Philanthropic Violence in Nigeria

Photograph Source: Omoeko Media – CC BY-SA 4.0

Murder is something that comes easily to capitalists, and their political system is caked with the blood of ordinary workers whose lives fall apart under the hammer blows of oppression. In the eternal quest for cheap oil and colossal profits, power-hungry elites drain our planet of its living sap, justifying their destruction of our environment and our lives with a brazen cynicism that remains foreign to the ranks of the working-class. Nigeria is one such country whose immense mineral wealth has meant that the lives of its 200 million people are held back by the violence of capitalism. Yet amidst a country of deep hardship, the heroic resistance of ordinary people continues undeterred.

The peoples’ struggle continues

Despite the huge differences between the living conditions facing the working class in Britain and Nigeria, there are many similarities between their peoples’ ongoing popular struggles for a better life. We might also observe that in the post 1999 period the workers’ movements in both countries have suffered historic setbacks, which, in the manner of previous sell-outs, manifested themselves in the betrayal of mass struggles by their leaders. In most cases all that many workers wanted was a greater share of the wealth that they generated for the billionaire-class, but the misleadership of their trade unions saw to it that such an equitable redistribution of wealth never came to pass.

As a precursor of sorts to such failures in Britain, the huge groundswell of opposition to the Labour Party’s war on Iraq was ultimately frittered away by reformist anti-war leaders. Political leaders who failed to adopt a strategy that could turn mass public outrage into militant industrial action. Moving on a few years: following the financial crisis of 2007/8 successive governments forced the British working-class to pay the price for the crimes of the ruling-class. These attacks on ordinary people finally led to the momentous public sector strike on 30 November 2011, a dispute that was tragically sold-out by the cowardly leaders of Trades Union Council and, most notably, by Dave Prentis the Secretary General of Unison (which is the biggest public sector union in the UK).[1] When, by a fluke of history, Jeremy Corbyn later became the leader of the Labour Party, Prentis felt forced by working-class expectations to endorse Corbyn. But true to form Prentis soon reversed his position, attacking Corbyn because he feared that his election threatened to embolden a socialist transformation of both society and the trade union movement itself. As we now know, the fierce opposition that Corbyn faced from within his own Party, combined with his own political shortcomings, meant that the Blairites were eventually able to resume control of Labour. A significant set-back for socialist struggle which once again sharply poses the need for the creation of a new and democratic mass party run by and for the working-class.[2]

In Nigeria, like in Britain, the need to unite the working-class in a bid for political power remains a work-in-progress. With the formal transition from military dictatorship to democracy in 1999, socialists organizing within the National Conscience Party (NCP) vigorously challenged the anti-poor business-as-usual attitude of President Olusegun Obasanjo. The new Nigerian government’s so-called campaign against corruption was just so much hot air, which meant that Shell’s domination of the country remained totally unchallenged by Nigeria’s neo-colonial capitalist state. Struggle however moved forwards, and in late 2002 the NCP was finally allowed to register as a political party, meaning that socialists could now contest elections. But in a political system drowning in corruption, where vote buying and rigging was the norm, socialists needed to do much more than simply stand in elections to oppose Obasanjo’s democratic regime, and mass struggles and General Strikes became an everyday part of life.[3]

Unfortunately, politically speaking little had changed by the next election cycle (in 2007), and Chief Gani Fawehinmi spoke out against the “brazen and bizarre corruption by highly placed public officers at the federal level and in the states caused by the electoral robbery in the April 2007 elections.” But socialists faced continuing battles on other fronts too, and even before these elections right-wing opportunists among the leadership of the National Conscience Party acted to expel one of the party’s leading Marxist organizers, Segun Sango. His supposed crime was that as the Lagos chairman of the NCP — which was one of the largest sections of the Party — he had agitated for greater internal democracy with the NCP, while arguing and organizing for an escalation of the type of mass industrial action that could bring the working-classes to power.[4] Although representing a set-back for socialists, Sango’s expulsion (and those of many other leading Marxists) was years in the making. And it was the “climax” of a witch hunt that had been persecuted with increased vigour against the left, particularly since September 2004 when Chief Fawehinmi had stepped down from the NCP’s leadership. The attack also coincided with efforts by those careerist right-wing leaders of the NCP to work more closely with the former PDP Vice President, Atiku Abubakar; and with the backward proposal that the NCP endorse the Presidential candidature of the former military dictator General Buhari for the 2007 general election. (At the time Buhari was standing for the All Nigeria Peoples Party.)[5]

