Within his first month in power, President Bola Tinubu has made it clear to poor working people, including 133 million Nigerians living in multidimensional poverty, that our lives would be worse off by the end of his tenure. But he only represents the same anti-poor people agenda of the entire ruling class of wealthy people.
During the campaign season, the four leading candidates, as the mainstream media loves to call them, displayed with boldness their commitment to institutionalising poverty with the removal of fuel subsidy, and the commercialisation of social services such as education, and healthcare.
The four media-favourite candidates were all hell bent on implementing the IMF and World Bank’s neo-liberal policies that have proven to be a disaster to poor people across the world. The evidence of their wicked plan can be found in their manifestos and the interviews they granted while campaigning.
While it is important to note that the neoliberal agenda is something common to all four capitalist presidential candidates in the last general election and their parties, we must focus on the particular representative of the bosses whom we must now confront as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the actions he has taken and is planning, and how we must confront these.
Fuel subsidy removal
The very first action Tinubu took against the working people was the removal of fuel subsidy. This cruel act was wrapped cleverly in the garb of half-truths and propaganda that subsidy has to be removed if we want to defeat corruption in the oil sector. He also claimed that monies spent on the subsidy is much more than what the government spends on health and education and that these would be saved with the removal, and used to make life better for the poor people.
It is true that the oil sector is riddled with mega-corruption and there is an urgent need to arrest it. It is also true that monies spent on the padded subsidy are much more than what the government spends on health and education. But like many have asked, do you cut off your head because of persistent headaches or treat it?
Why are the masses being made to suffer for the corrupt enrichment of the few people who inflate the amounts set aside for such subsidy? Is it not because the government has not been able to refine crude oil locally despite spending billions of dollars on the four refineries, the fault of working-class people?
A government of the working people would have gone after the marketers and the so-called businessmen, many of whom are politicians and captains of the corporate world who are friends to politicians, that are responsible for the importation and distribution of Premium Motor Spirits (PMS) otherwise called petrol.
Rather, the Tinubu government who clearly stands up for the capitalists and against the working class and poor people of Nigeria,took away fuel subsidy which was the only benefit the Nigerian people got from a country they are supposed to be citizens of, leading to economic and social suffocation of 99% of the population. Tinubu took away the subsidy that helped make living a bit bearable for the Nigerian people, without so much as batting an eye.
Attack on the educational sector
The Tinubu government’s justification for removing the subsidy monies was that he would redirect these r sectors that will benefit the people like education and health fell. But, this claim shattered to pieces when he signed the student loan bill, as a strategy which is tied in with the introduction of tuition fees in universities and other tertiary institutions. This is a clear attack on the poor masses. I don’t know how this government, which includes Femi Gbajabiamila who sponsored the bill as Speaker in the last National Assembly expect citizens of a country where only 2% of the 70 million bank account holders have more than N500,000 in their accounts, to pay back educational loans.
Without tuition fees in our tertiary institutions, millions of youth who are children of poor working people are unable to access tertiary education because it is still unaffordable for the 133 million people in multidimensional poverty.
However, those in power who claim to represent us and ensure our welfare, feel that the solution to empowering people who could not afford education which the ruling class assumes to be cheap is to introduce tuition fees and give them loans to pay for it I think It’s an irony that the leader of the regime who signed the bill, asked that we should let the poor breath.
Let’s assume that the targeted people are able to access this loan with the help of kindhearted guarantors, how are these people who are already in poverty going to pay back those loans with the ever-rising rate of unemployment currently hovering around 40% and the continuous rise in inflation and cost of living?
Students and working-class Americans are seeking to end the student loan regime in that country because of how suffocating it is despite the advanced nature of the country’s economy compared to Nigeria’s.
However, Tinubu in his disingenuous way has figured out the long-lost secret of how to “let the poor breath” with loans that is known to suffocate poor people. So if the monies that were supposed to be going into subsidy are also not going into Funding education, maybe it is going into funding power.
The 40% increase in Electrical Tariff
Unfortunately, it is not. As a matter of fact, the power sector has since been privatised with the government still giving subsidies to the corporate elite to sell epileptic power to us at expensive rates. As if that is not enough, we have been informed of a 40% increase in electricity tariff with effect from 1 July, due to both the removal of fuel subsidy and the further devaluation of the naira.
The implications of such an increase in our standards of living cannot be overemphasised. It will also lead to the ruin of many micro and small-scale enterprises. Products by factories will also increase as they will factor in both the sharp increase in electricity tariff and that in diesel which they use when there is no electricity supply.
Resistance is the way forward
We must resist these attacks. Working people in factories, offices, and working-class communities and students on campuses and other youths in the communities need to stand up together to demonstrate our anger at these attacks and demand an alternative approach to the neoliberal and capitalist policies and programmes of this government and the ruling class.
Rank-and-file workers need to put pressure on their trade unions to take action. They must also be ready to take independent action if need be. In their hands lies the power to change the situation we are confronted with.
Socialists and other radicals need to deepen work within the working people at their workplaces and communities to organise demonstrations, strikes and other forms of mass action. The radical and revolutionary strata of the students’ movement need to popularise the need for mass action and inspire such by the mass of students. They must challenge reactionary student leaders such as those who have gone to express their support for Tinubu and the commercialisation of tertiary education.
Now, more than ever, we need to organise, mobilise and fight.
by Osatohamhen EBHOHON