in what amounted to a state of war, with the army bombing villages, killing many poor civilians. This article, written at the height of the events, looks into what is behind this conflict, placing it within the context of the crisis of Nigerian capitalism, the unstable nature of the present Yar’Adua government and the key product of Nigeria, crude oil.

A sizeable proportion of Nigerian workers receive pay that is nothing but a starvation wage. Today, over 75% of them live in conditions of crushing poverty, in conditions not far removed from barbarism. And yet any demand for a decent minimum wage is presented by the ruling elite as “unaffordable”, as something that would do terrible damage to the economy.

There has been much talk in Nigeria among bourgeois economists on how to “save the Naira” the country’s currency. Here a Nigerian Marxist explains how none of the policies advocated by these “experts” can work. Only by taking over the banks and the commanding heights of the economy can real control be established over monetary policy.

There is much talk of electoral reform in Nigeria, but even if a genuinely democratic procedure were put in place the workers would still be faced with a choice between parties that stand more or less for the same bourgeois interests. What is required is a party of labour. The Labour Party exists but is run by bourgeois gangsters that have hijacked it. The task is to boot these out and place the party in the hands of the workers.

Adams Oshiomhole was last year declared the rightful winner of the gubernatorial elections in Edo state. He is a very popular figure, having been for years the general secretary of the NLC (Nigerian Labour Congress). But instead of standing for Labour he stood on a bourgeois ticket. Many hopes were placed in him, but what has he achieved so far in the state he now governs?

Nigeria is an oil-rich country and yet its people live in absolute poverty. A small privileged elite profits from the oil industry, stashing away their ill-gotten gains and do not use this oil wealth to improve living conditions for the masses. Now they want to worsen things with deregulation. The only answer is nationalisation and planning of the resources under workers' control.

Scenes of innocent people being killed at the hands of the police are becoming ever more common in Nigeria. Here a Nigerian Marxist links this phenomenon to the ever deeper senile decay of capitalism.

Most Nigerian workers earn miserably low wages. The present minimum wage is set at 5,200 Naira (US$36) per month. The workers have now raised the demand for a 52,000 Naira (US$360) minimum wage, still low compared to international standards, and yet the Nigerian elite complain that this will damage the economy!

Not so long ago Nigerian economists were claiming Nigeria would be immune from the world financial meltdown. Now the Nigerian economy is being hit very hard as the world economy is pushed more and more into recession. The dramatic fall in the price of oil is having a devastating impact on Nigeria's finances and the coming period will see this translated into even greater suffering for the working masses.

The present Yar'Adua administration in Nigeria elaborated a so-called "Seven Point Agenda" as it came into office. None of its goals have been achieved and will not be achieved on the basis of the present capitalist economic set up.

The crisis in Nigeria is affecting all layers of society. Significantly the Lagos doctors have taken a decision to embark on militant strike action for better wages, but also better and cleaner working conditions.

Just a few months ago all the talk was of Nigeria avoiding the effects of the world crisis of capitalism, the idea being that the local economy was not as integrated into the world financial markets as the more advanced economies. Then suddenly things started to change...

A major teachers' strike has broken out in Nigeria over the question of a Teachers' Salary Scale. What is significant is that 88% of the population is backing the strike. This fact alone reveals the real feelings of the Nigerian working class and poor masses. It reveals the potential for a much wider movement involving the whole of the working class.

Nigeria, like all countries, is being affected by the sharp increase in food prices. Now the government, floating on the huge amounts of petrodollars coming into the country, has ordered 500,000 tons of rice to flood the Nigerian market in an attempt to get the price down. But will this solve the problem?

In spite of the bulk of the population being employed in agriculture, the main source of revenue for the Nigerian state is the export of oil. At the moment a lot of money is coming in, and yet poverty and income inequality have never been so high. When the US recession finally hits Nigeria it will have a tremendous impact on the political life of the country.

According to official figures Nigeria is booming, thanks mainly to the sky-high price of oil. And yet poverty levels are increasing and the gap between rich and poor has never been so high. There is a lot of talk of boom, but more and more people are literally becoming hungry, some on the verge of starvation.

