By Ola Kazeem in Lagos
Tuesday, 05 June 2007
No doubt, the Nigerian ruling class has landed itself in a very deep mess. It has created a situation that has made it extremely difficult for it to continue ruling in the old way. Within a period of eight years, all the ingredients required to sustain a minimal level of "bourgeois democracy" allowable in a neo-colonial economy like Nigeria have been completely eroded.
The Nigerian ruling class has been carrying out the policy of the IMF/World Bank over the years and is already paying dearly for this. But is there any alternative for them? Can the Nigerian ruling class refuse to do the bidding of imperialism?
Privatization, mass sackings and serious cuts in public spending on social services have created an unheard of level of inequality (a GINI coefficient of 0.75!) and extreme level of poverty with over 78% of Nigerians living on less than $1 dollar a day.
The consequences of these criminal policies are easy to see. The Nigerian ruling class has been completely discredited, without the slightest support among the people and, most expectedly, they are extremely divided among themselves, with one section accusing the other for the woes of the working class, but most unfortunately for them, both sections are completely discredited and mistrusted by the people.
What kind of election could the Nigerian ruling class organise in this kind of scenario? The pseudo-Marxists, who are threatening suicide because of electoral frauds perpetrated in the last election, are only exhibiting the poverty of their Marxist understanding. They are incapable of penetrating the content, and are only crying foul over a transition from quantity to quality.
A deeper look at what has been developing over the last years will clearly reveal a mounting contradiction developing between the policies of the cowboy ruling class and the desire of the overwhelming majority of Nigerians. This contradiction found its expression in the last elections, where the dominant wing of the Nigerian ruling class used state power to carry out the biggest electoral fraud in the history of Nigeria while the Nigerian masses remained as observers with scarce concern to defend the official opposition who they see as obviously being part and parcel of these disastrous policies.
This means there is no longer any room for deceit and moral appeals no longer have any effect. Pastor President Obasanjo and Reverend Iwu (Independent Electoral Commission Chairman) correctly understood that they could not avoid revealing the true naked nature of capitalism in a backward country like ours, that in this situation, lies and killings are actually "Godly".
Can the Nigerian Ruling Class find a way out of all this?
Under capitalism, there is no such thing as a "final crisis". Capitalists will always find a way out, if the working class does not take power. Although, the way out always results in more barbaric attacks on the working class and the masses in general. The Nigerian ruling class entered into crisis in 1993 and as a result of the inability of the fraudulent and compromised leadership of Labour at that time to independently mobilise for power, this resulted in the emergency of Abacha, the most brutal dictator Nigeria has ever had. A similar situation is facing us now.
No doubt, the incoming government of Yaradua lacks credibility and legitimacy. It is glaringly weak and may find it difficult to immediately continue the attacks on the working class from where Obasanjo left off. But at the same time the government is not an end in itself but a means to an end. Capitalist government in neo-colonial countries have one and only one role: to do the bidding of the imperialists. Therefore, the Yaradua government can only justify its existence to the capitalist class if it can continue to privatise, if it can intensify mass sackings and starve social services of funding.
For the incoming government to do this, it must resolve its problem of credibility/legitimacy. One obvious option that the ruling class is already toying with to achieve this is to rally all the opposition parties into a "government of National Unity". But the question remains, can this see them through? With all sections of the Nigerian ruling classes discredited in the eyes of the Nigerian working class, it is very doubtful if such a government of National Unity could perform the expected miracle of bringing into being this much-undeserved credibility.
This is where the leadership of the Nigerian Labour and Trade Union Congress will most likely come in. Efforts will be made in the coming period by the Nigerian ruling class to make use of the leadership of the working class to stabilise their regime. We are already hearing the Labour bureaucrats trying to make a distinction between the outgoing President Obasanjo and incoming President Yaradua, describing Yaradua as a "more listening" personality and that he is "more considerate". This is the beginning of a process that can end in a serious disaster for the Nigerian workers. The rank and file workers must reject this rapport and demand an independent action of the working class.
What can we benefit from this crisis of the Ruling Class?
Contrary to what some pseudo-Marxists are saying, that this is a very great opportunity for us to mobilize the working class to chase out Obsanjo and its incoming hanger-on, this is like any other great opportunity that had come in the past. The Nigerian workers have organised 8 general strikes in the last 8 years. Can we ask for a more favourable situation? There has been only one factor missing every time the workers have moved: the working class party under a revolutionary leadership. More and better opportunities do lie ahead of us. We are strongly convinced that the best opportunity is very close by, but in the absence of a genuine Labour Party with a revolutionary leadership the result would be a major disaster.
The Transitional Programme comes to the rescue
As could be foreseen, the irresponsible slogan for the election cancellation and the formation of an "Interim/Provisional Government" has proved incapable of adequately mobilising the Nigerian workers. What are needed at this juncture are demands that directly touch the life of Nigerian workers. If the election is cancelled and re-conducted one million times, we would not get any better result as long as the ruling class is the one handling it, and the Nigerian working class instinctively know this.
Already we have seen how a one-week ultimatum was presented to the Federal government for a 15% salary rise and also asking the government to stop privatisations, but erroneously "Civil Society" and other pseudo-Marxists were demanding that the workers should drop these demands in favour of a struggle for the cancellation of the elections.
This is the completely wrong approach. We should upheld these demands of the workers and explain that we need to go even further. A 15% salary rise with inflation at 11% with 10% VAT imposed on all goods and services amounts to movement without motion.
The workers would have understood better if it had been explained to them that the only class that can halt privatisation and bring a significant improvement to welfare conditions of the working class is only the working class itself. To achieve this, we need our own party and we need to take the power from this degenerate, discredited and very barbaric ruling class. If we had approached the working class in this way we would have won their attention and hearing.
Is there need for a new Workers' Party?
A Labour Party already exists in Nigeria, but unfortunately, it has been taken over by the capitalists. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the inability of the leadership of the working class to take over what rightfully belongs to the workers has led to this sorry situation. If we organise another workers' party one million times over, the situation will be the same if the leadership of working class through the NLC and TUC refuses to identify with it. Therefore, we demand that the leadership of the working class take over the Labour Party and eject all the poisonous bosses that are presently strangling it. "For a Labour Party Without Bosses", still remains the correct slogan.
We are fast moving towards a revolutionary period in Nigeria; we are on the eve of big battles between the ruling rogues and the starving working class. We are about to witness a decisive struggle between the haves and the have-nots. The force of revolution will benefit immensely from the period we are about to enter, provided we have a correct and timely programme of intervention. A successful revolution in Nigeria would almost seamlessly spread to West Africa and later to the whole of Africa. The Nigerian workers are agonising under the yoke of this blood-sucking system. The Nigerian workers deserve to live more decently and are prepared to fight all the obstacles standing against them. We need a tool to achieve this and this tool must be revitalized and be sharpened. This tool is our own independent political party. We already have a party (the Labour Party), but what we need to do is take it back from the Pedros and Co and use it to seize the power. This is the only way open before us.