For the past three months now, Nigeria's political stability has been on a cliff-edge as a result of the succession crisis occasioned by the illegal absence of the country's president, Umaru Yar'Adua, due to ill health.
But political events since the emergence of the Yar'Adua government through the highly flawed and violently rigged elections in 2007 have further confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that the Nigerian capitalist ruling class, flowing from its neocolonial background, cannot move the country forward an inch, no matter its pretence to any form of civility.
The events that have played out since then, up to the present appalling political situation, have shown that unless a genuine revolutionary, working and poor people political opposition is provided in answer to the rottenness called leadership in Nigeria to change the socio-economic and political fabrics of the country, no amount of piecemeal approaches can resolve the misery called 'governance' in Nigeria.
Though nothing is wrong with protest against the ruling class's dangerous game, the fact that Nigeria's pro-bourgeois commentators, their civil society allies (under the banner of the Save Nigeria Group and other platforms) and the labour leadership are sowing the illusion that there is shortcut to the problems facing Nigeria by appealing to and mobilising behind a section of the ruling class is both treacherous and dangerous for the working people over the coming period.
THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE POWER TUSSLE
Behind the entire antics of succession politics is massive looting officially and extra-officially. In addition to trillions of naira handed over to oil marketers and another trillion-plus naira to politicians annually as official salaries, the country has seen the continuation of anti-poor, pro-rich economic policies of privatisation (of Sheraton Hotels, oil blocks, planned PHCN (Power Holding Company of Nigeria) and refineries' sale, and now the dubious NITEL (Nigeria Telecommunications Ltd) sale and public-private partnerships), commercialisation (education and healthcare) and retrenchment. Added to all this is the siphoning of state resources through over-bloated and duplicated contracts (over N500 billion (over US$3 billion) extra-budget for power generation with nothing to show for it) and the sharing of excess crude oil fund. In sum, despite the huge resources that have accrued to the state purse since 2007, the rich few are getting richer at the expense of impoverished countrymen and women. If there is anything new in Yar'Adua government, it is a re-arrangement of the looting class.
With this kind of arrangement, it is easy to imagine the deadly struggle that will ensue between different sections of the ruling-but-looting class at every attempt at changing the controlling hand over the spoils. Now, with federal budgets of almost N4.5 trillion for 2010, the Yar'Adua-Jonathan power tussle can only get messier. That this intra-class war has taken a current dangerous dimension that may possibly end in military intervention - and worse still a civil war - is a reflection of the absence of a genuine mass organisation of the working and poor people that could provide mass opposition to the rottenness called 'governance' in Nigeria. The bourgeois opposition parties are mere junior partners of the ruling party in terms of economic policies and politics. In fact, they are satisfied with their local dominance, which provides them with some form of economic survival, and at best seek for regional domination which they can use at the best of times to negotiate with any national government.
While the sidelined section of the capitalist ruling class have mobilised behind Goodluck Jonathan, relying on the moral problem of the Yar'Adua camp, the camp lining behind Yar'Adua's politics comprising state governors, national assembly members, a major section of the federal executive, big business that have gained from huge government projects, and other politicians who have tailored their political and economic survival to the 2011 calculations are using their connection with the military to checkmate and hold back the new power section from emerging fully. The Jonathan group wants to break away from the prison imposed by the Yar'Adua groups, assert itself and build its own empire, but being itself a part of the so-called 'kitchen cabinet' cannot fully annihilate the Yar'Adua group because this will upset the whole political-cum-economic arrangements of the capitalist ruling class (which they jointly built) and may lead to their collective ruin.
Behind the scenes is the reliance on the military and mobilisation of base sentiments of ethnic and regional forces by each power camp. While the Yar'Adua camp is mobilising the military bureaucrats (who fear for their careers in a new arrangement) to ensure the thin thread tying Yar'Adua to power, the Jonathan emerging bloc is relying on intelligence forces and old military forces to sustain itself, as seen in the removal of Yar'Adua's National Security Adviser. All this again knocks a big hole in the so-called commitment of Nigeria's ruling class to democracy. Both camps are prepared to use military forces and ethnicity to avoid losing their grip of power. This reliance on the military is a recipe for military intervention when intra-class conflict gets critical, as seen in Niger now.
THE LAME DUCK LEGISLATURE
While the National Assembly's criminally belated intervention in legitimising Jonathan is more of a game of self-preservation than national interest, the failure to bring to book all those who made nonsense of its resolutions reflects not only the lame duck character of this section of the bourgeois state but also their fear of losing economically and politically from the power game. Having seen the power play, they do not want a military coup which may at best put them out of power; neither do they want a situation that will place responsibilities of rescuing the capitalist state on them. This explains their acquiescence when the worst actions were carried out (exemplified by secrecy on Yar'Adua's whereabouts and the semi-coup carried out to bring Yar'Adua back to power) to undermine the existence of the so-called legislature, the majority of whose members were rigged into office. Despite the fact that all officials and structures of the state have been ridiculed both within and outside the country, no action has been taken to at least put an end to the shenanigan by ending Yar'Adua's rule, even when they have a pseudo-ally in the so-called civil society. This is not accidental; the National Assembly is aware that basing themselves on a very limited power of the civil society groups can open the floodgates to the massive movement of the poor that may consume them in the coming period. But the National Assembly, rather than saving itself with this posture, has sown the seed for its own destruction.
