Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



By Kola Ibrahim

In the colonial period towards the independence, the various nationalist bourgeois political class, as a way of ensuring their political influence had canvassed for regional governments as the best means of bringing their ‘people’ into the limelight of civilization. But aside the fact that the regionalization of the country was not a product of democratic decisions of the oppressed people, the demand played into the manipulative hands of the colonial administrations, which was seeking exit route from the self-created contradiction of granting self governance to the colonies and sustaining control of the colonial economy in favour of imperialism and capitalism. It took very little time before the self-interest of the nationalist bourgeois politicians truncated their own regional arrangement as exemplified by a new contradiction of who to control the central government, and the internal schisms within each region. This eventually led to the military take-over in 1966 and Civil War which lasted 30 months.

The continuation of the bankrupt policy of dividing the country as a way of curtailing internal strife amongst the political class, led to the creation of 12 states in 1967. When the strife could not be curtailed by this policy, the country was further divided into 19 states by the Murtala/Obasanjo military government in 1976. The central argument was to give identity to the minorities and create a sense of nationalism as against sectional interests. But the reality is that the real reason for the balkanization is to divide the people along artificial geographical enclaves so as to make the undemocratic rule over the people easier. Thus, between 1987 and 1996, the Babangida and Abacha’s highly corrupt military regimes almost doubled the number of states from 19 to 36 without any taken into account the opinion of the working and poor masses to be divided.

Ironically, none of the official reasons for more state creation has been justified by reality. On the issue of unity, the country has been divided more than ever with crises such as the Aguleri/Umuleri, Warri/Itsekiri, Ife/Modakeke etc., arising from such division of the country. We are witnesses to how indigene-ship is used by state political actors to determine distribution of scholarship, employment, appointments, etc. Despite creation of states, the country is bedevilled with serious internal strife, most of which occur within states as exemplified by the recent Jos crisis.

Moreover, virtually all these states are dependent on petro-dollar from the federal purse; thus they are unviable economically. Withholding of state allocation for just a month is enough to cause total economic standstill in many states. Meanwhile, unlike in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, when as a result of the existence of welfare state and Stalinist Soviet system, states invested in the economy and industry, the current neo-liberal system with a mix of the worst neo-colonial/imperialist spices, have meant destruction of the minimally functional economy of many states no thanks to privatization of state industries, commercialization of public service and pervasive corruption of the political class, among others.

Creation of more states is just another means of siphoning public resources and resolving sharing formula crisis among the corrupt political class. Already, just 17, 474 politicians in power consume over N1.3 trillion of the nation’s wealth. Therefore, creating more states, aside providing some few jobs will only be another means of looting public resources by a new political class in these new states. This explains why politicians and big businessmen are the arrowhead of the agitation.

Also, the point that more state creation will assuage the feeling of marginalization by various ethnic groups is a ruse. The fact is that the process that leads to creation of the states is usually undemocratic as no platform or forum is provided for the working people to decide democratically whether they want new state or not. In other words, state creation usually only reflects the self-interests of the bankrupt capitalist politicians who want their own empire. Sooner than later, this will give way to further quest by other political class for control.

It should be stressed that the growth of ethnic feeling is a reflection of economic and political isolation of the working masses, and absence of viable pan-Nigerian working class political alternative to galvanize the anger of the working and poor people for genuine political change. With the absence of this political platform of agitation, the masses are left with no other choice than expressing their frustration and disillusionment through sectional, ethnic, communal and religious means, which are generated by the bankrupt bourgeois political class but sooner than later can consume the whole society with multiplicity of sectional crises. This is why the labour movement must lead other pro-worker, pro-masses organizations in building a fighting bottom-to-top, democratic, mass political party of the working people that will chase away the current capitalist politicians and enthrone a working people’s government committed to massive development of human and material capacities of the country for the benefit of all as a step towards a genuine socialist society, against the current divisive but exploitative neo-colonial capitalist system.