Monday, 16 December 2013

Obasanjo’s Letter to Jonathan:

Another Reason to Build Genuine Political Alternative of the Working and Poor People

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s “Before it is too late” open letter to Jonathan graphically describes the crisis surrounding both the presidency and Nigeria itself. Although partly a product of the vicious in-fighting between the rival factions of the ruling class Obasanjo’s appeal has confirmed the impending catastrophe facing Nigeria.

This unprecedented letter has generated widespread debates and discussions, especially as it is widely acknowledged that the country is moving rapidly on a fast lane towards a cliff edge. The debate has further underscored the growing disillusionment of vast array of Nigerians with the current iniquitous capitalist political and economic set-up represented and headed by the Jonathan/PDP government.

The said letter, while signalling the growing bitter clashes within the various strata of the ruling elites on who next should control economic and political power, actually have nothing to do with the interests of the working and poor people. But the allegations levelled against the Jonathan government, especially those concerning the manner of governance, are both serious and trite even as it exposes the dubious character of Obasanjo.

Obasanjo is hypocritical; he writes that Jonathan is going down the Abacha road whereas the Odi massacre took place barely a few months into his own first term as civilian president. Nevertheless, Obasanjo paints a picture of a creeping dictatorship when he writes about an “allegation of keeping over 1,000 people on political watch  list  rather than  criminal  or  security  watch  list  and  training  snipers  and  other  armed personnel  secretly  and  clandestinely  acquiring  weapons  to  match  for political purposes like Abacha, and training them where Abacha trained his own killers, if it is true, cannot augur well for the initiator, the government and  the  people  of  Nigeria.”   

These weighty allegations coming from someone inside the inner temple of the capitalist gang again reflects the fact that devil can indeed be scared of human evil sometimes. It should be recalled that Obasanjo played major role in the emergence of Jonathan, both as acting president and substantive president since the death of Umar Yar’Adua. He helped manipulate the ruling PDP party to ensure the emergence of Jonathan.

The ‘revelations’ by Obasanjo, while not new, again reaffirm the position of Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) that the Jonathan government, and indeed all sections of the ruling elites, including the self-proclaimed ‘opposition’ parties, cannot move the country forward economically, politically or socially. In a country where government earned five trillion naira from taxes alone in 2012, but still nothing works for majority of Nigerians, we do not need a soothsayer to tell us that the current political elites can only lead the country to a blind alley. The latest struggle among various strata of the ruling class for 2015 further underscores the need for working and oppressed people to begin the process of decisively intervening in the political landscape by building an alternative political platform that fundamentally represent their interests.

Obasanjo cannot now begin to divorce himself from the rots that currently characterize Nigeria. Indeed, the bankrupt political and economic policies of the Jonathan government are continuation of Obasanjo-era policies. Obasanjo government launched full-scale privatization policy that saw many public enterprises and infrastructures sold out to private hands. The seed of the current rot in the education sector, including the current university lecturers’ strike, was sown by the Obasanjo government. By the time Obasanjo was stopped from his third term agenda and forced to hand over, trillions of naira had accrued to state coffers, yet poverty was more pervasive than when he became president while unemployment was at a historic height. At a time when university education was gasping for survival, the best solution Obasanjo and his deputy, Atiku Abubakar, could offer was the establishment of their own private universities.

Therefore, Obasanjo is part of the rot of governance in Nigeria, and by all standards pacesetter for the Jonathan clueless and anti-poor capitalist government. All his pontification about insecurity, unemployment, corruption is mere attempt at whitewashing his horrible past. The same Obasanjo that was lamenting about Jonathan’s mismanagement of $7 billion could neither account for over $22 billion in excess crude account wasted by his regime nor the over $16 billion wasted on power sector without any tangible result. While corruption has attained a higher priority in Jonathan government’s scale of preference, it is actually a continuation of ruinous past under Obasanjo and Yar’Adua. His economic advice to Jonathan is that the latter, despite his rabid commitment to neo-liberalism, should further open up the economy, especially the oil sector to the IOCs (international oil companies).

