Professor Omotoye Olorode
How the state of the Nigerian nation today is characterised will depend on who or which group is doing the characterisation. This is because every economic or socio-political situation, as in Nigeria today, has its beneficiaries and its victims. While the beneficiaries of the system are happy and struggle to maintain it by all means, the victims and their allies will be unhappy and they will want to change or bring down the system by all means necessary. Broadly speaking, these are the two contending forces or tendencies in Nigeria, and indeed in the world, today.
Perhaps the best characterisation of the vision that brought Nigeria from 2000 to where she was on September 5, 2009 when Gani Fawehinmi joined other great Nigerian patriots and defenders of the oppressed (like Michael Imuodu, Alao Aka-Bashorun, Chima Ubani, Wahab Goodluck, Mokwugo Okoye, Gambo Sawaba, Bala Usman, to mention just a few) on the other side of the great divide, was that of the current Minister of Finance and one of the central figures of the neo-liberal reform team since 2002, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala—NO-I—(2012: p. x):
Our prime goal were reducing macroeconomic volatility and fighting corruption to address various structural features of the Nigerian economy that hinder private-sector enterprise, by promoting privatisation, deregulation and liberalisation (Chapter 3) and reforming the civil service, trade and tariffs, customs and the banking sector…to rein in debt, manage volatility….save for the future, and build credibility with debtors (sic) and investors.
These goals declared by NO-I are the standard goals of SAP arising from World Bank’s Elliot Bergs report of 1980 (Brown, 1995: p. 65). What may not be obvious from the declared goals are the attendant and direct wars declared against the majority and more vulnerable segments of the Nigerian society retrenchment of public-service workers, reduction on social service spending (health, education, public housing); removal of the so-called subsidies on fuel, farm inputs etc. etc. beyond all these occluded goals, we address the fraud of “rein(ing) in debts” more definitively below. The more important issue on debt however, is its use of loans from multilateral organisations (IMF and the World Bank) and the controlling governments of the North as instruments of control and of extraction of surpluses from countries like Nigeria.
Pursuant to the foregoing goals, Okonjo-Iweala (Ibid, p. ix) observed:
Our first order of business was to establish credibility, fairness, and social trust. We needed Nigerians and foreigners to believe in the nation’s government, so they would invest in the country and lend to it. We needed to redress fundamental inequality, pervasive corruption, and power struggles that were undermining Nigerian society.
Clearly, the ruling circles, including their “technocrats” who pretend that they are not “politicians”, see the nexus between their economic programme and their politics! We shall return to these presently.
Gani Fawehinmi’s vision for Nigeria in 2000
In contradistinction to the definition of Nigeria’s goal by Nigeria’s ruling class as circumscribed by the metropolises of capital, the definition by patriots as exemplified by Gani Fawehinmi is people-centred; it is pursuant to national independence. It is not only self-reliant, it seeks to put economic and political decision-making powers in the hands of those who create the wealth of the nation. Having been always with the oppressed, having been at the barricades and trenches with them, Gani’s vision of the goals of Nigeria coincides with that of the masses across Nigeria—see the Citation on the Conferment of Honorary LL. D. of Obafemi Awolowo University on Chief Gani Fawehinmi (Olorode, 2003).
According to Madunagu (2009: p. 30), “Gani Fawehinmi listed ‘his crusades and struggles’, his open platform. They include [quoting Fawehinmi]”:
The abolition of poverty from the face of our country; the unqualified need to preserve, defend and protect fundamental human rights; the governance of our country through democratic processes; the subjection of everybody and everything to the Rule of Law; the right of the people to free and qualitative education at all levels; the right of the people to free and qualitative health services and facilities; the strengthening of our economy through sound development of infrastructures including electricity, good roads, good and modern rail system…..and good water way transportation system; and the overall duties of all Nigerians and Nigerian governments to make Nigeria a corruption-free country by fighting corruption with all our might and means.
The political programme for realising and deepening the foregoing vision is encapsulated in the manifesto of National Conscience Party (NCP) led by Chief Gani Fawehinmi, The 10-Care Programme and Emergency Economic Measures of the National Conscience Party published in 2001 and translated, like no other party programme in Nigeria, into Nigeria’s major languages! Needless to say, NCP’s 10-Care Programme reflected the central issues around which popular forces of democracy have mobilised since Obasanjo’s first coming in 1976 when IMF and the World Bank seized Nigeria.
Where Nigeria was on September 5, 2009 at Gani’s transition
In spite of her several caveats concerning the reform of Nigeria—the “Hopeless” and “unreformable” Nigeria—NO-I asserted categorically in her 2012 book (op. cit., p. 133):
The implementation of reforms in the second Obasanjo administration (2003-2007) broke a cycle of despair and cynicism among Nigerians about the prospects and future of their country. It shows that it is possible to bring about change, that there are Nigerians selfless enough to do this without sinking into corruption or personal gain and that indeed it is possible to reform this hitherto unreformable country.
The foregoing stupendous claims of success of the IMF/World Bank-inspired reforms are pivoted on three or four elements of what the World Bank “Reformers” under Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan considered as their achievements: public service reform (including retrenchments which they call “right-sizing” and monetisation etc.), success of the privatisation exercise, obtaining “debt relief”, and the fight against corruption.
In spite of the internal wrangling, mutual recriminations and blackmails in the Nigerian ruling circles, the leading lights of the class endorse the general claims articulated above and they have backed up these illusions with massive propaganda in the last four years or so. In 2008 on the occasion of Gani’s rejection of the National Award of OFR, and about the time that the IMF/World Bank reformers were making the claims above about their successes, their victims and their allies already reached totally different conclusions. Madunagu (op. cit., p. 31) quoted Gani:
Put simply, the Federal Government is a total failure worsened by lack of direction and leadership…….In addition to my rejection of the honour of OFR on the ground of Government’s conscious war against anti-corruption war, the decadent socio-economic situation does not engender the well-being of ordinary people and there is no hope in sight….President is not giving workers hope, people have to queue for their pensions and some die along the way; people don’t have a living wage; people don’t have access to good education and good health system.
By November 2008, even Charles Soludo the then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and a key figure of the Obasanjo World Bank Reform team was querying the technical and theoretical foundations of the economic prescriptions of Breton Woods institutions and the Washington Consensus regarding countries like Nigeria (The Nation, Monday Nov. 3, 2008: p. 17).
Where Nigeria is today? A critique of the alleged achievements of the IMF/World Bank Reforms from1998.
Today, the general economic, social, cultural and political crisis of Nigeria has not only continued from the 2009 situation, it has deepened and broadened! Poverty and unemployment has increased, social services (education, health and security) and infrastructures have broken down. Political and related violence, mis-governance have escalated at federal, state and local levels while manipulation of sub-ethnic, ethnic and religious antipathies has continued to generate fear, confusion and anxieties. While government-sponsored campaigns of disinformation and illusion [e.g. the paid advert of Economic Advancement Advocacy Initiative “The Economy & You—Road to Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Recovery: Legacies of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (NOI)” Daily TrustMonday August 27, 2013: p. 23] proliferated, informed and independent opinions point to a dismal situation of affairs in Nigeria. The 2013 UNDP Report on Nigeria’s Human Development Index posted on the Internet by Nigeria’s Channels Television on March 19, 2013 and captioned “Nigeria Is Not Improving Its Human Development Index – UNDP” informs us that:
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has stated that Nigeria is not one of the African countries recording remarkable improvement in its human development index.
The agency in its 2013 Human Development Index (HDI) Report listed Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Tanzania as among the African countries that made the greatest strides in HDI improvement since 2000.
According to the report, Nigeria was ranked amongst countries with low development index at 153 out of 186 countries that were ranked. Life expectancy in Nigeria is placed at 52 years old while other health indicators reveal that only 1.9 per cent of the nation’s budget is expended on health. 68.0 per cent of Nigerians are stated to be living below $1.25 daily while adult illiteracy rate for adult (both sexes) is 61.3 per cent. The report comes despite the reported growth in the Nigerian economy, with the country recording a GDP growth rate of 6.99 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2012. The country’s economy has been described as robust and resilient.
Before UNDP HDI Report, cited above, a USA Air War College Report—Occasional Paper No.67 (Kinnan, Gordon, Delong, Jaquish & McAllum, 2011: p. vii) was categorical:
Nigeria, like many nations in Africa, gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1960. It is the most populous country in Africa and will have nearly 250 million people by 2030. In its relatively short modern history, Nigeria has survived five military coups as well as separatist and religious wars, is mired in an active armed insurgency, is suffering from disastrous ecological conditions in its Niger Delta region, and is fighting one of the modern world’s worst legacies of political and economic corruption.
Poor investment in the nation’s critical infrastructure and underinvestment in health care, education, science, and technology are all leading to a “brain drain” in which Nigeria’s most talented and educated citizens are leaving the country. This will leave a future Nigeria even poorer.
Nigeria with its vast oil wealth, already large and growing population, religious and cultural diversity, history of weak governance, endemic corruption, poor health care and education systems, failing human service and industrial infrastructure, rising criminality, importance in West Africa and African security, and potential to disproportionately impact the global economy is a clear example of a nation at risk of failure with an ensuing major impact on the rest of the world. It is a challenging case study candidate.
Ogechi Okanyanwu reporting in Premium Times Sat. June 15, 2013, observed:
On Monday June 10, at the third round of the ministerial platform in Abuja, Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, spoke glowingly about the Nigerian economy, saying the fundamentals were strong and that the economy was buoyant beyond danger. But a few a hours later, on Tuesday, when all doors were closed, the minister sang a different tune. She told her colleagues in government point blank that the Nigerian economy is shaky despite the official fundamentals and that drastic steps are needed to save it from collapse.
Inside Nigeria, informed opinions debunk the propaganda and illusion of assessment by government agents and functionaries. For example, at the time of the statements by Economic Advancement Advocacy Initiative referred to above, the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture’s (NACCIMA) president, Dr. Herbert Ajayi was quoted as saying that “no fewer than 800 companies in Nigeria closed shop between 2009 and 2011…and more than half of the ‘surviving’ firms have been classified as ‘ailing’…(Daily Trust Wednesday September 12, 2012: p.9).
What is even more dangerous, and therefore more troubling, is that NGOs sponsored by government and government functionaries like ministers (such as the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister on the Economy’s NOI Polls and Oduah’s N2N Campaign outfit for Jonathan) and wives of the President and State Governors, are now into massive propaganda and disinformation strategies with the consequence of justifying the political and economic wars against the Nigerian people! In the particular case of the attempt by NOI Polls to persuade Nigerians that government has reduced poverty in Nigeria, This Day Live, 23rd May, 2013 carried a report by Abimbola Akoshile captioned, “ActionAid Nigeria Refutes NOI Polls Report on Poverty”:
“NOI Polls report which claimed that 80% of Nigerians live above the one-dollar-a-day poverty threshold”….“the poll interview selected adults who owns mobile phones” “only 2 in 10 Nigerians were found spending below N160 ($1) for their meals in a day assuming that they eat at least once in a day, the items listed as being eaten by the respondents including bread, rice, spaghetti and noodles”. To the anti-poverty crusader [Dr. Hussaini Abdu] “it is ridiculous to state [as NOI Polls did] that most Nigerians now eat in canteens…The NOI Polls questions the method of applying Purchasing Power Parity rather than calculate directly using the Dollar/Naira exchange rate when in fact this internationally applied method is tailored per country using Consumer Price Indices (CPIs) and gives greater accuracy and local grounding to the $1.25 per day measurement per country”.
Later in this presentation, we refer to the rather truculent and passionate critique by Oby Ezekwesili of the post-Obasanjo management of Nigeria’s economy, the squander of the resources allegedly left by Obasanjo and the “democratisation” of corruption in recent times in Nigeria. What is significant about all these is fact that the “fix it” Finance Minister and Ezekwesili’s fellow World Bank people have been continuously in charge of the bourgeoning social and economic crisis of Nigeria!
In the ensuing segments of this paper we counterpoise the realities of the situation on ground today to the fiction that the ruling class had sought to promote in the last decade or so on the questions of unending debt slavery, the looting they call privatisation, the phenomenon of corruption they mystify as if it is independent of economic ideology, and the crisis of governance that is pivoted on neo-liberalism.
The Privatisation Rip-off: Its ideology, politics and myths. The bourgeoisie may always be tempted to loot!