During these same elections, Adams Oshiomhole, the militant former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress – the man who had led seven general strikes against President Obasanjo — stood in the governorship elections in Edo for the bourgeois Action Congress; a candidature which socialists gave critical support to in order to raise the need for left candidates to help launch a new mass workers party. Adams, who was widely seen as a serious opponent of the government, ended up winning this important election: but vote rigging meant that his success was denied, with his election only being recognized many months later after mass protests had forced the Nigerian ruling-class to admit defeat. Adams’ subsequent incorporation into the capitalist establishment was not in any way preordained, and it was always possible that his umbilical connection to the working-class might have dragged his politics further left. But this was not to be, and as socialists warned Adams is now very much part of the Nigerian ruling-class. In fact, until very recently he served as the chairman of the ruling All Progressive Congress.

Philanthropic corruption

Running parallel to the titanic struggles and general strikes of the past two decades, Nigeria’s oligarchs have always sought novel ways to disguise their flagrant profiteering. So, it is no surprise that NGOs “have become one of the fastest growing industries in Nigeria,” with the activism of many well-intentioned individuals being co-opted into the type of work that serves the needs of neoliberalism.[6] One famous example is provided by the CLEEN Foundation (formerly known as the Center for Law Enforcement Education in Nigeria), which had been established in 1998 by Innocent Chukwuma. Chukwuma still serves on CLEEN’s board of directors, but since 2013 he has been employed directly by the Ford Foundation where he directs their regional operations from his base in Lagos. Another famous alumni from the Civil Liberties Organization who also played a leading role at the CLEEN Foundation is Ayo Obe, whose activism has been closely intwined with that of George Soros. (Ayo Obe served for four years on the board of his Open Society Initiative for West Africa — which had been first established in late 2000.)

As part of these disempowering processes of NGOization, the global financial institutions that had supported the immiseration of all developing nations had already been going through a rhetorical transition, repackaging themselves as kindly humanitarians’ intent on expunging the scourge of corruption! Subterfuge is nothing new to the ruling-class, but the new idea that the focus should be on tackling the “cancer of corruption” had ironically been formally placed on the development agenda in 1996 by the bankrupt luminaries at the World Bank.[7] And the global NGO tasked with taking forward this new field of hypocritical intrigue was Transparency International, an organization that had been founded in 1993 by Peter Eigen (himself a former World Bank staffer) and the Ford Foundation. One founding member of this transparency NGO was General Obasanjo, who during the Abacha dictatorship had chaired its advisory board from prison; and who remained a determined supporter Transparency International’s mission during his own government’s anti-worker marketization frenzy.[8] Codified as capitalisms latest moralizing project, opposition to corruption now became a handy tool with which to attack state-run enterprises in the name of accountability and openness; with receipt of foreign aid tied to the embrace of capitalisms ‘good governance’ agenda – that is, a commitment to enacting deeper neoliberal reforms.[9]

Once again, many NGOs found a comfortable niche in accommodating themselves to neoliberal attacks on the working class, and in Nigeria as elsewhere they effectively served as a shadow government whose activities were funded by foreign capitalist states and unelected billionaires like George Soros and Bill Gates. Global groups like Publish What You Pay, which was founded in mid-2002 by Soros, actively progressed such neoliberal agendas under the guise of aiding good governance among government and extractive companies “to ensure that revenues from oil, gas and mining help improve people’s lives.” Something that has yet to happen. Britain’s imperialist warmonger in chief Tony Blair happily jumped on the anti-corruption bandwagon, announcing their plan to launch a twin project known as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) – an initiative at which Peter Eigen would play a leading role during its formative years. Nigeria naturally became the main focus for EITI’s activities, with then-president Olusegun establishing his own Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. In this way NGOs provided much needed cover for the criminal oil corporations operating in Nigeria. As one critic puts it:

