Written by Ola Rashy Monday, 19 October 2009 22:25
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with a population of 140million people, despite her enormous resources and potential, poverty is widespread throughout the nation. Nigeria is one of the 20 poorest countries of the world, about one million Nigerian children under the age of five died. The infant mortality rate at ten percent of live birth is one of the highest in Africa. Life expectancy at birth is estimated at 43.4years. Nigeria has been in stagnation and relative decline since 1981, from a per capita GDP of US$1,200 in 1981 to about US$300 in 2000. About 70% of the population is leaving below poverty line.
For many Nigerians the quality of life has declined rather than improved since independence almost 50 years ago while the standard of living for a few privileged Nigerians—military officers and their civilian associates, corrupt politicians, and big contractors—has improved substantially. An average worker cannot earn enough to support a family because of inflation and rises in food prices The national minimum wage of N7,500 (about US$53.57) per month, adopted by the federal government falls far short of what is needed to cover housing, food, education, and health care. The material condition of women, who comprise 50 percent of the population and who are doubly oppressed under this present system, is even worst because the welfare of women in general, including education, and workforce, had been neglected over the years. The incidence of prostitution of Nigerian women within and outside the country has therefore increased.
Housing and living facilities for the few rich (ruling elites) are very similar to those available to their counterparts in countries of the western world while the Middle and lower-level income groups in the urban and rural areas live in individual houses or crowded apartment rural dwellers live in mud block houses with tin or thatched roofs, and have no portable water for the most part. Water and electricity services in the major cities are erratic. Water supplies in many rural areas are infected with disease-carrying worms, while electricity services, under government auspices, are seldom available. Power generation in Nigeria has fallen to 1,000 megawatts from an average of 3,000. Nigeria's 3,000 megawatts is completely inadequate for the needs of its 140 million people. No new power stations were built between 1990 and 1999, no major overhaul of existing plants was carried out, and only 19 out of 79 generating plants were presently in operation. Even South Africa, which also suffers from power shortages, generates more than 15 times as much power as Nigeria for a population one-third its size. If Nigeria were to produce electricity at the USA rate of 12.7billion per KWH per million people, then with a population of 140millon, we should be generating 174,000MW of electricity. This situation has led to closure of many factories that has to depend mainly on diesel to run their generating set leading to laying off of workers.
The state of education is nothing to write home about, instead of making education free and compulsory at all level, tuition fees have been introduced in almost all the pubic schools while standards dropping on daily basis. About four million Nigerian children have no access to basic education, and the majority of those that are 'lucky' to enter schools are given sub-standard education. Today, there are about 48,242 primary schools with 16,796,078 students in public schools and 1,965,517 in private schools in Nigeria. In addition, Nigeria has 7,104 secondary schools with 4,448,981 students in 2001. Most of these schools are in dilapidating states and for a population of 140 millions, this is obviously inadequate. Over 10million Nigerian children are completely out of school according UNICEF report of 2009. This shows that Nigeria has a weird value system: it is a society where priorities are turned to their heads. For instance, the salaries of the less educated local government counselors are higher than that of university professors.
All the unions within academic sector namely ASUU, NASU, SANNU have been on strike for more than 2months with the government feeling not disturbed about this and what they are simply demanding for is proper funding of education among other things. Literacy rate in Nigeria is less than 20% while in Asia it is 90% and Japan has 100% literacy. UNESCO recommended 26percent of National Budget to be allocated to education, in Nigeria only about 10% of the budget is allocated to education. Qualitative health system is equally out of reach of ordinary Nigerians,
Nigeria has a road network of 195,200km, with more than half in a poor state due to low maintenance. It is estimated that minimum of 4,800poeple die in road accident every year and the figures keep on increasing on a yearly basis. Nigerian crude oil production averaged 1.94 million bbl/d, making it the largest crude oil producer in Africa. Nigeria consumed approximately 286,000 bbl/d of oil. Nigeria has four refineries (Port Harcourt I and II, Warri and Kaduna) with a combined capacity of around 500,000 bbl/d. In February 2009, a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) official reported that only one of these refineries was operational but running below capacity. As a result, the country is currently importing almost 85 percent of refined products. instead of the regime to make all the four refinery to work to full capacity and even build more refinery which will have saved the country from importing the refined petroleum product, they still want to continue importing because they are equally benefiting from the act and then want to transfer the burden on to the poor population by removing their claimed subsidies in the name of deregulation which is definitely going to make life more miserable for the ordinary people.
Why has the Nigerian ruling class not been able to solve any fundamental problems of the Nigerian masses?
For close to 50years after independence, Nigeria is a small player in the global economy. With GDP at $100billion, the country accounted for 0.28 percent of world’s GDP in 2005. The GDP of South Africa is more than twice that of Nigeria. Although Nigeria’s population is the ninth largest in the world, its economy ranks 49th in the world, while its population is about 45percent of that of the United State, Nigeria’s GDP is less than one percent of that of the united state. Nigeria's economic decline, especially during the last 20 years is illustrated by the fact that per capita income, which was US $1000 in 1965 had declined to US $300 by 1998. Within some 18 years, Nigeria had declined from being a low middle income country and amongst the fifty richest countries in the world to one of the 30 poorest.
For these reasons, the Nigerian ruling class failed woefully to carry out any major economic development. It is estimated that over 60% of productive capital in Nigerian economy is owned by foreigners. Nigeria still remains a producer of raw materials for the developed countries. Agriculture, that was once the major backbone of the economy, was hurriedly abandoned for crude oil exploitation, having discovered the latter in the 1970s. The economy is now more one sided than ever before. Over 90% of government income comes from crude oil exportation. Manufacturing companies are producing at less than 26% of their capacity with many of them already closed down. Unemployment, high rates of inflation, a huge flight of capital and a valueless currency are the realities of the Nigerian economy. The Mafia methods, the greed and corruption of this worthless Nigerian ruling class have plunged the country into a deeper economic crisis than when it came to power.
Why all this? The present Nigerian ruling class started to emerge as a class after 1952. This nascent bourgeoisie came into existence at a time when the world had already been divided among the few imperialist powers so they therefore act according to their dictates, and to hope that the Nigerian ruling class can play any independent progressive role is completely unrealistic. This also explains why they can not do without corruption because the only avenue available to them to accumulate more money is through the sharing of national cake. This is why all the claimed billions of naira given to ministry of power had landed the country in total darkness rather than solving the energy problem. The same can be said in all the sectors: education, health, communication and transportation to mention a few. Any attempt to place hope of significant positive change on this hopeless and inept class, who feeds fat on the sweat of oppressed majority, will just be a mere dream.
The only way out of the various crisis in Nigeria vis – a – vis the education crisis, the health, unemployment, Niger-delta, power etc is by overthrowing the present buffoons that are ruling the country. There is only one class that is capable of carrying out this historic task, and that is the Nigerian working class. Out of all the social class in Nigeria, the Nigerian working class is the oldest and most mature, they are the one that actually fought for the Nigerian independence and out of naivety handed it over to the selfish nationalists. We can equally see this through various strikes which the NLC led in the past and the ongoing one it is doing now against deregulation. In all this strikes, one could see that people are really ready for a change but the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress has been consciously holding them down. What is just needed is for the leadership of NLC to declare a workers party that is based on socialist programs. Already such a party has been formed (Labour Party) but the NLC leadership left the party for various political thieves who just use the party to achieve their selfish political ambition.
We therefore call on the leadership of Nigerian Labour Congress to mobilize all its members to this party and that is the avenue in which we can take power out of the hands of this degenerate, corrupt and callous Nigerian ruling class.