The theory [law] of uneven and unequal development of capitalism, this global system of supposedly free trade and self-acting, omniscient and omnipotent market forces; in summary of the capitalist development process in general is central to Marxism, Marxist Political economy, and the theory and practice of revolutionary socialism in its critique of capitalism.
This theory was central to Marx’s critique of capitalism, and its tendency to concentrate immense wealth in a few hands at one end, while concentrating immense poverty in the overwhelming majority of the population at the other end of the pole.
It was also central to Engel’s critique of the rise of monopolies, and the origins of imperialist conquest of the world in search of raw materials, cheap labour, and markets;
Lenin went on to utilize this theory [law] in understanding the age of capitalist imperialism, the incipient phase of what is now called globalization.
Trotsky went further to actually recalibrate the theory and law as that ‘of uneven and combined development’.
This theory and law of uneven, unequal and combined development of capitalism is very important and central to the understanding of widening inequality, the intensification of the widening of the gap between rich and poor, both within and between countries.
Because the capitalist process is dependent on the profit motif, and because the bases of measuring merit is profitability; and because of the tendency towards concentration of capital as one of the means to maximize profit and counter the tendency of the rate of profit to fall; but ultimately because capitalist production is based in exploitation, a process of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’; it is inherent in the structure, dynamic and basic DNA of the current global system for the process of development, that is human development, within and between countries to be characterised by unevenness and inequality.
Just take even a cursory look around you here in Nigeria, as you reflect on experiences from across the globe.
Businesses will not invest in certain areas and certain infrastructures because it is not immediately rewarding and profitable, even if this extremely essential to human civilization and to the health of the human society.
Climate change, the threat of global warming is a current and significant example. Investing in alternatives is expensive, and profitability and market is not assured. Yet the survival of our planet and of humanity depends literally on such investments.
And as if in obedience to Newton’s law of motion to with: ‘everybody continues in its state of motion or of rest, unless compelled by an external force to act otherwise’; corporations will not on their own invest in alternative and renewable energy unless compelled by political action, and or a catastrophic event.
Take another instance, 1,078 political office holders in the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government at the Federal level are serviced from the public purse to the tune of N173bn annually. Now this amount is only slightly less of the amount that is used to service the salaries and emoluments of the rest of the entire Federal Civil and Public Services; that is hundreds of thousands of federal workers combined.
But unevenness can also be geographic, hence just as we note and speak of the underdevelopment of Nigeria relative to the USA for example, we also note and speak of the underdevelopment of certain areas of the country, say the Niger Delta, the North East, and the rural areas in general, relative to the rest of the country and the urban centers.
So although the Niger Delta or the North East is relatively underdeveloped with respect to the rest of Nigeria; nevertheless, Bori within the Niger Delta is also relatively underdeveloped with respect to PortrHarcourt; just as Bayelsa state within the Niger Delta is relatively underdeveloped relative to say Rivers or Delta states.
The same can be said of the North East; even though the whole North East is relatively underdeveloped with respect to the rest of the country, nevertheless Yobe state is relatively more underdeveloped than Borno state etc.
The notion of combined development happening within the context of eneven development can be explained with the following two examples.
First although we as a country have no significant high level technological and manufacturing capacity installed in our economy; nevertheless the latest products of the most advanced industrial and technological as well as manufacturing processes are endemic in our society. They are all over the place in our homes, in our work places, on our streets.
The second example; although our villages are relatively more underdeveloped than our cities, nevertheless the same types of mansions that adorn the upscale end of our cities are also tucked in the backwoods of our villages. And of course the mobile phone, the mobile network service, and with it the internet is also there in the mud huts of our villages.
What is the significance of this combined factor in the uneven development? Economically and politically, it establishes the basis for the possibility of the most advanced economic and or political product or service to emerge from anywhere. It means the technological or scientific innovation, or the political and or social revolution that will transform human existence and take humanity to the next level of human civilization can be initiated or triggered either from the midst of the splendor of the favoured pole in the uneven process, or from the belly of the drudgery of the unfavoured pole in the uneven process: either from the developed countries or from the underdeveloped countries; or either from the urban or the rural areas; The inherent prerequisite for ultimate success however is that this process can only survive if it unfolds internationally.
So now let us end with a discourse of how not to tackle or address unevenness and inequality using state based interventionist efforts in Nigeria as case study.
The Niger Delta and now the North East are arguably underdeveloped parts of Nigeria. So how have we addressed underdevelopment in the Niger Delta and tried to make it catch up with the rest of the country over time?
