Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Committee for a Workers' International
Newspaper of the DSM
NIGER DELTA STRUGGLE: COLLECTIVE ACTION OF WORKING MASSES NEEDED
By AJ Dagga Tolar
"Hostage taking and keeping is a distraction…we will now concentrate our attack solely on oil facilities and workers found on these facilities."
The above statement was issued by the leadership of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), after it had released two Americans, Cody Oswald and Russel Spell and a Briton, John Hudsmith, from its hideouts in the Niger Delta creeks after 37 days. 11 days after, 6 other captured foreign oil workers had been freed. MEND engages in this action to force the Federal Government to meet its demands, which include the control of the resources of the Niger Delta, by its people and the release of Asari Dokubo, and former governor of Bayelsa state.
This militant action has, once again, helped bring attention to the deplorable conditions of existence in the Niger Delta. But beyond gaining the headlines and front pages of newspapers worldwide and the momentary stakeholders meeting, nothing fundamental will be achieved as long as the parasitic ruling elites of Nigeria reign. The deprivation and poverty suffered by the working masses in the Niger Delta and in other parts of the country cannot be resolved on the basis of capitalism in a neo-colonial economy like Nigeria held "hostage" by imperialism.
The beneficiaries of the kidnapping and hostage taking are not the working masses but a tiny layer of the Niger Delta ruling elites who have always positioned themselves to fish from the troubled water and of course, the militants who have been thrown up by the iniquitous social-economic system. This explains why the capitalist ruling elites themselves have been demanding "resource control" or, better put, increase in derivation formula, like the militants. James Ibori aptly captured the situation: "we are all comrades in the same struggles… so nobody can claim to be a better Niger Deltan than anyone of us".
However, in reality what the ruling elites have been demanding is not resource control but an increase in their share of tax the Federal Government collects from the oil multinationals, which actually control the resources. Control of resources would have meant nationalisation of oil and gas resources of the Niger Delta. And, for such resources to be made to provide for the basic needs of the working masses and not the greed of the capitalist elite, they have to be placed under the democratic control and management of the working masses themselves.
More importantly, the interest of the ruling elites of the Niger Delta is to have more resources for looting while mouthing marginalisation sentiments to cajole the masses of the region to queue behind them as a bargaining power. The question to ask is: what is the impact of the huge allocations collected monthly by governors of the region on the living condition of the masses?
Meanwhile, ostensibly to appease the militants and of course, the people of Niger Delta, the government inaugurated the Consolidated Council on Social and Economic Development of Coastal States of the Niger Delta. The Council, which has the President as the chairman and all the governors of the oil-producing states on board, has announced the creation of thousands of jobs including recruitment drive into the armed forces for the Niger Delta, among other things. This is, no doubt, targeted at absorbing the militant youths. But the MEND has rejected the plans saying that the government was trying to remedy 50 years of injustice with menial jobs. They said further that the offer did not address their demands for more local control of oil wealth. They therefore renewed their threat to continue oil installation attacks.
Nevertheless, the measures of the government would be applauded to the sky by the apologists and sycophants of the President and employed as one other gain of the Obasanjo regime and indeed, canvassed as an additional reason why Obasanjo should continue to rule beyond 2007.
However, this is not the first time such measures have been announced. In 2001, a presidential committee, tagged the Special Security Committee on oil Producing Areas, headed by the then Chief of Army staff Lt. Gen. Alexander Ogomudia, made similar recommendations and till date nothing has been done in that regards.
The crisis of the Niger Delta has become juggernaut for the Nigerian state. The neglect of the area by government and its plunder by the multinationals have thrown up millions of able-bodied youths that are ready to take up arms against the government and oil companies in order to swim out of poverty. The situation has however become feast for the ruling elites. A World Bank report says a tiny 1% of the population amass 80% of the oil wealth of the country, condemning the rest 99% to scramble for 20%. Resolving the crisis would require sacrificing the huge profits of the multinationals and the greed of the Nigerian ruling elites. But this is not possible in a neo-colonial capitalist country.
Therefore, if the basic needs of life such as food, shelter, decent jobs, education, health care, electricity, water, etc. are to be guaranteed to the working masses and youths, not only of the Niger Delta but also of the entire country, not just the Obasanjo regime, but also the whole capitalist arrangement must be done away with. The task of overthrowing capitalism and reorganizing society and bringing the resources of society, e.g. oil under a public democratic management and control, is a task for the working masses themselves.
The act of individual terrorism creates basis for government to spend resources on arms and ammunition and unleashes state terror on the working people under the pretext of fighting the militants. Besides, it erroneously presents the militants as liberators among the masses and thus stunts the development of working class struggle. This is why we completely frown at hostage taking, kidnapping and all other individual heroic acts, or terrorist act. However, we in the DSM are not pacifists. We, in fact, even support the right of the masses and youth to defend themselves with arms where and when necessary against unjust attacks by the capitalist state and its neo-fascist gangs of secret cults etc. However, only an armed struggle built around mass struggles and labour and youth organisations, whose agenda combine the task of physically removing capitalist elements from political power with the task of abolishing capitalist, private monopoly of both natural and human technological heritage of mankind in the name of privatisation and deregulation. Only this approach can provide a sustainable reservoir of resistance to all anti-poor governments and policies.
Therefore, for us, only a process where the working masses themselves play an active role and in which they fully exercise their democratic control can genuine liberation become a reality. Thus, we call on the working masses of the Niger Delta communities, to establish organs of community control over the various militia groups, and their immediate transformation to defence militia for the communities. They must, at the same time, commence the process of uniting all the groups with the goal of forming a centralized organ of the working people of the Niger Delta. Such organ would take up all demands for a better living condition in the Niger Delta and be willing to carry out mass democratic action against the imperialist exploitations of the oil corporations and their local backers, both in the Niger Delta and outside it. As part of the processes of achieving this, it must necessarily link up with the struggle of all other working people in other parts of the country as a stepping-stone to finally overthrowing capitalism. It is the collective action of the working masses alone that can overthrow capitalism and permanently bring an end to cyclic doom of poverty that not only entraps the Niger Delta, but the whole of Nigeria.