The following quotation from Y. B. Usman’s For the Liberation of Nigeria (New Beacon Books, 1979: pp. 273-274) under the heading, The Temptations for Frelimo, is instructive:
One has to see these villages and the mansions, hotels and apartments of L.M. and Beira to appreciate the temptations facing Frelimo, most of whose members are from the villages. They could easily divide these up as ‘official quarters’ and even buy some up individually at ‘book value’. Every Frelimo militant—there are probably less than 50,000—can get a hefty share of the houses, businesses and farms abandoned by the Portuguese. They could settle in comfortably in these, with all the tourist amenities, proclaim a five year development plan, one version of African socialism, negritude, authenticity of just say they are moderate stating exactly what they are moderate about. Samora would quickly get widespread acclaim for ‘statesmanship’; a shower of degrees from Howard to Cambridge and if he continues making speeches against apartheid, even the chairmanship of the O.A.U. Marcelinos dos Santos would have his poems translated into English, Hebrew, French and German; draw fat royalties from them and every comma would be the subject of a seminar or thesis from Texas to Samaru and might even end up on the W.A.E.C. syllabus.
That is the temptation which Nigeria’s neo-colonial, looting, ruling class has always fallen for! Frelimo did not succumb to this temptation of becoming the owners of public wealth that derived from the blood and sweat of their own people when, as a liberation party, it took power in Mozambique!
In Reforming the Unreformable, Okonjo Iweala, (2013, p. 50) claimed:
Nigeria’s program of deregulation, liberalisation, and privatisation remains controversial. Part of this controversy is ideological. There is a core of intelligentsia inclined towards socialism in Nigeria—in academia, in the media, in the labour unions, and elsewhere—who despite the obvious failures of the state in Nigeria’s case, still believes in the people of the state as producers, employer and equaliser in society.
Part of the controversy is due to suspicion among the general public—a suspicion that has sometime been borne out—that not all of the privatisation agenda has been carried out in an open and transparent manner. There has been political interference (leading to reversals of some deals) and there has been hints of corruption in the implementation of some privatisations in telecommunications, petrochemicals, steel aluminium and other industries. [Our emphases].
It [the privatisation program] also brought receipts from the proceeds of privatisation into the treasury—about 251.4 billion naira (the equivalent of US$ 2billion) between 1999 and 2011. Another US$ 10 billion in annual transfers to public enterprise was saved as a result of these reform efforts.
Various reports (see the Tables below) showed, not hinted, that indeed a lot of the proceeds of privatisation were not accounted for and the processes have no iota of integrity or credibility.
Nigeria: Privatisation as a Looting Programme
Media reports from the probe of activities of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on the privatisation and commercialisation of public enterprises owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) since 1997 have clarified major issues for the Nigerian people.
We need to note that the probe on the processes of privatisation sponsored by Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan (Yobe North ANPP) was not the first. In 2004, there was a similar probe panel chaired by Senator Azuta Mbata who raised the alarm on the missing proceeds (Table 1 below) from the privatisation programme. That was almost one decade ago!
Table 1: The Missing Funds
|THE MISSING FUNDS
- NAL Merchant Bank -N1.4 billion
- International Merchant Bank -N14.59 million
- FSB International Bank -N1.69 billion
- Assurance Bank -N856 million
- African Petroleum -N2.8 billion
- Unipetrol -N2.05 billion
- Nat. Oil and Chem. Coy Plc -N9.02 billion
- W. African Portland Cement -N2.98 billion
- Ashaka Cement Co. Limited -N2.11 billion
- Northern Nig. Cement Co. Ltd -N681.40 million
- Nigeria Cement Company -N200 million
Note: These enterprises were divested through public offers or a combination of public offer and core investor sale.
- Festac 1977 Hotel -N1.01 billion
- Niger Dock Limited -N3.50 billion
- Sheraton Hotel and Tower, Abuja -N4.5 billion
- Niger Insurance -N300 million
- Nigeria Re-Insurance Corp. -N1.00 billion
- Savannah Sugar Coy Ltd -N1.35 billion
- Nat. Trucks Manuf. Kano -N800 million
- Caterers Court -N620 million
- Electricity metre Company, Zana -N400 million
Note: The Second phase of the programme focused on the public enterprises, which engaged in sectors, where the prices of their respective out put services are largely market determined.
Source: Copied directly from The Insider. April 5, 2004: No. 14, p. 23.
Firstly, the reports have reinforced ASUU’s long-standing conviction that “The establishment of state-funded [and state controlled] enterprises [in a developing economy] is not an accident; it reflects the needs of a backward, “third” world, underdeveloped country to rise to the challenge of enhancing the well-being of its people [ASUU University of Benin NEC Meeting: Nov. 17-18, 2001].
Secondly, the reports from the said probe of BPE activities confirm ASUU’s sustained position, that “The ostensible reason being brandished for privatisation [is] that public enterprises are not efficient…..is false”. [This is why] patriotic individuals and organisations, including the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), ASUU and the Nigerian Students have led a national campaign since 1979 that NIGERIA IS NOT FOR SALE” (again, the same ASUU NEC Communiqué of 2001cited above!). That was more than TEN YEARS AGO!
The ASUU NEC Communique of 2001 cited above then concluded that Privatisation means [ASUU’s State of the Nation 2001, quoting the Benin NEC Communique cited earlier]:
- Handing over out public wealth to interests that have exploited and deprived Nigerians over the years.
- Handing over Nigeria’s independence to the same forces that colonised and plundered our people for centuries.
- Increasing mass poverty for our people
- Making access to basic facilities and resource impossible and unaffordable for over ninety percent of our population.
- Rewarding some Nigerians including politicians, public office holders, some military generals and others in private business for closeness to power.
The ostensible reason being brandished for privatisation is that public enterprises are not efficient. This is false. The fact of the matter is that the public enterprises are deliberately made inefficient in order to sell them. Today, the privatisation programme is part and parcel of the same process of recolonising Nigeria through the World Bank and IMF-packaged programmes of “economic stabilisation”, structural adjustment and liberalisation.
Thus, since 1984 and along with other patriotic forces, ASUU had struggled against thelooting of public enterprises which successive regimes (military and “civilian”) have called Privatisation. Specifically in ASUU’s How to Save Nigeria (1984), the union foresaw privatisation as looting in the strategic IMF/World Bank SAP Programme of the recolonisation of Nigeria. The said strategic recolonisation programme has, of course metamorphosed into what they now call Vision 2020-20 through Vision 2010 and the sub-programmes of NEEDS, “Reform”, NEPAD, the so-called PPP (Public-Private Partnerships) etc.
With the re-invigoration of the recolonisation [of Nigeria] Programme since 1999 (and the seizure of Nigeria by World Bank agents as Ministers, “technocrats”, advisers etc.)ASUU indeed went to court to stop the privatisation programme. Unfortunately, and curiously, the court ruled that ASUU had no locus standi to challenge the privatisation programme. We have since been wondering how any Nigerian could be construed to not have a locus standi when public patrimony is being looted!
Since Babangida’s Decree (of 1988) set up the Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation (TCPC), both public agitation and agitation inside Nigeria’s ruling class (military and civilian) have developed on the propriety and processes of the Privatisation Programme. For different reasons, Nigeria’s working people and patriots opposed propriety of the SALE OF NIGERIA while agitation in the Nigerian ruling circles was about which cliques of the ruling class and their foreign masters would participate in the Auction of Nigeria!
Following Obasanjo’s frenzied fast-tracking of The Auction of Nigeria via the 1999 Public Enterprises Privatisation and Commercialisation Act, the looting process proceeded at such a high speed that Nigerians started apprehending the privatisation programme as a “RIP-OFF” ( Insider Weekly, “Privatisation Rip – Off”: April 5, 2004: pp.18-23). The grabbing and looting in the privatisation war is believed to underlie the war which broke out between the President and the Vice President and their acolytes on both sides including their loquacious accomplices who are now (August, 2011) blaming the then President and VP (Daily Trust Fri. August 12, 2011: p.1, p.3) for the crimes collectively committed by their class. As a matter of fact, both Nuhu Ribadu and El-Rufa’iwere exonerating Obasanjo and vilifying various other people over Obasanjo’s controversial shares in Transcorp (see their interview with Sam Omatseye in The Nation15th October, 2006: p. 1). It is significant that El-Rufai has now modified the [Nuhu Ribadu-El-Rufai] 2006 story considerably (see El-Rufai, 2013: p. 363.
In the struggle to buy Nigeria, President Obasanjo’s faction won through the amendment of the privatisation act which became the Privatisation and Commercialisation of Public Enterprises Act 2004 and which gave the President power to appoint the Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP). Nobody was therefore surprised when President Obasanjo was reported to have embarked on frenzied sale of public enterprises in the twilight of his presidency mid-2007!
The Privatised companies are not performing and private enterprises are not performing either.
We already observed above that public enterprises have been crippled purposely to enable those who crippled the enterprises, in the first place, and their friends to loot them. Many private enterprises (factories, agricultural firms, textile companies, air lines, banks, etc., etc.!) have collapsed and are indeed being rescued by public treasury bailouts and “nationalisation” as the banks, air lines, and textile industries are. Private enterprises across the world are asserting their unembellished characters as illegitimate offspring of public treasury!
As part of the propaganda justifying privatisation, the hoax concerning the efficiency of private enterprise and the advantages of competition for the privatised economy, vis a viswhat the World Bank people call “statist” economy, are canvassed throughout NO-I’s book (NO-I, 2012: p. 37). The truth, however, is that capitalist enterprises are set for profit, not for competition and their so-called efficiency have many victims: workers, national security and the environment. The integrity of the claim that private enterprises are set up to create jobs is even more dubious as the metamorphosis of industrial cities like Detroit (USA) into ghost cities have shown: industries go to where profit can be maximized! In Nigeria, the recent closure of certain cement factories arising from competition between Ibeto and Dangote cement companies also amply exemplify the fickleness of the ‘love’ between capital and labour! Further on the myth of efficiency and competition, it was Dora Akunyinli (as the then Minister of Information) who provided a definitive verdict on the alleged success of the privatization of telephone services (the flag ship “success” of Obasanjo’s privatization programme) when she observed (TellMarch 23, 2009: p. 25):
Because of poor services, Nigeria is the only country where people carry two, three, four phones. It is an embarrassment.
We always know that privatisation had never been about rescuing the Nigerian economy. It had always been about looting public resources. We have always known that privatised enterprises are not performing and will not perform in spite of the slave wages they pay their workers and the primitive conditions under which their workers (as in private educational institutions, the Nigerian Stock Exchange, banks, hospitals, factories, construction companies, agricultural establishments and private companies) are forced to operate! This is why it is significant and curious that it had taken President Jonathan and his Vice-President and some state governors, so long to acknowledge that the privatised enterprises are not performing (See Zakariyya Adaramola’s report, “As Jonathan, Sambo confirm collapse of privatised firms”: Daily Trust Thur. May 26, 2011: p. 26; and “Zamfara Government reverses sale of government property by Shinkafi” Daily Trust, Wed. June 1, 2011: p. 49).
Facts of looting, corruption and fraud in the processes of privatisation
Reports by the media in the recent Senate Ad hoc Committee probe of BPE are replete with instances of fraud, corruption, bending of rules and plain evidence of looting of public assets. Alleged captains of industry are accused frontally of buying public assets with fake documents (MOUs) and the stripping (the plain term for which is looting!) such enterprises of their assets. The public is also raped and short-changed by BPE simply selling at outrageously low prices and rigging the bids against preferred bidders (seeTable 2 below).
Table 2: The current “tip of the [looting] iceberg
|To preferred bidder?
||Delta Steel Company
||Worth over N6 billion
||Bought with fake MOU & fake cheques and stripped of most of their assets
||Ajaokuta Steel Co.
||$ 3.2 billion
||Nigeria Re-Insurance Corp.
Source: Modified from Adamu Adamu: “BPE: Behind Closed doors” (Daily Trust, Friday August 12, 2011: p. 64).
And these privatised enterprises are not performing, cannot perform, or are performing only in the fertile imagination of the succession of the illusionists in BPE!
Sale of infrastructures, roads, sale of public houses, sale of towns, sale of the country
The ruling class are not building their own towns, roads and houses. They build houses and whole towns like Abuja with public money and sell to themselves. They even sell (“concession”) public roads to themselves and they have converted GRAs in all state capitals to their own private property! They superintend these massive frauds by means of huge bureaucracies supervised by a multiplicity of “fat cats”.
But even at prices that make privatised infrastructures (such as telephones, water supply, power supply etc.) unaffordable to ordinary people, the privatised organisations provide shoddy and unreliable service! The claim of the private sector leading the Nigerian economy is a myth, an illusion and a fraud! It explains the sudden, unexplained and unexplainable wealth of a tiny minority of unknown characters who have become multibillionaires overnight buying government roads, telecom companies, power companies, estates, insurance companies, industries etc.!