THE HYPOCRISY OF IMPERIALIST POWERS
More than ever before, the direct intervention of US and European capitalist governments in the current succession crisis reflects the very weak, neocolonial and pro-imperialist character of Nigeria's ruling class. Moreover, political developments in Nigeria have also shown the perfidy of foreign imperialist interests despite their pretensions about democracy. The US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, despite all his sermons about democracy and constitutionalism, did not see Aso Rock or the National Assembly as a first point of call for his visit but rather the Minna mansion of General Ibrahim Babangida (a symbol of Nigeria's anti-democratic and anti-poor forces), possibly to negotiate a power arrangement and prevent any situation that may affect the US's economic interests. Already China has greater influence in Africa and indeed in Nigeria's oil industry, with a Chinese oil cartel offering huge petrodollars for juicy oil fields formerly exclusively reserved for Western multinational oil companies. This has also given the Nigerian corrupt ruling class leverage to seek an increased share of the oil largesse and sell the whole oil industry to the highest bidder, as enshrined in Petroleum Industry Bill. Thus the present political crisis (as well as the terrorist blacklisting issue) provides an opportunity for Western imperialist powers to re-negotiate their economic interests in Nigeria.
Of course, the domino effect of instability in Nigeria on other African countries is a live question for US and European capitalist governments, but this itself is based on the survival of their imperialist interests in Africa rather than the continent's genuine stability. Western capitalist governments did not consider that just 10 per cent of the over US$2 trillion dollars spent to bail out a handful of financial sharks could lift hundreds of millions of poor Africans out of poverty and misery. Thus the US and European capitalist governments' concern for democracy in Nigeria is underlined by the economic interests of their big capitalist sharks. This explains the ambiguity in their statements, trying to boost support for Jonathan and at the same time giving room for Yar'Adua's comeback. We should not be surprised if they switch their support tomorrow. The latest example of Honduras, where US and European governments supported a military government that ousted a democratically elected president, gives a glimpse of the real interests of imperialism.
GOODLUCK JONATHAN AND CIVIL SOCIETY INCONSISTENCY
It is thus naïve if not outright treacherous for our civil society and the media practitioners to portray Jonathan as a better alternative to Yar'Adua. In the real sense, Jonathan was part-and-parcel of Yar'Adua's kitchen cabinet and participated in all policies and programmes of the Yar'Adua government, which have made lives more miserable for the working people and place the nation's wealth in the pockets of a rich few. Jonathan was part of the process leading to the rejection of the Justice Uwais-led electoral reform committee's recommendations. He participated in the cover-up around Yar'Adua's health status. He chairs the National Council on Privatization (NCP) that has handed over public wealth to local and foreign capitalists at token prices while workers are retrenched en masse. Ironically, the same media and opposition who told us in 2007 that Jonathan was put in Yar'Adua's cabinet as Olusegun Obasanjo's lapdog are now vigorously seeking the presidency of Jonathan. What happens if some disgruntled elements are sponsored to campaign for Yar'Adua's return as some pro-Yar'Adua groups are planning?
The whole shenanigan about the power tussle has provided each camp with the opportunity to loot the nation blind. And since his appointment as acting president, it has been more about privatisation (of NITEL under a dubious arrangement), the handout of billions to moneybags under the guise of Niger Delta development, the re-introduction of the official adoption of deregulation, and an invitation to the old economic plunderers and military supremacists like Theophilus Danjuma (who claimed recently to have gained over US$500 million from investment in oil block given him by Sani Abacha). This is the alternative that civil society, the media, opposition parties and the labour movement leadership is giving to working but poor Nigerians? Is there no alternative to this policy of lesser evil?
Flowing from the analyses above it is glaring that the various sections of the ruling class cannot resolve their own intra-class political crisis, much less talk of laying the basis for genuine democracy in Nigeria. If the ruling class can be so crude in struggling for power within their own arrangement, one can only guess what will happen when they are to lose power. Thus it is illusory for civil society and the labour movement to think that Jonathan can ensure free-and-fair elections or 'reform' the electoral system. No genuine election can exist under a weak, neocolonial, capitalist economic system where politics is the main source of privilege and wealth. While the positions of the so-called civil society groups and their leaders, whose businesses are tied to the capitalist economy, are understandable, the position of the labour leadership - the workers' representatives - on this issue is frightening to say the least .