However, one of the recurrent themes in Obasanjo’s letter is the issue of whether Jonathan should contest the 2015 election or not. For the majority of working and oppressed people in Nigeria, who have gained less but lost more since the emergence of Jonathan as president, they cannot wait an hour to send this ruinous government packing through mass movement. But the attempt of Obasanjo and the so-called ‘opposition’ party, the APC, to pose the issue of 2015 election around Jonathan contesting or not is self-serving. Indeed, the whole political class, including those in the ‘opposition’ party, represents a monster that an average Nigerian will want to do away with, as they have launched collectively and severally, anti-poor policies on the common people. If Jonathan is stopped today from contesting, the alternative being offered by the APC, or within the PDP will not be a break from the past for the working and oppressed people.

The influx of the anti-Jonathan politicians and governors in PDP into the fold of the ‘opposition’ APC party reflects the fact that, in principle and practice, fundamentally there is no difference between PDP and APC. The scenario of Oyinlola attending the same party meeting with Aregbesola in Osun State is a clear confirmation of this. For most politicians and governors in PDP, it will be a battle of political survival to ensure the continued rule of PDP, while the APC offers no genuine alternative. Therefore, the 2015 elections, aside being a ‘no choice’ situation for the working and oppressed people based on the PDP-APC permutation, may witness unprecedented political violence and rigging that will make 2007 and 2011 manipulations mere child’s play. As Obasanjo alluded to in his letter, Jonathan government is leaving no stone (except provision of basic needs of the common people), including ethnic card, unturned in ensuring his re-emergence come 2015. Surely, the ‘opposition’ will also take a cue from this. As Jonathan government continues to popularize the bonanza of massive looting at federal levels, various state governments including those controlled by the opposition are also building huge reservoir of loots. Therefore, 2015 paints a picture of gloom for the common people.

It is against this background that we in the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) reiterate our call on workers, youths, professionals, artisans, market men and women, unemployed, and the oppressed people in general to join force with us in building a political alternative to the rot represented by the PDP and its clone, misnamed opposition. We make clarion call on leadership of labour movement in Nigeria, being the most organized platform of working people, to spearhead this process for the formation of a genuine political alternative. However the current Labour Party (LP) cannot serve this purpose. Despite being initially formed by the trade unions, Obasanjo’s letter confirms how the LP has been taken over by corrupt elements. The LP leaders have, so far, been silent, on Obasanjo’s complaint to Jonathan that “in the South-West …disgruntled PDP members were going around to recruit people into the Labour Party for you, because, for electoral purpose at the national level, Labour Party will have no candidate but you.” A so-called Labour Party allied with Jonathan’s PDP faction cannot represent working people.

We propose that the process of building this genuine alternative should begin with the convocation of a summit of labour unions, pro-labour organizations, left and socialist organizations, organizations of working people, youth and unemployed, to discuss the formation of a political platform that will champion the demands and needs of the common people. Such a political platform must make as its central programme the takeover of society’s wealth from the hands of rich few, and putting it under democratic public ownership of the working and oppressed people from grassroots to the national level. Such a political platform must ensure that political office holders earn the wages of skilled worker while there must be open democratic process within such a platform. These are necessary for such platform to make genuine difference. Moreover, the labour movement should unite the working and oppressed people through mass struggles against anti-poor, pro-rich policies of capitalist governments at all levels e.g. privatization of electricity sector, under funding of education, pervasive corruption, etc. and in defence of democratic rights.

These struggles, along with building political alternative can mobilize the working and oppressed people together in common struggle to end the rule of ruinous capitalist political class. The labour movement will be betraying its historic duty if it fails in this direction. SPN is committed to playing a vital role in the process of liberating the oppressed people from the clutches of suffering in the midst of superabundance.

