October 1, Nigerian independence anniversary: nothing to celebrate

By Revolutionary Socialist Movement (RSM) 

Nigeria at 62; nothing to celebrate
Time for mass action and general strikes
End insecurity and high cost of living

On October 1, 1960, Nigeria became independent from British rule. Since then, Nigeria has been battling with so many internal crises; a civil war between 1967 and 1970 and more than 30 years of military rule, before it turned to a corrupt civil rule with massive wealth as the largest oil producing country in Africa. But the nation is in shambles. 

October 1st, 2022, will mark 62 years of independence from Britain. Lavish festivities, church Thanksgiving, parades and banquets are organised. But it will be a bittersweet celebration and a series of mass protests will be carried out across the country by civil society and opposition groups. 

After 62 years of independence, many Nigerians are questioning whether there is really a tangible thing to celebrate. Because today Nigeria is on the brink of collapse and at the cliff’s edge, despite huge oil wealth, gold and other natural resources. 

Nigeria, the most populous black country in the world, today is battling with so many internal crises, resulting from decades of rule by elected and appointed ruling class politicians. Bandits and Boko Haram organise killings across the country, with destruction of properties at the Northern part of the country. Separatists and paramilitary groups ravage the Southern part. From North to South unemployment and insecurity is prevalent. 

Power failure

Nigeria at 62 still has no constant supply of electricity. We can’t celebrate a nation where the economy is dying, and where people are suffering. There is nothing truly to celebrate. We believe that Nigerian resources have been squandered and completely mismanaged. We currently have an unresolved power outage crisis. For the seventh time in 2022, Nigeria’s power grid collapsed leaving millions of people without access to electricity.

Nigerians protest against the continued failure of the state and the private sector to secure electricity as a basic human right. It’s the Nigerian ruling class, which is thirsty for more and more profits, to blame for this collapse of the power sector. This is despite the huge amounts of money that have been spent by different administrations to support the private sector in energy production and distribution.  

In fact, billions of Naira of public funds were used to bail out the different companies in the power sector. N6 billion released by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) were mismanaged and the same happened with other electricity distribution and generation companies. 

The Nigerian power sector has suffered from massive corruption and manipulation by many appointees and profiteers in the last 62 years. This was possible because of the lack of accountability and transparency in the system. 

The privatization of the power sector made it impossible for Nigerians to have 24-hour electricity supply. That is the main reason why 43% of Nigerians don’t have access to electricity, so they are forced to rely on solar power, power banks and generators. The country ranks 171 out of 190 nations in terms of access to electricity, according to the World Bank.

As we speak, Nigeria power plants stations can’t generate up to 5,000 megawatts, when its grid has an installed capacity of 12,522 megawatts! The organization of this system has obviously failed, it only continues to work for the sake of the profits of those involved!

Planning experts estimate that for the Nigerian economy to grow at 10 per cent yearly, electricity requirement must reach 78,000MW by 2030. Heavy state investment is needed to address the insufficient gas supply due to poor gas infrastructure, obsolete transmission and distribution facilities. But the ruling class only makes mouth on media on resolving the power crisis. As things stand, there is no power supply in many states as a result of power failure. 

Things fall apart

In paraphrasing Late Chinue Achibe, a prominent writer0a, who titled a book “Things Fall Apart” to explain the crisis of Nigeria, today things have fallen apart beyond repair in the country. The Nigerian people should be united in building a movement that will chart a different direction. 

We have endless corruption scandals under different regimes in the past. Prominent among them was late General Sani Abacha, who ruled with dictatorial powers. Many journalists, activists and students were killed and jailed by the military tribunal. The regime looted millions of dollars and kept it in overseas banks. 

Recently, the US government signed an agreement with the Nigerian Federal Government to repatriate $23 million from Abacha’s loot. The $23 million add to the $311.7 million from Abacha’s loot already repatriated from the U.S. to Nigeria in 2020. But even those are just parts of Abacha’s loot.  If we pay attention to lootings from other regimes, up to the present Major General Buhari regime, the story won’t be any different. 

