IN 1996, Catherine Caulfield’s book, Masters of Illusion, was published by Henry Holt and Company. The subtitle of the book said it all: “The World Bank and the Poverty Nations”.
This impoverishment of nations is superintended by what A. M. Babu called the “Two Vultures” in his book. The master (or offshore) vulture is the World Bank/IMF, while the subaltern (local or on-shore) vulture is the local ruling class. They have both superintended the escalating poverty, inequality in, and underdevelopment of, countries like Nigeria.
The masses of the victims of the conspiracy of the two vultures have resisted since precolonial times. It was this consistent resistance that forced the era of decolonisation from about the mid-1940s in Africa and ushered in independence in Nigeria (1960). In countries like Algeria, Zimbabwe, Angola and Vietnam, the resistance resulted in full-scale “Wars of Independence”!
Since the triumph of international finance capital and its recovery of initiative under Obasanjo in the late-1970s and especially since private accumulating militarised the recolonisation and privatisation of Nigeria in January 1984, capitalism had increased the burden of poverty and its consequences — insecurity, corruption and generalised violence.
There is nothing called ‘Tinubunonomics’
Fast-forward to 2023!
Just to confuse, intimidate and awe the victims of ruling class’ constant regrouping, the media around the world, including Nigeria, tout and allege the dawn of new economic eras by creating the impression that new economic paradigms were/are debuting! They thus tout concepts like Soludonomics, Tinubunonomics, Reaganomics, Buharinomics, etc.! These are all phases and outcrops of the same illusion. And illusionists invariably struggle to persuade their victims by all means necessary, including violence and repression, that the illusionists are working for the interests of the victims!
One of the coterie of “consultants” who were struggling to sell “advice” to President Bola Tinubu in a report dated May 17, 2023 observed: “The IMF Executive Board recommendation to Nigeria in its Article IV consultation report released on February 8, 2023 proposed a policy road map to enable Nigeria decisively tighten its fiscal and monetary policies…some of the key policy priorities… [Recommendations] include:
* Permanent removal of fuel subsidies by mid-2023 as planned,
* Stoppage of oil theft,
* Improved tax compliance through automation,
* Tax payer segmentation, customs, rationalization of tax incentives, adoption of tax incentives and VAT rates similar to those prevailing in peer countries in West Africa, put simply, Nigerians will pay more tax and pay more for everything generally”.
The foregoing includes exactly some of the same policy directions reiterated by General Muhammadu Buhari in his speech on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of Nigeria’s Independence on October 1, 2020!
These Buhari policies and alleged salutary consequences were the same policies which Bola Ahmed Tinubu valorised to the sky in his speech at the convention of APC where he was asking for nomination as APC candidate for the 2023 Presidential Elections.
Everything in the report of (May 17, 2023) President Tinubu Economic Policy Council came straight from this same IMF February 2023 Article IV Meeting prescription although that source of the document was not declared by the said Policy Council.
In the middle and two full years into Buhari’s Presidency in 2017, General Buhari’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, launched what was touted as Economic Recovery and Growth Programme (ERGP) which was advertised to be led by the private sector. ERGP was launched after Buhari’s government policy was aligned with IMF’s Article IV prescription unveiled early in 2017.
This has always been the tradition of the bosses in Washington dictating the ways in which the alleged leaders of our country will squeeze all live blood from the masses of our people. And there is complete unity among them, across tribe and religion, military and civilian, on this project of auctioning Nigeria! Early in 1994, it was Abacha’s predecessor (civilian) Interim President of Nigeria that led Nigeria’s delegation to Washington to negotiate with IMF/World Bank [over Abacha’s 1994 economic policies]!
The illusions that Tinubu’s government is peddling as palliatives for the continuation of the monumental burdens that IMF/World Bank had recommended in February 2023 are the same illusion that Obasanjo and the World Bank agents in his government were peddling via NEEDS document (Nigeria: National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy) in March 2004! The illusions are the same refurbished promises of SURE-P, etc., and Buhari’s alleged social cushions of “a. Trader moni, b. Farmer moni, c. School Feeding Programme, d. Job creation efforts, e. Agricultural intervention programmes” in his October 1, 2020 national broadcast!