Privatisation of the Education Sector
Regarding looting, privatisation and deregulation, the sector that had perhaps suffered the greatest assault especially in the last decade is the education sector. For, really, looting is “forceful” take-over and ownership of resources created by agencies other than those that take them over. By underfunding and deliberate neglect of the public-funded education sector in the last decade, the sector had been forced into the private-sector mode substantially. This is in spite of the generalised poor quality and inaccessibility (to most Nigerians) of the privatised sector of education: nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary.
The privatised sub-sector of the education sector being driven largely by profit motive and backed up by ruling class propaganda, is also dominated by “demand” of those who can pay, leading to proliferation of myopic curricula (like marketing, entrepreneurship, banking and finance, accounting etc.) and down grading and neglect critical areas like basic sciences, languages, history and various intellectual pursuits that re-think the world and humanise it! And all of these are carried out largely in social environments that are sectarian, exclusivist, rabidly individualistic and creating religious and other fundamentalisms among the Nigerian youth as most private institutions are confessional establishments while public institutions that integrate society are being killed by deregulation policies!
Systematic privatisation of the education sector is looting because the most important factor in the sector—manpower—had been the product of public sector investment in the last fifty years! This is the factor that “traders” in the education sector have seized and are exploiting with slave wages to teachers and restrictions on their basic social rights like the right to belong to trade unions.
From Abubakar Abdulsalami to Goodluck Jonathan (1998-2013), and in spite of often murderous rancour (exploiting ethnicist and confessional advantages) among themselves, the ruling class has maintained a general integrity within itself and loyalty to foreign state actors, multilateral financial institutions, multinational corporate interests (Motorola, Haliburton, Ford, Wilbros, Carnegie, Kellog, Ericson, Enron etc.) and quasi-state and international institutions like USAID, DFID, UNDP, IFC etc. etc.
One thing that runs through the accounts of major actors in the enforcement of the programme of re-colonising Nigeria is the attempt by the actors to insist on their altruism and patriotism. They insist that there is no alternative to neo-liberalism and especially to what they call private-sector led economy; they are unabashed about their relationships with their IMF and World Bank intellectors in the imposition and implementation of re-colonisation policies.
In peripheries like Nigeria, the definitive hubris of the ideologues of neo-liberalism underscores the backwardness of what Gunder Frank called the lumpen bourgeoisie (the parasitic elite) in the peripheries of global capitalism. Thus while this parasitic elite continue the ideology of looting of public enterprises which they call privatisation, those who taught them the “a, b, c” of privatisation are much more reticent; they are even revising their views. Thus in a long and, at times laughable, apologia by Jeffry Sachs (the so-called Shock Doctor of Harvard) in his “What I did in Russia” posted on the internet on March 14th 2012, this intellector of our World Bank enforcers in Nigeria asserted concerning privatisation and the capitalist oligarchic vultures in Post-Soviet Russia (all the emphases are ours):
During the entire period of my advising, I had only a tangential role in the plans for privatization of major industries………..
My main concern was governance of the large enterprises, specifically how to establish some measure of corporate governance over management and workers. My proposal was to convert current state-owned enterprises, which by now reported to nobody, into a corporate form with a supervisory board. My hope was that a proper supervisory board, largely appointed by the state as the main shareholder (perhaps a combination of federal, provincial, and local government-appointed members, plus representatives of workers and management) would stop the self-dealing of managers and the stripping of enterprise assets. Once corporatization was completed I envisioned that there would be many pathways to privatizing the state-owned shares in subsequent years………..
The Government’s privatization strategy was to move radically and quickly, so that there would be no reversal in political power and no reversion to a communist regime. The idea was to push the assets out into private hands as quickly as possible, even if corruption and unfairness ensued. This was not my approach, and I disagree with it. I was worried from the start of this process in Poland that corruption in privatization or manifest unfairness would not only damage the economy but also damage the society, by undermining the support for democracy, economic reforms, and social justice.
In the end, Russia went the course of quick and reckless privatization, to my dismay. Even many of my “reformer” friends accepted this situation. Why did they do so? Did they really fear a return to Soviet communism? Were they naïve? Was the lure of corruption and personal gain too much for some? I do not know.
During my final trip to Moscow in early 1995, the infamous “loans-for-shares” deal was just getting underway. This deal involved a massive and corrupt transfer of natural resource enterprises to the Government’s cronies, disguised as a collateralized loan to the Russian Government by Russian banks. The arrangements were blatantly corrupt from the start. I spent my final visit in Moscow visiting Western officials to warn them about what was happening. I felt that my antennae were pretty sound at that point, and that my perspective would be helpful to head off a disaster. I was stunned by the obtuseness of the response, from the IMF, an OECD visiting mission, and later from very senior U.S. officials, including Larry Summers.
In today’s Nigeria, as in post-Soviet Russia, privatisation is also looting. Public expenditures are incurred by the ruling class to hand the products to foreigners and members of their class. Nothing exemplifies this more than public housing and estates in the states and especially Federal houses and estates as the Osborne Road houses in Lagos and government land and estates in the money sink called Abuja! And the mode of transfer and acquisition of these prime properties are sources of perpetual and acrimonious war within the ruling class (see El-Rufai, 2013: pp.239-312). Clearly, and El-Rufai did not seem to countenance this, the closer anyone is to decision making power in government, the more likely, even with the alleged transparency of processes, that such people are to become catapulted to the class of owners of Nigeria. El-Rufai’sThis Day (September 30, 2011) statement which he quoted (El-Rufai, Ibid. p. 263) captures this fact succinctly:
The acquisition of a home is usually the single largest investment made by most people in their lifetime and home ownership is what catapults people to middle class status. Owning a home also present an opportunity to alienate it and raise money for investment in other real and financial assets, thereby leveraging societal resources and encouraging entrepreneurship.
Various other reports insist that privatisation is a “rip-off” (The Insider weekly Sept., 23, 2002: pp. 21-25) The BPE czars directly changed the laws on privatisation without recourse to the National Assembly thus making a lot of the activities of BPE illegal and criminal (The Insider Weekly, Sept., 23, 2002: 21-26). In 2001 or so ASUU challenged the legality of privatisation. The illegal acts were justified when the law courts ruled that ASUU had no locus standi. ASUU contention in the say was the general subversion of the Nigerian people by the whole privatisation project and the specification of the changes in the enabling laws by the Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation via amendment Public Enterprises (No.2) Order 2001 which expand the privatisation Act without recourse to National Assembly (again, see The Insider Weekly: Ibid).
As for NO-I’s complaints about political interference and vested interests (NO-I, 2012: p. 50) creating controversy in the privatisation process, we assert categorically that –privatisation of public assets is a political matter. The ruling class know that privatisation has been criminal and that is why it is backed by so much propaganda and secrecy. No single political party ever, anywhere, told the Nigerian electorate during campaigns that they will sell these assets; they dare not because many of their big wigs profit from the auctions.
Privatisation and deregulation as looting: the ruling class and the dominance of private primitive accumulation.
What we have seen with the overlapping generatiosn of members of the Nigerian ruling class had been the consistence of their pretence that their public policies are the products of altruistic and patriotic motives. In the 1970s for example, Obasanjo’s administration had acquired many of the [private] companies when the ideology of state capitalism was in vogue (Maier, 2000: p. 297). Before the looting spree which they started calling privatisation and deregulation, Maier (2000: p. 297) observed:
Several of his [Obasanjo’s] ministers including Power and Steel Minister, Bola Ige, had in the recent past voiced hostility to selling what they considered to be the nation’s patrimony to Nigerian businessmen who they believed had acquired their wealth by illegal means “You the people who are now mouthing ‘privatise’, they are looking for ways in which they can invest their stolen money”. Ige told me in December 1998. “It is not that they are anxious that those things should work better. It is that they want to buy government—established companies at lower rates that they should be. They just want to invest their ill-gotten gains there. So it is not privatisation; it is looting”
Precisely because privatisation is looting and it involves reaping where reapers did no sowing, the processes continue to generate acrimony in the ruling class with losers yelling about sharp practices and frauds such as the case of the sales of PHCN power plants. A report on these sales captioned “Sale of power firms a fraud—say Govs” (Daily Trust Friday Oct. 19, 2012: p.1; p. 5) went as follows:
Governors of Edo, Ekiti, Delta and Ondo states have rejected the company selected as the preferred bidder (Vigeo) for the Benin electricity distribution company, saying the power sector privatisation process was fraudulent.
The governors were in favour of a different Disco (distribution company)—Southern Electricity Distribution Company—which lost the bidding to Vigeo. According to the report, governors—Uduaghan, (Delta PDP); Oshiomole (Edo ACN); and Fayemi (Ekiti ACN)–declared in an Abuja Press Conference, on 18th October 2012 that “the bidding process was fraught with sharp practices and vowed never to allow Vigeo take charge of the Disco”.
The war over the looting of public property (privatisation) is also waged through ruthless deployment of political power within the ruling circles occasioning unceremonious sack of ministers, reversal of “concessioning” agreements (Zamfara Government reverse sale of government property by Shinkarfi, Daily Trust Wed. June 1, 2011: p. 49): “There have been looting and selling off of government property…I hereby reverse all the sales made within the past one month.” Alh Abdulazeez Yari stated this shortly after his inauguration as new governor. In this war, the triumphant factions even deploy state security paraphernalia against loser factions in the war. In recent times, we have witnessed the rescinding of concession of Lagos-Ibadan express way, the rescinding of the Manitoba Electric power sale, reversals of land allocations in Abuja and other places and power play on land allocations between the incumbent first lady and her predecessor! As far back as December 2012, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria passed resolutions, after Senate voted to adopt the report of a committee that investigated the privatisation process since 1999 (Abdul-Rahman Abubakar reporting forDaily Trust Senate rolls back OBJ privatisation, 21/2/2011: p. 1; p. 5):
[ask] The Federal Government to cancel key sales of public enterprises executed during the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo over alleged breach of due process and failure of core investors to meet their obligations…the senate asked President Jonathan to fire the Director General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises Bolanle Onagoruwa, and the security agencies to prosecute former heads of BPE Nasir El-Rufai, Julius Bala and Irene Chigbue over their roles in faulty privatisation processes. Privatised companies that the Senate want seized back from their present owners are NICON Luxury Hotel, Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Sheraton Hotels and Towers Abuja, Daily Times Nigeria. Delta Steel Company, Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON), Bacita Sugar Company, Sunti Sugar Company and Volks Wagon (sic) Nigeria.
Of course very little of any of the foregoing resolutions proceeded beyond the Senate chambers itself as the Executive arm of Government has ultimate responsibility of implementing the resolutions of the legislative houses.
As we show amply in subsequent sections of this presentation, the development of the commitment to privatisation and deregulation among members of Nigeria’s ruling class is closely related to the dynamics of political power in the last thirty years or so. The development has been accompanied by accumulation of legendary private wealth especially among past military rulers and their friends and hanger-on. A lot of this wealth arises largely from parasitizing public treasury, contract kickbacks (as are variously reportedly in the cases of Halliburton, Julius Berger, Enron, Siemens, Wilbros etc.), investments in oil blocks and companies fronted by less visible agents etc. These loots are now available for buying public properties that are up for grabs in the privatisation spree!
There are cogent reservations on privatisations even among those who believe, like Adamu (BPE: Behind closed door [II]. Daily Trust Friday 19th August, 2011: p.72), that “perhaps there is nothingwrong with privatisation; and there may even be something good about it; but certainly not in the way it had been done in Nigeria”. Adamu’s observations on the problems hit the nail on its head:
Business in Nigeria is the crooked foreigner’s paradise. A front to with a host of patrons backing him to the hilt, the foreigner can do as he pleases—and often does. He swindles Nigeria with the help of those whose duty it is to keep its trust. Without the right regulation in place to enforce the goals of privatisation and without the will or even desire to make the new owners of privatised enterprises play according to the rules, the exercise becomes an economic bleeding wound. With its commanding heights in the hands of foreigners and the downstream sector of the economy comatose. Nigeria becomes a perpetual captive market and a dumping ground.
As for big Nigerians backing the new foreign owners of Nigeria’s patrimony, nothing is more corroborative than the reports about who and who will be the owners of PHCN whose privatisation has been going for almost a decade, into which massive public funds have been pumped within the same period, and whose work force remain under massive threats of being laid off. Among the successful bidders for the new power companies are previous military head of state of Nigeria Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar others who are very close to those in the Federal Government such Femi Otedola, Emeka Ofor (15 power firms: IBB, Otedola, others get 15 days to pay. Daily Trust Friday February 22, 2013: p.6).
