NIGERIA: SHOULD IT BE OR NOT
NIGERIA: SHOULD IT BE OR NOT
By Segun Sango
General Secretary, Democratic Socialist Movement
In about 400 days from now, Nigeria shall be one hundred years old. Currently however, it is besieged and besotted by multiple socio-political crisis of such terminal dimension that threatens the total disintegration/collapse of the century old contraption called Nigeria. Once again, this year’s Independence Day was not celebrated not just due to terror attacks but also because, as was expressed by many, there was little to celebrate beyond the end of formal colonial rule.
Topping the list of organizations and groups calling into question the continued existence of Nigeria as a corporate entity is a group called Boko Haram. Boko Haram has no known manifesto with articulated objectives and demands. However, going by the targets of its deadly activities and coupled with the quoted pronouncements of some of its spokespersons, it can be correctly concluded that it is a reactionary, right-wing, Islamic oriented group.
This group presently based in Nigeria’s North East states has carried out deadly attacks on churches, market places, schools, communities, police stations in many states in Northern Nigeria including attacks on the headquarters of the United Nation in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory. According to media reports, about 3,000 Nigerians have so far lost their lives to the deadly campaigns of this group since it started in 2009.
For over one decade now the middle belt part of Nigeria has been engulfed in murderous attacks between “natives” and “settlers” in Plateau State, as well as between the Tivs who regard themselves as land owners and the Fulanis cattle rearers seen as “settlers” in Benue State. Through this, hundreds of lives have been lost while tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes and places of work. The situation has been compounded by desperate struggle for power by different cliques of looters which has meant that there has been repeated violence in “do or die” elections since the advent of civil rule in 1999. This violence sometime takes ethno-religious dimension as different sections of thieving elite try to lure working people into supporting their parochial self-serving interests by playing up ethnic or religious cards in the power tussle with rival looters.
Between 1967 and 1970, Nigeria went through a civil war over the declaration of the Biafran Republic from the rest of Nigeria. Over one million Nigerians lost their lives in the bloodbath which ensued thereafter. Today, 30 years thereafter, a pro-Biafra group, Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM) recently announced that it would declare a new state of Biafra on November 5, 2012. Until recently, the agitations for resource control or self-determination by the militia forces from the Niger Delta region have been very vociferous. This presently has declined after the implementation of what the federal government called “Amnesty Programme” which has been costing the country billions of naira annually. On top of this, tens of billions are separately paid to run the Niger Delta Ministry plus additional billions of naira being paid to erstwhile militia leaders.
In 2012 alone, it is estimated that Nigeria will spend $450 million on the Amnesty Programme, a condition which has forced the Wall Street Journal in a recent edition to openly moan “Nigeria is spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to maintain an uneasy calm”. But notwithstanding the fact that this huge sum was being paid to protect the Niger Delta pipelines from attacks and oil bunkering, Nigeria is still reported to be losing up to $7billion annually to oil theft.
The Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) that used to agitate for the self-determination of the Yoruba people in South-West Nigeria has only temporarily stopped its agitations. In a specially complicated political atmosphere and especially in the absence of working class/pan Nigerian political alternative, it should not be too difficult for this nationalist group to regain its political potency.
So huge is the current level of ethno-religious and national discontentment that cut across all zones of Nigeria that some bourgeois pundits have predicted the collapse or total disintegration of Nigeria as a corporate entity on or before year 2015.
RESPONSE OF THE CAPITALIST RULING ELITE
In the medium and long terms ahead, the ruling capitalist elements could only continue to oscillate between strong arm, military suppression and outright financial bribing in the name of fighting or negotiating with Boko Haram. Already, the Economist, a London based leading journal of international capitalism, of September 29, 2012 pointedly called on the government to hold its nose and talk with Boko Haram: “Nigeria will tear itself apart unless it finds a political solution to the violence in the North. The insurgency is doing great economic damage, foreign and domestic investors have fled. The GDP of Northern Nigeria is reckoned to have shrunk by around 30% since 2010. Public services have ceased in some places because frightened civil servants no longer turn up for work. The gap between the already poor North and wealth South is widening”.