“Through this re-configuration of power, these NGOs [which include Publish What You Pay] become part of the oil enterprise. By calling for transparency and good governance, they take for granted the continued exploration and extraction of oil and other natural re-sources. They fail to challenge the legitimacy of the oil industry itself, but rather build their activism upon the underlying neoliberal assumption that oil extraction will continue, grow, and bring net benefits to the community if there is transparency and accountability in how such revenue is distributed by the state. The maximization of these benefits, these organizations claim, is achievable through incremental changes to management and governance structures.”[10]

Whose debt?

Around the same time that all this was happening, the same philanthropic powerbrokers had positioned themselves at the head of global efforts to curtail the growing popular anger that was being directed at the exploitative lending practices of capitalist’ states and their financial institutions. A significant demand of this swelling movement was for the cancellation of all existing debt owed by Africa to western elites. Such “illegitimate and immoral debt” was being correctly viewed as “an instrument of domination, control and plunder, used to promote Western countries’ economic, political and strategic interests.”[11]

But despite all the high-minded talk of world leaders about their magnanimous acts of debt cancellation, crippling levels of debt continue to plague most developing nations. In fact, it should come as no surprise that when the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund launched their Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative in 1996, their plans carefully linked debt relief to anti-corruption reforms, reforms, as discussed previously, plans that were part and parcel of neoliberalism’s advance. We should be clear, debt relief was never intended…

“…to free up development for the HIPCs, but merely to render their debts sustainable. The difference is huge. The idea is to cancel just enough [debt] to keep the DCs [developing countries] paying to the maximum of their capabilities. Essentially, it is what could not be paid that is cancelled.”[12]

In Britain this Orwellian plan for ‘justice’ had enthralled New Labour, and so it is fitting that this method for allowing the sustainable looting of the poor was first raised by the Tories in the late eighties, although for a variety of reasons this strategy was not adopted at the time.[13]

Nigeria, however, was excluded from the HIPC initiative because Western elites decided that the country’s lucrative oil resources meant that despite the poverty of the people the country was not so poor after all. Nevertheless, while it is true that Africa as a whole “groans under the weight of an excruciating debt burden”:

“…the Nigerian experience is particularly devastating. Endowed with large quantities of high grade oil, from which the country generated a total of nearly $300 billion from oil exports between 1973 and 2000, one would have expected Nigeria to rank among the richest countries of the world. Unfortunately, the reverse has so far been the case, as Nigeria is highly indebted with an egregious debt profile. As of 31 August 2001, Nigeria’s debt stock, including penalty interests, amounted to $28.42 billion, made up of obligations to: the Paris Club of Creditors at $22.04 billion; non-Paris club bilateral creditors at $111.6 million; multilateral creditors at $2.89 billion; and commercial creditors at $3.37 billion.”[14]

So, when the G8 announced in mid-2005 that were agreeing to allocate $40 billion in debt relief to 18 countries as part of the HIPC initiative, it was never going to be enough as it only represented around $2 billion per country. Yet this ‘aid’ was dwarfed by the separate $18 billion of relief that the G8 provided to Nigeria: yet this relief only applied to their loans from the Paris Club which by then had ballooned to $30 billion. More to the point, this so-called reprieve was given on the proviso that the Nigerian people paid back the remaining $12 billion owed to the Paris Club shortly thereafter, with the G8 knowing full well that this would only be possible if the Nigerian state axed vital public services. Making matters worse we should be clear that between 1992 and the time of the so-called ‘hand-out’ the money Nigeria owed to the Paris Club creditors had almost doubled from $16 billion to $30 billion, even though the state had paid out almost $8 billion in repayments over those years and had “received virtually no new loans from the Paris Club creditors after 1992.”[15]

