Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



Mass movements against demolition attacks and assault on democratic rights in the communities need genuine political alternative to win

For adequate compensation for the victims of demolition

By Ayo Ademiluyi

In a display of brazen madness that characterizes the profit-first and anti-poor nature of the capitalist regimes operating all over Nigeria, the authority of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja carried out its threat to demolish Mpape, a densely-populated ghetto community in the FCT (FCT). The Mpape community which houses about 3 million residents serves as shelter for most working class and poor elements that have come to seek subsistence in the country’s federal capital, Abuja.

As a result of the self-serving interest of the primitive capitalist ruling elite, while building Abuja as the new capital of Nigeria there was no provision for an affordable decent mass housing programme which could house the working class and the poor that would come to live and work in Abuja. Through the concentration of title to land ownership in the hands of capitalist state by the Land Use Act 1978, bourgeois property investors employ political links to acquire land instead of going through the endless tangles while striving to acquire same under communal and families’ authorities. This squeezes out the poor and the working people forcing them into ghetto existence in unoccupied lands and waterfronts at the outskirts of major cities like Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and others. Yet, with the insatiable greed of various sections of the local ruling elite holding power across Nigeria, they have come up with the policy that these ghetto communities must be demolished in order to build decent structures affordable only by the rich!

Demolishing the poor to create space for the rich: All anti-poor parties are culpable!

The case of Mpape in Abuja mentioned above is just one out of many that abound nationwide. Rivers State Waterfront communities have been under vehement attacks by the Rotimi Amaechi-led government with severe attacks on protesters resisting the demolition of these communities. According to newspaper reports, Air force helicopters, Navy gunboats and Army personnel are deployed all at the same time to ensure the demolition is effected and prevent resistance. While claiming the demolition is part of the urban renewal policy of the state government, residents of these communities claim that the waterfronts have been reserved for hotels, cinemas, parks, shopping malls and houses for the rich. This position is reinforced by the fact that Maroko, a densely populated slum demolished in 1990 by the Raji Rasaki military administration, has become a vast estate for the rich!

The “urban renewal” façade being employed by the PDP-led regime in Rivers’ State is also being employed by the so-called progressive ACN-led Rauf Aregbesola regime in Osun State which demolished buildings ostensibly for infrastructural development. While the state government claims it has paid compensation to victims of the demolition in Old Garage community of Osogbo for instance, the reality is that it was only loyalists of the ruling regime, who own buildings in the area, who were paid while ordinary residents were left to rot in lurch! Yet the so-called infrastructural development, which is another merry pot for the party loyalists and their contractor-friends, is being carried out without a concrete and adequate plan for a massive housing programme for displaced residents.

In the same vein, the hawkish ACN-led Fashola regime in Lagos State recently carried out demolition of the Makoko community who was is reminiscent of the demolition of Maroko by the military government in 1990. From all indications, just as it obtained with Maroko, the Fashola government is out to displace the poor for the rich.

Rolling mass actions in the communities can win against anti-poor attacks

Concrete and rolling mass actions need to be built in the communities facing demolition attacks and assault on democratic rights including police brutality. This would necessitate building fighting democratically-controlled residents’ associations and community movements with open and genuine debate and discussion on resisting the attacks and putting forward a clear programme of action with demands for adequate compensation for demolished buildings. Anti-demolition struggles can also win with mass occupations and self-defence committees against assault by state terror-gangs.

Labour and pro-working people organizations have vital roles to play in linking different community movements into an organic nationwide mass movement and thereby widening the scope of the struggle. This would require a bottom–up nationwide mass movement to defend the communities with a fighting programme of action including mass leafleteering, press campaign, rolling protest marches, occupations and strikes

Resolving the housing question: Working People’s Socialist Solution

More importantly, for working people and the poor in struggle against community demolitions and other attacks, the central challenge is the task of building a revolutionary working people’s party, which can take power and put the enormous resources of society under collective ownership and embark on a massive housing programme that can meet the housing needs of all. This will be undertaken through a mass public works to put every employable person into decent jobs with a decent wage. This is clearly in contrast to the nightmarish scenario under the current anti-poor capitalist regimes that place profit before the interest of the working people. While a genuine democratic socialist government would have to rebuild the outdated and match-box buildings in the slums, ghettos and poor communities with modern environmental-friendly houses, this will be through the democratic involvement of the residents in the communities.

Working class and community activists organized around the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) are preoccupied with this task and strive to link the struggles breaking out in the communities against demolitions, police brutality and for improved living conditions with the need to organize a socialist political alternative to all the anti-poor and pro-rich parties. If elected into political office, socialist candidates will take the wage of an average skilled worker and put the rest back into the community and mass working class movements with rank-and-file members democratically determining how their resources should be spent.