Purported Withdrawal From the IMF
The hopeless situation facing the masses and the society under capitalism and imperialism was illustrated by the decision of the Obasanjo regime to purportedly withdraw from IMF monitored economic program and the reversal of the same decision a few weeks after it was announced.
“When the Olusegun Obasanjo administration came into power, it invited the IMF and the World Bank to help provide second level quality checks for its macroeconomic policies. Specifically, it invited the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the Bretton Woods institution to advise the nation on privatization” (The Guardian 6 April 2002).
For most averagely conscious working class people and youths, the names – World Bank and IMF – instantly bring forth a feeling of horror and misery. But to members of the capitalist class like Obasanjo, Tinubu, Kachalla (the Borno State governor), Dr Kalu (governor of Abia State), etc., the Bretton Woods institutions like IMF, World Bank, etc. embodied the last wisdom in economic management.
This is why the entire country and its people are being cheaply sold into second slavery, in the name of privatization and liberalization. This is what globalization means to imperialism and its private international monopolies. The World Bank and the IMF, as creations of imperialism, were precisely created to achieve this selfish and unjust goal. The servile and spineless collaboration of members of the local capitalist class with the foreign senior partners should thus be seen as the inevitable consequence of the conduct of very greedy, but economically weak, allies.
In other words, every class conscious working class person or youth should understand why the various capitalist elements ruling the country will always dance to any tune dictated by their imperialist masters and their institutions like the IMF and World Bank.
The central aim of members of the local capitalist class is to convert the entire societal resources and techniques into their own private estates, exclusively under the whims and caprices of themselves and members of their “God chosen” families. Here we need not stress that this has always been the reason and motive behind every imperialist expansion. As it should be known, imperialism is the author and originator of privatization and liberalization especially as being articulated in the prevailing globalization concept.
The local capitalists want to steal the country and its people for the sole benefits of their own private estates. Significantly, this is also the central aim of imperialism when it preaches globalization, trade liberalization, etc., knowing fully well that it has better economic and political advantages than its economically and politically weak neo -colonial counterparts in any global sales of commanding heights of a national economy and exportation of goods and services. On its part, the neo-colonial bourgeois will always grumble and even make occasional attempts to stand up to their foreign senior partners. However, as long as selfish, profit motive of capitalism dominate their thoughts and action, they can never be expected to make a clean break with the hateful anti- poor, pro-rich policies usually championed by the World Bank and IMF. The neo-colonial bourgeoisie in Nigeria and elsewhere see that they have no chance to compete successfully with imperialism. This explains why they do not seriously invest in production. Instead, they engage mainly in trading, financial speculations as well as looting of public treasury.
But the Obasanjo administration falsely gave the opposite impression when he told the world on 5th March, 2002 that it had broken with the IMF monitored economic program. According to Tunji Oseni, the senior special assistant to the president on media affairs, who made this revelation, government has taken this decision because of its commitment to the principles of “political stability, democratic consolidation, credibility and accountability”.
Elaborating later on the same March 5th, 2002, finance minister, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, stated that government had decided to formally withdraw from the IMF because “it does not wish to continue with arrangements where only narrowly defined macroeconomic considerations come into play”. Ciroma went further: “The government owes it to the people of Nigeria and secondarily to its external partners to identify prudent economic objectives that the people of Nigeria can support”.
Simultaneously, President Obasanjo, in conjunction with other African rulers, has come up with what, from afar, looks like a responsive, anti-imperialist African renaissance economic cum political agenda. This initiative is called “New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)”. Obasanjo, Thabo Mbeki (South Africa’s president) and other African rulers have been making high-sounding speeches, on the aims and objectives of NEPAD. Amongst other things, NEPAD is described as “the most attractive basis of productive and viable interaction and cooperation between the international community and the continent”. Addressing the steering committee of NEPAD in Abuja on 26th March, 2002, President Obasanjo amongst other things stated: “African leaders are fully aware of their responsibilities and obligations to their peoples. … We must all ensure that Africa indeed claims the 21st century. There is the urgent need to set up parameters for good governance to guide our activities at both the political and economic levels”.
