Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Newspaper of the DSM
CHIMA UBANI (1963 – 2005)
The Demise Of A Class Fighter
On their way from Maiduguri, venue of one of LASCO’s September "protest rallies" across the country, Comrades Chima Ubani (43), Civil Liberties Organisation Executive Director and Tunji Oyeleru (46), Vanguard Newspapers Deputy Photo Editor met their untimely death in a ghastly motor accident.
The Obasanjo government and its neo-liberal policies programme of deregulation, privatisation and commercialisation of all key sectors of the economy which means abdicating its responsibility in providing social services, decent living standard needed bear the direct responsibilities for the death of these comrades. These and all the other avoidable deaths and other auto accidents are largely due the appalling state of roads, outdated and unsafe vehicles and to a certain extent, the frustration and pressure of daily existence and survival that drivers are forced to agonize about. Indeed, the death of these two men in an auto crash on the 21st of September, 2005 in Damaturu, en route to Abuja, after the rally at Maiduguri on the Potiskum - Bauchi road, to organise and mobilise resistance against the increment in the pump price of fuel, the ninth in a period of six years, was in itself, a product of Obasanjo's government neo-liberal policies.
Though both men had since been buried, they were among the very best the entirety of the working masses would have wanted to continue to have with them. Tunji was a photojournalist with the Vanguard newspapers. His excellent photographic documentation of the Lagos rally and protest organised by LASCO, labour and civil society coalition, which clearly depicted the mass support for the rally did not escape the attention of Adams Oshiomhole, the NLC president who had to personally request that he should be allowed, by the Vanguard, to bring his expertise to bear on the other rallies that were to hold in other geopolitical zones of the country.
Chima, a long time activist since his student days, actively participated in the Lagos rally, as a foot soldier and organiser, by virtue of his position as secretary of the Joint Action Forum (JAF), the umbrella body for the civil society organisations in alliance with the trade unions to form Labour And Civil Societies Coalition (LASCO).
Chima entirely devoted his most active life to struggle. He was the President of the students' union, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1985- 1986). He was the Secretary, Campaign for Democracy (CD), a coalition body which provided the practical and organisational lead for the protest against the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election and against continued military rule. At another time, he was Joint Secretary of the United Action for Democracy (UAD), another coalition, which organised the five million march to oppose the attempt by the Abacha junta for self succession in 1998. His political affiliation was however with the Democratic Alternative, which was officially registered as a political party. This formation, which can also be described as a grouping of Stalinists or ex-Stalinists, provided Chima with the necessary organisational framework with which to guide his involvement in the struggle for a transformed Nigeria. This is aside his activities with the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) where he had worked since 1990 until his death, rising to become the Executive Director and through which he contributed enormously to the human right crusade in Nigeria.
Of the ex-Stalinists, he alone still acknowledged that he was a socialist. He had, in June 2005, at a gathering hosted by the DSM to commemorate the 1st year anniversary of the life and death of one of our comrades, Rotimi Ewebiyi, testified to the fact that they had organisationally been put into disarray following the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, a consequence of their inability to understand and explain what had happened and why the Soviet Union had collapsed. He was surprised that we had not only kept our ranks, we had even increased with younger generations. DSM has managed to build and sustain its forces via constant political education of our comrades, intervention in communities, labour, students and other oppressed people matter and recruiting change seekers to the organisation among others.
Way back in 1997, during the 10th anniversary of the DSM, the late Oni, a life long labour and socialist pioneer activist of Stalinist School of thought also drew similar conclusion. Oni pointedly stated that we were after all, correct; that Leon Trotsky was correct in his analysis and prediction of collapse of bureaucratized Soviet Union. But coming from a younger person like Chima, it was a recognition and a commendation of all the years of work we in the DSM have continued to put in building the forces of Marxism in Nigeria. But more importantly, it was a validation of the analysis and ideas of Trotsky, who was a co-leader with Lenin and together led the Bolsheviks in consummating the October Revolution in 1917.
The isolation of the revolution in the then backward Russia gave oxygen to the growth of a bureaucracy led by Stalin. The alternative of workers democracy posed by Trotsky was not only frowned at by the bureaucracy, Stalinist bureaucracy attempted unsuccessfully to obliterate and denigrate the work and life of Trotsky. Exiled him from the Soviet Union, Stalin finally ordered Trotsky's assassination in Mexico in 1940. Trotsky's prognosis was that if the socialist revolution does not spread to other key countries and workers organise political revolution to topple the Stalinist bureaucracy and restore the Soviet Union back to the path of genuine socialist building, a counter-revolution would inevitably ensue and erase the entire gains of the planned economy and return it into the ambit of capitalism. This foresight of Trotsky, which offered the only scientific and dialectical perception of Stalinism, was made clear 50 years ahead of the collapse of Stalinism.