TREACHERY OF THE LABOUR LEADERSHIP
The NLC (Nigeria Labour Congress) and TUC (Trade Union Congress of Nigeria) leaderships' solidarity visits to Jonathan and subsequent comments sowing illusion in the government are both unprincipled and treacherous. Even when it was glaring that those behind Jonathan are the same old dark forces that the labour movement has opposed and fought against, the labour leadership still pretends as if Jonathan's emergence is a 'revolution'. The same labour leadership which claims to oppose deregulation has not organised a 'day of action' to compel the government to reverse artificial scarcity and the fuel prices hike at filling stations, but finds it convenient to join Jonathan's deregulation committee to 'iron out differences' on deregulation, as if labour opposition is mere superficial. The NLC's NEC position that it will accept deregulation if the government builds refineries and infrastructures is ridiculous as this tends to suggest that it was a 'slip of thought' that the government has not done this since 2007. While there is nothing wrong in demanding the ousting of the dubious chief electoral officer, Maurice Iwu, this can never get us anywhere unless the labour movement builds a revolutionary party to oust all capitalist politicians and the system they operate.
However, the NLC's statement after its last NEC meeting stated the reason behind its lukewarm attitude toward the country's political crises. It maintained that some anti-democratic forces want to use mass labour action to hijack power through the military. Does the NLC mean that its actions are a recipe for an anti-democratic takeover of power? Is this not a viable excuse for any repressive government that may emerge from this current muddy struggle for power to suspend labour movement and civil society activities? More importantly, how can a mass action of workers and other oppressed people, maintaining opposition to military rule and demanding a sovereign national conference, lead to the emergence of military rule? The NLC's position only reflects its previously failed policy of political neutrality and collaboration with anti-poor governments, a version of policy of lesser evil-ism.
A GENUINE WORKING-CLASS PROGRAMME
Whichever direction the current ruinous political arrangement moves, it will be a fiasco for the working people both in the near and long term. Even if military rule is avoided, and any camp has a upper hand or the two cabals reach consensus on power sharing, this will only isolate the working and poor people, which may, aside from continuing neoliberal policies, lead to the development of a strong and repressive state meant to annihilate the masses from demanding political change as there will a serious and rabid quest to hold on to power and loot as 2011 approaches. In fact, with the current arrangement, the possibility of elections being held in 2011 is in doubt, while the emergence of a highly repressive state may result if elections are held at all. Only the dislodgement of the current rotten neocolonial capitalist socio-economic and political system, and the enthronement of a socialist Nigeria by the working masses, is the way out.
Rather than demand Jonathan's enthronement (and thus the continuation of anti-poor economic policies), one expects the labour movement to demand at the minimum a truly democratic sovereign national conference that will determine the economic, political, social and cultural bases of Nigeria's existence. Such a conference will be determined through the direct election of representatives of workers' unions, pensioners' associations, unemployed groups, professional organisations, students' and youth movements, peasants' and artisans' organisations and ethnic nationalities. Aside from this demand for a sovereign national conference, there will be other demands such as a N52,000 minimum wage for workers without retrenchment; the reversal of deregulation policy; social security for the aged and the infirm; free and quality education and medical care at all levels; decent and secure jobs for all able-bodied citizens through massive public work programmes such as cheap, mass public housing; an integrated transport system (road, rail and water); poor peasant-based, mechanised agricultural; an agro-allied and food security system; and an environmentally sustainable energy and power system; among others. It will however be illusory to think that the capitalist political class can willingly subscribe to any of these demands without a mass movement threatening the capitalist system.
A PERMANENT REVOLUTIONARY ALTERNATIVE TO POLITICAL ROTTENNESS
Therefore, it will be necessary for the labour movement to mobilise other oppressed layers and the genuinely pro-labour, anti-capitalist civil society groups, radical and socialist organisations with a view to organising not only a series of mass actions against the capitalist ruling class economic policies, but also to build towards the sovereign national conference by forming a political platform to organise a national summit of working and oppressed people through the process outlined for the sovereign national conference. Such national summit can first be preceded by a national mobilisation and enlightenment campaign through press campaigns, the publication of educative materials and the organisation of revolutionary education classes and cells, symposia and rallies at local and state levels. Furthermore, struggle and implementation committees should be set up at local, state, regional and national levels which will organise mass summits at these levels. With this, a basis will be set for a revolutionary movement that will be strong enough to dethrone the current ruinous capitalist ruling class and enthrone a democratic socialist government that will put public resources under working and poor people's democratic public control and management, to develop society on a truly egalitarian and sustainable basis.
As the nation drifts towards the brink of a serious political crisis, the need for the working class and youth activists and leaders, their organisations, the pro-labour civil societies, especially those under LASCO (Labour and Civil Society Coalition), to build a collective revolutionary political platform for this purpose is more important today than ever, either through the existing Labour Party (which was set up by the NLC but is now under the stranglehold of moneybag politicians) or through a new political formation, especially as 2011 is approaching. We need to link our today with the ultimate aim of building a democratic socialist Nigeria, as a basis for a socialist Africa and the world.
Kola Ibrahim is an activist based at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Enuwa, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.