When the aforestated decisions and comments are being made by rulers like Obasanjo, Mbeki etc. there exists the likelihood of sections of the working masses thinking that these African capitalist elements are prepared to break with the anti-poor, pro-rich philosophy and policies of capitalism. In Zimbabwe at the moment, President Robert Mugabe wants to be seen as standing up to imperialism. He and his ZANU-PF party are implementing some pseudo-radical land reforms, which in practice have forced some of the extremely few but rich and influential white farmers to lose some little fraction of their land.
What therefore are the real stuff and ingredients of Nigeria’s “formal” withdrawal from the IMF monitored economic program? Are there really new elements in NEPAD’s composition and objectives?
Breaking With the IMF?
As far as the need and aspirations of the working people are concerned, government’s purported withdrawal from the IMF monitored economic program would have little on no positive effect. Government of course, stated that it would in place of the IMF monitored policies provide a “home grown alternative”.
This is a blatantly false commitment. Barely two days after government’s purported withdrawal from the IMF, Mallam Tijani Abdulahi, Acting Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) admitted that the privatization drive of the Obasanjo regime is informed by the prevailing “global trend”.
In other words, all the pro-rich, anti-poor policies of mass retrenchment, commercialization of housing, health care, education, telecommunications, water, light, etc, would continue as before.
But the purported withdrawal from IMF program also shows that the neo-colonial ruling class is sometimes compelled to take account of mass opinion. In addition, it cannot be ruled out that they may be forced to take some limited measures against imperialist interests because of mass pressure from below.
In any event, this is not the first time a Nigerian government had purportedly shunned the IMF. In 1986, the military junta headed by General Ibrahim Babangida launched a neo-liberal anti-poor, pro-rich economic agenda called the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP). SAP was initially presented as a “home grown alternative” to the IMF-preferred policies which the working people had resoundingly rejected in a government sponsored referendum. Of course, SAP turned out to be the most coherent, comprehensive, pro- imperialist, capitalist, anti-working people’s agenda ever articulated and implemented in Nigeria hitherto.
Whether sanctified or not by the World Bank and IMF, privatization of societal resources and techniques will only spell disaster for the vast majority of human race. This means that mass hunger will remain, illiteracy will continue and joblessness will remain the order of the day; crimes and sectarian strife will become intensified.
There is therefore no serious, irreconcilable disagreement between the IMF and Nigeria’s capitalist government. The government, knowing that it lacks any genuine spontaneous mass appeal that can get it re-elected, has decided to spare no cost to get re-elected at all cost! This decision the government knows well will surely attract “criticism” of the IMF officials. Hence, government decision to eat its cake, while pretending to keep it. Government wants to be spending money anyhow to get re-elected. On the basis of the counter-productive policies of the World Bank and IMF, this is not acceptable because of the inflationary wave which this conduct will unleash.
So, in order to avoid any costly verbal critique, government has formally withdrawn from the IMF monitored program, while at the same time pretending that this is being done because of the masses. Hear the Minister of Finance, Mallam Adamu Ciroma: “the government owes it to the people of Nigeria … to identify prudent economic objectives that the people of Nigeria can support”.
So far, there is no single objective of the capitalist government headed by Obasanjo that can be truly supported by the working masses. The “formal” withdrawal is thus nothing but an election gimmick. Before or after the 2003 elections the Obasanjo government or any other capitalist variation will have no choice than to “formally” go back, cap in hand to the World Bank / IMF.
Beyond rhetoric, there is nothing new about NEPAD’s composition and objectives. First and foremost, NEPAD is being packaged by the same set of the neo-colonial capitalist elements that are very corrupt and tyrannical in their respective countries. Even the current verbal renaissance does not reveal any clear break with the status quo in any respect whatsoever. According to the Vanguard of 27 March 2002, “in the past six months, NEPAD officials have met three times with representatives of the G8 leading industrialized nations to prepare a plan to put to the next G8 summit in Canada in June”.
