Nigerian elections: PDP goons booted out

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After 16 years of gross misrule and shameless corruption, on 28 March the Nigerian people finally kicked out the useless People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a cabal of thugs, murderers and thieves, following the 2015 Presidential, National Assembly, Governor and State House of Assembly elections. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and the world’s 13th largest crude oil exporter, yet inequality, unemployment and poverty are widespread and growing. Despite consistently high oil prices and economic growth at 6.5% of gross domestic product from 2008-2013, Nigeria’s oil income has been declining sharply due to blatant looting, putting pressure on state finances, foreign exchange reserves and the currency (naira). Despite manipulation and violence against polling units, officials and voters, as well as ballot-snatching and next day re-polling, the Nigerian people queued for hours determined to get rid of the PDP. It was a historic result being the first time the opposition had defeated the incumbent, who immediately conceded, avoiding a bloodbath.

Elections 2015

President Goodluck Jonathan (PDP) lost to his main rival General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) – a former military ruler. The APC won the majority of presidential votes, with Buhari receiving 15.42 million votes (53.96%), to the PDP’s 12.85 million votes (44.96%) out of 29.4 million total votes cast, a 42.7% turnout. The APC also secured the majority of the seats in the National Assembly by winning at least 60 out of 109 seats in the Senate (55%); at least 214 out of 360 seats in the House of Representatives (59.4%) and 19 of 29 state governorships to the PDP’s 7.

Violence and fraud meant elections were postponed in a few states. The PDP has blatantly rigged every election since the end of military rule in 1999. Due to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s attempts to improve voter identification and verification there was no evidence this time of centralised systematic fraud. Nevertheless election-related violence occurred all over the country, especially in the southern oil-rich states where attempts at massive rigging and blatant fraud were successful in returning PDP goons to local government, pending opposition appeals. There were over 80 deaths in 113 election-related incidents since January, including 30 people killed on polling day. The real scale of the PDP defeat is therefore greater than the official results indicate.

However, a series of failures including failure to tackle Boko Haram terrorism, plus exposure of government callousness following the kidnapping of the ‘Chibok girls’, and unparalleled corruption scandals, meant that the writing was on the wall for months preceding the poll. The PDP had tried to avoid the inevitable by first postponing the elections for six weeks using Boko Haram as an excuse. The APC is a coalition of four parties, including former PDP defectors, carpet-baggers and opportunists, formed to break the PDP stranglehold on Nigerian politics.

PDP’s legacy

Nigeria earns over $200m a day from oil sales. Yet at least 60% of the population (102 million people) live on below $1.25 per day (political manipulation of figures means that real poverty levels are hard to determine: the World Bank claimed last year it was as low as 33%). Significant numbers live just above that poverty line: in 2010 Unesco reported that 92% lived on less than $2 per day. National averages conceal high regional disparities, with 90% of the poorest people in the north. Life expectancy was 52 years in 2013, rising from 47 in 1990. 27 million suffer from Onchocerciasis (river blindness), which can lead to blindness. One million Nigerians are blind. 300,000 people die of malaria every year. 30 million suffer from hypertension. Four million are diabetic. Nigeria has the second highest HIV burden behind South Africa at 3.6% of the population. There have been limited improvements in infant and maternal mortality. The main causes of infant deaths are pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and neonatal causes compounded by under-nutrition and preventable diseases, about which PDP did nothing; most of the work was done by external aid agencies. In 2011, 36% of children under five were stunted; in the north 54% of children are stunted. There has been no major improvement in basic health or economic indicators since 1999 when PDP came to power, despite sky-high oil prices.

Foreign interests (IMF, World Bank) dominate the economy. In 1999, imperialist oil corporations urged Nigeria to sell its refineries. No new refineries have been built and the four existing decrepit refineries, now privatised, operate at less than 50% capacity, meaning Nigeria needs to import refined petroleum products from imperialist countries. Public sector workers and contractors are in salary arrears due to recent falling oil revenues and a looted treasury. There is weak electricity supply despite massive financial assistance (over $30bn), to the privatised power sector cartel. Total electricity supply as of 25 May is less than 1,400 megawatts (MW), down from 5,000 MW 30 years ago. By May 2015, Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves had fallen to $29.8bn from $62bn in September 2008. Between 2009 and 2014, 84 stock broking firms (N22.6bn), power companies ($1.3bn) and eight banks ($2.6bn) were bailed out due to massive home-grown fraud and not as a result of the global capitalist crash as was claimed.

A gulf exists between the value of oil production and the revenues remitted to the state, a $24.3bn discrepancy in 2012, plus a hole of $30.8bn in the balance of payments account in the same year. $1bn is stolen every month. An estimated $20bn-$50bn was stolen between January 2012 and July 2013, as exposed by Nigeria’s former central bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, who was subsequently sacked. There is also a persistent monthly gap of $1.5bn in import/export data – $26bn in 2012-2013. Massive nationwide protests in 2012 of 10 million people forced the government to back-down on an attempt to withdraw a fuel subsidy. Investigation revealed that the so-called subsidy was a massive racket via which the treasury was looted. Some looted funds ended up in British banks. No one has been prosecuted for this massive theft. Britain and the US have backed the PDP thieves throughout the last 16 years. There is no mystery to Nigeria’s poverty. Good riddance, PDP.

Charles Chinweizu

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 245 June/July 2015