Nigeria

This year there was a massive display of working class militancy at the May Day rallies in Nigeria. What was evident, however, was the glaring contradiction between the main speeches calling for “dialogue” and the desire to take the road of militant strike action by the rank and file. The Marxists of the Workers’ Alternative intervened successfully with a huge sale of their paper and with many workers showing a keen interest in their ideas.

Inmates at a Kaduna Prison in Nigeria last Tuesday attempted a jailbreak, and no fewer than 15 of them are feared dead as security forces were called in to regain control of the situation. At the root of this situation are the appalling conditions in which the prisoners are kept, and beyond the prison itself the appalling living conditions of millions of Nigerian poor.

The Nigerian workers’ genuine mass organised expression is the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), a powerful trade union body. But they lacked a political expression, a genuine workers’ party. In recent times a Nigerian Labour Party has been formed, which has attracted some attention from activist within the movement. The problem is that the NLC has not put its full backing behind it, leaving it in a kind of half-way house, limbo state. What is required is to transform it into a genuine mass party with the full backing of the NLC.

Over the weekend of March 6-7, hundreds of people, including many women and children, were butchered like animals in ethnic conflicts near the city of Jos in Nigeria. This is not the first time such ethnic strife has erupted. It is a symptom of the decay of Nigerian society under the rule of a parasitic local bourgeoisie at the service of imperialism.

The physical ill-health of the present President of Nigeria is compounding the crisis of the regime. But whoever the ruling class replace him with, the anti-worker policies will stay the same. What is required is for the Nigerian Labour Party to break with the bourgeois elements and pose as a completely independent party of the working class.

After the blow to the Nigerian economy by the sharp fall in the price of oil, due to falling demand on a global scale, now that there are signs of recovery in the advanced capitalist economies, the price of oil has been rising for some time, although not reaching anywhere near the peak of over US$140 per barrel. Thus, Nigeria is also set to grow, but all this hides the real underlying weaknesses of the Nigerian economy.

A Labour Party was created in the recent period in Nigeria. This had been a long time coming, but unfortunately many renegades from various bourgeois parties have jumped on the bandwagon using the party to promote their own careers. The Marxists maintain that the party must be tightly linked to the Nigerian Labour Congress and the workers must take control of the party if it is to become the true voice of the Nigerian working class.

A Labour Party has been formed in Nigeria, but it has not received the official backing of the NLC national leadership, although trade union activists are members and work within it. Unfortunately, the present leadership is not pushing for a stronger trade union link. On the contrary, it wishes to distance the party even further from the trade unions. What is required is for the trade union movement to put its full backing behind the party and transform it into a fighting working class organisation.

Initially Nigerian so-called economic experts were denying the world crisis would affect Nigeria. Then reality hit them with a bang! There had been a frenzy of speculation, as the investors believed they could money from money, without actually producing anything. Now the financial mess is clear to all, and the only answer the ruling class has is to throw more money at the speculators, while squeezing the Nigerian masses.

A militant strike has been going on of the University academic staff in Nigeria. Significantly this time they have linked up with the non-academic staff. The education system in Nigeria is in a dismal state, with the best academics leaving in droves for the advanced capitalist west. This very fact is a condemnation of the corrupt Nigerian ruling elite.

Earlier this year, in May, the Niger Delta region of Nigeria was in what amounted to a state of war, with the army bombing villages, killing many poor civilians. This article, written at the height of the events, looks into what is behind this conflict, placing it within the context of the crisis of Nigerian capitalism, the unstable nature of the present Yar’Adua government and the key product of Nigeria, crude oil.

A sizeable proportion of Nigerian workers receive pay that is nothing but a starvation wage. Today, over 75% of them live in conditions of crushing poverty, in conditions not far removed from barbarism. And yet any demand for a decent minimum wage is presented by the ruling elite as “unaffordable”, as something that would do terrible damage to the economy.

There has been much talk in Nigeria among bourgeois economists on how to “save the Naira” the country’s currency. Here a Nigerian Marxist explains how none of the policies advocated by these “experts” can work. Only by taking over the banks and the commanding heights of the economy can real control be established over monetary policy.

There is much talk of electoral reform in Nigeria, but even if a genuinely democratic procedure were put in place the workers would still be faced with a choice between parties that stand more or less for the same bourgeois interests. What is required is a party of labour. The Labour Party exists but is run by bourgeois gangsters that have hijacked it. The task is to boot these out and place the party in the hands of the workers.

Adams Oshiomhole was last year declared the rightful winner of the gubernatorial elections in Edo state. He is a very popular figure, having been for years the general secretary of the NLC (Nigerian Labour Congress). But instead of standing for Labour he stood on a bourgeois ticket. Many hopes were placed in him, but what has he achieved so far in the state he now governs?

Nigeria is an oil-rich country and yet its people live in absolute poverty. A small privileged elite profits from the oil industry, stashing away their ill-gotten gains and do not use this oil wealth to improve living conditions for the masses. Now they want to worsen things with deregulation. The only answer is nationalisation and planning of the resources under workers' control.

Scenes of innocent people being killed at the hands of the police are becoming ever more common in Nigeria. Here a Nigerian Marxist links this phenomenon to the ever deeper senile decay of capitalism.

Most Nigerian workers earn miserably low wages. The present minimum wage is set at 5,200 Naira (US$36) per month. The workers have now raised the demand for a 52,000 Naira (US$360) minimum wage, still low compared to international standards, and yet the Nigerian elite complain that this will damage the economy!

Not so long ago Nigerian economists were claiming Nigeria would be immune from the world financial meltdown. Now the Nigerian economy is being hit very hard as the world economy is pushed more and more into recession. The dramatic fall in the price of oil is having a devastating impact on Nigeria's finances and the coming period will see this translated into even greater suffering for the working masses.

The present Yar'Adua administration in Nigeria elaborated a so-called "Seven Point Agenda" as it came into office. None of its goals have been achieved and will not be achieved on the basis of the present capitalist economic set up.

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