Some of the key issues presently impacting on the political economy of Nigeria are: the coming 2019 general election, current secession agitation, fiscal federalism and resources control, insurgency and militancy, corruption, ethno-religious and herdsmen/farmers clash, deteriorating human conditions in the land, bad governance, renew workers struggle for new minimum wage and primitive capitalist accumulation.
As working-class activists, we must be concerned with how to shape the way forward. This responsibility includes making propositions for and mobilizing around a programme for the radical resolution of the afore mentioned contradictory factors. For the bosses’ class, the issue at stake is simply one of “restructuring”.
But, the continuing call for restructuring is merely an argument within the corrupt elite about who should be helped to loot the most and be provided with the greatest opportunities for corruption.
Debate and outright agitation comes from the elite of all tongues and “tribes” both from the Southern and Northern parts of the country. This an attempt to manipulate the mass disillusionment with the current status quo and scheme of things by the elite or the one per cent. They do not care about the rest of us, the 99%.
Naturally, the virtue of their perspective for restructuring Nigeria is anchored in ethnic nationalities. This suggests a North – South divide which is not seen in the trade unions or during major general strikes. This has drawn plausible attention most especially on social media. We may also have to admit that there are mischief makers in the restructuring debate. But this debate is itself mischief, attempting to hide the major issues of concern to the working-class; social inequality and increasing poverty of the masses.
The bottom–line is that restructuring goes beyond the demands of ethnic nationalities. Ethnicity and religion can become a weapon against conscious class interests. We are asked to work together and sacrifice for the greater good of the country, our ethnic group or religion.
But this hard work and sacrifice is only in the interest of the rich and corrupt elite. We need working class unity, between northerners and southerners, Christians and Muslims. The talakawa and poor masses of any ethnic group, geopolitical zone or state have more in common than with the local corrupt elite.
We have to deal with primitive capitalist accumulation. There has been massive economic growth since the year 2000, but almost all this growth has been grabbed by the already rich and powerful of all ethnic groups. The poor have gained very little or nothing, many are now poorer than they were. President Buhari said that he believes inequality is leading to growing anger and frustration, but billions in oil wealth continues to be stolen. Inequality continues to grow, 10 million children are still out of school and one in ten women die in childbirth.
“We must be mindful, and focus on the widening inequalities within societies… These inequalities and gaps are part of the underlying root causes of competition for resources, frustration and anger leading to spiralling instability.” – President Buhari of Nigeria, Speech to UN General Assembly, September 2017
Oxfam and Development Finance International have compiled a detailed index of 152 governments’ actions to tackle inequality. The Nigerian government was found to be doing the least from this survey. It is no wonder that more than nine out of ten Nigerians either agree or strongly agree that the gap between rich and poor in their country is too large – more than any other country in the survey. Sixty per cent of Nigerians think that the rich should pay more tax – currently they pay half the average in sub-Saharan Africa.
The restructuring we need is that between the poverty of the working class and the wider masses and the obscene wealth of the corrupt elite. Restructuring of opportunities for corruption between the north and the south or the oil producing and other states will not make any difference to most of the population.
The quest for a better Nigeria will be a difficult task because the powerful, especially of the conservative and reactionary sections of the bosses’ class will not concede anything easily. They are fighting and arguing amongst themselves. The organised working class, led by the NLC and the TUC, needs to apply more pressure if our concerns about the minimum wage, arrears of wages and pensions and unemployment are to receive adequate attention.
by Adefolarin OLAMILEKAN