Working in tandem with all these duplicitous aid efforts U2’s world famous rock star, Bono, gained widespread notoriety by giving political cover to this so-called debt relief, and of course by lending his support to the Iraq war. With the aid of one of Bill Gates’ many philanthropic lieutenants (Trevor Neilson in this case) Bono with the additional assistance of George Soros had formed DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa) in 2001, and then the US-based non-profit ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History (with the two eventually merging in 2007 to be known as ONE). Some debts were of course cancelled, but this was not owing to Bono’s actions, as was made clear in Harry Browne’s excellent 2013 book The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power). Indeed, Bono’s fame was merely harnessed to promote the extremely limited debt relief program that serviced the needs of the billionaire-class, not ordinary people. And here the appalling extent to which Bono served his capitalist masters that Browne eventually came to conclude that:

“In truth, in recent years Bono may have begun to outlive his usefulness as a fashionable accessary to power. If anything, he has probably been too loyal to the forces and figures that were so widely discredited in the post-2007 global crisis – to the Rubins, Clintons and Browns who opened the door to the financial catastrophe, to the Bushes and Blairs who unleashed hell on Third World countries.” (p.154)

Yet such is the current desperation of the capitalist class in deflecting public attention from their despicable policies of plunder and privatization that Bono’s promotional apparatus still remains of benefit to them today. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is one recent member of ONE’s board of notables – an influential member of Nigeria’s oligarchy who has moved seamlessly between senior positions in the World Bank hierarchy and within government, twice serving as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, the first from 2003-2006 and the second between 2011 and 2015. Other current ONE board members include the former Tory leader David Cameron, and Nigeria’s (if not Africa’s) wealthiest businessman, Aliko Dangote.

Billionaire superstar Aliko Dangote is of course a good friend of Bill Gates, and as you might imagine he likes to propagate the same fictious public image that Gates projects to the world by pretending to be a self-made entrepreneur. In reality, Dangote made his concrete billions with state assistance by engorging on the newly unregulated financial environment opened-up by President Olusegun. It is also worth remembering that Dangote’s good fortunes can be traced back to the familial influence of Alhassan Dantata, “who was the richest African during the colonial era”. Dangote’s mother, billionaire businesswomen Mariya Sanusi Dantata was the eldest daughter of one of Alhassan Dantata’s sons, Sanusi Dantata; whose brother (Alhaji Dantata) became a board member of Shell’s Nigeria operations in 1963.[16] Finally, Aliko Dangote’s personal connections to infamous war criminals like Tony Blair have been further cemented in recent years when Dangote invited Cherie Blair to join the board room of his construction conglomerate (a position she has held for the last two years).

Unleashing the ‘free’ market

Aliko Dangote follows in his family’s predatory traditions and yet amazingly is being celebrated as the only billionaire who can turn Nigeria’s corrupt oil industry around. Dangote is thus in the process of finalizing the construction of Africa’s biggest oil refinery — located just a stone’s throw from Lagos in the Lekki Free Zone, which is a tax haven that is majority owned by a Chinese company. So, it becomes clear that this new privately-run refinery is unlikely to really benefit Nigerians. Like many other tax-free zones’, the creation of the Lekki one has always been accompanied by numerous controversies that owed to the prioritizing of foreign investment over the needs of ordinary people. Yet since 1999 the creation of such anti-worker tax-free zones has been central to the actions of successive Nigerian governments whose policies of economic liberalization has committed them all to the establishment of “Free Trade Zones”.[17]

Further illustrating the point about how oil profits trump life, another very sizable free zone is the Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL), officially LADOL Free Zone. This tax haven is headed by Amy Jadesimi and is chaired by her father, Ladi Jadesimi, who is the chairman of Nigeria’s first integrated oil and gas investment company, the Niger Delta Exploration & Production plc (NDEP). Elite connections come easy to such exploitative projects and for the past five years a leading member of LADOL’s three-person strong advisory board has been Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, who is the head of George Soros’ Open Society Institute. Until late 2016 Malloch-Brown had also served as a trustee of Shell’s philanthropic foundation, and he is a current board member of Seplat Petroleum Development Company plc where he serves alongside follow board member Basil Omiyi, who is the former head of Shell’s Nigerian operations.

