Nigeria: The Economic Downturn, 2015 and the Crisis of Alternative

As a result of the increased domestic production of shale oil, the US has slashed crude oil imports from a peak of almost 14 million barrels per day in 2006, to slightly above 7 million barrels per day. Crude oil imports from Nigeria, one of the principal sources of light crude, were also slashed from more than one million barrels per day in 2010 to zero in July 2014. This figure is unprecedented since Nigeria started exporting oil about 40years ago.

India has now become the highest importer of Nigerian crude oil. Unfortunately for the Nigerian ruling elite, India too is aggressively pursuing the extraction of Shale oil domestically. Nigeria earns over 80% of its budgetary income and over 90% of its foreign earnings from oil. The aggressive search for new markets and the intense competition from new oil/gas exporting countries like the US is already significantly putting pressure on the international price of oil; as if the loss of significant markets were not enough for Nigerian economy.

The fact that the US is no longer importing oil from Nigeria does not signify an end to the tight relationship between the two countries that have always been that of master and slave for over 40 years of Nigeria’s absolutely dependent “Independence”. The importation of refined oil coming to Nigeria from the US rose from about 17% to over 50% currently. What we are witnessing is a reversal of the balance of trade in the oil sector; as crude oil to the US from Nigeria is reducing, the importation of refined oil from US is increasing. Nigeria is therefore currently experiencing a significant fall in income, that has already reduced the allocation to different States of the federation by half and, subsequently, many states cannot pay their Civil Servants’ salaries and others.

Nigeria-PosDespite this major fall in income, official corruption continues unabated. The Nigerian ruling elite has developed over the years into beast that can only survive on the basis of huge corruption and inefficiency. Capitalism and corruption are like sesame twins, in the case of Nigeria, oil wealth made it possible for the ruling class to institutionalize and consolidate corruption and make it an official component of the state machine.

Before now, Nigeria had been growing annually by over 7.0% for over a decade, thanks to high oil prices and relatively stable oil markets (aside from a brief disturbance in 2007/2008). So much money was made in this period, but at the same time we witnessed an increase in the poverty rate from 65% in 1999 to over 73% by 2012. This glaringly revealed the criminal nature of wealth distribution under capitalism.

After the last rebate, Nigeria is now classed as the biggest economy in Africa, but it is more like an elephant with chicken legs. While South Africa has been able to generate 41,990 MW as of March 2013 to power her economy, Nigeria is still struggling to raise her power generation to 4000MW. While the poor continue to get poorer, Nigeria is now home to the richest man in Africa, with the number of dollar billionaires rising from 0 in 1996, to 4 by the year 2014; out of seven black men who are dollar billionaires in 2014, seven of them are Nigerians. Massive privatizations, which resulted in mass lay-offs of workers and exacerbated the already bad unemployment situation, happen to be at the same time the booster of wealth for Dangote, the richest man in Africa. He benefited most from privatization and access to Government in power. While the overwhelming majority of Nigerians continue to suffer pain and poverty, a very small number of fat cats continue to grow fatter; this is what capitalism actually means.

Boiling anger of the middle classes, a struggling working class and soldiers in revolt

Nigeria revolutionSocial inequality, amidst increasing corruption is already inducing social tensions. Beneath the apparent calm on the surface is an increasing anger of the oppressed strata of the society. January 2012, the mass movement of millions of Nigerians appeared like a thief in the night. It revealed how deep the anger in society has become. Though the movement was led by the trade union organizations, the involvement of very large layers of the lower middle class who turned up in very large numbers to demonstrate their anger against the Nigerian ruling class showed how revolutionary the period we have entered is.

Most Nigerians are well aware of the fact that the Nigerian state has degenerated significantly, but many were unaware of how rotten and to what extent it had degenerated, until it was tested in the encounter with the rag-tag insurgency called Boko Haram. The so called war against Boko Haram terrorists fully exposes the Nigerian state. It shows how low the morale of the rank and file soldiers is. How could it be otherwise? We heard that lower ranking soldiers have to lobby their officers before they can get bullets to fight, that when they die in battle their corpses are thrown into the bushes and the information kept from their families so that the next of kin will not ask for entitlements, while the officers keep collecting the allowances of the fallen soldiers. Rank and file soldiers have to pay for their medical treatment when they get wounded in battle. The last Chief of Army Staff (Inhejikira) is reported to be one of the richest men in Nigeria, with the wealth he made from embezzlement and outright stealing of the allocations to the Nigerian army.

The military inevitably reflects the situation in society as a whole; just as society is rotten, so also is the military; just as the working class and the poor in the society are revolting, so also is their uniformed counterpart in the army. There are now up to five different reported cases of mutiny in the army, this is apart from the last protest of wives and children of soldiers in the barracks, where the protesting women prevented the armoured vehicles from leaving the barracks.

The military court has already sentenced 12 soldiers to death by firing squad and 97 others are awaiting their judgment, but rather than this repression cowing down the extremely angry soldiers, it has only increased tension in almost all the barracks. According to the reported interview of one of the soldiers:

“We are rather very loyal soldiers of the Nigerian Army and the behaviour of those sentenced to death is just a signal that they, the officers will not be safe if they kill our people unnecessarily. How many do they want to kill? We have a common enemy Boko Haram inside this very state, instead of them to rally round the soldiers and the people to get to the root, they are using oppression. We are waiting to see who will fire the shots at the firing range and where they will get the soldiers from to do the job."(National Daily)

This is important evidence that we have really entered a pre-revolutionary situation in Nigeria and highlights the need for Nigerian Marxists to speed-up their preparations for a major revolutionary upheaval.