May Day in Nigeria this year came after a series of rotten deals between the trade union leaders and the bosses in many companies. That explains why the turn-out was not as high as in previous years. In spite of this, the union leaders came under such pressure that they have been forced to call a day of action for May 8.

Last year's elections in Nigeria saw fraud on a scale never seen before. This has severely undermined the authority of the government in the eyes of the masses, so much so that the judiciary are now overturning some of the results. This has led to illusions that the judiciary is now a friend of democracy and even "revolutionary". Nothing could be further from the truth.

This article, written this summer, highlights the material and human devastation provoked by the oil barons in Nigeria. They have sucked out billions of dollars from the Niger Delta region without any benefit accruing to the poor masses that inhabit the regions. That explains the violence and constant conflict. It is an utter condemnation of the Nigerian bourgeoisie that is totally incapable of solving any of the pressing problems facing the masses.

Once again, just as the general strike was starting to have an effect, the leaders of the Nigerian trade unions called it off. The regime was on its knees, but it has survived thanks to the unwillingness of the trade union leaders to go all the way. It highlights the need for a genuine fighting leadership. The Marxists can play an important role in building this.

The contradictions and tensions in Nigerian society have exploded and the class struggle is back firmly on the agenda. Nationwide strike action has been called to battle government proposals to raise petrol prices, increase the VAT, and sell two state-owned refineries. After two days of solid support for the strike, the struggle continues.

Less than a month ago the present government of Nigeria was brought into office on the basis of blatant and massive fraud in the elections. We predicted it would be a weak regime with no real base in society. Faced with a general strike this regime has already been forced to make concessions. But it is only playing for time.

The recent elections in Nigeria were blatantly rigged, but the nature of the official opposition – as corrupt as the clique in power – means the masses have no clear point of reference to rally round. In this situation the responsibility of the leaders of the labour movement is enormous. If they gave a lead the masses would rally behind them and it would mean the end of this regime and the beginning of the struggle for socialism.

For the first time in years there was one joint Mayday rally in Nigeria of all the trade unions. The Marxists intervened successfully in spite of attempts by the police to stop the distribution of material. Meanwhile the petit bourgeois left are once again making the same mistakes as in the past by mouthing the same slogans as the bourgeois “opposition”.

The recent elections in Nigeria were blatantly rigged. The problem is that the official bourgeois oppositions is incapable of doing anything about it. That is because they serve the same interests. It is up to the working class to build its own party through the trade unions and offer a genuine socialist way out of the present crisis.

The Nigerian authorities are attempting to crush all independent student union representation. At the OAU campus the students are valiantly defending their right to organise but have been met with a brutal response. Please add your name to the protest.

The Obasanjo regime in Nigeria boasts about its economic achievements, but it is only fooling itself. The real situation is that polarisation between the classes, with extreme wealth for the few and intense poverty for the many, has never been so great.

A Labour Party has been launched in Nigeria and is standing candidates in the forthcoming elections. Unfortunately it is dominated by bourgeois politicians, in many cases people who have abandoned the rotten ship of the discredited parties that make up the present set up. That may explain why so few workers have joined it so far.

While promising to meet the unions, the Nigerchin management is trying to use scan labour to break the strike. On recognising the workers’ right to join any union thy wish they have raised the excuse that they must first consult with the owners back in China! These workers are fighting for basic trade union rights. Please support the solidarity campaign and raise this in your union.

Chemical workers at the Nigerian company, NIGERCHIN, have come out on an indefinite strike simply to defend their right to join the trade union of their choice. Trade union activists and members are being victimised because of this. They need your support! Raise this issue among your workmates and friends and get letters of protest sent off.

On top of all its other anti-working class policies, the Obasanjo regime in Nigeria has recently introduced a new pension scheme, which is nothing other than a privatisation of pensions, with investment funds taking over the running of workers' pensions, funds which could collapse easily, and with no government guarantees, leaving future pensioners destitute.

Back in February two Lagos students were killed by police as they protested against the recent hike in school fees. In some cases fees have been increased a hundred times over. This is making it practically impossible for poor and working class Nigerian children to get an education.

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