Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
DSM, PO Box 2225, Agege, Lagos
Come to DSM secretariat at 49 Charity Road New Oko-Oba, Abule-Egba, Lagos,
Call our national office on 0805 304 5953
26 March 2017
We call for an independent and democratic public probe, and full compensation to all victims
DSM, Osun State Chapter, press conference March 15, 2017
This press conference had been called to respond to the wave of communal violence that swept through Ile-Ife earlier this month. This deadly violence which occurred between Yoruba and Hausa people has left in its wake enormous loss of live and properties.
We of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) Osun State Chapter strongly condemn this development. In particular, we condemn the wanton killing, destruction of properties and looting that occurred in the town. We call on working and poor people of Ile-Ife, both indigenes and non-indigenes, to unite and act to stop the orgy of violence.
According to Punch newspaper of Thursday, 9 March, 2017, about ten lives have been reportedly lost, with some of them burnt to ashes. Several properties, especially of people from the north, have also been set alight and destroyed. This communal clash, which started as a disagreement between two people, affects the poor and working people the most. For instance, aside from the lives and properties lost, the means of livelihood of many poor people would have been affected. Aside this is the internal displacement of several hundreds of people, especially the Hausa community. According to Channels Television, more than a thousand people from the North are being evacuated from the town. This will not only affect the businesses and livelihood of those being evacuated but also many locals whose livelihood and businesses are tied to those being evacuated. Therefore, this kind of communal crisis will affect the poor the most.
We call for the rapid creation of democratically based, multi-ethnic defense committees that can bring these clashes to a halt and begin building a movement of working people and poor to fight for real change in our interests. We demand that there is full compensation for all the victims of the communal clash. We also call for an independent and democratic public investigation of the communal clash. Such investigation should include representatives of the Hausa and Ife communities, youth groups, labour movement and civil society organizations in the state, among others.
While we are not against allowing the law to openly and fairly take its course, we nonetheless caution against indiscriminate arrest and criminalization of the youth by the security agencies. It has become a terrible norm that in this kind of situation, the security agencies and agents resort to indiscriminate arrest, extortion, repression and criminal profiling. This can only worsen an already bad situation. Indeed, one of the factors responsible for this communal clash is the lack of confidence in the security agencies as a result of their repressive, corrupt and extortionate record. People have lost so much confidence in security agencies in this country such that instead of reporting disagreements and conflicts to the police for arbitration, people now prefer to take laws into their hands.
We take note of the step taken by the Inspector General of Police to set up the Hammed Bello-led probe panel to investigate the crisis. No matter their stated best intentions, the DSM hereby affirm that neither the police nor any arm of the capitalist government can be trusted to find real solution to this crisis and ensure justice is done. No one today can count on their fingers the number of high profile murder cases and probe into ethno-religious massacres that have been swept under the carpet since the advent of democratic rule since 1999. In any case, the police itself has a case to answer for allowing this orgy of violence to break out at all. Sabo, where the violence occurred, is just a few distance from the More Police Station. Meanwhile the extent of lives lost and properties destroyed indicate an orgy of violence that lasted hours and days. Such extensive violence and destruction is in our view only possible where there are no security agencies or where those security agencies exists but they have shirked their responsibilities of protecting the lives and properties of the citizens of the country.
In the wake of the violence, the Governor of Osun state and several politicians from the ruling party and other pro-rich parties in the state and beyond have spoken against the violent clash. As far as we are concerned in the DSM, these are mere crocodile tears. Violent clashes and destruction of this nature are often inevitable in a society where over 70 percent of the population live in extreme poverty while a tiny few, including politicians of the ruling parties, have too much money to spend in a lifetime. Therefore, the violent communal clash that occurred in Ile-Ife is a logical result of the failure of governance at all levels, the mass poverty and extreme inequality in society, lack of education and employment opportunities for the teeming youth of the country, the unresolved national question and the failure of the labour movement to offer a way out of the crisis. In particular, this violent clash is equally a demonstration of just how much none of the programmes of the Aregbesola government has failed to yield any succor to the working people and youth of the state.
For instance, Ile-Ife, Osun State's second largest town, just like other towns and communities in the state, has witnessed little or no presence of government for years. It is not accidental that Sabo community, where the crisis started has been the haven of jobless street urchins and desperate menial workers. Every day, men and women, in search of means of livelihood, swarm around any private car, hoping to sell their manual labour. Many young men form the North live in precarious conditions in the town. In fact, the whole Hausa community in Ile-Ife lives in an overcrowded slum, with many families living from hand to mouth. In this kind of situation, it will only take a simple disagreement for this desperation to survive to snowball into expressed anger. The government and society have failed these people. It will therefore be illusory to think that the rest of the society can be peaceful when more and more people are denied basic means of survival.
It will take only a fraction of what Aregbesola government and the federal government gave to political and business class to start to provide decent and regular jobs for teeming youths across the state and the country. For instance, over N2 billion handed out by Aregbesola government to political contractors under the guise of dredging waterways in the state would buy dredging equipment for each local government and put hundreds of people on regular employment. In fact, more than more than N100 billion the Aregbesola government doled out to contractors under the inflated road projects, aside employing tens of thousands of young people, will be enough to construct and rehabilitate majority of the roads in the state, had the projects been undertaken by a well-equipped and well-staffed Works Ministry. But such was the failure of the Aregbesola government that even the so-called OYES volunteer programme has failed. Even, the federal government's NPower programme is already failing with volunteers being owed three months' salary arrears.
There is so much anger in society, especially among the youth, at the poverty and lack of opportunities. Therefore in our view, this violent clash is also a reminder that if the labour movement does not provide leadership for this anger, then this anger will find other means and channels of expression. We therefore urge the labour movement which has been slumbering for too long to see this as a wake-up call and begin to unite the working people across the country to fight their common enemy which is the corrupt capitalist ruling class who are amassing collective wealth into their own pockets while sentencing the majority of the population into a life of penury.
This latest communal crisis in Ile-Ife has again brought to fore the nationality crisis in the country. As against the propaganda of the majority of the bourgeois ruling class about 'One Nigeria', Nigerians are being divided along religious and ethnic lines on virtually every issue. The main culprits are the anti-poor politicians of the PDP, APC and other pro-rich parties who often use ethnic and religiously divisive language as bargaining chips to fight for a share of the national cake. This is because the basis of Nigeria's existence is itself premised on ethnic-religious division aimed at allowing various strata of the ruling class to take local control. According to the military authority, more than 30 states are being militarized as a result of communal crisis or political crisis. This shows that the country is sitting on a keg of gun power of ethno-religious crisis.
What happened in Ife also shows that violence and ethno-religious agitation is not the preserve of one tribe or ethnic group. Poverty and unresolved national question have become complementary ingredients for serious and violent social crises.
Only through a genuinely democratic sovereign national conference that will allow the working people to decide how the country should be run and how our collective resources should be utilized can national question be resolved. However, only a government of the working people premised on utilizing our commonwealth and commanding heights of the economy for the betterment of the majority working and poor people can address the national question. This is because the current set of bourgeois political class and their big business partners have their interests secured in this current system. This is why we in the DSM call on labour movement leadership, pro-labour organizations and activists to build a mass working peoples political party armed with alternative socialist programmes to wrest power from the current set of capitalist ruling class, who have no genuine programme of liberating the working and poor people.