As we write, there are still sit at home  on Mondays at the South Eastern part of Nigeria. The sit at home, initiated by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), following the arrest and detention of its leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, by the federal government, commenced on August 9, 2021, as a way of pressing home their demand for his freedom.

According to reports, many had thought it would be a flash-in-the-wind exercise that would peter out and normalcy would return in no time, considering the choice of Monday, which is a day the mainly business-minded Easterners would not joke with. But thirteen months later, the lockdowns remain, with palpable fear hanging in the air. This, of course, has been gingered by the violence inflicted on those who dared to come out on the ‘forbidden’ day.

Even when IPOB announced the cancellation of the lockdowns two weeks after August last year, following complaints by residents, some overzealous elements in and outside the group continued the enforcement by inflicting untold violence on those who dared to step out of their homes on Monday.

As a result, government officials, security operatives, hospital officials, traders, courts, even schools, have mostly complied for fear about their safety. The above report also explained why the crisis of separatists’ groups has become emboldened. As socialists we support the right to self-determination and demand immediate and unconditional release of Nnmadi Kanu and all those.  

No doubt the major reasons for many separatists’ groups is that they claimed they’ve been marginalized by the ruling government. But each of the past and present governments in Nigeria were always united in mismanaging our collective resources. What we need is unity of the oppressed. It’s a class war that knows no boundaries when it comes to looting. Workers and youth must unite to build a fight back. Ordinary people across all ethnic groups in Nigeria are been marginalized by the rich. 

Insecurity

Insecurity in the Northern and Southern part of Nigeria has reach a point where no one is safe.

On June 5, gunmen stormed St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, in Ondo State, killing no fewer than 40 worshippers and injuring at least 80 other persons. These killings across Nigeria continue unabated. 

According to a report in the media, at least 13 worshippers were killed when bandits attacked a mosque in Ruwan Jema community, at the Bukkuyum Local Government Area of Zamfara State, during Juma’at service on Friday.

This comes three weeks after bandits attacked a mosque in Zugu community, at the Gummi Local Government Area of the state and abducted some worshippers. So far there has been kidnapping for ransom in all states in Nigeria but it’s more prevalent in the North.

On March 28th, 2022, armed bandits bombed the Abuja to Kaduna railway, where over 100 people were kidnapped and scores of people were killed. Among those that were killed was the Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) and the Chairman of Kwara State Chapter of Trade Union Congress. 

A recent report by UNICEF indicates that 1,436 children were abducted in Nigeria between 2020 and 2022. Criminals sometimes contact their parents for ransom. In some instances, the children are abducted for ritual purposes or illicit adoption.

About N653.7 million was paid as ransom in Nigeria between July 2021 and June 2022, a period of one of year, for the release of kidnap victims, a new report by a Lagos-based security and political risk research firm has shown.

The report, ‘The Economics of Nigeria’s Kidnap Industry’, conducted by SBM Intelligence and published in August, detailed the country’s security issues, including incidents of banditry and the costs associated with kidnapping for ransom. Vanguard reports

“Based on what we could verify, between July 2021 and June 2022, no fewer than 3,420 people were abducted across Nigeria, with 564 others killed in violence associated with abductions. In the ensuing period, N6.531 billion was demanded in exchange for the release of captives while a fraction of that sum (N653.7 million) was paid as ransom.”

In a message sent through the Minister of Internal Affairs, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the president said, however, that all Nigerians must be part of the war to end insecurity. He noted that the war against insecurity could not be left to only the security agencies to handle. 

“All of us must be concerned about security. The government will play its part; we must work together with security agencies to overcome the challenges of insecurity,” 

he said. It’s important to stress that the president was elected in 2015 with a ticket to fight insecurities, especially to stop the terrorists in the North Eastern part of Nigeria. But since the election of Buhari in 2015, the situation across Nigeria has become worst. 

