Segun Sango at 60
Segun Sango at 60
By Peluola Adewale
Segun Sango, socialist, revolutionary, legal practitioner, on May 7 celebrated his 60th birthday. While recent ill health has limited his political activity he has keenly followed developments. This is particularly so concerning the eventually successful struggle of the Socialist Party of Nigeria, of which he is founding Chairperson, to secure INEC registration.
Segun was born in Modakeke on May 7, 1958. He attended the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, where he graduated in 1984. While in the university he joined a socialist group, was active on campus and played a prominent role in the mobilization for national student boycott by Lanre Arogundade led NANS against the attack on university education by the then Muhammadu Buhari military government. This earned him suspension from the university, though he was later recalled to complete his law programme.
Politically, Segun increasingly looked towards the ideas of Leon Trotsky, co-leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution and later steadfast opponent of Stalinism who fought against policies which led to many defeats for the working class and poor internationally and that eventually undermined the Soviet Union itself. Upon leaving the university, he joined a group led by foremost socialist Comrade Ola Oni which produced a paper, Workers Vanguard. After discussion and debates on programme and tactics Segun and a number of others left Oni’s group to found Labour Militant along with other socialist activists from university and trade union movement in 1987. Labour Militant which was also the name of the paper produced by the group was the premier Trotskyist organisation in Nigeria which based itself on the teachings of Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky as well as method and tradition of Bolshevik that led the historic Russian Revolution.
The group held that what obtained in the defunct Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, though having a planned economy, were deformed workers’ states and grotesque caricature of genuine socialism because of its lack of workers democracy. Unlike many others in Nigeria, the group was not thrown off course by the eventual collapse of “socialism” in Soviet Union and Eastern Europe or excused it simply as machination of the US led western imperialism. The fact is that the collapse had been long predicted by Trotsky in his book Revolution Betrayed in the mid-1930’s. Trotsky argued that socialism cannot survive without workers’ democracy such like a human being cannot survive without oxygen, and thereby predicted either a political revolution or capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union. So it was easy for Segun Sango and his comrades in the group to continue to propagate and recruit to socialist ideas during what was a particularly difficult period for revolutionary work without the baggage of “Stalinism”.
Segun and other comrades had been inspired by the political ideas and activity of Trotskyists in other countries. This led to Labour Militant, in line with the principle of internationalism, from its inception being part of the Committee for a Workers’ International, an international socialist organization working and fighting for a better society in about 40 countries. Capitalism, as a global phenomenon, cannot be fought and defeated successfully within the confines of one country alone. Segun Sango soon was elected to CWI’s leadership, its International Executive Committee.
Upon the decision of the group to embark on open turn in 1998, it changed its name to Democratic Socialist Movement and its paper Socialist Democracy. Segun Sango was elected the General Secretary of the organization.
Right from the inception of Labour Militant, Segun Sango and his comrades, alongside working for overthrow of capitalism and socialist restructuring of the society, have campaigned and worked for formation of a working peoples’ party against pro-establishment capitalist parties in order to wrest political power to use human and material resource of the society for better life for the vast majority. He was very active in the mobilization of mass support for the short-lived Nigerian Labour Party in 1989.
With his comrades, he later joined the Gani Fawehinmi led National Conscience Party (NCP) where he became the Lagos state Chair of the party. He played a prominent role in the political and legal struggles led by Gani Fawehinmi for registration of the NCP in December 2002 and opening up of the democratic space in Nigeria. He led the NCP in Lagos to its most successful electoral contest anywhere in the country in term of the number of votes garnered and mass support won for the party in 2003 general elections despite the party having just three months for the campaign.
Later Sango left the NCP along with his comrades and collaborators following political disagreement on method of building the party as a truly democratic and fighting platform and increasingly undemocratic practices within the party. This was after the resignation of Gani Fawehinmi as the National Chair of the Party and the takeover of its leadership by a rightwing layer hell-bent on forcing out socialists and radical members who were the most steadfast builder of the party.
Sango is currently the National Chair of Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), a party formed by DSM together with some trade union and youth activists. This was following the frustration of the efforts of the DSM to join the Labour Party formed by NLC with a view of contributing to building it as a fighting mass party of the working people by “socialist” elements in the leadership and control of the party. It took about four years of political and legal struggles to force the INEC to register the SPN in January 2018 despite fulfilling all constitutional requirements when it applied. Notwithstanding the building of the SPN, Sango and his comrades are committed to agitating and working for building of a mass working people party, and of course, the revolutionary struggle for overthrow of capitalism.
Segun, a veteran of anti-military struggles was detained by Abacha Junta. He indeed heard the news of Abacha’s passing in the SSS’s cell in 1998. He has also played prominent role in all struggles of the labour movement against capitalist neo-liberal attacks since the advent of civil rule in 1999, linking the immediate demands of the working people and youth to the struggle for socialist reconstruction of the society.
Sango is a brilliant and practical teacher of Marxism and revolutionary struggles and not a Marxiologist â€“ who is restricted to only soapbox or study -, as he is totally devoted to building of revolutionary forces and centrally involved in working class struggles. He is a lead writer for the Socialist Democracy and the author of many perspective documents of DSM on Nigeria. The latest book he edited is “DSM and the Struggle for a Working Peoples’ Political Party Alternative” which is a compilation of the written ideas and perspectives of the DSM since 1987 for the liberation of the working masses of Nigeria, Africa and internationally from capitalist and imperialist exploitation.
With his writings, speeches and activities Sango has helped build and develop different generations of working class fighters, socialist activists and revolutionaries. He has also inspired building of socialist groups on campuses, workplaces and communities across the country.
Sango is not his surname; it is Aderemi. But Sango, an extraordinary polemist, orator and writer, literarily splits fire in his writings and speeches like the dreaded Yoruba’s god of thunder â€“ Sango. An aficionado of radical music, Sango is an ultra-disciple of revolutionary Fela and a prominent patron of African Shrine where he is fondly called the Law by its denizens. Sango is a litterateur and not just interested in Marxist literature. He discusses literature as much as Marxism. He fanatically loves books, and reads avidly and widely. He supports Chelsea FC, originally because of Jose Mourinho in whom he sees a part of himself â€“ a go-getter with poor tolerance for dawdles. He is not a saint, if there is something like that. But he has his own foibles like every human. Indeed, nothing human is alien to him.
Not currently with sound health, but he has built a very healthy revolutionary organization and family that will endure and stand the test of time. He remains an inspiration to socialists and revolutionaries in Nigeria and globally. Happy diamond jubilee birthday Comrade SS.