Given the systemic corruption that undergirds the oil sector it is understandable how the creation (in 1992) of Ladi Jadesimi’s Niger Delta Exploration & Production plc (then known as the Midas Drilling Fund) was highly reliant upon their symbiotic relationship with the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. Comfortable and corrupting relations continue to this day, and during the final years of General Abacha’s dictatorship, current NDEP board member Pastor Afolabi Oladele – a notorious oil fixer himself — had conveniently served as the Group Executive Director for downstream operations at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. While prior to joining NDEP Oladele had, in the early 2000’s, famously joined the board of Addax Petroleum — a company that had ingratiated its way into the favour of the former dictatorship when in 1998 it obtained generous Nigerian oil concessions for “the equivalent of pocket change”.[18] Now however Addax is a mere subsidiary of the mammoth China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), ensuring that capitalists of all flavours are well positioned to reap the profits from the enactment of the African Continental Free Trade Area which came into effect in January 2021.[19]

Of power politics and energy poverty

But while oil continues to remain key to Nigeria’s economy most Nigerians still live without access to electricity. Therefore, to partially remedy this dire situation, in recent years energy conglomerates have been positioning themselves to meet the needs of some people by selling them green energy obtained from renewables. This task appears to serve a dual task for corporate energy giants. On the one hand companies can make money out of selling small quantities of green energy all the while the wholesale plunder of extraction of Africa’s oil resources intensifies. And corporate energy companies can simultaneously make a big show out of aiding those who have been left-behind and remain off-grid by promoting the privatization of the type of renewable technologies that can enable more localized energy provision.[20]

In Nigeria the issue of energy poverty represents a huge problem, as 95 million people out a country of 190 million live without access to electricity. And one of the many Shell-backed initiatives that addresses some aspects of this exclusion is Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) – a project which was launched in 2011 with the assistance of the United Nations and is supported by philanthropic giants like the Rockefeller Foundation and the Aliko Dangote Foundation.[21]

With the new turn to renewables, the promotion of Africapitalism remains the order of the day, and in keeping with the neoliberal ethos undergirding most aid projects, management gurus are propounding the myth that only “impact investing” cojoined with the spirit of entrepreneurialism can save the poor. Shell’s most significant contribution to this new form of solar capitalism is their “All On” project, which during their first three years of operation invested a rather underwhelming $2.4 million in 24 off-grid energy companies.[22] And even here, where the focus is on small-scale technologies like “solar home systems” powered by 80W solar panels, much of the solar wealth generated within Nigeria is being expatriated. Thus, one of the first off-grid solar operations to benefit from Shell’s largesse was the Netherlands-based corporation Lumos Global, which in early 2018 received financial support from Shell even though they had previously obtained $50 million from the US government and were already Nigeria’s leading supplier of solar home systems.[23] While another company backed by All On is the US-based Renewvia Energy whose CEO, prior to receiving Shell funding, was featured in an exuberant article published in Forbes’ business magazine in which he highlighted the “potential for [solar] profit” in Africa with its “nascent regulatory environment” which could lead to “a 21st century version of the Wild West.” “With electricity prices across Africa exponentially higher than in the U.S.,” Renewvia’s CEO explained to the magazine, he believed his commitment to rural electrification was both “gratifying” and “profitable.”[24] Evidently impressed by his actions, in June 2020 All On announced they would be providing Renewvia with a further commitment of $1.2 million to enable them to develop and operate a series of solar minigrids, with the government “protect[ing] investors by granting a 20-year exclusivity period for the operation of energy installations.”