According to The Guardian of the same day, NEPAD’s initiators “welcomed on going engagements with developed states and multilateral institutions and urged that interactions be continued to meet the ultimate objectives of the new development paradigm…. The heads of state noted that in the spirit of partnership and development co-operation the invitation from the Director General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to host the third meeting of the summit” (NEPAD) “in Rome, Italy during the food submit in 2002 has … been accepted”.
NEPAD therefore does not represent in any sense a break with imperialism or its hated policies. In composition, objectives and style, NEPAD is more like a loyal rebel, in the character of Her Majesty’s parliamentary opposition where subterfuge is the preferred option to substance. To expect a new economic alternative from African capitalist rulers that is different from that of imperialism is to live in the world of illusion that someday the exploiters of the masses will voluntarily swap positions with their victims, the exploited working masses. NEPAD therefore means Never Expect Any Development.
According to a NEPAD’s estimate, Africa needs annual foreign investments of $64 billion to ensure sustainable growth. But in the skewed world of capitalist globalization, Africa and other poor countries of the world will end up paying more to the advanced capitalist countries than whatever paltry investment will be made by these countries. Between 1984 and 1999, the poorest countries in Africa handed over $11 billion in debt service to western creditors. Africa owes those countries more than three times her original loans.
According to Nigeria’s finance minister, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Nigeria originally borrowed $12 billion from Paris Club, repaid the sum of $17 billion, only to find itself still owing a sum of $21.25 billion to the same Paris Club! (Vanguard 1 August 2000).
Imperialism is never a charitable entity. Whatever investments the so-called international community will make in Africa or elsewhere will be strictly based on how high is the prospects of returns. In the case of Nigeria and other highly indebted countries, such “investments” will be tied down to the unscrupulous sales of the assets of the countries concerned, in the name of privatization and trade liberalization.
Amongst other things, what Africa and other oppressed countries and nations of the world need for true emancipation is a total repudiation of the fictitious, unjust and unsustainable debts said to be owed by these countries. This of course, is only possible within the framework of an anti-capitalist international socialist order. Even compared with the Pan-Africanist agenda of the 50s/60s, that is the Pan Africanism of Kwame Nkrumah’s era, NEPAD is a complete throw back. Where a complete break with imperialism and all its institutions and ethos are required, NEPAD proposes active collaboration and subservience to imperialism.
However, there is something significant about both NEPAD and Mugabe’s land reform program in Zimbabwe. It is this: the needless suffering of the working people has become so unbearable that even those responsible (local capitalists and imperialism) for this deplorable plight are being forced to recognize that there is a problem on hand. Expecting solution to come from these narrow minded, imperialist lackeys is however a different issue entirely.
In Zimbabwe, twenty one years after independence, 45% of the arable land is owned by white capitalist farmers. On the other side, 55% of this land is shared between black farmers constituting 70% of the population. The land question therefore still retains all the explosiveness of the pre-independence era.
For two decades, Mugabe and his leading officials, just like their counter-parts in other African countries have spared nothing to appease the insatiable profit greed and corruption of capitalism. These neo-liberal attacks on the living standards of the working people resulted in increasing mass opposition to the Mugabe regime, manifested in many protests and general strikes against his anti-poor policies, especially in the 1990s. Pressure built up for a political alternative in the form of a party to represent the interests of the poor, marginalized workers and peasants. It was this pressure that led to the creation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Unfortunately, though the MDC evolved from the trade unions and its leader, Morgan Tsigangirai, is former general secretary of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, its leadership has embraced capitalist programs and policies.
When confronted with the reality of being pushed out of power, Mugabe and ZANU-PF officials suddenly began to implement a highly opportunist, unscientific and undemocratic land reform program. In practice, land hungry ZANU/PF supporters have been encouraged to forcibly take over some little portion of the entire land belonging to a very minority class of white farmers.