As we noted above, many informed opinions insist that the whole privatisation business had always being a fraud, a daylight robbery. Obasanjo, the ultimate leader, the demi-urge of the Okonjo-Iweala Reform Team has been directly accused by various individuals and groups of being responsible for the entire privatisation fraud. Part of the accusations includes allegations that he and his cronies benefited directly from the auction of Nigeria. Adamu Adamu (op. cit.) for example observed:
Today, everything points to Obasanjo as the culprit who has misused his office to subvert a process that was at the heart of his so-called reform programme. He had already been fingered in the messy acquisition of NICON Insurance by Jimoh Ibrahim…the former president is also accused of forcing BPE to sell enterprises to his cronies at give-away prices sometimes even when their companies have not participated in the bidding process. In the process, the nation was thoroughly short-changed.
In a similar vein, in a reaction to Obasanjo’s challenge to President Goodluck Jonathan (see Emeka Anuforo’s “Obasanjo dares Jonathan on probe of corruption” The Guardian, Monday April 29,2013: p. 1; p. 4) that the latter should probe him instead of harassing those who worked for him (Obasanjo), Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa urged President Jonathan to probe Obasanjo now (Probe Obasanjo now, Balarabe urges Jonathan: Daily Trust Friday, May 3, 2013: p.6). We shall return to this when we address the issue of what they call corruption.
There are more viable alternatives: Strident calls from different angles, including those of former and/or incumbent WB/IMF operatives and collaborators.
Below, we present excerpts of informed opinions on the subject matter of economics, economic restructuring, the globalization of economic crisis, neo-liberalism, the so-called market forces, privatization and corruption, and the local, class and international economic and political forces that shape all these. In this general regard we already referred copiously to the views of Jeffry Sachs one of the leading lights of the “disaster capitalism” school and who has been frequenting Nigeria to give support to the sell-Nigeria “reformers” in the last few years!
J. Bradford DeLong: Economics in Crisis. [Posted on the Internet on 29th April, 2013: Excerpts]
BERKELEY – The most interesting moment at a recent conference held in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire – site of the 1945 conference that created today’s global economic architecture – came when Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf quizzed former United States Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, President Barack Obama’s ex-assistant for economic policy. “[Doesn’t] what has happened in the past few years,” Wolf asked, “simply suggest that [academic] economists did not understand what was going on?”
It is the scale of the catastrophe that astonishes me. But what astonishes me even more is the apparent failure of academic economics to take steps to prepare itself for the future. “We need to change our hiring patterns,” I expected to hear economics departments around the world say in the wake of the crisis. The fact is that we need fewer efficient-markets theorists and more people who work on microstructure, limits to arbitrage, and cognitive biases. We need fewer equilibrium business-cycle theorists and more old-fashioned Keynesians and monetarists. We need more monetary historians and historians of economic thought and fewer model-builders.
Perhaps academic economics departments will lose mindshare and influence to others – from business schools and public-policy programs to political science, psychology, and sociology departments.
Or perhaps economics will remain a discipline that forgets most of what it once knew and allows itself to be continually distracted, confused, and in denial. If that were that to happen, we would all be worse off.
Joseph E. Stiglitz [Nobel Laurate in Economics, Professor at Columbia University; he was Chairman President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers; he was also President and Chief Economist of the World Bank].
The post-Crisis Crises (Posted on the internet on7th January, 2013: Excerpts)
Just as the Great Depression arose in part from the difficulties in moving from a rural, agrarian economy to an urban, manufacturing one, so today’s problems arise partly from the need to move from manufacturing to services. New firms must be created, and modern financial markets are better at speculation and exploitation than they are at providing funds for new enterprises, especially small and medium-size companies.
Moreover, making the transition requires investments in human capital that individuals often cannot afford. Among the services that people want are health and education, two sectors in which government naturally plays an important role (owing to inherent market imperfections in these sectors and concerns about equity).
Finally, there is a worldwide crisis in inequality. The problem is not only that the top income groups are getting a larger share of the economic pie, but also that those in the middle are not sharing in economic growth, while in many countries poverty is increasing. In the US, equality of opportunity has been exposed as a myth.
The developed countries have not lived up to their promise in Doha in November 2001 to create a pro-development trade regime, or to their pledge at the G-8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005 to provide significantly more assistance to the poorest countries.
The market will not, on its own, solve any of these problems. Global warming is a quintessential “public goods” problem. To make the structural transitions that the world needs, we need governments to take a more active role – at a time when demands for cutbacks are increasing in Europe and the US”.
Anatole Kaletsky:Trying to fix broken economies [Posted on the internet on April 4, 2013: Excerpts]
“Here is a list of economic questions that have something in common. In a recession, should governments reduce budget deficits or increase them? Do 0 percent interest rates stimulate economic recovery or suppress it? Should welfare benefits be maintained or cut in response to high unemployment? Should depositors in failed banks be protected or suffer big losses? Does income inequality damage or encourage economic growth? Will market forces create environmental disasters or avert them? Is government support necessary for technological progress or stifling to innovation?
What these important questions have in common is that professional economists can’t answer them. To be more precise, economists can offer plenty of answers about government deficits, printing money, inequality, environmental issues and so on, but none of these answers is authoritative enough any longer to persuade other economists, and never the world at large.
“The ideas of economists, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”
We are still waiting for the parallel transformation in economic thinking, but some of its features can be discerned.”
Jeffry Sachs: What I did in Russia [Posted on the internet on 14th March, 2012: Excerpts]
Nobody wanted to look closely at the abuses, and certainly nobody wanted to blow the whistle. Most close observers believe that the hyper-corruption surrounding the massive giveaways of the oil and gas sectors was linked to the campaign financing for President Yeltsin’s re-election. Tens of billions of dollars of natural resource assets were given away, and hundreds of millions were collected in return as campaign contributions. It was a pretty lousy and inefficient way to finance an election campaign, but such a linkage perhaps explains the remarkable reticence of the U.S. Government in responding to this flagrant corruption–a level of corruption that easily outpaces anything seen in other parts of the world in recent years.
Charles Chukwuma Soludo [Report in The Nation, Monday, November 3, 2008: p. 17]
The CBN Governor, who said he was speaking as an academic not as a central bank governor, said it appeared that the analytical tools employed by the Bretton Woods institutions for understanding and managing the current system were inadequate……the pace of financial and economic globalisation “appear to have outstripped the pace of the theory and institutions that underlie it,” he said. …..Soludo said that at the domestic policy level, countries had shown that financial globalisation had complicated and severely constrained the latitude for monetary policy. ……
He noted that none of the existing theoretical frameworks provided a complete guide for domestic policy actions…….
He said, “No two economies are the same, and every economy is, in a sense developing, to the extent that no economy ever reaches the end of development. We have argued that the attempt by the so-called new heterodox view (‘post-Washington Consensus-Consensus’) to craft a unified, static economic theory for the largely disparate group of developing countries is at best tenuous…… “On the other hand, the orthodox, Washington-Consensus is not the Book of Revelation, it needs rigorous adaptation or modification in specific circumstances”…….
He called for a new economic thinking and a new deal by way of fundamental institutional and governance architecture, saying that “no patchwork will do”…….
According to him, “That one country could cause a crisis of this magnitude and many countries with sound fundamentals are plunged into a crisis because of the contagion effect and then the rich ones can bail themselves out because they have the resources to do so while the least developed countries suffer the long-lasting effects of the crisis, is a market-cum-system failure of global proportions”.
Debt, Debt Peonage and the Debt “Relief”
The truth about World Bank/IMF credits, “facilities”, or loans (which are also known asdebts) is that they have political and economic aspects. In the nexus of granting loans, payments of debts, rescheduling of debts and negotiations of debt reduction and/or forgiveness, political and economic considerations come into play. It is also the truth that over time, state actors of western industrial countries, their business and industrial interests of those countries and the so-called multilateral financial organisations (IMF and the World Bank) have controlling and vested interests in the processes of acquisition, rescheduling and liquidation of loans and the conditionalities attached to the loans as we intend to show subsequently below.
For countries like Nigeria that suffered colonial pillage and its neo-colonial sequel with successive generations of anti-people ruling class, the debt crises developed historically.
Bade Onimode summarised this situation in what he captioned “Balance of Payments Crisis and Foreign Debt (Onimode, 2000: p.80):
On account of extreme disarticulation or distortions of Africa’s colonial economy and the late decolonisation of the region, Africa’s foreign trade exhibits five major defects. These are: (1) high export dependence; (2) high concentration on a few commodities; (3) low and declining terms of trade; (4) instability of export earnings (due to other factors); (5) Chronic balance of payment crisis.
Of course, the class character of the ruling class in the peripheries like Nigeria which committed it to primitive private accumulation during the oil-boom days of the mid-1970s, and entrenched its subaltern status since then, led Nigeria into the debt trap and the crisis that developed and forced SAP on Nigeria from the late 1970s. Concretely, the debt trap was set by the international financial institutions, their intellectuals and their indigenous Nigerian agents through their famous refrain: “Nigeria is under-borrowed”. It is thus an irony that NO-I’s (p. 4) understanding of the origins of the debt crisis in Nigeria had the fundamental defect of not identifying IMF, the World Bank, the imperialist states, their corporations and their indigenous Nigerian collaborators as the culprits in the evolution of the debt “over-hang”. NO-I wrote (our emphasis):
From the mid-1970s to 2001 Nigeria earned more than $300 billion from crude oil. Yet over the same period, Nigeria borrowed unwisely and unsustainably, accumulating up to $30 billion in debt to the Paris Club of Creditors.
Who and who is Nigeria? NO-I did not address (1) the dubiousness of many of these debts; (2) the fact that the Paris Club “debts” were private sector debts guaranteed by the Nigerian government of the ruling class that profit from debt accumulation; (3) that Nigeria already paid more, as interest and debt service, than she actually borrowed; and (4) that according to many reports (Tell July 18, 2005: pp. 42-45), a large segments of the loans (bilateral loans) were simply stolen or misappropriated or squandered by IMF/World Bank employees, consultants, and their Nigerian collaborators. We have always known these and the victims of these conspiracies fought on the streets from 1977 to 2012 while the state actors of USA and Europe continued to prop up the class that superintended these scams and remain now, along with foreign corporations, the liquidator of Nigeria’s public assets.
It is an even more stupendous irony that at the time that NO-I was blaming this nebulous “Nigeria” for borrowing “unwisely and unsustainably” public attention started being directed at Nigeria’s “Rising Debt Profile”. In the Editorial of the The Guardian (Second March 24, 2013), the following significant points were made (our emphasis):
From the figures made available by the Debt Management Office, it will appear that public officers are hell bent to again force the country to its knees over huge accumulated debt for which the nation had nothing to show…Going by the recent revelation of the DMO, the euphoria about the [Obasanjo] debt relief would appear to have finally disappeared. The collective burden of the country represents, without any doubt a massive betrayal of Nigeria’s huge resource base, both human and material, especially rising oil revenues, and the failure of policy measures targeted at the management of these resources.
The concern over the current debt build-up had been developing for quite a while as reviewed by Henry Boyo in his recent back-page comment (Economic Renaissance“Must we borrow for the sake of it?) of The Punch (May 20, 2013). Boyo observed inter alia: “Inexplicably, in spite of consistent actual revenue surpluses for many years the domestic debt burden now exceeds N6trn with $6bn as external debt”.
As in the mid 1970s, the IMF and the World Bank that promoted the “Nigeria is under-borrowed” slogan are also leading our people, the same abused and exploited large majority of workers, professionals, peasants, women and the youth etc., deeper into the debt trap which Obasanjo and his WB/IMF people claimed we “exited”.
Debt cancellation, debt relief, or debt relief scam?
The whole of chapter 6 (NO-I, 2012: pp.95-117) of NO-I’s Reforming the Unreformableturned out to be focused on persuading readers to appreciate (Ibid. p.95) the sacrifices she endured in “Obtaining Debt Relief”:
…as one of the most striking and sustained achievements of a remarkable three-year reform effort that turned the Nigerian economy around. [For me] it was the culmination of extremely hard work that was technically, intellectually and emotionally testing—but also exhilarating.
The foregoing claim, from the facts on ground even at the peak of the orchestrated and engineered ‘Debt Relief’ euphoria, is sheer self-adulation and fiction. The purpose of this claim is, of course, to hood-wink the stunned victims of debt peonage. In any case the fact of today’s re-emergence of the debt trap, as we saw above, makes the whole claim of debt relief a hoax. It was a grand conspiracy to further pillage Nigeria: the culmination of a mass illusion! For, indeed, there were informed patriotic opinions that were on the side of the Nigerian people opposing the unilateral hand-over of Nigeria’s $12bn to the dubious creditors of Paris Club! Two prominent examples of these on the side of the owners of that money were Chu Okongwu and Chinwezu Chinwezu. We quote [with our emphasis] Chu Okongwu’s prophetic Not yet time for celebration (The Punch Monday July 25, 2005: p. 25) copiously below:
As desirable as an exit from debt peonage is, it is scandalous for a poor debt distressed country, which cannot afford to pay $2 billion in annual debt service payments, to part with $6 billion upfront or $12 billion in three months or even one year. The emission rate is simply too high. Not even the Americans can afford it or will do it. The international community—the Paris Club, the London Club, the IMF and the World Bank particularly—well know that they cannot get that kind of money upfront from even richer countries like Argentina, Brazil, India, and Mexico.