But in a country where exploitation and mass employment are rife, and where privatized energy companies expose millions of people to daily blackouts,[25] it is apparent that private provision of solar alternatives will continue to exclude millions from gaining equitable access to energy. For example, “reductions in the total number of kWh drawn from fossil fuel sources among those privileged enough to access individually maintained renewable systems could serve to drive up the prices of fossil fuel sourced energy as utility companies seek to recapture losses.”[26] Indeed, when left to the free market even the sale of 80 watt solar panels has the potential to further intensify class divisions and lead to the further stratification of society by creating a “new class of ‘energy-elites’”.[27] A recent survey undertaken for Lumos supports some of these points when the corporation noted: “Whilst the study found many of Lumos’ customers are estimated to live below the poverty line (based on the World Bank’s $3.20 a day definition), it also found that the company’s customers in Nigeria are generally better off and better educated than the average citizen in the country.”[28] It is also worth bearing in mind that many of the renewable initiatives being rolled out in Africa are being undertaken on a far larger scale than that of promoting home solar panels. For instance, in 2013 the US government created an international grouping of elite investors known as Power Africa which states that they aim to de-risk investment opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa’s energy sector thereby “Opening markets for U.S. businesses eager to expand into Africa.”[29] Such so-called investing merely represents a new form of sustainable colonialism, a renewable extractivism that simply supplements not replaces a fossil fuel industry that is destroying our planet.[30]

All these developments illustrate that energy provision cannot be left to the anarchy of the free market. Energy provision must be taken out of the hands of profiteers. Global energy infrastructures can and must be run democratically by bodies of ordinary workers. But this would involve the type of socialist planning and investment that has always been anathema to corrupt state bureaucrats. Particularly in the case of Nigeria, the people must enforce public ownership over the entire energy sector, which of course will include the oil and gas industries. The need for such action is urgent, and in just the latest international scandal to surface regarding Shell’s destructive activities in Nigeria, their employees have been accused of “deliberately causing oil spills in various locations in the Niger Delta.”[31] Anti-democratic companies like Shell should be banned from any involvement with energy production; and their assets should be seized so their company can be run democratically by workers. Companies like Shell would have no place in a genuinely democratic society.

The people strike back

For the vast majority of ordinary people, the situation is already intolerable. Life is almost impossible to sustain as energy prices continue to rise, and despite the labour movement winning occasional reprieves in relation to fuel price hikes, the future still looks very uncertain. Very much like Obama, President Buhari rode to power with the fake although hopeful slogan of “change,” but, after six years in power nothing has changed and if anything, the President has been a stalwart defender of the billionaire-class. “The latest unemployment figures show 27.1 per cent of Nigerians are unemployed and another 28.6 per cent are underemployed,” and the cost of living is going through the roof.[32] So, last year when the Buhari regime announced there was going to be a 100% increment in electricity tariffs and another increase in petrol prices, ordinary people once again rose up in defiance.[33]

Under pressure from the masses, the otherwise lacking leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) reluctantly responded to rank-and-file demands for organizing a 48-hour General Strike and a date was set for September 28. Yet like so many other out-of-touch trade union bosses around the world, Nigeria’s national labour leaders sold-out their members at the last minute. Not only was the strike called off without any significant concessions having been gained, but the trade union bosses went so far as to sign up to an agreement that represented a “clear endorsement of deregulation”.[34] In some places the people openly rebelled against their so-called leaders, and “In states like Edo and Oyo, the state leaderships of the NLC and the TUC defied the suspension and went ahead to lead a protest against the call off, this is one positive development that cannot entirely be ignored.” This public show of contempt for the national trade union leaders was important, as: “In this act is the seed of potential for an alternative leadership of the unions around a programme of defending the interests of the working masses, as opposed to the interests of the ruling elites and their quest for super-profits.” Speaking at the Edo State protest, the local NLC chair, Sunny Osayande, correctly criticized the actions of the national union leadership warning: “We cannot continue to remain in the hands of the few who will mortgage our conscience because next time when we call on our labour leaders, they will not believe is us or the struggle.”[35]

