Written by Workers' Alternative Sunday, 29 March 2009 11:48
It is not a new thing in Nigeria, that when a new administration is sworn into office, they always come up with some "new" policy or other. The experience of the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) introduced by the Babangida regime is still fresh in our memory. The Obasanjo regime came up with the "Fight Against Corruption" crusade, and to achieve this they set up the EFCC and ICPC. How far have they gone with this crusade is left to the Nigerian people to decide. On August 1st 2007, the present (Yar'Adua) regime came up with its own policy, named the "Seven Point Agenda", which we look into below.
According to the government the following are the seven goals it has given itself:
Power and energy - To develop an adequate power supply so as to ensure Nigeria's ability to develop as a modern economy by the year 2015.
Food security - The emphasis is on the development of modern technology, research, financial injection into research, production and development of agricultural inputs leading to a 5 to 10-fold increase in yields and production. This is supposed to result in massive domestic and commercial output and technological knowledge transfer to farmers.
Yar' Adua, President of Nigeria (Photo by Andy Mettler on swiss-image.ch)
agricultural and solid mineral sector. This requires Nigerians to "choose" to work, as hard work by all is required to achieve this reform.
Transport sector - The transportation sector in Nigeria with its poor road networks is an inefficient means of mass transit of people and goods. With the goal of a modernized and industrialized Nigeria, it is mandatory that Nigeria develop its transport sector. The PDP government claims it has already started this process by the ongoing rehabilitation and modernization of the railway. While the reforms might take some time to take effect, it is a need that must be addressed.
Land reforms - While hundreds of billions of dollars have been lost through unused government-owned landed assets, changes in the land laws and the emergence of land reforms is supposed to optimise Nigeria's growth through the release of land for commercialised farming and other large scale business by the private sector. The final result is supposed to assure improvements and boosts to the production and "wealth creation initiatives".
Security - An unfriendly security climate apparently "precludes both external and internal investment into the nation". Thus, security will be seen as not only a constitutional requirement but also as a necessary infrastructure for the development of a "modern Nigerian economy". With its particular needs, the Niger Delta security issue will be the primary focus, marshalled not with physical policing or military security, but through "honest and accurate dialogue" between the people and the Federal Government.
Education - The two-fold reforms in the educational sector are supposed to achieve the "minimum acceptable international standards of education for all." With that achieved, a strategic educational development plan "will ensure excellence in both the tutoring and learning of skills in science and technology" by students who will be seen as the "future innovators and industrialists of Nigeria." This reform is to be achieved through massive injection into the Education sector.
What has been achieved so far?
The question that has to be asked is this: taking each point on this agenda one by one, after over a year, how far has this regime gone?
On power and energy: presently the electric energy output of the country is roughly 2000MW out of a total capacity of 6000MW which they have never reached. The maximum they have reached so far is 4,200MW and they are aiming for 10,000MW by the year 2010. The question is: how big are 2000MW, 6,000MW, 4,200MW and 10,000MW for a country of 140million in population. The question as to how much energy Nigeria really needs is never emphasized.
If we are to compare our per capita production of electrical energy with other nations like the USA and South Africa, the USA produces almost 570billion KWH and South Africa produces 200billion KWH, as at 2001 figures. If Nigeria were to produce electricity at the US rate of 12.7billion KWH per million people, then with a population of 140million, we should be generating 174,000MW. And if we were to compare ourselves with South Africa, we should be generating 63,000MW, which is close to fifteen times what we have at present.
Because the power generation is too small compared to what the whole population requires, they resort to the concentration of power in areas where the privileged few reside at the expense of the poor majority. As a result, many factories have closed shop leading to mass lay-offs of workers and consequently worsening the already bad unemployment figures. Each household has now been forced to turned to its own power generating unit to cope with this anomaly.
The situation is even worse in the area of distribution. In a community that requires more than ten transformers, only one is made available, consequently fuelling bribery and gross corruption of PHCN staff who exploit this shortage to augment their miserable wages.
A government that is finding it impossible to utilize even just 60% of the installed capacity of power plants will require a miracle to generate what is required to lift us out of darkness. The Nigerian ruling class itself is clearly aware of the impossibility of solving this problem on the basis of capitalism and this explains why they would rather embezzle the money meant for its resolution.
On Land Reform: The Yar'Adua administration promised to change the land laws and the emergence of land reforms so as to optimise Nigeria's growth through the release of land for commercialised farming and other large-scale businesses by the private sector.
Thirty years ago, on the 29th March 1978 to be precise, the Land Use Act was promulgated to make land easily accessible to every Nigerian, irrespective of gender and to ensure justice and equity in land allocation. The Law simply states that "All land belongs to the government". But the situation today is that land is less available to the ordinary Nigerian than it was before the Land Use Act, thus holding the majority of the citizens in a perpetual state of tenancy.