Already, Nigeria, according to official sources, has repaid some $22 billion on the $17 billion originally borrowed by previous administrations, and yet is marked as owing $36 billion. The new debt relief proposal with the Paris Club will further accentuate the perverse resources transfer from the poor debtor to the rich creditor nations and also impoverish Nigeria and Nigerians.
The wisdom of hoarding such essentially, idle funds, whether in “excess oil revenues” or in external reserve build-up, while the economy is strangled and assets decay, is questionable. A fraction of the proposed sum, judiciously invested in national electricity supply, not to mention health and education, and the road system, would productively transform the lives of Nigerians.
Why the hurry? Why indicate willingness to pay arrears separately? Why not continue negotiating, seeking consolidation of arrears and principal, and favourable treatment of new stock?
Undoubtedly, the Nigerian side is eager for whatever reason, to pay the debt, the Paris Club now knows that Nigeria is eager to pay, and has seen the funds to target, Accordingly, the Paris Club is only too happy to collect and to insist on collection now, given uncertainties regarding future developments in Nigeria. From this viewpoint, the current celebration by the administration is both myopic and a strategic negotiating blunder.
Chinwezu Chinwezu’s Debt relief or treasonable scam? (Independent August 7, 2005: p. B2) was even more down to earth (again, our emphases):
The Paris Club is holding a Nigerian debt stock allegedly worth $36bn, and it wants to charitably give back $18bn of it to Nigeria, on condition that Nigeria hands over $12bn upfront. When that advance fee is paid, they promise to give to Nigeria $18bn worth of that debt stock, and to then arrange for Nigeria to buy back the remainder, at terms yet to be discussed.
Now isn’t that 419? In fact, it is more than 419; some might call it Four-one-ten!!
Yet, the President, the CEO of the Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN, must be naive to be party to setting up this felonious scam whereby the Paris Club syndicate of shylock gangster is set to asset strip $12bn or more from Nigeria’s reserve. Doesn’t he deserve a quizzing by the EFCC for playing ‘inside man’ for the Paris Club racketeers?
“Internal spies are enemy officials whom we employ.” So, if it turns out that the President, along with the debt management team, has been serving as monkey’s paw for the foreign creditors who are covertly making economic war on Nigeria, wouldn’t that make him a deep penetration agent of enemy powers- an example of what Marcus Garvey described as traitors at the top? And isn’t that the type of official who, when found out, any serious government would put on trial for treason?
It is pertinent to recall here how Nigeria was taken into the debt trap in the first place.Back in the late 1970s, against the wisdom of public opinion, the then military Head of State, Gen. Obasanjo, was conned by foreign lenders into taking a $1bn jumbo loan that Nigeria, with its then buoyant oil revenues, did not need. The excuse was that Nigeria was “under-borrowed.”
And in relation to trade liberalisation aspects of the World Bank Reform, Chinwezu (Ibid.) made the point which presaged today’s return to the Debt Trap:
(a) what could happen to a country addicted to imports if it lost its reserves? Wouldn’t it be forced to go a-borrowing once again to finance urgent imports, and promptly find itself back in the debt trap from which it tried, rather incompetently, to escape?
(b) But how likely is it that, on losing its reserves, Nigeria would quickly exit the debt trap? Not bloody likely. It should be noted that the proffered exit treatment requires a PSI with the IMF, plus IMF tracking of performance under that PSI. And therein lies the catch. This requirement allows prolongation of the exit process, through repeatedly moving the proverbial goal post, thereby denying the tantalising exit. So, exit from the debt trap is not even assumed, not being automatic upon paying the $12bn upfront. Like any victim of 419, Nigeria, after kissing the $12bn advance fee, could be waiting forever for the promised bonanza to arrive!
Here is Chinweizu’s (Ibid.) prophetic statement of August 2005 concerning the Obasanjo/Okonjo-Iweala/ Paris Club Debt Relief scam of that period:
(c) The overall result of (a) and (b) would be that Nigeria, upon losing its reserve would have to go desperately borrowing anew to stay alive, without even getting rid of its present virtual debt burden of $36bn.
And that is where they have led Nigeria today!
What then was the truth of the Debt Relief saga?
The whole debt burden (its conditionalities, rescheduling, repayment and servicing) is an extortionist instrument. In the late 1980s and 1990s the debt burden was deepening poverty and spawning political instability in the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs). The subaltern regimes in the peripheries like Nigeria enforced the burdens on their people because imperialism gave them political, military and diplomatic protection and allowed them to engage in accumulation. As Brown (1995: p. 110; p. 111) noted:
It is an ironic fact that military regimes have been more prepared than less authoritarian regimes to implement the requirements of the IMF and the World Bank….A series of correlations drawn up by [another] World Bank economist at the end of the 1980s showed no evidence in the African countries he studied to suggest that the introduction of structural adjustment policies facilitated a transition to more pluralistic and democratic systems of government…Throughout the 1980s [Mobutu’s] Zaire received exceptional grace periods for repayment and approval of further loans…
It was consequently, when the debt burden started to threaten imperialism and its agents and the call for debt cancellation, forgiveness or outright repudiation of debts became strident, that the World Bank and IMF started yelling about corruption, human rights violation, “social safety nets” and the desirability of “democracy” in the peripheries. The Abacha regime was really not in any hurry to repay any debts. And with people like Sam Aluko in Abacha’s Economic Intelligence Team openly insisting that the IMF and World Bank Debts are fraudulent contraptions, the installation of Obasanjo in Nigeria’s Aso Rock was a God-sent to Nigeria’s alleged creditors. These creditors then pressured the state actors in Washington, London and Paris who already fully deployed their agents in the Nigerian government to hand over $12bn to the Paris Club. This was the real import of the acknowledgement by NO-I (p. 131) of the “powerful” ally (international support) in the Okonjo-Iweala/Obasanjo “reform”.:
“The World Bank and IMF were helpful…Jim Wolfensohn, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Anne Krueger, Condoleeza Rice, George Soros, and Bono were very helpful…
The alleged creditors know that these debts were, otherwise, unpayable and uncollectable as Fidel Castro put it in the 1980s!
We must add that in contradistinction to the missionary zeal exhibited by the “reform team” to extort $12bn from Nigeria’s treasury, there was open and robust advocacy for total debt cancellation among external actors, including friends of the World Bank (Sachs, 2003), who insisted that Nigeria ought to be treated as the other Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs). Sachs (Ibid.) was categorical:
There is no doubt economically, financially or socially that Nigeria’s debt need to be cancelled…..there is no economic difference between Nigeria and 22 countries that have already been approved for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt reduction…..
It is notable that at the beginning of the HIPC initiative in 1996, Nigeria was on the list along with other countries. Then it was mysteriously taken off the list owing, perhaps, to political and bureaucratic games in Washington.
So, should Nigerians roll out drums that Obasanjo and Okonjo-Iweala handed over $12bn to Paris Club?
What they call Corruption: Foundationality of Private Accumulation and the Subversion of Public Purpose
NO-I was really upbeat on the “success” of the Obasanjo “Reform” regime in fighting Corruption (NO-I, 2012: p.20):
Nigerians saw blows dealt to impunity among the ruling members of the elite, several of whom for the first time were sent to fact by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) were Nuhu RIbadu…the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) by introducing local and international competitive bidding, and value for money auditing of public contracts, saved the treasury billions of naira…increased transparency let the public know what monies were coming into public coffers…recovery of stolen assets from Switzerland amounting to $505 million dollars was another great success appreciated by public and civil society organisations.
As we have shown with regard to the fraud surrounding privatisation and the activities of BPE, the facts do not match NO-I’s claim on eradication of corruption made by Okonjo-Iweala’s “reform”. It is also the truth that the EFCC under Ribadu, and subsequently, is generally considered, in spite of whatever claims of anti-corruption victories it makes even today, as an instrument for selectively intimidating those who fall out with the Presidency or to whom the powerful “reformers” object! This is why many cases leading to arrests and detention of alleged culprits simply fizzled out! And incidentally, the allegation of political persecution, by EFCC, of opponents of the Presidency was also made by the supporters of El-Rufai and Ribadu when they were thrown out of government. The duo, indeed, had to go on exile from where they waged resistance against Umaru Yar’Adua until his demise. Nasir El-Rufai indeed, told us what Ribadu did once he [Ribadu] decided not to support Obasanjo’s nomination of Umaru Yar’Adua, as Obasanjo’s successor. In trying to stop Umaru Yar’Adua (El-Rufai, 2013: p. 359) from succeeding Obasanjo:
Nuhu’s instinctive reaction was that of a typical policeman—dust off EFCC files and comb for petitions against Umaru…he dusted off all his files and found petitions against the Katsina state governor and launched investigations. He even arrested some local government chairman from Katsina as part of his investigation of diversion of local government funds by the state governor.
But perhaps the most serious problems of credibility that Okonjo-Iweala’s story about her team’s war on corruption has is the deafening and growing noise concerning corruption under Obasanjo’s regime and the even more strident allegations of corruption in Jonathan’s presidency where the de facto Prime Minister (if not the Senior Vice-President) is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. In a recent call that Obasanjo regime should be probed by Goodluck Jonathan (Ismail Mudashiru reporting “Probe Obasanjo now,…”Daily Trust Fri. May 3, 2013: p.6), Alhaji Balarabe Musa was quoted as saying, among other things:
No government can be more corrupt than the government of Obasanjo.
The former governor of Kaduna State was reported to have said that the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) filed a suit two years ago praying an Abuja High Court to force the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to probe Obasanjo. Alhaji Musa was quoted as saying [our emphases]:
The case was filed about two years ago and we are still in court. Many other organisations have called for the investigation and prosecution of Obasanjo because his tenure was the most corrupt one……..
The print media is replete with reports of corrupt practices from Obasanjo through Yar’Adua to Goodluck Jonathan; complete with high profile arrests, paraded prosecutions, and indictments many of which simply fizzled out. Concerning some of the reports regarding abuse of position or office, EFCC, ICPC and government simply looked the other way (see also Eugene Enahoro’s “APC: Old wine in new bottle”. Daily Trust Tuesday, August 13, 2013: p. 56)
The selectivity of the pursuit of those charged with corrupt practices and looting is further illustrated by what became Abacha-bashing. In contradistinction to the amount of space and the truculence of verbiage on Abacha’s “criminal organisation” (NO-I, pp. 84-85), relatively little, in terms of specificities, was said of the ramified corruption network run by USA and European corporations (Siemens, Julius Berger, Halliburton, Kellog-Roots etc.) involving prominent Nigerians in public offices! And it is not as if the pertinent information is not fully in public domain! A former military governor of Lagos State who was directly indicted to have taken custody of some of Abacha’s loot actually became an Ambassador of Nigeria somewhere in Central Africa!
In the case of bad loans, that led to failure of some banks arising from “…acute capital erosion and building a non-performing loan portifolio of N747bn”, the debtors got a waiver of N31bn (Ayo Olesin reporting “Bad loans Saraki; Dangote, others get N31bn waiver” The Punch Monday Nov. 30, 2009: pp.1-2). On top of all these, the CBN used about N800bn of public money to “bail out” some of these “mismanaged” or looted banks! A report (Daily Trust, Troubled banks: Dangote, Otedola among debtors. Wed, Aug. 19, 2009: p.1, p.5) already had a detailed list that sounded like a roll call of who is who among the friends and financiers of those who wield state power in Nigeria.
The question of bad-loan waivers are also closely related to the so-called import waivers and the oil-subsidy waivers regarding which Henry Boyo’s (The Punch, “Waivers for the rich, hard labour for the poor”. Monday Dec. 10, 2012: p.92) Economic Renaissance observed inter-alia:
Curiously, government projects and policies overtly intended to improve mass social welfare have often transformed to a bonanza for a select few while the majority remain victims of such exploitation. Presidential import waivers are a good example of such misguided government interventions…..the damning revelation from partial waiver on fuel prices is another example of how a handful of Nigerians can collaborate with government officials to rip off the treasury…
The intervention of the CBN and Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria in the Banking sector also serve the same purpose as waivers…indeed the same officials who presided over the mess, were retained also ‘sanitise’ the system!
The waiver racket has now found fertile grounds in the capital market….
