Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Material World: Nigeria: need poverty exist (2020)

The Material World Column from the  February 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard

Of all the myths prevalent about Africa, none is promoted as widely as the idea that overpopulation is the core cause of African poverty. Nigeria has the largest increase in population and is destined to become the third most populated country in the world. By 2015 one-fifth of Africa’s births occurred in Nigeria alone, accounting for 5 percent of all global births. In absolute terms, Nigeria is projected to add from 2031 to 2050 an additional 224 million babies (21 percent of the births in Africa and 8 percent of all births in the world).

On average, a Nigerian woman gives birth to 5.5 children. In the conservative, Muslim-majority north, the number goes up to eight children. This is clearly more than most women want, let alone can afford. Women in northern Nigeria have little say in reproduction and require a signed letter from their husband to get family planning which is further undermined by cultural norms such as the prevalence of polygamy, child marriage, teen pregnancy, poor education.

Wealth in Nigeria in the decade ending in 2017 increased 19 percent. These increases, Oxfam has noted, could have created an opportunity to improve the lives of many. Yet, Oxfam pointed out, Nigeria has the worst score on social spending, not only in Africa but in the world.

Instead, the increases in GDP have essentially benefited only a select few. There are currently 29,500 millionaires in Nigeria. The five wealthiest Nigerians hold a combined fortune worth $29.9 billion, for just about a $6 billion average. Nigeria’s single richest individual, Aliko Dangote, Oxfam calculated, annually earns enough income off his wealth to take 2 million poor Nigerians out of extreme poverty every year and still at the end of the year be every bit as rich as at the start. Oxfam pointed out that he ‘earns’ about 150,000 times more from his wealth than the poorest 10 percent of Nigerians spend on average on their basic consumption in a year (LINK). Dangote could spend $1 million a day and still not run out of money for 46 years.

Corruption has long plagued Nigeria due to public officials feasting on funds generated from crude oil exports. Last year, Nigeria ranked 148th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s corruption index. A report in 2012 found that it costs Nigerians $8.3 billion to pay the salaries of those in politics yet only $7.4 billion was to be spent on developing infrastructure. A Nigerian senator takes home well over a million dollars every year in salary plus expenses and benefits. Nigerian politicians get away with this in a country where millions go to bed hungry.

In Nigeria more than 60 percent of the population live on less than a dollar a day. The unemployment rate stands at 23 percent. According to reports Nigeria has overtaken India as the world’s poverty capital. A study estimated that 87 million people in a country of nearly 200 million were living in extreme poverty, compared with 73 million people in India. According to a 2018 African Development Bank report, nearly 80 percent of Nigeria’s 190 million people live on less than $2 a day. A report on inequality by Oxfam International said one in 10 children in Nigeria died before the age of five. UN data puts Nigeria’s under-five mortality rate at 100 per 1,000 children – or one in 10.

Need this poverty exist?
The Danish Consul-General, Per Christensen, has said that Nigeria could produce food for some 600 million people through the application of the right technology. He said, ‘Let me say that the agricultural development potential in Nigeria is bigger than that of Brazil when Nigerian farmers engage in technology farming’.

Nigerian experts point to the case of India, condemned by many experts in the 1960s to perpetual hunger. Today India is producing the bulk of its own food.

There are a number of reasons why the population boom in Nigeria is going unchecked, such as children being seen as a status symbol and a retirement plan. But the lack of political will is uppermost. People who claim that too many people is the issue are shifting the blame from the rich to the poor.

Open Letter to David Attenborough (2020)

From the February 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard

Your recent TV series Seven Worlds, One Planet has done much to highlight the plight of many species of endangered wildlife. Nobody could fail to have got the message, from this and previous series, that wildlife the world over is suffering from the effects of global warming, from the ingestion of plastic and other toxic waste products, and from dwindling habitats resulting from activities such as tree felling for lumber and palm oil or from deliberately started forest fires.

As your impassioned pleas for more to be done become more and more relevant, we agree that human activity is largely to blame. However, it is not humans per se who are the culprits. Those causing the damage are constrained by the demands of global money-making. Large-scale industrial activity is subject to the profit imperative, and as long as profits are to be made from cutting down forests, producing harmful, non-recyclable products and spewing toxic waste into the atmosphere and waterways, small-scale attempts at recycling and conservation will come a very poor second. Over 70 percent of harmful global emissions are produced by around one hundred companies, and climate change conferences, for all their apparent earnestness, by and large achieve nothing because the measures they suggest will be bad for business. Even the emerging ‘green’ industry can only operate within the bounds of what is profitable, which is to say, not in the interest of the many.

This is not to belittle the dedicated efforts of conservation groups and wildlife lovers across the globe in trying to stem the tide. But their work is addressing the symptoms, not the cause, as are the efforts of the general public in refusing to buy products such as palm oil and dutifully recycling our cereal packets and milk containers. All such activity merely scratches the surface: the problem is global and needs a global solution.

So why not go for the jugular? If we tackle the disease itself – capitalism – rather than its symptoms, and if more of those who care passionately about the environment join the campaign to eliminate profit-based society and replace it with common ownership of the world’s resources along with true democratic decision making, then we will be well on the way to a permanent solution, with the happy effect that humans, along with other animals, will be liberated from the stranglehold of capitalism.

Hoping that in your next series you invite people to join the movement to replace capitalism with world socialism.

Rod Shaw

Even if He Wasn’t an Idiot (2020)

From the February 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has expressed regret over his handling of the bushfire crisis ravaging the country, a disaster that has killed 28 people. He conceded there were things he could have handled much better. He had been heckled in the town of Cobargo in New South Wales, where some locals called him an idiot and said he wouldn’t be getting any votes there. He had been was on holiday in Hawaii. When the bushfires worsened he said there was a new appetite for the government to take a more direct role in responding to the disaster. In an interview, the PM defended his government’s approach, saying he took into account the effect of climate change, another one of capitalism’s features, on the bushfires.

Australia is just like any other capitalist country, operating a system of society where the means of production are in the hands of a tiny minority who use the land and all the machinery, raw materials and the instruments for producing wealth and distribution solely for profit and reinvesting it as capital to make more capital. Until the working class understands this, the capitalist system will carry on bringing what it must bring to the working class, the same social problems.

This will go on until the working class organise consciously and politically to get control of the state for their own class interests, using the vote and parliament and to establish socialism as a system of society based on common ownership of the means of production and distribution and the democratic methods of meeting to decide and mandate what products will be built and used to meet their human needs.

The working class keep voting for the status quo, all the orthodox parties and all the ones that call themselves socialist but in reality it is capitalism with reforms they mistakenly think will lead eventually to socialism.

The Australian working class must understand that Mr Morrison, even if he wasn’t an idiot and doesn’t understand this, must run capitalism in the only way it can be run – in the interests of the capitalist class.
E. O’Neill