Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM




Peluola Adewale

The failed attempt by Umar Farouk Abdul-Mutallab to blow up Delta Airline flight 253 from Amsterdam (Netherlands) to Detroit (US) on Christmas Day, December 25 2009 sent jitters around the world and triggered various measures to improve security at the airports and on flights. Huge amounts of tax payers’ money has been voted for this exercise. If Mutallab had succeeded, 290 people would have been killed in the process.

In an apparent knee jerk reaction the United States placed Nigeria on the terrorist watch list for the action of Mutallab despite him not having lived in the country for a greater part of his life until the incident. This means that average Nigerian travelers will be subjected to excruciating checks at airports across the World. Some of them may even be denied visas or subjected to humiliation for bearing Islamic sounding names. The fact that a country like Cuba with no history of terrorism except the ones unleashed on it by the US imperialism is on the list shows that it is not mainly drawn up based on security intelligence, but from a bout of vengeance. This is why Saudi Arabia, home of most of the 9/11 hijackers, is not on the US watch list.

Moreover, the new security measures at the airports and scaling up the fight against terrorism will lead to attacks on civil liberties and democratic rights of a number of peoples across the world, including in the United States itself.

Why would a well-educated 23 year old man from a rich family submit himself to the service of al-Qaeda? This has shown all the measures against terrorism have not mitigated the deep-seated hatred against US imperialism; rather there is growing resolve of militant Muslims to strike at American interests. In November 2009, a Major with the US army, Nidal Malik Hasan, who is linked with al-Qaeda, went on a shooting rampage at a military base in Texas, USA, killing 12 soldiers and leaving 31 wounded in the carnage. Also in December, an al-Qaeda mole working with US security agencies killed himself and 7 CIA agents in Afghanistan. The fact is that the actions and policies of the US imperialism in Middle East have continued to breed generation upon generation of suicide bombers who are prepared to sacrifice their life to unleash terror on the US interests. The catastrophic invasion of Iraq, continued occupation of Afghanistan and connivance of the US to the state terror of Israel in Palestine have continued to embitter Muslim youths across the world.

However, side by side by those motivated by anti-imperialist ideals are religious bigots who do not care killing ordinary working class people in the name of religion. It is also a fact that many of these elements that want to fight US, British and other imperialist powers maintain reactionary ideas against other religions and women. Indeed some of them blame all the population of the US, Britain etc., including the working class and poor, as being responsible for the actions of their ruling classes. Their ideas and methods have proved to counter-productive. It cannot defeat imperialism rather it would only justify expansion of war chests, and heightening of instrument of state terror and attacks on the democratic rights under the guise of fighting individual terrorism.

Some people have blamed the Mutallab’s father, a former federal minister and immediate past Chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria, that he was unable to bring his son under control and supervision and thereby made the guy to fall into the hands of those who misguided to embrace a terrorist mission in the name of religion. This is diversionary; Mutallab’s actions show a deep alienation from the values and morals of the Nigerian robber elite and imperialism. His education at a British School in Togo and at an elite university in the UK is characteristic of the capitalist ruling elites. They have so mismanaged Nigeria that they themselves have lost confidence its educational system, and would rather not have their children gone through it. Abdulmutallab was even reported to have lived in a Ł2 million apartment while in London!

There has been attempt to single out Islamic fundamentalism and religious intolerance for blame. This is a half-truth. The fact is that beyond Islam every religion encourages false worldview by upgrading mythology into historical facts and encouraging adherents to hold on to superstition and belief in life hereafter and as opposed to a scientific outlook to life. Despite the fact that while currently many genuine working class and poor elements find solace within religious beliefs; the point must herein be stated that Islamic fundamentalism, or any form of religious extremism or intolerance, is fostered and fuelled by religion itself.

The perennial ethno-religious crisis that has bedeviled Jos, north-central Nigeria, has shown that adherents of the two main religions in the country, Islam and Christianity, could be fatally intolerant of each other. The last mayhem in the city has already claimed about 200 lives and displaced about 2000 people. Properties worth billions of Naira have also been wantonly destroyed.

However, the action of Mutallab is a new turn in religious fanaticism in relation to Nigerians. What usually obtain are people killing for religion; they do not die for religion. Of course, in Nigeria there are rare cases of people committing suicide, but that as a result of frustration with life. Mutallab had at his disposal all the comforts of life, yet he was ready to kill himself and others for a supposed greater comfort hereafter.