Faced with this Catch 22 situation and also based on its precedent, it is certain that the Jonathan led PDP government, at this period must already be plotting on how to financially buy out the Boko Haram insurgent leaders, just as it had done when faced with similar crisis caused by militia activities in the Niger Delta region. But just as it has happened with the Niger Delta “settlement”, this probable development will not be able to fundamentally alter the disintegrating processes caused by age-long economic and political decay.
Outwardly, the various capitalist elements from all Nigeria’s big nationalities will proclaim a banner of “ONE NIGERIA”. This is informed by the fact that 80% of the incomes presently being used to run the Nigerian state is being realized from sales of crude oil found mostly in the South-South part of Nigeria. On this basis, the Northern, Western, Eastern and Middle Belt sections of the capitalist ruling elite could not genuinely claim to stand for a Nigeria that will be of real benefit and fairer to the vast majority of its citizens. Ditto, the capitalist elements from the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria could never truly fight for “resource control” that will truly benefit masses of the region. To this layer, “resource control” will always mean themselves sharing with the oil multinationals all the Niger Delta oil wealth, without having to share with their equally greedy competitors from other Nigeria’s regions. Of course, Nigeria might not cease to exist by 2015 or thereafter, however on the basis of a rule of any of Nigeria’s capitalist section and or their combinations, the country for a long time to come will only continue to survive on the basis of its present perilous existence.
SECTION OF CAPITALISTS NOT DIRECTLY IN GOVERNMENT
There are sections of capitalist elements, although not directly involved in governance, who appear to see far better the catastrophic socio-economic combustion currently developing in Nigeria. In this category belongs PHILIP ASIODU, a frontline capitalist technocrat since Nigeria got her independence in 1960. Asiodu recently did a survey of Nigeria’s economy and polity. Mournfully, he posed a question: “Is there any hope for Nigeria?” Asiodu himself said: “This regrettably is a fair question”. He thereafter gave some reasons for his sombre prognosis, while also proffering measures he believes can reverse the imploding socio-economic catastrophe.
Asiodu speaks: “Let us briefly recall the history of Nigeria over the last 60 years: Pre-Independence Progress and 1st Republic years. Nigeria was moving ahead with great strides in the decade before independence. The country was wholly dependent on agriculture. Foreign exchange was earned from agriculture exports mainly cocoa in the West, groundnut in the North, palm oil and kernels from the East â€¦ Now, we have enjoyed democratic rule for 13 years. Regrettably as measured by the doleful catalogue with which I started this talk, the degradation in the quality of governance, and unresponsiveness to the real needs of the people seem to be accelerating and must be reversed in order to avoid disaster. The critical imperative is that Nigeria’s leadership must undergo a revolutionary change of attitude and embrace good governance in all its aspects”.
As a capitalist technocrat who reached the pinnacle of his career as a Super Permanent Secretary under military dispensation, Asiodu could be easily forgiven for not being able to outline the means or process through which “Nigeria’s leadership” must be made to “undergo a revolutionary change of attitude and embrace good governance in all its aspects”.
The Nigerian capitalist ruling elite as Asiodu himself has noted, are compulsorily bankrupt; economically and politically visionless, and utterly corrupt; literally and practically. So, save outright military coup, Asiodu’s perspective becomes politically impotent because it is lacking in forces to bring the “critical imperative” that would compel “Nigeria’s leadership to undergo revolutionary change of attitude”.
THE MILITARY AS POLITICAL MESSIAH
In the past, socio-economic crisis could never develop to the current debilitating level before the military would jump out as messiahs of Nigeria’s “peace and stability”. However, in the current international capitalist world relations dominated by most brutal pursuit of private profit at the expense of people’s basic needs and development, there is little or no prospect for the development of radical layers within the military that can confidently come forward to attempt to implement the limited radical call for “planning and submission to the discipline of planning” advocated by Asiodu. At the same time, any attempt to use military coup to arrest the deepening socio-political degeneration within the framework of the prevailing global neo-liberal, anti-poor, capitalist measures, would most probably accelerate the disintegration of the country itself rather than securing its “peace and stability”.