Further illustrating the mistaken approach in calling off the General Strike — a retreat that had been supported by NUPENG President Williams Akporeha and PENGASSAN President Festus Osifo — just days later, on Independence Day, Chevron flexed their corporate muscles by sacking 1,000 workers without even consulting with the two oil sector unions (NUPENG and PENGASSAN). This was a blatant case of fire and rehire – an odious form of workplace abuse that is similarly being opposed by thousands of British Gas workers in the UK. Of course, such bullying practices apply equally if not more so to Shell. This much was clear at an international meeting of Shell workers that was organized by IndustriALL last November. A report on this network meeting stated: “Unions have been asking Shell to be sustainable, limit precarious work and recognize IndustriALL as a counterpart for years, but the company continues to refuse to engage.”[36]

The continual abuses of workers and their rights by energy corporations surely vindicates the need for a more far-reaching socialist approach to be adopted by the trade union movement.[37] As if that were not reason enough for fighting back, the Nigerian state does nothing to tackle the capitalist root causes of the violence inflicted upon the working-class by terrorist groups like Boko Haram, and by armed bandits more generally. A General Strike could play an important part in transforming this situation. This is because it is only through taking such collective action that workers will be able to grow in confidence and determine what needs to be done next to take their struggles forward. This is even more important in the wake of the anti-SARS insurgency and the betrayals that workers continue to encounter at the hand of their so-called labour leaders.

There is not a moment to waste for workers to act decisively. President Buhari’s government is “teetering on the brink” of collapse, and the President finally “replaced the four heads of the country’s armed forces after years of resisting widespread calls to do so, in a belated acknowledgment of the swiftly deteriorating security situation”. Like most political leaders the world over, the President has totally mishandled the pandemic – at every turn placing the need of profiteers before the needs of people. Even the bourgeois press has turned again him, and the editors at the Financial Times are correct in describing the Nigerian government as representing a “bloated, ruinously inefficient, political elite,” and their editors are right that the existence of “the EndSARS movement against police brutality provides a shard of optimism.” But the newspaper’s neoliberal solutions are all wrong… a “slimmed-down state” won’t allow the people to get access to the basic “public goods” like “security, health, education, power and roads” that they need to survive.[38]

Improving the economic situation of Nigerians toiling masses will not be possible by simply reducing the size of the corrupt state or by reducing their country’s reliance on “foreign borrowing”. Instead, what is needed is a struggle for a socialist Nigeria. Workers can have no faith in either the military elites or the capitalist politicians with all their promises of change. Socialist organizing, which is already happening across the country, must be coordinated more effectively, and be given a sharp political focus – a focus that can envisage a future beyond the chains of capitalism. General Strikes can form a critical part of this transformative struggle for democracy, but most of all people need a new political party that can use “to build a new Nigeria where no one will be poor, hungry, illiterate, homeless or jobless.” A base for such organizing already exists in the form of the Socialist Party of Nigeria. And with spiraling electricity costs, the energy sector will remain a key focus for continuing organizing, as the only way to guarantee that all Nigerians have access to cheap and reliable electricity is by taking the entire sector back into public ownership. As the Socialist Party of Nigeria state this will involve:

Re-nationalisation of the electricity sector. Placing all electricity generation, transmission and distribution companies under the democratic control and management of elected committees of workers, consumers and representatives of the government in order to ensure that public resources spent to improve the power sector is not mismanaged or looted. What this means is that instead of a few bureaucrats appointed by the government to run public utilities and enterprises, decisions must be taken among rank-and-file workers and consumers elected into management committees at local government, state and national levels with the mandate to oversee the affairs of the power sector in compliance with the needs of the people and economy.”

Capitalism has failed Nigeria, and has brought war, ruin and poverty to the lives of billions of working-class people across the world. Now is the time to bid farewell to the predators who at the expense of life and the planet have gorged themselves on Nigeria’s immense resources, and now is the time to fight for a socialist future.

This essay is an excerpt from chapter ten of The Givers That Take (2021). The footnotes for this article can be viewed on this link.

Michael Barker is the author of Under the Mask of Philanthropy (2017).