And thus, learning or failing to learn from this experience, how are we planning to address underdevelopment in the North East?
Since the return to civil rule and the inauguration of the 4th Republic in 1999, there have been at least three federal special intervention frameworks/vehicles for the Niger Delta. These include the Niger Delta Ministry [NDM], the Niger Delta Development Commission [NDDC], and the Presidential Amnesty Program [PAP].
On an annual basis, in total, with the budgets for these three vehicles combined and excluding the budgets and special agencies of the constituent states of the Niger Delta, the region has received about N340bn in annual federal funding – about N70bn annually for each of the amnesty program and the Niger Delta Ministry; and about N200bn annually for the NDDC: And these every year over at least 10 of the last 16 years since 1999!
It is important not to forget that this amount excludes the 13% derivation enjoyed by each of the Niger Delta states, as well as the annual budgets of each of these states. If we were to add the combined annual budgets of each of the Niger Delta states into this mix, we would be speaking of the potential invest of nearly N2tn annually in public funds alone into this region: that is some N20tn in public investment into this region over 10 of the 16 years in reference.
So what do we have to show for these? Let us take each of the federal interventions one by one.
I am almost certain that I am not alone, and that I am in very good company with millions of our compatriots, when I say that although I know the mandate of the Niger Delta Ministry, I am entirely unaware of anything minor or major that it has done in the Niger Delta or for the Niger Delta!
What about the NDDC? Well its footprint is engraved and scattered all over the Niger Delta more in the negative than in the positive. What do I mean? According to a 2013 report of a presidential Monitoring Team on NDDC projects set up by the immediate past President, GEJ – a president who is of Niger Delta stock; less than 27% of NDDC projects could be considered completed projects; with more than 50% of the projects considered abandoned, and the rest in various stages of completion.
This is in addition to various fraudulent practices and the uncommon amount of sleaze found in the operations of the NDDC; including over invoicing, contract inflation, round-tripping – as in the award of the same contract at the same sum to the same company multiple times, sometimes a hundred or a thousand times. Add to these the widespread duplication of contracts and efforts and the shear wastage that accompanies these – Oil companies, state governments, and NDDC replicating the same projects in the same communities sometimes leading to emergence of phenomenon of redundant infrastructural facilities which now litter the Niger Delta landscape.
More on this later on, but right now let us turn to the money spinner, the lotto lottery called the Presidential Amnesty Program PAP].
The amnesty program was based on the DDR concept; that is disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration. The idea is that through the PAP, and with the NDDC will tackle development challenges, armed militancy in the Niger Delta will be brought to an end allowing for development processes to take place and be intensified.
Armed militants taking part in the program were expected to be disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into the society through the development processes.
To be disarmed requires to lay down ones arms, and becoming unarmed; to be demobilized requires that one’s armed groups cease to exist and one ceases to be member of armed groups; while to be reintegrated requires that one becomes a functional part of the socio-economic and political processes of one’s society.
On every account, in addition to the looting, pilfering and primitive accumulation that went on with the amnesty program, the program has been a failure with respect to the three fundamentals.
Let me explain. First it is incongruous and amounts to the ludicrous extension of a fallacy that the amnesty program has run into several phases and claims to have covered 33,000 ex-militants. At no time during the armed militancy, not even at its height, or even if we combine everyone that ever took up arms all through its phases, could there have been more than 5,000, maybe 8,000 armed militants. There is no rebel movement in the world with such numbers of armed militants in its army. And no state in the world would have been able to so easily contain such a number of armed rebel groups. The only scenario that could have created such a situation would have been one in which the rebel group or groups already control ‘liberated territories’.
Apart from the fact that this over invoicing and inflation of militant numbers is the bedrock of part of the sleaze; what this has done is to help to defeat the demobilization component of the program. In other words by registering beneficiaries through their armed groups and paying them through the command structures of their groups, what the program has done is to help to remobilize and consolidate the armed groups, while enabling them to increase their recruitment base and ensuring the loyalty of recruits to the command structures of their groups. So the program did not demobilize, rather it helped to strengthen the groups.
Secondly, by awarding security contracts which require the purchase and use of arms to the generals and their groups, the federal government again undermined the disarmament component of the program by ensuring that the groups, retaining their autonomy became rearmed.
Apart from undermining the capability, integrity and hegemony of arms of the armed and security agencies of the state, this award of security and surveillance contracts to armed militant groups through their generals, also helped to create a lucrative armed protection business for crude oil theft.
