The political situation in Nigeria is a tragic-comedy. There are abundant natural resources. The immense majority of the population labour tirelessly every day, creating enormous wealth, which they hardly benefit from. But the country is ruled by a ruinous ruling class of parasitic politicians and self-serving “entrepreneurs”.
It is becoming clearer by the day that, there is no section of the bosses that can provide leadership for social progress. “Business” hardly ever means production of goods. Virtually all the rich capitalists in the country are contractors who are reliant on government patronage in some form or the other.
They also serve as junior partners of multinational corporations, in different sectors of the economy, helping to ensure billions of naira that could be used for development find their ways into foreign bank accounts. They of course benefit from this arrangement which Fela Anikulapo-Kuti described as International Thief Thief.
The politicians who represent these bosses while claiming to represent us all, are the most obvious players in the comedy of the absurd, which they painfully drag us through. One week one trouble has become the norm within the corridors of their power. And there has been no difference between politicians of PDP and APC.
While they: kick out poor people from their homes and take over the lands for themselves and their cronies; fail to pay workers’ salaries for months, despite the huge amounts they continue to collect as “allowances”, not to talk of what they steal, and; claim to fight corruption from their cesspool of self-aggrandizement, they also show quite clearly that they are inept and ineffective in providing even a minimal sense of governing for the supposedly common interest of all.
The much talked about “social investment projects” have been mired in continued false starts. Youths who placed their hopes in “N-power” are having a rethink. The meal-at-school project for primary school pupils is not much of a success. Indigent families expecting conditional cash transfers have been disillusioned with the flurry of red tape.
Generally, capitalism is a system that thrives on the exploitation of working-class people who create the social wealth. The few rich, being owners of the workplaces and implements of labour appropriate wealth created; as profits, interests and rent. They pay workers for just a fraction of the labour expended, claiming that wages are the fair share of workers’ efforts.
But that is not true, at any time. Firstly, the workplaces and means of production cannot on their own create wealth. Labour is the living component in the production process which turns natural resources or the products of earlier labour into wealth.
Secondly, the factories, malls, machineries and all other implements of labour are products of earlier labour. Houses don’t build themselves, machines don’t build themselves. It took the toil of workers yesterday for these productive properties owned by the bosses to exist today, and be used for squeezing out value from the sweat of today’s workers.
That is why socialists insist that the emancipation of working-class people entails our taking over these products of our labour, and using them to fulfil our needs, instead of the greed of the few capitalists
But, the bosses maintain their economic power with two things. First is the instrument of their state, comprising means of administration and law making like the executives, legislative houses and judiciary, and means of coercion like the army, police and prisons. The second is ideology. The dominant ideas in any society are the ideas of the dominant classes.
In Nigeria, this means that the politicians water seeds of ethnic identity and corruption as the normal state of affairs. You hear words such as “we are all corrupt”, and which even many a poor Nigerian comes to believe. The politicians also project their clumsiness and inefficiency as general characteristics of Nigerians.
What is required to show their lies for what it is, is for working-class people to present cogent alternatives around which we build political power from below to kick out the bosses and establish a new system, based on workers’ democracy.
The waves of mass actions described elsewhere in this edition as the “new year rising” expresses the innate desire of poor working-class people in this direction. But it is not enough. We cannot overthrow the bosses and their system with episodes of demonstrations that don’t take the shape of mass organisation – a political party of the working people that organises both within the electoral system and (even more so) outside it.
As the primary organisation of workers, and being the only social movement spread across the nooks and cranny of the country, the trade union movement is best suited to provide the lead in forming such a party.
The tragedy of the moment is that the leadership of the movement has been almost as clumsy as the bosses, in this regards over the years. NLC formed a Labour Party with a social-democratic platform, contrary to the resolution of its highest organ that the workers’ party to be formed should have a clear-cut socialist programme, fifteen years ago.
As if that were not enough, it stayed back on the side-lines, watching as different sections of the bosses’ class took charge of the party after failing to get nominated as candidates in their traditional parties. And then, all of a sudden in 2014, in a bizarre, clumsy manner, it sought to regain control by establishing a willy-nilly faction of the LP. Till date, the supposed “real” LP has been nowhere to be found in the ranks of the working class.
It is not too late for the unions to draw lessons from the failed LP project. They stand before history, the ultimate judge of our political actions today. They are faced with the challenge of catalysing the struggle to kick out the bungling bosses, with a mass-based party of working-class people.
This is the time to act. Socialist Worker thus calls on the NLC and TUC to, as a matter of urgency, summon a conference of socialist parties and groups, radical civil society organisations and informal workers’ organisations, and indeed all change-seeking forces in the country, with the intent of establishing the sort of party envisaged at the turn of the century.
It is however not enough for activists to make a call like this and either go to sleep or keep going around in circles on the task of building a political alternative. Pressures on organised labour could yield positive results, but this is not given. We must continue to organise within the working masses; agitating inside our trade unions, strengthening radical civil society movement’s organisations and political parties with traditions of being on the side of the people like the National Conscience Party
And our message must remain clear – building working-class power from below to kick out the bungling bosses!