“We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many-too often the reverse is true”- Jeremy Hobbs; Executive Director, Oxfam International
LAST week, the International NGO, Oxfam International reported that: “An explosion in extreme wealth and income is exacerbating inequality and hindering the world’s ability to tackle poverty”. In a report titled: ‘The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all’, Oxfam said ‘the $240Billion net income in 2012 of the richest 100 billionaires would be enough to make extreme poverty history forever’.
It added further that ‘the richest one percent has increased its income by 60% in the last 20 years with the financial crisis accelerating rather than slowing the process.
Oxfam then says that we need a ‘global deal’ to reverse decades of increasing inequality, and as first step, it wants world leaders to “commit themselves to reducing inequality to the levels of the 1990”.
It is at this point that we differ from Oxfam, because as Africans, we know that the decade of the 1990s was the lost decade in Africa as a result of Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP).
Marker of Neoliberal capitalism
What Oxfam will not say, is that neoliberal capitalism has put loads of money in the pockets of the Aliko Dangotes and Femi Otedolas (with their new yachts toys), but it has pauperized the mass of Nigerians.
And it is part of the baggage that unemployment continues to rise; because central to capitalism is the tendency for the rate of profit to fall. Consequently, capital creates an army of unemployed people. And unemployment has become a major marker of the jobless growth of neoliberal capitalism.
This week, the International LabourOrganisation (ILO) issued a report that global unemployment rose in 2012 by 4.2million to over 197million, a 5.9 percent unemployment rate. The number of job seekers will reach 210million in the next five years. It is only the fool that will not see the link between the extreme richness of a few individuals, especially in a society like Nigeria, and the levels of deprivation in our society.
The implementation of policies which abet the inequalities which the media celebrates annually, when the list of the rich is released, must of course be linked to the heightening of insurgency and erosion of legitimacy of the Nigerian state. Unfortunately, the more we suffer, the more dogmatically our rulers say “TINA (There is no alternative”)!
The empirical evidence available in Nigeria clearly states that we cannot build a society of extreme inequalities and expect peace. Neoliberal capitalism isn’t just working in this country. Just look around you!
Mali and the contrived Nigerian jingoism
LAST Friday, many Nigerian newspapers led with Nigeria’s decision to deploy troops in Mali. There was a contrived jingoism, which the media stand accused of abetting, as pictures of jubilant and ‘battle ready’ Nigerian troops were liberally displayed, getting ready to fight ECOWAS’ “War on Terrorism”.
Army Chief of Staff, General Ihejirika told his troops and by extension, all Nigerians, that terrorists trained in Mali had already entered Nigeria. We are entering a war that we don’t properly understand. But when an administration is hopelessly subservient to imperialism’s diktats like Jonathan’s, this is the sorry pass that we are bound to reach.
May we recall, that while most of Africa was opposed to the NATO invasion of Libya and subsequent killing of Muammar Ghadaffi, Jonathan lined Nigeria up behind the imperialist countries. The blow back from the criminal aggression against Libya is now being harvested in the Malian deserts.
The NATO countries went into alliance with Al-Qaida elements in Libya to overthrow Ghadaffi (Alqaida had been the creation of US Imperialism in the first place!).
In the wake of the Libyan aggression, Touareg fighters returned to Mali as well as the radical Islamists and Alqaida elements that France is now hypocritically engaging in Mali.
They left Libya a broken country but at least, they have taken over its oil assets. Meanwhile, their Libyan Alqaida allies now supply arms to Alqaida fighters in Syria!
I wonder if the Jonathan administration bothered about the interconnectedness in these developments, to be able to offer a nuanced appreciation of Mali’s needs. When the body bags begin to return home, Jonathan would have sacrificed Nigerian soldiers in an operation that fit the frames of imperial ambitions far more than they play into our strategic interests.
We could have helped Mali within a regional imperative but we failed to provide leadership or a strategic vision; in the end, we will serve imperialism and end up jeopardising our national interest more distressingly!
Kano: Between terrorism and development
MY visit to Kano last weekend was overshadowed by the attempted assassination of the highly revered Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero. He escaped the assassins’ bullets narrowly but his entourage harvested some unfortunate deaths in the process.
The attempt was the boldest expression of the depth of chasm in our society. From basic levels of state competence, it seemed those who carried out the audacious act were privy to the workings of the Emir’s activities, especially as they concerned his movement that fateful day.
It was also obvious there was no security worth its name around the Emir, except his traditional dogarai, who sacrificed their own lives for the Emir to live!
It was instructive that the assassination attempt took place in broad daylight on the ever-busy Zoo Road in Kano. On Monday morning, I went to the scene of the incident to take in the atmosphere; it was clear that we are dealing with a society of a seriously fractured social structure.
Kano magnifies the serious crisis which faces Northern Nigeria, and by extension, our country. It is the largest city in the region and over the past three decades has been the focus of fundamental changes at the base of the crisis we are dealing with today.
For much of the 1990s, I was reporting for the BBC and Radio France International from Kano, as well as completing postgraduate studies in Political Science. That combination gave me an insight into the multi-faceted problems building up in the society.
These range from creeping decay of rural life and the escape of young adults into the urban cities of the North; the high rate of divorce and the deformity of patterns of familial existence; the high rate of lumpenization and the huge population of street kids; structural dislocations in the wake of neo-liberal capitalist reforms; increasing retreat into religion as escape and response to the crisis of neoliberal capitalism; the utter corruption of the state in the wake of its gradual withdrawal from the social existence of the mass of the people and the consequent immiseration of the majority of the people built upon the irresponsibility of the ruling classes.
Our ruling classes took home ant-ridden faggots and consequently invited the lizards of insurgency.
At the rate we are going, and given the paucity of a deeply thought through appreciation of the serious nature of the crisis at hand, things will get worse before they can get better.
And that can come about only if the ruling class thinks beyond the simplistic mindset about the nature of the crisis we face today and the roots of that crisis. I am not hopeful about this ruling class though, because it seems too far lost on the road to perdition.
These were the troubling thoughts I have wrestled with during my stay in Kano.
Yet, even in the gloom, there were green shots of growth that seemed at odds with the enveloping gloom in Kano. I noticed the frenetic paces of development in my alma mater, the Bayero University.
New faculty offices have sprung up in the New Site with impressive developments on the Old Site as well; just as the Kwankwaso government has also been sprucing up the city in an ambitious urban renewal project.
It is clear that Kano is caught between the scourge of terrorism and the imperatives of development; but as we saw with the attempted assassination of the Emir, a new approach must be tried to pull away from an anarchic breakdown of social life in Northern Nigeria in general and Kano, in particular. And there isn’t a lot of time left to make the right move.