Instead of the government taking up the land, developing it for housing estates and making it affordable for ordinary people to rent or buy, what they do is to allocate land to their friends, the rich, their relatives and their party faithful; land is never allocated to ordinary people.
The land question which is supposed to be a very straightforward bourgeois task cannot still be resolved under this present social economic system because capitalism, especially in a backward country like Nigeria, has reached a stage where it cannot play a progressive role, this explains why many governments in the past, and even the present one, have been incapable of solving this problem. These promises will continue to be empty so long as the system survives, with millions of Nigerians still sleeping under bridges and in slums throughout the country.
Food security - Nigeria is an agricultural nation with over 60% of her workforce engaged in farming. How on earth are we going to achieve a 5 to 10-fold increase in yields and production when the majority of our farmers still use the old implements like the hoe and the cutlass to cultivate their land? Fertilizer that can be used to increase their yields is unavailable; some don't even have land to cultivate. Modern implements like tractors, harvesters and the simple watering can are beyond the reach of an ordinary farmer. A hectare of land that would take a few hours to cultivate using modern implements, takes several months because of the old implements used. This has caused agriculture to fail to keep pace with Nigeria's rapid population growth, so that the country which once exported food now relies on imports to sustain itself.
Education: Education they say is the bedrock of any development. The present state of Education in Nigeria is pathetic. Quality is a disaster, with secondary school levels at a 13% quality rate, and primary school levels are even lower than this.
Pupils sit under trees to learn. They learn in roofless buildings. Teachers wages are pitiable and it is very difficult for them to look after their health, while they are also not properly trained.
Instead of making education free and compulsory at all levels, they have introduced tuition fees in almost all the public schools with standards dropping on a daily basis. Students pay through their nose to get educated. The majority who cannot afford it have become dropouts roaming the streets with nothing to do.
Most of the struggle of the ASUU union in the past has been for the proper funding of Education. Some Lecturers and Students, of the University of Ilorin to be precise, who participated in some of the struggles, are still under victimization since 2001. Most Tertiary Institutions in the country have no independent Student Union to genuinely challenge this decay and neglect, and where they do exist they act as their stooges, but this is just a matter of time, and cannot last forever.
The literacy rate in Nigeria is presently less than 20%, while in Asia it is 90% and Japan has a 100% literacy rate, and the Nigerian figure keeps dropping due to lack of adequate and proper funding of Education. UNESCO recommends that 26 percent of the national budget should be allocated to Education. One wonders how this present regime can achieve the minimum acceptable international standards of education for all with just 10 percent or less of its budget allocated to Education.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo the head of the Western Region of Nigeria nearly 50 years ago allocated 50% of the budget to education and made education free for all. He was able to achieve this because capitalism at that time could still play some progressive role in society. But now it cannot, and all the Yar'Adua administration's promises on education will forever remain empty under this present system.
Transportation: Transportation is a requirement for every nation. In fact, there cannot be serious economic growth without a good and efficient transportation system. But most of the roads in the country today are death traps.
In its agenda the government also acknowledged that the roads are bad and promises to rehabilitate and modernize the railway. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo also made this promise nine years ago, but all to no avail.
A few weeks ago, NUPENG (Union of tanker drivers) went on strike to protest the bad state of roads in the country. They are the most hit, many of their members having lost their lives as a result of these anomalies. Of what benefit is a good road system to the Nigeria ruling class when they make most of their money only from carving up the national cake and not from any genuine business enterprise?
Wealth Creation: One wonders how Mr President can achieve this when most factories that are supposed to employ people are folding up due to lack of power and the high cost of running generators. In a population of 140million, just about one million are employed. Nigeria has one of the worst environments for doing business in the world. The cost of doing business is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. This point on the agenda is mere wishful thinking under capitalism in a country like Nigeria.
Security: How on earth can this government guarantee security of life and property for its citizens, when a majority of her able and educated men and women who are willing to work have no jobs? In spite of all the various ministries constituted to manage the Niger Delta issue, the region is still highly volatile with hostage taking occurring on a daily basis. Even the security agents that are supposed to ensure security are equally involved in armed robbery.
In view of all these aforementioned points, it is impossible for all these problems to be resolved on the basis of capitalism. The capitalist system has reached a stage where it cannot play any progressive role in society. The ruling class in Nigeria would rather embezzle the money because they don't have economic power but act according to the dictates of imperialism. Only the overthrow of this selfish system, that favours the privileged few at the expense of the overwhelming majority, through a socialist revolution under the control of workers will put an end to all the suffering of humanity.