Expectedly, this has met with vociferous denunciations of the imperialist forces worldwide. This of course has wrongly portrayed Mugabe and his ZANU/PF top officials as some kind of anti-imperialist forces, to certain layers of Zimbabwean working masses and their counterparts in other African countries. But it won’t take long before these characters are shown for what they actually are. On its part, imperialism is worried about Mugabe’s so-called land reform program not because it has any great concern for the white farmers. Its real fear is that it may become an example for other African countries where the problems of landlessness among poor farmers, job losses through privatization, rabid exploitation of human and material resources by multinational corporations and general mass poverty could lead to nationalization and other actions being taken against its interests.
This opportunistic, bureaucratic, piece meal land reforms will backfire very soon. As long as imperialism and capitalism dominates the key sectors of the economy, in agriculture, industry, banking, finance, transportations, telecommunications, etc., capitalist ethos and dictates will ultimately determine what happens or does not happen. In this circumstance, Mugabe/ZANU-PF land reform will bring more doom than benefits. To start with, the method of the land reform is bureaucratic and inevitably the resultant land control and ownership is bound to be individualistic and capitalistic. On the other hand, the imperialist forces will spare nothing to consciously sabotage any incidental economic benefits that could come out of this exercise.
A thorough land reform in Zimbabwe or any similar situation like South Africa and Africa in general can only be successfully implemented within the framework of a democratic socialist plan, under a workers and poor peasants’ government. Only the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy and its democratic management and control by the working masses themselves can prevent imperialist and capitalist sabotage. However, as we often explain, only a revolutionary, socialist workers and peasant government can attempt to successfully carry out this kind of program, with the world wide, active support and solidarity of the working masses particularly those of the advanced capitalist countries.
What therefore is the perspective for Zimbabwe? Now that elections are over, Zimbabwe will once again renew efforts, even if subtly at the beginning, to secure the approval of the West and their various imperialist institutions, for its overall economic policies. On its part, in the absence of any immediate upsurge of the working masses threatening capitalist interests as a whole, imperialism too will find one way or the other to reconcile and collaborate with Mugabe and co, just as it had done in the past, with several other inglorious African rulers like Mobutu of former Zaire, General Sani Abacha, just to mention two examples.
But Mugabe’s land reform and his anti-west rhetoric show, once more, that in times of very deep crisis or mass upheavals, the local capitalist ruling class can be forced to strike – or might made attempts to strike – some blows against imperialism in order to defend themselves. Such local ruler or regime could, for a time, take some anti-imperialist or radical measures, resting on sections of the masses and exploiting divisions among the imperialist powers. But this will not amount to a total break with capitalism. Therefore, where such a development occurs, socialists will warn the masses against having illusions in such regime or its policies. We will campaign for working class independence and explain the necessity to struggle for a workers’ and poor peasants’ government.
Global Capitalist Crisis
Meanwhile, the on-going recession in the advanced capitalist countries once again brings to the fore the incurable and insoluble contradictions of capitalism. It is already having negative impacts on the Nigerian economy and society. The recession started in the US between late 2000 and early 2001. In the US, capacity utilization has gone down to 75% (the lowest for the past 18 years). But by late 2001, bourgeois experts were claiming some form of “recovery” or the other in the US economy. To the extent that the US economy accounts for one third of the world economy, this should be a cheerful prospect, at least going by the bourgeois economic theory of “multiplier effect”.
However, as socialists explained at the time, when the factors beneath this so-called recovery are scientifically and dialectically analyzed, their hollowness leaves little or nothing for imagination. The “recovery” was based on a rise in consumer spending which in turn was based on increased debt. The so-called recovery had little or no positive effects on capacity utilization, employment, and living standards of the vast majority of the exploited mankind of the advanced capitalist countries. Confirming this analysis, the statistics issued out lately on the state of the US economy show that it is far from being on the road to a recovery. On the contrary, the capitalists are now talking of the US economy experiencing what is called a “double-dip recession”, with all the consequences this would have for the rest of the world, including Nigeria.