Segun Sango                                                             Chinedu Bosah
National Chairperson                                             National Secretary

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Worsening Electricity Situation: Labour must call Mass Protest and 24-hour General Strike

We Reject Fraudulent Hike in Tariffs by New Private Owners
We Call for Renationalization of Electricity Companies under Democratic Control of Workers, Communities and Consumers

Press Statement

The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) deplores the worsening electricity situation in the country since the privatisation of the public electricity last month. We hold that this situation confirms vividly our position that privatization rather than improve the horrible state of electricity will worsen it.

We condemn the irresponsible hike in electricity tariffs by the privatized electricity companies as well the retrenchment of several thousands of electricity workers, and non-payment of entitlement of over 7, 000 of them.

According to newspapers’ reports, over 50 percent of the workforce of the former PHCN has been sacked while those retained are already casualised. This has had untoward effects on the repair of faulty facilities, and supply of electricity, as there are few staff to operate and maintain electricity infrastructures. Consequently, there has been reduction in running cost including cost of replacement of faulty parts. All this has led to incessant power cut. On the generation side, the situation has also worsened, as new private owners have refused to maintain the little generation guaranteed under public owned PHCN. According to the Vanguard newspaper (December 2, 2013), the new owners have been defaulting in payment of gas supply to the generating plants, leading to drastic cuts in power generation.

To add insult to injury, while private buyers have no solution to the debilitating electricity situation that is killing small businesses and increasing cost of living for the working class, they are quick to hike tariffs criminally, with crazy (estimated) bills becoming the norm. For instance, according to Vanguard newspaper of December 2, 2013, maintenance charge has been hiked by 100 percent to N1, 500, while other hidden charges have also been added.

Behind this development is the fact that the so-called private investors/buyers are mostly portfolio investors whose sole aim is amassing huge profits with little or no risk. This is why already the government, just weeks after privatization, is giving the Electricity Generating companies N50billion to increase generation (Nation, December 4, 2013). The fact that the new private owners need public funds completely undermines any argument in favour of privatization and shows that privatization is simply a way of giving capitalists a new source of profit.

According to Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the government agency carrying out privatization of public assets, about N300 billion is required in the next five years by new buyers to improve the electricity situation. In fact, according to International Energy Association (IEA), over N900 billion is needed annually over ten years in investment to guarantee universal access to electricity by all Nigerians. This surely will involve not just massive investment in infrastructures, but also employment of thousands of new hands. But it is highly unlikely that the new private owners will be prepared to invest such amounts and, if they do, they will charge sky high prices in order to make a profit.

But we can already see, on the basis of the reality on the ground, that the private buyers cannot guarantee these. Rather than retrain staff and employ new hands, several thousands have been disengaged. Worse still, there is no reasonable plan by the new buyers to improve the rapidly worsening electricity situation in the country. All they want is guarantee of profit by astronomical hike in tariff. All this has confirmed our position that privatization of electricity is a disaster.

On this basis, the SPN calls on labour movement to demand immediate reversal of the obnoxious privatization of electricity and retrenchment and casualization of staff. We call on the labour movement leadership including leadership of NLC and TUC, to immediately begin a nationwide mass protest against worsening electricity situation in the country and demand immediate renationalization of the private companies. This must be linked to the calling of a 24-hour general strike on this crisis and other pressing issues, like the ASUU strike, facing working people. Such a general strike must be accompanied by mass mobilization of workers, market men and women, youth, communities, and the oppressed in general; with active collaboration with pro-labour civil societies like Joint Action Front. It should be noted that the passive acquiescence of labour movement leadership emboldened the government to go ahead with the privatization of electricity companies.

We in SPN maintain that the failure of PHCN under public ownership to guarantee power supply is not a product of impracticability of public ownership. On the contrary it is the corrupt capitalist ruling class that turned the sector into cash cow for their selfish interest. In the last 12 years over $20 billion has been purportedly spent on the power sector by successive capitalist governments in Nigeria with nothing to show for it. Private ownership can only make the situation worse, as the so-called private investors, aside looking for cheap profits, comprise the same set of people that contributed to the run-down of public enterprises. Therefore, as a viable alternative, labour movement leadership must demand democratic control of electricity companies by elected representatives of workers, communities, consumers and professional groups. With massive deployment of huge wealth of the country into expansion and improvement of electricity infrastructures, under democratic control and management, it can be possible to make electricity sector serve as engine of development of the country.