Deep split within Nigerian ruling elite

When the wind blows, it blows first the top of the tree; this statement is also true of class society. The unease and restlessness that pervades society has found its expression in the deep split with the ruling class. While the ruling party is desperate to continue in the old way, not minding the growing anger and loss of social support, having been in power for 15years, we are also witnessing the desperation of the so-called opposition party to unseat the incumbent party through deception and camouflaging. As the anger of the oppressed masses intensifies, this division among the ruling class is expected to get deeper.

The political atmosphere is dominated by these two tendencies for now, organised around the PDP (the ruling party) and the APC (the bourgeois opposition party). It is this painful fact that sects of all shades in Nigeria has been unable to come to terms with. These sectarians who shamefully call themselves Marxists are accusing the masses of allowing themselves to be limited to only two useless bourgeois options. “How can the masses be so gullible as to allow themselves to be pushed around by two sides of the same coin?” they lamented, not taking into consideration that the masses do not learn from books but from the greatest teacher: experience. Their extreme impatience has led them to form a political party with five human beings and plenty of dogs. Their actions confirmed more strikingly that sectarians are activists with very small brains and small ambitions. Some of them who are not prepared to go through the rigour of party registration are struggling to raise a dead and buried sectarian organization to stand for election. Some of them even ask why Marxists bother to pay so much attention to the splits among the ruling class, forgetting that in some instances, it is the battle within the ruling class that eventually drags the masses into political movement. Those promising youths who unfortunately enter these sectarian organizations have been miseducated, overused and in many cases they have dropped out of the struggle, tired and disillusioned after several futile attempts at useless adventures.

The independent party of the working class and the challenges of building one

The future of Nigeria’s economic situation is very grim. Governments of either the PDP or the APC will have no other option than to remove the subsidy on oil, to increase school fees in our institutions, continue freezing wages, continue cutting funding on health; that is, they will put the burden of this crisis on the head and shoulders of ordinary Nigerians. This is mainly because these two parties rule on the basis of the capitalist programme and with slogan of “government has no business doing business”. None of these bourgeois political parties will retrieve our collective wealth from the private individuals who are currently controlling it: our oil will still be controlled by Shell, ExxonMobil and a host of them. Our banks will still be in the hands of the fat cats who continue to speculate with huge wealth in their care and continue shunning investing in productive exercises that can generate employment.

Only a mass workers’ political party with a socialist programme can be committed to the nationalization of the key sectors of our economy and responsible enough to put our collective wealth in the service of all, a party that will decide on its investment not on the basis of profit, but for the good of the overwhelming majority. It is only such a party that can actually lift the working class and the poor from the current sorry state that the inept and ruinous ruling class has sunk us all in. But such a mass party cannot come into being on the basis of mere proclamations as the sects thought; such a Party will only evolve on the basis of the life and death struggle between and within the oppressors and the oppressed class. The only revolutionary class in a bourgeois society like Nigeria remains the working class, and the fact that they are currently under reformist and compromising leadership does not in any way negate this fact.

Fortunately, the working class had built its fighting organizations even before Nigeria was proclaimed in 1914. The Nigerian working class has built its Unions, the NLC and TUC, with almost 10 million workers organized within them and enormous resources under their control. With these human and material resources under its control, the Nigerian working class is capable enough of building a mass party that could immediately become a force and commence the process of overthrowing these inept and useless ruling elite.

Since 2002, the NLC had already registered a party now known as the Labour Party, but unfortunately, the leadership of the Unions handed over this party to a much more useless section of the bourgeoisie. The Party has been bastardised, insulted and rendered unattractive to the generality of Nigerian workers. It is precisely this sorry state of the Labour Party that makes some on the Left; some who even shamelessly call themselves “Marxists”, to conclude that the Nigerian working class is incapable of reclaiming the party from the bourgeois intruders. If the working class has no capacity to reclaim its party, where will it derive the capacity to reclaim society from the bourgeoisie? Which is more complicated and more tasking, reclaiming the party or reclaiming the whole of Society?

We are obviously in a pre-revolutionary situation here in Nigeria, the wind is blowing the top of the trees; but it will not stop at the top of the trees, the shoots and even the roots will be touched. The mass organization of the working class will also be affected, one way or the other, by this wind of pre-revolution.

We are currently witnessing a major split between the Labour wing of the Labour party and the outright bourgeois wing. The Trade Union Leadership has publicly come out to dissociate itself from the coming convention of the Party called by right-wing leadership of the party, coming up on the 16th October, 2014 in Akure. The Labour leadership in a press conference of 10th October, 2014 called on the workers and working class activists in the Party to boycott the convention and await a new date for the proper party convention. This is an open declaration of battle against the bourgeois wing of the party who called the 16th October convention.

The Campaign for a Workers’ Alternative (CWA), the Nigerian section of the IMT, has fully thrown itself into this battle; we align with the Trade Unions in this historic fight for the soul of the Labour Party against the bourgeois invaders. We are mobilizing all our human and material resources in support of this struggle and we passionately call on workers and youth who are equally tired of this blood-sucking capitalist system and who rightly see through the fact that the APC is not in any way a genuine replacement for the PDP, to join us in this historic battle to free Nigeria from the chains of capitalism as a pre-condition to free the whole of Africa and the whole of humanity from this crisis-ridden and extremely barbaric capitalist system.