Chima therefore, unlike many ex-Stalinists, if given the opportunity, would have probably taken up the study of the works of Trotsky and possibly be won over completely to a full rounded programme of Marxism, which himself would say he never abandoned.
In all our years of work in pro democracy platforms in the CD, UAD, he had at most times, supported position that would be geared towards mass struggle. His active role in LASCO, unlike his ex-Stalinist pears who still proudly acclaimed themselves as "comrades", but would have nothing to do whatsoever, either in private or in the public with socialism, he continued to draw the conclusion for the need for a socialist transformation of the Nigeria society.
Chima did not only entirely agree to our long held position of "regime and system change" which we had canvassed and eventually adopted by JAF, he substantially, as secretary, contributed to the drafting of a Text of Press Conference by the Joint Action Forum (JAF) on August 31, 2005 at the Centre for Constitutional Governance, Lagos, titled: ‘REGIME CHANGE IS OUR STAND, MASS RESISTANCE IS OUR VEHICLE, SYSTEM CHANGE IS OUR GOAL’.
Quoting directly from the text,
"The task that we all must confront now is therefore how to bring an end to the disastrous Obasanjo government as quickly as feasible (certainly before 2007) and replace it, not with a government of the same kind of elite, but with a different kind of government that will be focused on harnessing our collective resources to meet the needs of the people for food, shelter, medical care, housing, education, functional utilities and infrastructure and other ingredients of fulfilled existence".
His support for labour and involvement in LASCO was a clear understanding, like we in the DSM did, that in spite of the pro-capitalist and bureaucratic tendencies of the labour leaders, they were not necessarily synonymous with the entirety of the working masses, and that all attempt at struggle by the working masses, even though led by labour bureaucrats must be supported, for in the end, it is the only way to aid the working masses to attain its emancipation from the clutches of the capitalist induced misery and in the process get rid of the negative influence of labour bureaucracy.
To so many in the civil societies, it is, "we had done it before, under worse conditions, under outright military dictatorship, through the Campaign for Democracy and United Action for Democracy, we had offered leadership to the mass movement in not only offering the necessary propaganda, but in physically leading the masses of Nigeria to struggle against military dictatorship. Why waste time in collaborating with the labour leaders, whose half hearted measures and commitment to struggle amounts to a betrayal of the struggle, even before it had started?"
We in the DSM had always recognised the general truism of this position. At the same time, we have always argued that the mass movement has its own dynamics that could not in any way be ignored. Organising joint struggles or participating in struggles being led by labour leaders does not in any way mean sowing illusions in the labour leaders. If anything, it helps bringing us closer to the working masses. The most important thing is to ensure that such participation is used to raise the consciousness and organisational capacity of the broad working masses in such a way that they can be in a position to determine the programme and policy of any struggles independent of the leaders limitation.
The way and manner the ruling elites have responded in terms of legislation to check and curtail the development of joint collaboration by labour and civil society groups through the Trade Union Amendment Act 2005 is only an indication of the mortal fear that has gripped them over the role of the trade unions in organising and leading the resistances against the neo- liberal policies of the Obasanjo regime. The emergence of a mass political platform, made of the trade unions and the civil societies and other pro-masses political organisations like the DSM, DA NCP etc is imperative. Such platform is to ensure the commitment of the inexhaustible resources of Nigeria to the well-beings of the working masses and other strata of the oppressed people as opposed to the pro-capitalist and neo liberal policy programmes of the IMF\ World Bank which only favour the very few rich. The LASCO successful rallies in Lagos, Benin, Kano, Maiduguri, Yola, , Jos, Owerri, Asaba and Abuja clearly indicated the willingness of the masses, given a focused leadership, to commence a struggle to dislodge the Obasanjo regime and its hated neo-liberal anti-people policy programme.
Chima's death is no doubt, a great loss and a minus to the forces of revolutionary change in Nigeria. To us in the DSM, the greatest legacy that we can ever commit to the memory of Chima Ubani is to continue the struggle to the logical conclusion for the regime and system change, which he subscribed to and canvassed on the platform of JAF and LASCO. To this point, we demand the formation of a working people political platform to challenge the ruling elite for political power. We call on the lefts in LASCO to immediately initiate a conference to discuss with the ultimate goal to bringing about a viable mass working peoples' political platform with socialist programmes of free and qualitative education at all levels, healthcare, good roads, constant electricity, decent living and working condition, housing, job for all etc that can wrestle political power from the present political vampires.