However, the failure of Nigerian capitalist ruling class to resolve electricity problem again underscores the fact that Nigeria cannot move forward with the current set of capitalist political class. On this basis, we call on labour movement, being the most organized platform of the working and oppressed people to begin the process of building an alternative political platform to the rot constituted by capitalist political class of all shades, whose rule has ensured suffering for the majority in the midst of huge human and material resources. The SPN is committed to supporting this cause and setting an example of building an independent political movement of working people.

Chinedu Bosah
National Secretary

Socialist Party of Nigeria

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


Press Statement

The Federal Government’s planned sack of University lecturers and militarization of campuses is clearly aimed at intimidating the lecturers who have been on strike over deplorable working conditions and facilities in the Universities. The plan is not only undemocratic but also despotic. The Goodluck Jonathan-led federal government is clearly showing again that it cannot govern successfully except through force. The same military tactics was employed during the January 2012 mass protest by the government when it unleashed armed forces personnel against peaceful protesters who opposed the unjustified increment in fuel price. Nigeria is indeed speedily descending into a full scale Police State. 
The genesis of the lingering crisis started with the failure of the federal government to implement the 2009 agreement reached with the Academic Staff Union of the Universities (ASUU). It must be emphasized that the same party (Peoples Democratic Party), which was in power when the agreement was reached is still ruling while President Jonathan was the Vice-President when the agreement was reached and the President when the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in 2012.
But it was actually the same government that became recalcitrant and insisted that the agreement should be renegotiated and this led to another agreement on November 4, which watered down the 2009 agreement. ASUU correctly reported back to its relevant organs and its NEC agreed that the government should take certain steps that will assure lecturers that the latest agreement would be honoured while there would be no victimization. ASUU therefore requested that government should release N200 billion in the next two weeks and pay the four-month salary arrears owed its members.
If government was genuinely concerned about improving the state of facilities at the universities, it would have met these requests of ASUU so that academic activities can resume. Rather, the Supervising Minister of Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike in line with the directive of President Jonathan gave a marching order to lecturers to resume before December 4, 2013 or be sacked, which is reminiscent of the dark days of the military. It must be understood that apart from failing to implement agreement reached with ASUU, the government had failed to honour agreements reached with several unions, which is responsible for the multiple strikes by different unions in the education sector.
We must remind the federal government that it did not blink an eye before it released N620 billion to 10 private Banks in 2009 and have so far spent about N3trillion to bailout the banking industry despite the fact that it was obvious that the crisis was caused by the corruption of a few Bank chiefs and their collaborating private friends. Besides, the ruling class is running a private, self-centered and selfish agenda at the expense of the interest of all.  
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) calls on the federal government to immediately withdraw security agents from all Universities and begin to implement the agreement reached with ASUU. The same lecturers had waged several struggles including strikes in the past and at no time had properties been destroyed or union officials forcing its members to participate in strikes. Hence, the claim that the police has been sent to Universities to protect lives and properties is absurd.
SPN strongly feels that if government at all levels employs the same seriousness and energy on revitalizing the education and other sectors as it is putting into using wanton force to intimidate workers and the masses as well as the obvious mismanagement and looting of our common wealth, Nigeria would boast of a better economy and public infrastructure.
SPN hereby calls on President Goodluck Jonathan and Mr. Nyesom Wike to immediately rescind its draconian approach and begin the implementation of the agreement as a step towards massively investing in the educational sector as the only way to resolve the crisis in the sector. We call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and their affiliates to begin mobilization of workers for sustained actions against attacks on the lecturers. An attack on ASUU must be seen as an attack on workers everywhere.   

Chinedu Bosah
Protem National Secretary