Nigeria

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.