Of course the Ministry of Finance headed by the Chief “Reformer” and Coordinator of the Economy is at the centre of these and other policies that protect the gamblers in the stock market and use public treasury to fund their profligacy.
And on the poor and the intention of government policies, the goal of these policies as manifested in what they now call social safety nets is, at best, to achieve some trickle-down effect. Most of them like SURE-P simply aid and entrench ruling-class accumulation. Indeed at the National Assembly interaction with the Chairman of SURE-P, Senator Magnus Abe who chaired the session was reported (Sunday Trust Dec. 9, 2012: p.9) to have accused Dr. Christopher Kolade’s Committee on Subsidy Re-Investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) of “defrauding the nation” as N2.2bn was said to have been spent on SURE-P Secretariat and N75m on “tours” in just four months!
Okonjo-Iweala’s chest-beating about the success of her “fighting corruption” has recently run into fresh problems of credibility especially because she has been around Aso Rocmore or less continuously for over a decade now. In the last few weeks, Okonjo-Iweala’s fellow “reformer” under Obasanjo’s regime and one of those who originally recommended her to Obasanjo (Oby Ezekwesili) has mounted rather sharp attacks on Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. In various newspaper reports (May/June, 2013), Ezekwesili has waged consistent criticisms against the Goodluck Jonathan government for squandering foreign reserves of N67bn inherited from Obasanjo and for the escalation of corruption in Nigeria today. This has generated mutual threats between Obasanjo and President Jonathan with the former daring the latter to probe him (The Guardian Mon. April 29, 2013: p.1; p.4) and the latter assuring Obasanjo that he does not intend to probe him (Obasanjo): Isiaka Wakili reporting “I’ve no intention to probe Obasanjo” (Sunday Trust June 2, 2013: p. 4). On corruption, in the same report, Ezekwesili was quoted as saying (our emphases):
The corruption in the society now is so endemic it has almost become democratised and that is going to sink us…there is no need pretending that this country is not burdened by corruption. Every Nigerians knows that we have a problem.
Of course, the deployment of mutual threats and blackmail regarding charges and counter charges of corruption within Nigeria’s ruling class is as old as the intensification of private/primitive accumulation (as during the Tarka/Daboh altercations in the twilight of the General Yakubu Gowon’s regime)! In 2004 when allegations of egregious corruption among governors was mounting under Obasanjo’s regime, the then Chairman of the Governor’s Forum (Akwa Ibom’s Governor Victor Attah) was reported, by Shola Osunkeye and Wola Adeyemo in The two Trillion Naira Question (Tell June 7, 2004: pp.18-28), to have asked Obasanjo to warn the then Minister of Finance (Nenadi Usman) who spearheaded the attack on governors. According the despatch to Obasanjo, Attah told the President:
It may seem like a popular pastime to castigate the governors mindlessly but it must be said that, in the process, even you can be hurt, and a lot of harm can be done to democracy.
Could a threat to President Obasanjo have been more direct? It means “shut up or you may also be exposed!”. Balance of terror!
As Jonathan’s spokesperson observed, the foundations of Obasanjo’s policies, including endemic corruption as far as we are concerned, is what has been built upon since 2007. The specificities of corruption and corrupt practices are legion and continuous from 1999 to 2013; they even go farther back. More fundamentally, as we have observed, they arise from the dominant ideology of private, largely primitive, accumulation engendered by raw manipulation of state and class power.
Accumulation and corruption by the ruling class: the specificities and the endemicity.
We insist that corruption is the logical product of private accumulation, attacks on public purpose and the promotion of profitism and individualism by the ruling circles that have turned all these into a national ideology. Corruption has a long history which has created the governance ethics which also privatise state power and institutions and which creates personality cults, intellectual mediocrity, brigandage and impunity.
Consequently the media is suffused, on a daily basis, with revelations of atrocities that entrench ruling class economic and political hegemony. Below we provide a sample of media reports of ruling class atrocities that may have disappeared from public view forever.
1. Chiawo Nwankwo et al. Auditor-General queries N5.7bn N’Assembly spending, (The Punch Monday October 26, 2009: p.1-2)
- 40 Senators granted N4.6bn advances
- 30 Reps/37 Admin workers took N221.7m cash advances
- N104.29m vouchers hidden from auditors
- N’Assembly overdrew overhead cost accounts by N1.1bn
- N33.8m accrued as bank charges
- N128m goods in store cannot be traced.
2. Yemi Kolapo: When gangsters are in charge (The Punch, Friday October 30, 2009: p.64.)
My grouse with Soludo, as stated in my previous article is that he seems to be taking the banking public for a ride by not offering tenable explanations for the alleged record fraud that went on under his watch as CBN governor. It is just hard coming to terms with the fact that the system recorded non-performing loans to the tune of about N1.2trn, the bulk of which was insider-related, with the regulator suspecting knavery.
3. Kayode Ekundayo: How top officials shared stock exchange bonuses. (Daily Trust.Wed. Oct 31, 2010: p.19):
…forensic independent investigation concluded jointly by the law firm Aluko and Oyebode and the accounting firm KPMG…revealed that NSE (Nigeria Stock Exchange) Council between 2005 and 2008 as productivity had surplus shared over N1.390 billion.
The beneficiaries included some of the biggest Nigerian names in banking, insurance, commerce, etc. and alleged captains of industry! This sharing according to the report was said by the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission to be contrary to the provisions of Section 26(3) of Companies and Allied Matters Act, CAP C20 LFN 2004 and Section 6 of the Memorandum and Articles of the Association of the Exchange.
4. Jide Ajani et al. National Assembly Overhead: When Figures don’t lie. (Sunday Vanguard Dec. 5, 2010: pp.10-12):
This report…also computes the allocations to the national assembly and concludes that there is a disconnect between what members allocate to themselves in the annual budget and the responsibilities they have discharged on behalf of the long-suffering people of Nigeria.
5. Ini Ekott: KPMG report: 20 Nigerians EFCC should interrogate. (Premium Times 1stFebruary, 2012)
6. For the Record: “Reps fuel subsidy probe recommendations” (Daily Trust Friday April 20, 2012: pp. 9-12).
Table on p. 9 carries the names of 15 marketers: those who obtained forex in 2010 or 2011 but did not import petroleum products. These include Business Ventures Nig. Ltd., East Horizon Gas Ltd., Emades Energy, Pokat Nig. Ltd., Synopsis Enterprises Ltd., Zenon Pet & Gas Ltd., Carnival Energy Oil, Crownlines, Ice Energy Petroleum Trading Ltd., Index Petroleum Africa, Ronad Oil & Gas W/A, Serene Greenfield Ltd., Tridax Energy Ltd., Zamson Global Res.
7. Turaki A. Hassan. Reps seek prosecution of Diezani, Ali, others (Daily Trust April 25, 2012: p.1; p. 5). See also the KPMG Report referred to above.
8. Nurudeen M. Abdallah et al. Iyabo’s firm benefit in secret oil block deal. (Daily TrustFriday Dec. 6, 2012: p.1; p. 5):
…without competitive bidding…the secrete allocations are against international best practice…Record made available to Daily Trust by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) shows that Iyabo Obasanjo Bello is the major shareholder of All Grace Energy.
9. Sunday Trust (August 5, 2012: pp. 4-5; p.7-8) Big Story: Princess Oduah under fire over N7.4bn airport contracts. National Assembly plans probe.
…the funds in use was not captured in 2011 budgets, contracts were not bidded for and evaluation of contractors was not properly done.
10. Isiaka Wakili. Big thieves block trial with looted money—Lamorde (Daily TrustNovember 23, 2012: p.6). This figures!
Some big thieves do not even ever get to be prosecuted; they have access to state power.
“Donations”: to Nigeria’s Presidents; to parties, to government
One of the specific cases of corrupt and unethical practices is the issue of the President of the country, the government party or highly-placed (or any) public officers receivingdonations, contributions and/or gifts towards their private organisations, NGO’s or causes. Perhaps one of the earliest and most controversial and highly publicised of this tendency was in respect of Obasanjo’s Presidential Library (in Abeokuta) to which a plethora of contractors were said to have donated money. Subsequently, there was the case of the donation of a church to President Jonathan’s Otuoke home town. In Eugene Enahoro’s Alams gone with the wind (Daily Trust Tuesday March 19, 2013: p.47), it was observed among other things:
After getting a government contractor Gitto Construzioni (Nig. Ltd) to “donate” an ultra modern church to his community, Goodluck Jonathan then orchestrated a billion naira fund raising for his village church embroiling himself in further controversy.
Contractors and rich businessmen and women, many of them accused directly and indicted at public probes concerning privatisation scams of the BPE, Fuel Subsidiy scam (John Chuks Azu: “Hope party sues Jonathan over N160bn subsidy ‘campaign fund’ Daily Trust Tue. August 28, 2012: p. 4), questionable acquisition of huge bonuses from the Nigerian Stock Exchange (Daily Trust Wed, Oct. 13, 2010: p.19) Kayode Ekundayo reporting “How top officials shared exchange bonuses”. Are known to fund, or accused of funding campaigns for the Presidency (see Big Story Saturday Trust. May 27, 2012: pp. 4-13).
Contractors and companies are even harangued to “donate” money to run Federal Government business or government establishments like the Nigeria Police Force. A report by Everest Amaefule and Mudiaga Affe (“Nigeria@50: FG begs oil firms, others for N401m donation” The Punch Monday August 30, 2010: p. 1-2) was to the effect that the Federal Government was putting pressure on companies, including multinationals to pay money “to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation”. The case of Police Equipment Fund, canvassed and collected from companies under the noses of Government and police authorities, organised by what looks like an NGO, is now history. Nothing had so far happened to the masterminds.
Political corruption and the cumulative corruption of public consciousness
Because of the nexus between the concentration of wealth (accumulation) and political power in a few hands, it is logical to expect the level of political violence we see in the ruling class—mysterious and violent deaths, assassinations etc. It is not unexpected to see the incredible fluidity of political alliances, camping and decamping, disruptions of party machineries, god-fatherism, deep-pocket politics etc. etc. It is not surprising either to see the charades that pass for party conventions, elections etc. These are all reasons why elections at all levels (Federal, state and local government) are always so scandalously, compromised and why party leaders impose their wives, children, business partners and cronies on their parties as electoral candidates.
Accumulation then promotes personality cult and megalomania among alleged political leaders. It subverts collective morality and popular power. Members of the ruling class are thus imposed on public consciousness and the imposition has transformed public morality from cooperation and collective survival to private and individual survival, from public-purposed governance to private-purposed government policies.
The consequence of the above is self- and class-promotion of the ruling class. In our major cities especially Abuja, public monuments, buildings, roads etc. are named after those that sold our country into second slavery or looted our treasuries; the highest honours of the land are also bestowed on them! Wives (First Ladies) of our alleged leaders at all levels (federal, states and local government) become more powerful than legislators and ministers; they become laws onto themselves with open-ended budgets funded by tax payers! In a report on the First Ladies Summit in Malaysia (Daily TrustWed. Oct. 13, 2010: p.4) Ibrahim Dooba reported from Malaysia that “Nigeria has largest number of delegates (37) at first ladies summit led by First Lady Patience Jonathan.
Nowadays, all sorts of people—governors, ministers, first ladies, senior civil servants, customs officers, police officers and minor public officers like the Executive Secretaries of the NUC—encourage their hangers-on to sing their praises in paid newspaper adverts on their birthdays, weddings, etc., in different ways, at public expense. Haven lost the bid to become the President of the World Bank. Okonjo-Iweala took a full page advert in at least one national newspaper (Daily Trust Friday August 20, 2012: p.18) congratulating and pouring encomiums on the World Bank and massaging the patent untruth that the “plight” of “the poor people around the World” is “at the heart of the mandate of the institution [World Bank]”. The said advert “We have made history” carries Nigeria’s coat of arms as if it was the President of Nigeria that was congratulating the World Bank!
Houdini actually escaped and became a king maker!
But nothing really gives the lie to the Okonjo Iweala/Obasanjo/Ribadu anti-corruption “success story” more than the exemplary and typical case of the former governor of Bayelsa State who was ridiculed in a cartoon reproduced in Okonjo-Iweala’s book (NO-I, p. 83) with the legend “A cartoon, by Tayo Fatunla, depicting Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and some Nigerian citizens” (see cartoon on the next page of this report). Houdini escaped. He became a king-maker and President Goodluck Jonathan (who appointed Okonjo-Iweala Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy) had formally granted Houdini (the former governor) state pardon!
|Okonjo-Iweala, N. 2012. Reforming the Unreformable: Lessons from Nigeria. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. p. 83
|Houdini escaped long ago and became king-maker in Bayelsa State and in Nigeria as a whole. The Presidential pardon has put delicious icing on the king-maker’s cake!