SOVEREIGN NATIONAL CONFERENCE?
There are sections of the capitalist ruling elite and top echelons of the trade union movement who hold the view that Nigeria’s ethno-religious and economic problems could only be fundamentally tackled by the Convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) or peace summit. Recently, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a frontline leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) made a demand in the media: “Make Nigeria a true federation and correct all the structural imbalances that have resulted in mutual distrust and slowed down economic growth and prosperity”. (Vanguard October 1, 2012). The Trade Union Congress (TUC) President and Secretary-General, Peter Esele and John Kolawole, had jointly signed a statement to mark Nigeria’s 52nd independence anniversary. Their statement in part reads: “The congress therefore urges those in leadership positions to use this occasion to seek the restoration of the people’s confidence in the nation by also showing an unwavering loyalty and faith in its capacity to become great again. The loyalty of the present leadership to the Nigerian project is questionable â€¦That is why we believe that at no other time in our history than now do we require a genuine and honest conversation between and amongst the diverse cleavages and interests in country”.
On its part, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has actually organized a PEACE SUMMIT RALLY. At the summit, the NLC President, Abdulwahed Omar read a statement making the following points: “Nigeria Labour Congress has observed the challenges that are currently confronting our country in many areas. Nonetheless, Nigeria Labour Congress recognizes that a critical factor in addressing most of these challenges is Peace and Unity”. The statement goes further: “The Nigeria Labour Congress, being a pan-Nigerian organization with a history of nationalism and intervention dating to the independence struggle, cannot fold its hands and watch the country break up. This stems from its conviction that Nigeria’s existence as one indivisible entity is inviolable, irrevocable and inalienable.
Very significantly, both the ACN and the TUC did not outline how their envisaged conference will be composed. However, it is generally known that the ACN elements had always held the belief that only the convocation of a conference of nationalities can offer the best political way forward for Nigeria. In the face of daily political conducts and activities threatening the fabric of Nigeria’s existence, the NLC simply declare that “Nigeria’s existence as one indivisible entity is inviolable, irrevocable and inalienable” without as much offering concrete means and way through which this ideal can be actualized.
SOCIALISTS AND THE SNC
Since in its inception, the DSM has advocated and supported the preservation of Nigeria as a united entity, whilst arguing that, in the long run, this can only come about if capitalism is overthrown.. As an internationalist organisation, the socialists work towards the time when the human and natural resources of the world will be collectively harnessed together in a socialist world where the human beings and nature will flourish harmoniously. This is why we stand for voluntary Socialist Confederation/Federation of Africa as an integral part of socialist world. Such unity could only be voluntary as socialists stand determinedly opposed to any discrimination or oppression based on nationality, tribe, race, religion or gender. However, socialists, above all other political currents, do recognize the unsavoury fact that the current boundaries and countries of Africa came about through the arbitrary and undemocratic conducts of Africa’s erstwhile colonial masters whose primary reasons/decisions for creating the different countries of Africa were solely motivated by imperialist profit and territorial sphere of influence in the eternal rivalry with their co-predators/competitors.
For instance, the country presently called Nigeria only came into being on January 1, 1914 pursuant to a British Colonial Imperial Act of 1913 which without prior discussions let alone agreement with rulers nor the people, merged together as a corporate entity, the different and diverse ethno-religious groups within the present day Nigeria. Socialists also know that all efforts by Nigerian themselves, since colonial time up till this moment, to frankly and democratically determine whether to maintain Nigeria as a corporate entity and if yes, (which socialists advocate) to mutually agree on terms for holding its diverse ethno-religious groups together peacefully. But this can only be achieved by breaking with the looter politics of the rival gangs of exploiters, in other words by the working people and poor of Nigeria uniting in common struggle that ends capitalist rule. Without this capitalism’s hallmarks of continuing misery and failure to develop the country will, if the working class does not act, ultimately rip the country apart. Consequently, we do not ponderously join the slogan to “keep Nigeria one” which the different sections of the ruling elite always falsely proclaim. We stand for the right of self-determination, including the right to decide which state to belong to or form, something that was denied to the people of Bakassi.
