THE SPEECH SHOWS OBVIOUS INCAPACITY OF THE GOVERNMENT TO RESOLVE THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROBLEMS
For most Nigerians President Muhammadu Buhari’s May 29 speech was cheerless and uninspiring just like the previous ones. President Buhari has only succeeded in telling Nigerians what they spent money on without a coordinated plan to improve the living condition of Nigerians on a sustainable basis. Furthermore he ignored the underlying structural crisis of the country, a crisis which is getting worse, not better. This is the same kind of speech Nigerians get periodically.
The President claimed that security, economy and corruption are the cardinal programs of the government and yet his government has failed woefully on all these areas.
On security, the President claimed that his government has done so well on security but the fact of the matter is the insecurity of different shades is still very much prevalent. Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 110 Dapchi school girls in Yobe shows clearly that insurgency is still a major threat. Besides, kidnapping and armed robbery and other social vices are on the increase. The present administration has failed woefully in their response to herdsmen and farmers clashes across the country in terms of securing peoples’ lives and properties as well as modernising agriculture. The government responds to insecurity by buying more arms which is its only strategy. The absence of massive social-economic investment to create sustainable jobs and living standards means that the government is only scratching the surface of the country’s problems.
On the economy, President Buhari government has also failed woefully. Living conditions of most Nigerians are much worse now than three years ago as a result of the anti-poor policies of the regime and the inability of the capitalist economy to meet the needs of the majority. Like other public services education is still underfunded and Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, currently around 10.5 million. The government is increasingly commercializing education by periodic hike in fees at the tertiary level and more students are forced out of school. The budgetary allocation to education is about 7% which is criminally inadequate.
It is not an error that the President speech did not capture healthcare; it is simply that the government is giving very little attention to it. The 2018 proposed budget allocates a paltry N340 billion which is 4% to healthcare, one of the reasons there are repeated strikes by health sector workers. The budgetary allocation is less than 15% recommendable by African Union (AU) and 13% recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO). Like most members of the ruling class President Buhari care less of the deplorable state of healthcare since he and his family members embark on expensive treatment abroad.
The President claimed that Niger Delta region has enjoyed relative peace through social inclusiveness and cooperation of the elders; and that the environmental clean-up of the region is progressing satisfactorily. We want to make quite clear that the relative peace in Niger Delta does not mean that the degradation, infrastructural decay and massive joblessness are being addressed. What the ruling elite has succeeded in bribing the militants to stand down while the old order remains. Aside the initial $10 million start-up funds to Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Projects (HYPREP) by the federal government for the cleanup of Ogoni, one year after, the $1billion that is to be contributed by Shell and the government is yet to be paid and cleanup is yet to begin.
There is nothing to cheer about when foreign reserve stands at $47.5 billion because it serves the interest of the rich far more than the poor. Secondly, it is not due to ingenuity of the government but simply because price of oil has hit over $70 per barrel compared to about $35 per barrel three years ago. Nigeria’s economy is on auto-pilot and majorly dependent on crude oil price and quantity sold, if and when the oil export price falls the Nigerian economy will fall again into deeper crisis.
Unfortunately, the President reduced food security to increased local production of rice. Most of the rice consumed in Nigeria is still being imported. The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development said that Nigeria spends about $22billion (N6.7 trillion) annually on food importation and yet the proposed budgetary allocation to Agriculture and Rural Development is a paltry N119 billion.
President Buhari said that fight against corruption is taken seriously but the fight so far is largely aimed at those in the opposition camp and long term enemies while his own men are shielded. The fight against corruption must be democratically controlled, openly conducted, all-inclusive and without discrimination to achieve its desirable impact. President Buhari in July 2015 banned 113 Crude Oil Vessels involved in stealing crude oil but were reinstated after two months without prosecution. Mainagate and Babachirgate are examples of how Buhari treats corrupt practices with his government with kid gloves.
The Social Investment Programmes (SIP) is configured on a weak and unsustainable foundation. The program is not tied to industry, massive service delivery or integrated rural development and modern agriculture. Hence, it is best ascribed as a scheme to address temporary issues but the problem of jobs is a permanent one. SIP jobs only attract meager salary without the right to unionization and are on a temporary basis. Previous governments since Babangida’s Junta did similar programs and the economy is still in bad shape. Despite long years of scheme programs, unemployment and underemployment keep growing. 72 million (40% of the population) are unemployed and underemployed. As far as we are concerned, the SIP amounts to throwing money at a problem on a small scale. What is required is development of all sectors of the economy and it can only be achieved through a plan towards industrialization wherein the key sectors of the economy are linked together in one plan with massive investment.
The President applauded his government for generating 7,500 MW of electricity but what he did not tell us is that over $20 billion public funds has been investment in the power sector in the last 15 years. Besides, due to the poor transmission and distribution infrastructure and facilities only less than two-third of the generated MW are eventually supplied to consumers. Fundamentally, 5,222 MW is very small for a population of 180 million people. The President did not address the very vexatious issue of widespread unwarranted and outrageous estimated bills issued to consumers by the Distribution Companies which is a rip-off. Besides, he has stuck with the electricity privatization has proved not to be monumental failure.
It is obvious that the All Progressive Congress (APC)-led government just like its predecessors, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has no capacity to develop the economy on a sustainable basis. The socio-economic problems are being compounded by the continuous implementation of neo-liberal policies (privatization, deregulation etc.) that only serve the profit interest of a few at the expense of the interest of vast majority. This means that the vast majority of Nigerians, especially young ones, have no real hope so long as the country continues on its current course.
The SPN calls on labour and pro-masses organisations to organise campaign and mass resistance against all anti-poor capitalist policies and attacks of the government at all levels, and to demand improvement in living conditions including a higher minimum wage, settlement of all arrears of salaries and pensions, adequate funding of education and health care, etc. We call on workers and activists to join us to mount pressure on the leadership of labour movement to initiate effort in this direction and at the same time independently initiate and organize a series of mass actions against capitalist attacks before and after 2019 general elections.
Also importantly, the major lesson the masses must learn from the failure of Buhari government in whom a huge hope was invested is the need for a mass working peoples party on a socialist programme to wrest political power in order to democratically use of huge human and material resources of the country for the benefit of the vast majority. We of the SPN are striving to build, with others, such a working peoples’ alternative both for the coming elections but also a force that can campaign etc. after the elections. At the same, the SPN has a huge potential of becoming such a mass party. Therefore, we call on workers, artisans, traders, youth, and the masses in general to join us.
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) will pursue industrialization for massive jobs creation; integrated rural development to modernize agriculture and develop rural communities; integrated transport system for an efficient transport network; affordable and uninterrupted power supply; affordable and decent housing and environment; free, quality education and healthcare; potable water; clean and renewable energy etc. SPN will achieve these pro-people and pro-development programs through socialist planning and nationalization of the commanding height of the economy under the management and control of workers and consumers. Through this, the quantum of resources (human and material) can be planned and managed to meet the needs of all.