Political Economy: The enduring fundamental and essential features of neo-colonial plunder since independence.
In 1977, Yusufu Bala Usman circumscribed the fundamental and essential features of Nigeria in the Murtala Muhammed Memorial Symposium (Y.B. Usman 2008, Corruption in Nigeria: Selected writings pp. 113-125) as follows:
- The first feature or element is the process of the exploitation of the labour and wealth of the Nigeria people through the export of raw materials and the import of manufactured goods organised and run by western capitalism and their Nigerian intermediaries.
- The second feature is the activity of this class of Nigerian intermediates made up largely of bureaucrats and businessmen who are highly remunerated for running and maintaining this process of exploitation. This class may be called intermediaries, dependent bourgeoisie or the four categories of trading post agents set out by General Obasanjo in his speech to the FESTAC Colloquium.
- The third feature is the system of confusing and dividing the masses of Nigerian people, run by these intermediaries, closely supported by western imperialism, through the manipulation of ethnic and religious differences. The main purpose of this system (which is economic, cultural, social and political) is to immobilise the peasant farmers and workers permanently with a very low level of political consciousness, organisation and activity.
Murtala saw that the abuse of office and the running of public offices as private estates were central to the chaos, indiscipline, confusion and whole under-development of Nigeria. He was killed precisely because he had set out to break this linkage and had on 3rd February 1976 announced important measures which were going to bring out and expose the way the government of the last regime consisted actually of thieving office boys and messengers of the transnational corporations and of imperialism.
The crisis of governance and the eclipse of Nigeria’s Sovereignty
More than thirty years ago, about the time that Usman made the foregoing observations, Claude Ake in Revolutionary Pressures in Africa ( Zed,1978: pp. 65-81) characterised, in more or less the same way, the nexus between the class that make political decisions (the bourgeoisie) and underdevelopment in most of Africa (including Nigeria).
First, and among other things, he made the general observation that the bourgeoisie accepts the ideology of development of the metropolitan bourgeoisie (in the USA, Britain, France etc.) which also flows from the colonial paradigm in relation to African countries and is “hegemonic”.
Ake made the particularly significant observation (Ibid., p. 66):
Surprisingly enough, even the radical (socialism oriented) African leaders are hardly an exception in this respect…the ideology of development conceptualises development essentially as a process of becoming more like bourgeois countries;….[the proletarian country like Nigeria] comes to regard economic dependence as inevitable.
The current dominance of neo-liberalism (deregulation, privatisation and periodic “election”) and the constant pilgrimages of Nigeria’s leaders to Europe and North America derive from the foregoing.
Secondly, Ake made the point (Ibid., p. 70) about the weak material base of the African (Nigeria in this particular case) bourgeoisie, the consequent “disparity between their economic and political power”, and the need they operationalise to strengthen that material (wealth) base. It is this need that has created their pre-occupation with primitive accumulation and which had become institutionalised and entrenched by neo-liberalism. The need to strengthen their material base had produced the culture of violence, treachery, opportunism political, moral, and economic corruption within the ruling class and violence against, and manipulation of, the oppressed masses of the Nigerian people through the promotion and incitement of religious, regionalist, ethnic, sub-ethnic and communal antipathies. Thirdly, Ake (Ibid., p. 72), noted:
The African bourgeoisie interposes itself as a political middleman between international capital and the masses. What they offer in return for a greater share of surplus is political protection—the use of political power to curb labour unrest and control wages. They also promise to refrain from ‘vindictive’ restrictions on licences for foreign concerns, capital movements etc….Despite its attempts at accumulation by coercive and other means, the contradictions of this situation have not permitted the African bourgeoisie much success in consolidating its material base. Its hold on power remains tenuous and its insecurity persists and may even increase. The high incidence of political violence in both intra-class and inter-class competition underlines this insecurity and the importance of the material base.
Given the foregoing analyses of the political economy of Nigeria and the main social classes it engenders in the polity—the numerically small but opulent few and the pauperised mass of the people, we can say that if we strip the political formations (the political parties) of their pretences and posturing, the contending political parties and the appertaining ruling-class or bourgeois formations as circumscribed above are ideologically homogeneous. That is why the party and ideological boundaries are fluid, party mergers are eclectic and people like Atiku, Ribadu, Ikimi, Okorocha, Peter Power, Ezeife, Soludo Akunyinli, Ajimobi, Jakande, Audu Ogbe etc., functionaries, friends and collaborators of military dictators from Buhari, IBB, Abacha, to Abdulsalami Abubakar and their civilian and retired-military successors move from one political constellation to another.
The rather variegated coalition which is called opposition (to PDP) is the newest amalgam of the ruling class (some say ethnic notables) that got registered by INEC as All Progressive Congress (APC). Its manifesto says among other things that it is pivoted on social democracy and that the economy will be a broad-based market economy. Its cardinal programmes are, curiously, a seven-point programme (agenda?). A wide-ranging interview granted by Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State, posted on the internet to <cso-apc-engage> on 12 Aug. 2013 gives us a rather deep insight into the vision, ideological position, intra-party and inter-party politics, citizenship, indigene/settler divide, the plight of the urban poor, and vision of the “progressives” as exemplified by the Progressive Governors Forum (a key segment of APC). Excerpts:
…our politics is more ideas-driven and our ideas are those that are consistent with social democratic, left of centre politics anywhere in the world… We believe that we have a duty to protect the weak and the vulnerable in society and our programmes and policies generally demonstrate this… like the Ekiti Benefit system… We are also very pan-African and internationalist in our orientation… Kenya just adopted the principle of federalism and elected their first set of governors this year… Now the question is, are we the only ones doing these things? After all, a governor like Rotimi Amaechi is also undertaking free health care, he is putting in place massive infrastructure in the state and state of the art primary school in every community, putting in place youth empowerment initiative… but I can see a number of PDP members that I know that are well qualified to be members. I don’t believe that PDP is a monolith but the dominant ideology in the PDP is survival of the fittest… I could well see Governor Rotimi Amaechi qualified… I believe there are people in the PDP who share a people first agenda, and committed to Nigerians, a better Nigeria that is accountable to the citizens, that is committed to a social welfare agenda… we know that there are elements even within PDP that are not happy with the way our country is being run. It is an open secret…[On the deportations of non-indigenes by Governor Fashola] Clearly, we all should agree that some people are better cared for in their natural, local environment, where they can get better care rather than being dumped in Lagos where they have no relation. That is the reality. I know that Lagos has written to Ekiti in the past and returned some people to us in this context…We do not have any internal crisis in Ekiti APC. To the best of my knowledge, we have a united party and I should know…
What the characterisation of the ruling class by Usman and Ake above means is that the class is an obstacle to progress. In the circumstance, the most its advanced segments, the segments that call themselves “progressives”, can achieve is to fashion programmes for the masses rather than work with the people to fashion programmes by the people. This advanced segment is thus the one that is attentive to what is referred to as the enlightened self interest of the ruling class such that the oppressed does not seek to overthrow it. The fact of neo-colonial oppression or any class oppression for that matter always enables this horse rider paradigm. It was also the paradigm of colonial rule while it lasted. It is also in the general category of broad spectrum social engineering encompassing reform, radical reform and radical populism whose internal contradictions stop progress dead on its track.
Needless to say “progressive” reforms or changes themselves are forced on the ruling class by the dynamics of popular struggles. This is why better wages, improved cheaper and expanded social services and even democratic and electoral reforms are forced on the ruling circles; they do not arise from the altruism of the ruling circles! These are the reasons by the oppressed and their allies require their own independent mass organisations or movements which through struggles and education can defend the oppressed with, or without electoral politics.
The upshot of the foregoing perspectives is that the Nigerian ruling class has ideological and historical continuity in spite of its internal fractures and periodic fractionations. These fracturing, alignments, re-alignments and continuities are what we see in the massive fluxes that produce, and that will reproduce PDP, ACN, APGA and APC with some of the big-wigs traversing as many as three or four “party” formations in the last five years. These are the causes of violence, government-inside-government (read the entire El-Rufai book, op. cit.) character assassinations, double and multiple agency, opportunistic silences, rivalries (see El-Rufai, op.cit., pp. 190-191; pp. 353-354; Adeniyi, S. 2011. Power, Politics and Death: A front-row account of Nigeria under late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Prestige This Day Books.) Betrayals and conspiracies, irresponsible, disruptive, and shameless behaviours of the megalomaniacs, religious bigots and ethnic irredentists in the ruling circles. All in the pursuit of power and wealth. In specific regard to the continuities in the politics, commitments, and ideology within the ruling circles, the congratulatory message of “Comrade” Adams Oshiomole (Governor of Edo State) to Ibrahim Babangida who Oshiomole called “Peoples’ General” on the occasion of the former’s 72nd birthday (Daily Trust. Saturday 17th August, 2013: p. 52):
My dear General,
On behalf of the people and government of Edo State I rejoince with you, your family, friends and well-wishers as you celebrate another birthday today. You have lived a life of dedicated service to Nigeria and her people and even now, several years after serving as Military President, you remain a rallying point for many in the country.
You have lived above ethnic and religious sentiments which have tainted many; even your detractors will attest to the fact that you remain a truly detribalised Nigerian who has continued to exhibit statesman qualities which endeared many to you.
You remain a great Nigerian statesman that is least understood, appreciated and celebrated in terms of your numerous contributions to the socio-political and economic re-engineering of the Nigerian State. All that you modestly started during your regime, and were rejected by your critics, have today become the head of the corner. You are indeed a leader who have been vindicated by history during your life time. That to me, is the real celebration.
The bold imprints you have made in the sands of time will forever remain indelible. I appreciate your support for my government and the good people of Edo State.
As you celebrate today, I wish you good health, long life and the grace to make even more meaningful contributions to our great nation, Nigeria.
Happy Birthday, the people’s General.
Adams Aliyu Oshiomole, mni, CON
Governor, Edo State.
An equally incredible birthday message was sent to Babangida by Ahmed Bola Tinubu on the same occasion (The Nation on Sunday, August 18, 2013: p. 69)
A proper analysis and contextualisation of all of these enable us to understand the dominance of the President, the governors and other so-called chief executives at other levels rather than dominance of the party. They enable us to understand the festering of god fathers, deep pockets, acrimony in nomination and endorsement of party candidates, dynasty building in political parties awarding party tickets and posts to wives, children and relatives of party leaders. These are the explanation for the sit-tight public functionaries, for privatisation of the state and of civil societies as NGOs. These are the explanations for the widespread compromise of public and private media and for the massive contempt for, and insults on Nigerian people demonstrated by the media, the insiders and the chroniclers who rationalise and obfuscate the goings-on in the accumulation and power games of the ruling circles. One cannot but be particularly amazed and nauseated for example about the insider accounts such as that of El-Rufai (El-Rufai, 2013: pp.355-384; 390-394; pp.415-489).
We must, of course, put all these in the context of the global struggles of the oppressed under the global warfare state of NATO (see Olorode, O. The Workers “The State of Nigeria Today” Vol.2, No.1 May/August 2013: pp. 53-55).our armed forces are the beck and call of neo-imperialists (USA, France, U.K. etc.) as in Darfur and Mali and as in the alleged “war of terror”. Our security agencies are controlled and infiltrated or controlled by imperialist forces (Adamu Adamu “Those Mossad interrogators” Daily Trust Friday 16 August, 2013: p.72) while US troops are said to be now located in many African countries from the Margrheb to the Nile! At the political level key decisions about the survival of our country are taken by imperialists and their local agents in Nigeria from who becomes President, Minister, adviser etc. (see Okonjo-Iweala, op. cit. p.6; El-Rufai, op. cit., p. 356), to the direction of economic and cultural policies.
Today, the sovereignty of our country and our people is completely compromised by the Nigerian ruling class across political parties and formations.
Again, all in pursuit of capitalist and primitive accumulation!
Programme, Conception and Re-invention of our Movement for Liberation.
In concluding this presentation, we propose a re-invention of our movement of the masses of the victims of the neo-colonial situation in Nigeria—a situation that constantly forces our people to their knees and in which the ruling circles constantly regroup to maintain their stranglehold on economic and political power. This Liberation Movement is a political movement as we shall see below but, for now, not necessarily a movement for parliamentary or electoral purposes.
An Outline of a Minimum Programme for the Movement
In broad outline, and flowing from the heritage of Nigeria’s nationalist movement and the 2002 Benin Declaration, the vision of the proposed Liberation Movement must be guided by three central commitments. The first is commitment to a united Nigeria with a united people who are genuinely sovereign and reinstates the agenda of independence and anti-imperialism. The second is commitment to an economic order in which the welfare of the people is the primary goal, in which the resources of our land and their exploitation and allocation are under the full control of the toiling people thus immediately enabling the minimum of a welfare state and incremental socialization of the major means of production, distribution and exchange. The third commitment of the movement will be the pursuit of a social and cultural policy that promotes cultural freedom and solidarity among our people, and frees their minds from superstitions and from ethnic and confessional prejudices.