Economy

Nigeria economy remains in a very bad shape, as ordinary people have been strangulated. Nigeria, while it is a big oil producing country, has suffered two recessions in the last seven years. With the rise in oil prices at international markets, one could imagine, Nigerians would be better off. But the corrupt ruling class makes life even more difficult for ordinary people. Nigeria doesn’t have its own functional refineries. The refineries we have aren’t working, so we export crude oil to refineries abroad and import petrol, then pay huge amounts on subsidies. Many of the subsidies are payed to oil giants whose only aim is to make profits. 

It is only recently that queues disappeared at our filling stations. Nigeria suffered about six months of fuel scarcity. The economy is majorly dependent on oil and agriculture. But these sectors are controlled by few rich, making them work only for their profit. 

According to Vanguard, as the economy continues to bite harder, over 30 per cent of Nigerians, translating to nearly 62 million people, are now facing serious housing challenges. Eighty per cent of the country’s 206 million people live in informal housing, plagued by problems related to poor quality and inadequate infrastructure. 

Nigeria has vacant houses and at the same time homeless tenants, because available houses aren’t affordable by ordinary people with low income.  Despite the National Housing Policy, many available houses are given out at high prices. 

The Nigerian economy has collapsed and ordinary people are paying for it. Just few days ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) raised interest rates to 15.5% to tame rising inflation. This is an attempt to make borrowing difficult for ordinary people. 

Nigeria’s external debt stood at $39.69 billion as of March 2022, with debt servicing costs growing to N6.16tn in 16 months, according to the 2023-2025 Medium Term Expenditure Framework & Fiscal Strategy Paper. In 2021, the Federal Government spent N4.22tn on debt service, and further N1.94tn between January and April 2022.

The resources of Nigeria are enough to fund functional and free education at all levels but the ruling class is more concerned about commercialization of education, while mismanaging our collective resources.

The Nigerian education sector is in imbroglio. The Buhari regime refused to meet the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) demands and the strike is going on for seven months now. Despite protests and threat of general strikes, the government went to secure a court injunction to force ASUU members back to class rooms. The crisis in education today is a result of long-time cuts in social policies that the Nigerian governments signed to. We call for improved funding of education. 

2023 General Election

The 2023 Nigerian general election will be held, in large part, on February 25 and March 11, 2023. There is no real alternative for ordinary people in these elections. Millions of Nigerian will go to the ballot box to cast thier votes for the same corrupt politicians who have destroyed Nigeria. The present situation has again threw the Left and social movements in limbo. The trade union centers have openly endorsed Mr Obi of Labour Party. Mr Obi is a capitalist politician and represents a section of the rich. Some ordinary people that suffered enormously under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the present ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), have placed their hopes in Obi. But Obi isn’t a friend of ordinary people. As a former governor of Anambra State he ruled with draconian anti-worker policies. Some have advocated that we should reclaim the Labour Party as true party of the working class. If this was possible, it would be a progressive step forward and we would support it. But as things stand there seems to be no prospect of this happening. Obi is a capitalist politician with a record of corruption allegations and anti-worker policies, and he will put off, not attract, the more progressive elements of the working class. 

We in the Revolutionary Socialist Movement (RSM) will continue to campaign for mass worker’s political alternative with a socialist programme. Today, at the 62nd independence celebrations, it is clear that there are no short cuts to the struggle to end precarious conditions. Unless a mass movement of the people from below is built, the ruling class will continue its dirty work. We strive to unite the oppressed people and strive to join forces with every group and person that wants to engage in the struggle to build a fighting political force. We do not agree that the natural resources of Nigeria are not enough to solve both economic and political problems. It is the rotten capitalist system that the Nigerian ruling class implements that is to blame for years and decades of exploitation and corruption. We reiterate our call for a socialist revolution in Nigeria. Only a socialist revolution, won on popular demands, can guarantee a better life for us. A society where water, food, education, health facilities, housing, electricity, cultural goods, transportation, are equally available to all. That’s what we stand for.

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