Underlying, and driving all these illusions, their imposition and their brutal enforcement especially since 1984, had been the pivotal foundations laid under IMF/World Bank Structural Adjustment Program (SAP). The main pillars had been privatisation of public assets, reduction of public sector (sacking of public sector workers) and promotion of the few rich, cutback on social provisioning (education, health roads and other public-funded utilities), devaluation of the naira, liberalisation of trade (which had killed local industries, multiplied unemployment and generated insurgency and increased crime rates). And if anyone thinks that Buhari’s ERGP (2017) or Tinubu’s Policy Council prognoses were/are new, we quote the following from Obasanjo-Atiku NEEDS documents of 2004:
“NEEDS is a development strategy anchored on the private sector as the engine of growth… The key elements of this strategy include the renewed privatization, deregulation and liberalization programme (to shrink the domain of the public sector and build up the private sector);… Explicit strategies are in place to ensure a richly private sector-led development. Beside privatization to transfer the hither to “commanding heights” of the economy to the private sector….”
That was twenty years after Buhari and Babangida off-shoots of Obasanjo’s military dictatorship, surrendered Nigeria to IMF/World Bank SAP. And it was no less a person than Chief Bola Ige who became Obasanjo’s Minister [Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Minister of Power and Steel] who declared that privatisation is looting!
Nigeria continues to reel under Neoliberal Globalisation dominated by Finance Capital and those who sell money!
It is thus no more news that the triumph of globalised finance capital and the relegation of industrial capital (“capital” or wealth that build industries) characterise and dominate the world economy today notwithstanding the general weakening of globalising forces in the capitalist metropolises.
All the same, under current conditions of global capitalism, capital is characterised by extreme power of control because it is concentrated in a few hands to garner monopoly rent as the main mode of capitalist accumulation. This is why it should not be surprising that Nigeria’s economic policy continues to be dominated by the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector and by individuals and groups in these sectors! It is why fiscal and monetary policies had assumed such centre stage in the last few decades.
Even a casual observation of who is among those who had been in governance in the last four decades reflects the power of finance capital and the relationship of those who control the sector to IMF/World Bank and various transnational finance institutions like KPMG, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, etc. Some of the critical actors and government appointees, ministers, technocrats and bureaucrats who were with Obasanjo were with Umaru Musa Yar’Adua; they were with Jonathan Goodluck; they were adviser to Muhammadu Buhari; and they were with Tinubu in Lagos, and now with him at Aso Rock. And they all have antecedents as bankers and critical operatives (and/or partners) of multinational financial institutions (banks, derivatives, etc.)! Quite a number of them are ministers, special advisers and key decision-makers in Tinubu’s government today!
The two presidential candidates contending power with President Bola Tinubu used to be in the same party – PDP. They were there with General Obasanjo who supervised Nigeria’s full surrender to World Bank/IMF agents between 1999 and 2007. It is no wonder at all that Obasanjo was reported to have endorsed Labour Party’s Peter Obi as he also endorsed Atiku sometime in the past.
More importantly, the three Presidential candidates, alleged by INEC to have garnered the largest number of votes, openly campaigned in favour of the central IMF/World Bank policies of capitalism and capitalist accumulation – privatisation and reduction of the public sector, removal of the so-called subsidies, etc.
These all figure from the widely-reported capitalist antecedents and agencies of the candidates and their associates as “businessmen”, bankers, owners of offshore bank accounts, big real estate owners and currency speculators, contractors, etc., and associates of offshore vultures! It is this class that had determined and dominated public policy and that had grouped and regrouped again and again since 1983 to impose capitalist military and civilian dictatorships till today.
When the ruling class illusion started to unravel, all over again, under General Buhari’s APC, the illusion of liberal democracy took over as usual and cashed in on the frustration of a significant mass of the Nigerian working people, the “youth” and quite a sizable segment of socialists and “progressives” – exactly the same way the Buhari APC illusion intervened in 2014/2015!
Well, in addition to the complications relating to the disputed ownership of the Labour Party and the process and the emergence of the LP presidential candidate and the way that handicapped organised labour and its allies notwithstanding, both APC and PDP made a significant showing deploying big pocket power and incumbency.
Confronted with the clear limitations of what to do with electoral politics under overwhelmingly dominant liberal democracy, the socialists and progressives were thoroughly divided on what to do on electoral politics in 2023. The debates around this division go on and are likely to shape, affect and determine the cohesiveness and effectiveness of the socialist/progressive/labour movement while neoliberal capitalist siege against Nigerian masses progresses a-pace.
Understanding the obstacles to, and engendering the cohesiveness of the forces on the side of the masses of the victims will require unconditional support and enhancement of the autonomy, self-organising and class consciousness of the victims of capitalism especially in Nigeria today.
Emeritus Professor Olorode, is a member, Secretariat Collective, Campaign for Socialist Transformation of Nigeria (CAST-Nigeria). e-mail: email@example.com