Carrying out the foregoing tasks scientifically, conscientiously, and combining revolutionary speed and patience, is the condition for ensuring that our movement does not hand over the fruits of the a re-awakening of the movement, all over again, to the ever-present conspiracy of political opportunists in our ranks and the class enemies of the toilers.
Conceptualizing the idea of a mass movement
Generally speaking, a movement may be considered a mass movement (1) if it commands trust, response and obedience of a visibly large segment of a population that also sees the movement as its own, (2) if its action compels significant attention from government civil authorities or its action is capable of extracting significant concessions from such authorities or is sufficiently strong to overthrow a government or change the key actors in civil authorities, (3) if it has an organization that is sufficiently coherent and capable of aggregating a broad spectrum of interests in a polity in a sustained way.
Mass organizations are therefore defined in terms of a territory or political space and they may have different breadths of agenda. In a country, a mass organization may be widespread throughout the country or it may be geographically restricted in the country. All these depend on its goals. It may be generational (such as youth movement, students’ movement) gender-biased, or confessional (i.e. religious). Generally, we conceive mass movement as embracing a broad spectrum of interests and having definite social, economic and political objectives.
In the foregoing regard and in specific regard to Nigeria, we need to distinguish between what has to come to be called “civil society” and mass movement. Thus a civil society comprising the so-called civil-society organizations may exist without coalescing into a mass movement. This, so far, has been the character of civil society in Nigeria.
Of course, conceptually, mass movements may exist at different stages of development with different levels of breadths and depths of vision, different degrees of cohesion, different degrees of political clarity and different degrees of geographical spread. For instance, the Save Nigeria Group seems to have had the main agenda of getting Yar’Adua to hand over to his then Vice-President Jonathan and since that happened, not much had been heard from the outfit. On the contrary, the Labor-Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) has greater geographical spread and it had engaged in public agitations across Nigeria on various issues including minimum wage, electoral reform and fuel price. The differences between LASCO and SNG have to do with the different degrees to which each satisfies the criteria for defining mass movements articulated earlier in this discussion.
Building a mass movement in Nigeria: Prospects, Potentials and Strategies.
The crisis of poverty, decay of public infrastructures and institutions, deliberate demolition of public purpose policies and institutions, escalation of unemployment, crimes and insecurity, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor are not accidents of Nigeria’s history or geographical location. These phenomena do not arise from lack of resources or technological backwardness. They are the products of the way the resources of society are generated and allocated and the social and economic relations that derive therefrom. Consequently, a class of Nigerians have profited and continued to profit from the increasing marginalisation of the masses of Nigerians.
It is only in an organized form that the aforementioned masses of the Nigerian people can confront and defeat that class that profit from the escalating crisis generated and entrenched by neo-liberalism. The objective situation thus created by the current social and economic crisis also creates the potentials for building the mass movement that will terminate the programme and processes of marginalization.
Since the mass movement spear-headed by organizations like the Campaign for Democracy (CD), Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON), etc. collapsed in the late 1990s, perhaps the only current initiative with potential is the NSF. Consequently, that potential needs to be explored. The Concept Note of the Benin 2009-2010 NSF (NSF, 2010) arising from an earlier Convergence Conference in Abuja (Aug. 27-28, 2010), captured, essentially, the limits of the current modes of the organization of “civil society” in Nigeria:
The democratic movements of the 90s succeeded in creating a vibrant civil society and conscious citizenry but after the military disengaged from power, the democratic movement saw civilian governance as democracy and an end in itself and….disintegrated the movement into different elements of civil society organizing. However, recent happenings have come to re-enforce the need for mass groupings as the pockets of engagements have failed to create the necessary pressure on the ruling class to effect people centered development…..The aim of such social forces [and “coalitions” like NSF Nigeria] would not be simply not to emphasize projects, provide institutional support to organizations, roll out capacity workshops, or to provide services, but to control resources via governance processes and target the structural constraints that shape the day to day life of peoples. The movement must consistently pose the question of social ownership and democratic management of resources.
But to re-invent/re-activate the mass movement and its potentials in Nigeria, certain problems need to be overcome. First, all the organizations that are capable of building solidarity among Nigerian people need to be rebuilt or re-invented (these include organizations like the Nigeria Labour Congress, National Association of Nigerian Students, Women in Nigeria, and the human rights movement). In this re-invention, a robust program clearly articulating unity among the oppressed, sovereignty of Nigeria, a minimum of a welfare state, social security for the masses and education for liberation and general repudiation of neo-liberalism is imperative. Effort should be made by labour activists to launch massive class-biased educational activities on political economy and related matters at state and local government levels. Our experience is that trade unions, students and other groups can anchor these activities by means of what we call Labour Support Groups at various levels. Because the student movement is generally under siege and formal students’ unions structures have become largely corrupted politically and culturally, the student movement must consider total rebuilding at a cultural level—a formal students’ union structure may not be requisite for this.
Secondly, certain organizations that have become potent in manipulating and dividing the masses of the people need to be transformed into instruments of solidarity among the people. These include faith-based organizations and ethno-nationalist organizations. Both ethic-nationalist and religious organizations can be engaged with creativity to make them active foci for social transformation. It is possible to persuade ethnic-nationalist and the so-called self-determination movements that united Nigeria where injustice and ethnic oppression is absent can be built through class-based mass movement. Evidence abound all over the place that the ruling class unleashes as much violence in ethnically homogenous political space as they do across ethnic boundaries. Similarly, activists in our movement can show that the worship of God is more of a uniting force than dividing force among the oppressed i.e. we can build genuine and sustained religious ecumenism only under conditions of social cultural, economic and political justice.
The third problem is that social activism and general advocacy have become a big business! There, indeed, are times when one feels that if the raison d’être of advocacy organizations cease to exist, new social crises will be needed to reinstate the advocacies. For it is the paradigm which created neglected and deprivation among the masses (“less-government—neo-liberalism) that spawned the multiplicity of NGOs! Indeed NGOs have been characterized as “civil-society privatized”! This is also why ‘civil society” organizations in spite of their tremendous proliferation and huge trunks of money have not been able to even marginally disturb the advance of neo-liberalism. But the NGOs, perhaps the most influential and most visible component of Nigeria’s “civil society” are the pivot of NSF! The question then arises as to why we think that the Nsf strategy has any real potential for building and strengthening Nigeria’s mass movement !
The question of the amount of resources necessary to fund a virile mass movement has been important. I will say, off the cuff, that the question is often exaggerated. Resources, especially money, are necessary; but it is not central or pivotal. Indeed, it is often central in the decay and collapse of organizations. Only organizations that have developed high quality cadres can manage and use money, talents and other resources effectively and in ways that advance the organization. Also, only such an organization can have the creativity, as well as the contacts, goodwill and integrity to generate the resources that it needs. That was our experience during the days of the Campaign for Democracy (CD) and the difficult periods of building the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Consequently, the most important resource required for building a virile mass movement is high quality activists, reliable and resilient cadres.
At all times and in all locations where social movements have produced spectacular or any significant results such as the attainment of majority rule in South Africa, the return of social democracy in Latin America or even in Nigeria in the 1980s and 1990s, the movement had been a layered movement with “cores” of different depths and visibilities. In regard to the three problems confronting the activation of the mass movement in Nigeria, the imperative of building or rebuilding core organizations, the dynamos, that will power the movement, is a fundamental task of building the movement. In this regard we need to be categorical that the dawn of the age of NGOs also coincided with the period of the degeneracy of the “dynamos”! We also need to clarify the core-periphery metaphor. The layers we referred to are usually characterized by shifting boundaries such that the quality of development of the movement itself will be measured by the degree of the blurring of the boundaries and progressive homogenization of the movement. The import of the core is that it brings about the long-term vision of the mass movement—a vision that has the capture of state power by the movement as the goal.
In the approach to the goal, specific day-to-day issues and popular concerns will be addressed by specific organizations (NGOs and CSOs, NLC, Trade Unions, the Students’ movement) and co-ordinated and accorded interpretation and popularization that give synergy and cohesion such that these organizations cease to work in isolation. In other words, the business of networking among CSOs will cease to be voluntarist and eclectic but mandatory and programmatic. These will not of course last for too long because funders and those who prefer to maintain the extant received perspectives of the CSOs and NGOs will not accept the statuses of on-lookers. In the circumstance, the task of building authentic mass movements, and of re-building the cores we referred to, is to quickly empower the movement and to de-privatise civil society.
We are not romanticizing or theoreticising the core. We are, Indeed, aware that our fears and, indeed neurosis, concerning problems of “cores” and peripheries in the past, have created doubts for us. These doubts have actually surfaced in problematic formulations of strategy for the envisaged mass movement asmay be exemplified in the NCF Charter of Principles (NCF, 2010: paragraph 5) which stated:
NSF brings together and interlinks only organizations and movements of civil society in Nigeria, but does not intend to be the body representing the Nigerian civil society.
It will simply suffice for us to insist here that without a core, there will be no vision. For, the core, which must, per force, always strife to enlarge itself, is the product of learning and teaching at individual and at collective levels: activities and processes which have produced defeats, frustrations, reflections, tooling and re-tooling, inspirations and, above all, commitment and abiding optimism.
We are not oblivious of the contradictions that fragmented the core(s). In deed, my summary (Olorode, 2010) of the problems of the core(s), problems that are often inevitable in the processes of forging coherent political platforms, captures the situation in a recent anthology (Upah, B. and Onah Iduh. [Eds.] 2010. Homage to Commitment: Tribute to John Odah at 50. Panaf Press. Abuja: pp. 137-148) from which I need to quote copiously:
But what will inform the strategy of that re-invention? First, we must acknowledge our failures and bad judgments in the previous political engagements of our movement. Failure and honest errors are not themselves crimes although they are undesirable. What a crime is, in our circumstance, is failure to self-criticise and learn from our errors. Secondly, we must separate our collective political opportunisms that led us into alliances with dubious integrity from individualistic political opportunisms designed to enhance individual and private advantages. Regarding the latter, we must examine the particular situations where the pursuit of individualist and private advantages has led to the spawning of conspiracies that then demobilized our movement especially in the 1990s. In many cases, the consequence of individualist opportunism is treachery; and that led many of our “comrades” into the camp of the class enemies of our movement. They rationalize their option as “new realism–a concept which has now acquired a broad spectrum of virulence.
But thirdly, we need to focus on our own rather small band of comrades the elements of which we cannot accuse, fairly, either of being class enemies, renegades etc. In this band, our experience reminds us of various degrees of megalomania, extremes of impatience, unilateralism, dogmatism and sectarianism, unwillingness to give othercomrades the benefit of doubt etc. We probably all share these limitations to different degrees.
In a way some of our failures have assumed proportions of tragedy for some of us, creating some form of neurosis and cynicism. Edwin Madunagu (in his tribute Gani Fawehinmi, in September 2009: p. 5) captures, I think, what I want to say as follows:
“A historical epoch, or development, may be considered tragic for a large section of a given segment of humanity, or even for humanity as whole… But the tragedy may, in addition, impact on you in a unique, personal way… The [embattled] revolutionary was advising that while admitting the full extent of the personal impact you should not judge ‘the general’ by the ‘personal’ however devastating the latter may be.”
We cannot manufacture comrades over night (even if we can manufacture them at all). Our way around our individual and collective shortcomings must be through intensive work and engagement in praxis and theory—especially praxis. This is the fundamental argument against short cuts and collective political opportunism like the types which entice segments of our movement into abandoning building our own organization and joining bourgeois organizations just because we need a political platform.
Bringing about a social transformation that is not trivial involves learning and teaching, changing people and changing their environments. It requires unpretentious humility and active work in which motivators and motivating organizations seek to reproduce themselves and even better clones of their organizations and of themselves. The idea of a core in an organization is not posed in this discussion from an elitist, know-all viewpoint. It is being posed to emphasise that the point that the transformational process needs an engine that will drive it. The task of re-launching the transformational process for our country is the task of gathering the pieces of that engine (the core), transforming it, and enlarging it. To speak of the pieces implies that there was, indeed, a whole—the core. That whole actually existed; it powered CD, JACON and National Consultative Forum (NCF) led by Alao Aka-Bashorun before the latter two. Many of the Comrades I see here were part of that core. We keep meeting at NGO and CSO workshops and we keep agonizing interminably about Nigeria’s escalating crisis. Our task, however, is to organize how to end that crisis in favour of the oppressed of Nigeria. That task is urgent.
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Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.