Indications that all may not be well with the new contraption called Nigeria surfaced under colonialism itself. But the British colonial authority characteristically reduced this into what it terms “fear of the minorities” and subsequently set up a bureaucratic commission headed by one Mr. Willink to “look into those fear and proffer means of allaying them”. At that time, all the political parties led by elements from the major nationalities of Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo severely and collectively resisted any attempt to accommodate the agitations for the creation of new regions, which would be dominated by the minority nationalities, from the then existing three regions created by the colonial authority.
At the eve of Nigeria’s civil war (1967 â€“ 1970), the military regime arbitrarily carved the country into 12 and later 19 states. This of course, did not douse the agitations for creation of more states by groups. In 1989, General Babangida increased it to 30 before the military government of General Sanni Abacha further increased the number of states to 36 plus Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. Currently, there are several demands by political groups and communities seeking creation of additional states. Recently, the Boko Haram group demanded as one of the conditions for stopping their murderous activities, the conversion of President Jonathan (a known Christian) to Islam, thus fuelling the fear that Boko Haram intends to forcibly convert Nigeria’s diverse ethno-religious/national groups into Islam and Nigeria into an Islamic Republic.
For this reason, socialists, while stoutly advocating the preservation of Nigeria as a corporate entity, must at the same time support and where possible be in the vanguard of forces advocating the convocation of a truly Sovereign Democratic National Conference, representing the vast majority of working people and poor, that would enable Nigerian people, for the first time, to democratically determine how to run the country’s polity and economy.
THE BOURGEOIS, NATIONALIST FORCES
None of the sections of the capitalists ruling elite including the ACN can ever support a truly democratic conference to re-configure Nigeria in such a way that it can become materially and politically beneficial to the working masses and poor Nigerians. The ACN people, who often shout to roof top the demand for true federalism, sometimes called fiscal federalism, should not be trusted by the working masses of the different nationalities in Nigeria. After having existed for almost a hundred years, there has developed a considerable degree of inter ethno-religious relationship which has made it extremely difficult, if not totally impossible to attempt to carve out Nigeria along ethno-religious boundaries without plunging the country and its suffering people into a needless calamitous war and ethnic cleansing of an horrific proportion.
To all layers of the capitalist elite, a simple process wherein at best, the country will be divided into a number of electoral constituencies with right of every person of voting age to vote is all that is regarded as a democratic representation. Some even canvass that representation to their envisaged conference should be purely based on ethnic delegation. For the socialists, this kind of arrangement, especially in the absence of a genuine workers’ party, can never make it possible for the true voice and weight of the working masses and the rural poor to become really felt if a conference is ever called as the capitalists will stop at nothing to ensure that only money bags or those being supported by money bags emerge as winners in such a contrived electoral constituencies. Even in the unlikely event that the ruling capitalist elite is forced to even call or permit this kind of conference, the ordinary working masses and the poor should never expect the outcome of such a conference to alter the prevailing socio-economic order, which is heavily tilted in favour of foreign and local capitalist elements, against the Nigerian working people.
Only a completely sovereign and truly democratic conference dominated by elected representatives of the working masses, the poor and the youths and which installs a workers’ and poor government that is prepared to collectively use Nigeria’s human and natural resources to benefit all Nigerians, and not just capitalist vampires as is presently the case, can begin to boldly implement necessary policies that can provide an objective basis for peaceful and harmonious co-existence between Nigeria’s diverse, ethno-religious groups. Put differently, the working masses would need to carry out a successful socio-political termination of the prevailing capitalist disorder before any meaningful, pro-massesâ€™ economic and political policies can be implemented.