The issue of terrorism also raises the wider questions of the well being of the working masses both in the Arab world and in the Middle East, the situation in Palestine, the romance of the ruling elites with imperialism to foster a regime of neo liberal social cuts and lack of basic necessities and essential social infrastructures for the working masses. This has further deepened social discontent against imperialism and provide veritable platform for potential suicide bombers.

The weakness of working class organizations, collapse of even bourgeois national movements and absence of revolutionary parties with a Marxist programme, which could redirect the mass anger into a series of legitimate actions against imperialism and local collaborators and for political power, have created a vacuum which has been exploited by Islamic terrorist groups. It is also a fact that some of these militant, reactionary Islamic organizations like the Taliban, and by extension al-Qaeda, are creations of the US imperialism in its struggle against left organization and Stalinist Soviet Union in the Cold War era.

Some commentators have also insinuated that the fact that Mutallab hails from the Northern part of Nigeria, which is the hub of religious violence in the country, readily made him “recruitable” for al-Qaeda. But the fact is that the foot solders of religious mayhems in the North are the poor and not the children of the rich like Mutallab. Besides, the exploitation of mass social discontent has also been at the root of religious violence in the North. With a vast population of street urchins without western education and mass unemployment, there is always huge reserve army from which groups like the Maitasine, Boko Haram, and Kala – Kota could recruit and deploy to wreck mayhem. Even the ruling elites from the North have also had to use the issue of Sharia Law to mobilize support for themselves, to either assume political power or remain in power. They use religion as well as ethnicity to divert the attention of working masses away from their mis-governance and mismanagement of the economy.

Socialists condemn these mayhems and activities of reactionary religious movements who unleash terrors on working masses of other religions or sects. The ethno-religious crisis in Jos and elsewhere in the country can only be best resolved on the basis of working class unity across all ethnic and religious divides which may not be possible within the confines of capitalist relations. We of the DSM work to build a movement of both non-believers and believers which along with struggle for socialist transformation of society supports the right of individuals to their own religion, opposes discrimination or suppression of believers or non-believers, and agitates for separation of religion and state.

The fact remains that the ruling elites must be held responsible. It is their mismanagement of the collective wealth of society that in most cases creates enabling precondition for ethno-religious strives in the country. It also the same factor which is the root cause of militant activities in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. Nigeria has made huge revenue from the sales of the crude oil, particularly in the last one decade, yet there has been nothing fundamental to show for it in term of living standards, social services and infrastructure development. The country which is the sixth largest exporters of crude oil does not have functional refineries and therefore import over 80 percent of refined fuel for its local consumption. There is always periodic scarcity of fuel products to justify an increase in the pump price. The cost of energy is so outrageous that many companies have either closed shop or relocated out of the country.

Terrorism, in whatever forms, cannot be defeated under capitalism. The imperialists and their policies have made it a vicious cycle. Indeed imperialism has repeatedly used terror to build its empires and defend its interests around the globe. It has become a Catch 22 situation for the US imperialism with its grim resolve to dominate Middle East because of its oil. Yet its presence and actions have continued to strengthen political Islam and reactionary right wing groups. The way forward is the defeat of capitalism in the Middle East, and internationally. This is only possible on account of the overthrow of capitalism, internationally. The strike actions in Egypt last year and growing mass movement against Armedinajad and continued rule of Ayatollahs in Iran have shown the potential of working masses in the region to rise against despotic rule and imperialism. However, the resolution of the Palestine question, with an independent Socialist Palestine, open to unity with a socialist Israel, as a stepping stone to a Socialist Middle East is a way out of the cul-de-sac in the region.

Of course in Nigeria, there is need for the trade unions and pro-masses’ organizations to immediately commence the process of building a formidable working class alternative that could wrest political power from the capitalist thieving ruling elites at all levels. The first way is to attempt to rebuild the Labour Party as a fighting working class organ with a socialist programme which will include massive investment in public works and infrastructures, public funded education, free health care, and an effective transport system viz. road networks, sea, and rail lines, etc. However, such programme is only possible with a workers’ government that nationalizes the commanding sectors of the economy and put them under democratic control and management of working masses. There should be ultimate goals to mop vestiges of feudalism and defeat capitalism with the socialist transformation of the society. This is the only way individual terrorism can be uprooted. Anything short of this is a continued reign of barbarism.