We can deduce this from the correlation between the award of security contracts and the simultaneous spike in amount and incidence of crude oil theft over this period. From about 100,000 barrels of crude oil lost to theft per day prior to the award of the security contracts; the scale of crude oil theft went on to peak at nearly 400,000 barrels per day with the security contracts in place.
Another devastating secondary consequence of this spike in crude oil theft and the state sanctioned armed protection regime for it can be seen in the spike in the practice of so-called illegal refinery activities and the combined effect of this and the spills from the crude oil theft on the environment of the Niger Delta.
So we take the most conservative figure of 200,000 barrels of crude oil stolen daily, if we factor the crude and careless manner that the pipelines are broken into and within which the theft takes place; then we can assume another very conservative estimate of 10% spillage into the environment. The implication of this is that over the last half a decade, around 20,000 barrels of crude oil has been spilt into the Niger Delta environment on a daily basis. This will mean that perhaps the scale of environmental pollution in the Niger Delta over the last 5 years has been more than the combined scale over the previous 50 years put together.
The point being made is that inspite of, and even because of these special intervention programs, the Niger Delta remains relatively and comparatively underdeveloped with respect to Nigeria as a whole. And again while the programs have created new Niger Delta billionaires, it has not only failed to address the state of the Niger Delta, but it has perhaps also contributed to deepening the level of relative underdevelopment of the region.
Unfortunately for ordinary Nigerians, the victims of ruling class brigandage, it seems that like their Niger Delta counterparts, the North East elite is also hell bent on this well-travelled but diabolical road to North East Development [read development of the pockets and accounts of the North East Elite].
So now there is a Presidential Initiative On the North East [PINE]; a Victim Support Fund [VSF]; a combined initiative of several donors called the North East Regional Initiative [NERI]; as well as a Bill before the National Assembly [NASS] to establish a North East Development Commission [NEDC].
The question to ask is what is the role of states and local governments in development in a federation? Why should the Federal Government be saddled with numerous development intervention agencies and initiatives that takes funds away directly from the consolidated revenue of the federation, while we continue to accuse the federal government of taking more than its fair share of the federations’ wealth, and continue to agitate for fiscal federalism?
In my opinion a Federal government in a federation has no business with establishing and funding regional development commissions. If states in a region need a collective approach to address a common peculiar problem, it is their duty to jointly establish such a common development commission. Each state in each such region should upon collective agreement cause to be enacted Acts of their states authorizing establishment of such a development commission, and also spelling out the role and contribution of each respective state in the management and implementation of collective development programs.
Of course this presupposes that each state would have its own development strategy plan, and that the collaborating states also have a shared and common development strategy plan that they wish to collectively implement through the agency of their shared development commission.
For me this should have been how the NDDC ought to have been established. And this is how the NEDC ought to be established.
Afterall both the South-South and South West states have tried to establish regional commissions: BRACED Commission – standing for Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta states; and DAWN Commission – standing for Development Agenda For Western Nigeria.
These commissions should be established and funded by the respective and collective Acts of the State legislatures of the states in the respective regions of geo-political zones.
These respective regional development commissions established jointly by the respective states, can then approach the Federal government to negotiate the contribution of the Federal Government to these commissions.
The report of the 2014 National Confab already makes allusions to and recommendations on how states can combine, and how they can jointly establish common development commissions. And although these recommendations will make the process easier, nevertheless it is already possible within the ambit of the present arrangement and the subsisting 1999 constitution as amended to take important steps towards this end.
This is why it is important to get fiscal federalism right. In the First Republic, which was overthrown just over 50 years ago; fiscal federalism was expressed thus: 50% of revenue to the region where it is derived from; 30% of revenue to the federal government; and 20% of revenue to a common distributable pool. It is from such a pool for instance that the Federal Government should make statutory contributions to the regional [that is zonal] development commissions.
None of these excludes the federal government from establishing special intervention programs to correct the impact of uneven and unequal development. However such special intervention programs and funds must be time bound and must have specific objectives and deliverables against which progress will be measured. No federal special intervention program should exist for ever. It should be a time frame, and an exit date, as well as measurable milestones to be delivered over the life of the program. A special intervention program is properly speaking a form of affirmative action.
To conclude, without state governments taking ownership, without citizen informed and citizen driven and articulated Development agendas, programs and strategic plans; special intervention programs are simply drainpipes, cesspools of treasury looting and merely add to the tremendous leakage and waste in the system, and only serve to deepen, not ameliorate the effects and impacts of uneven and unequal development.
Jaye Gaskia is National Coordinator, Protest To Power Movement [P2PM] & Co-convener of Say No Campaign [SNC]
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