Decline in Revenue
In any event, this global capitalist crisis has already plunged Nigeria’s economy into greater crisis. The expected revenue for year 2002 has fallen by 33%. When Nigeria was making more money than what is expected in year 2002, little of this practically trickled down to the vast majority of the working masses. The vast majority of the working people still live in squalor and unabated poverty which dominated the years of military rule. Needless to stress, the drastic collapse of revenues and economic activities in general, owing to the contraction of the economies of the advanced capitalist countries, particularly that of the US, Japan, Germany, etc, will bring greater disaster to the living standard of the masses.
In the 70s and early 80s when petroleum was selling at $40 per barrel, Nigeria was making a lot of money. But as typical of neo-colonial capitalism, this wealth only succeeded in creating a few local and foreign multi-millionaires and billionaires at the expense of the masses. However, when oil prices tumbled, the capitalist elements quickly introduced austerity measures whose central aim was to make the masses pay for the short fall in revenues, so that the capitalist elites can maintain their obscene, opulent life styles.
The same process has already begun to manifest itself in the face of the current drastic reduction of revenues from oil products. Borno State gives a frightful picture of what the future holds for the working masses under capitalism. According to The Guardian of April 1st, 2002, “five categories of fees and licenses have been increased by about 300 per cent to 4,900 percent”. For instance, cattle trade fee of ₦10 per head has been increased to ₦100, while that of sheep and goats have been increased from ₦5 to ₦20. Cattle trade license has been increased from ₦100 to ₦5,000 yearly. Hide/skin fees for each loaded trailer, lorry and pick up have been increased from ₦800, ₦400 and ₦200 to ₦1,500, ₦1,000 and ₦500 respectively.
Formerly, inspection of meat was free, now this will cost ₦20. Hitherto government sells a crate of eggs for ₦250, now this goes for ₦300, while poultry meat has been raised to ₦400 per kilogram from ₦200. Also, firewood sellers are to pay ₦1,000, ₦500, ₦50 for a lorry, pick-up, mini-cart and donkey load respectively.
In year 2000, the Obasanjo government signed a pact on minimum wage with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Under this agreement, workers’ wages were to automatically increase by 25% and 15% respectively in year 2001 and 2002. Now, governments and private employers are citing the prevailing global capitalist crisis and its negative effects on local economy as reasons while that agreement can no longer be honoured. In fact, several private and public establishments have failed to implement the increment granted for the year 2000. Where partial implementation has been effected, this has resulted in mass retrenchment of workers while prices of goods and services have simultaneously skyrocketed.
States like Anambra and Enugu are already in arrears of salaries and allowances of over six months. Things are so bad that even frontline state apparatuses like the army, police, immigration, prisons, etc., are increasingly finding it impossible to pay the salaries and allowances of their non-commissioned officers as well as the allowances of their pensioners.
In The Punch of March 26th, 2002, the Head of Service of the federation, Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, was quoted to have ruled out any increment in the wages of civil servants. According to him, the upward review of the remunerations of civil servants in year 2000 was just a kind gesture of the present administration. He stated further: “it is one of the major conflicting signals of public sector management in our part of the world that while the civil servants complain vociferously about inadequate level of remuneration, the government duly supported by the multi-lateral agencies, is committed to exploring ways of significantly reducing the cost of public administration”.
In plain language, Ahmed is not only ruling out any wage increment, he in fact was saying that the local capitalists and their foreign backers are in agreement on imposing further hardship in forms of wage cuts and retrenchment on the working class people. This anti-poor, anti-working class approach will surely as usual provoke resistance and fight back on the part of the laboring masses. Therefore, the major task confronting socialists and the working class leadership is how to give correct political and organizational expression to this inevitable confrontation of the masses against the selfish calculation of the capitalists with a view to permanently guarantee the masses’ basic needs and aspirations.