Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



By Dagga Tolar

One of the consequences of the monumental failure of governance in Nigeria is the rise of the fundamentalist variant of religion. The adherents seek spiritual solace to all the material issues confronting them which the temporal powers have demonstrated to all that they are incapable of resolving.

This together with the funding of the sect by former Borno State Governor Modu Sheriff and other politicians as a bulwark of support to secure their political ambition gave rise to Boko Haram. This alias in actual fact symbolizes a rejection of not merely “western education”, but also of the ruling elites whose use of their privileged acquisition of western education is one of the means of acquiring power which is used to pile up wealth at the expense of the masses who are condemned to poverty.

Boko Haram has therefore become more known than the sect’s original name which is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad). Since the 30-months civil war that ended in January 1970, the attacks from the Boko Haram is becoming the greatest test and challenge for the Nigerian state, not just with over 5,000 so far killed but also with more than half of that figure coming in 2014, since it began its attack in 2009. Tragically, close to a million persons have been displaced, with some crossing over to neighbouring Cameroun to find refuge.

From being a group of Islamic adherents organizing to claim its right of worship and protesting to exercise that right, Boko Haram has since transformed itself to an organization launching attack on the state to protest the 2009 killing in custody of its founder Yusuf Mohammed, an act of extra judicial state murder, to attacking police station and prisons to free its arrested members, to bombing churches and other targets and institutions of state, kidnapping as the example of the over 200 missing Chibok girls, to the current full scale war for conquest of territories and hoisting flag in full imitation of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The attack and taking over of Mubi in Adamawa and the change of the town’s name to ‘Madinatul Islam’ with a full declaration of Sharia law, followed immediately with the beheading of 2 Muslim clerics and Imams for preaching against Boko Haram and the cutting off of the hands of 10 persons for various act of stealing and pilfering properties of fleeing residents. The well armed invasion backed by rolling armoured tanks explains why this will be a long drawn out war and indeed Abubakar Shekau has said that “in this war there is no going back”.

Boko Haram has become a Frankenstein monster that the capitalist ruling elites are incapable of ending. Barely four weeks after the Nigeria state came out with a statement that it had arrived at a ceasefire with the same group it claimed to have decimated, the same Shekau came out in another video to counter the claim. If anything this demonstrates the desperation of Jonathan-led regime to claim even false accolade as part of its spin doctors charade to win the sympathy of the working masses for its 2015 re-election bid.

If it were possible to employ the oil rich resources of the country to buy off the leadership of Boko Haram and end the insurgency, you can be sure that the ruling elites in Nigeria will long have adopted this means. Indeed as it has now been revealed, the government has been using all possible networks to reach out to the sect, but has been rebuffed. Unlike the Niger Delta militants who were “settled” out of their agitations, it appears Boko Haram has thus far been impervious to such overtures.

The leaders of the Boko Haram can attract a global reach of resources from other networks and Islamic cells with the same agenda. Added to the above is Boko Haram’s ability to build wider support on the basis of a false belief in the idea that the issues of economics and the challenges faced by the working masses can be resolved with a strict adherence to the dictates of Sharia Law. This is without raising the whole question of who controls and owns the means of production, and for what purpose, who decide what is to produce. The conditions of existence of a majority of the working masses have further worsened, quality education has been completely priced out of the reach of commoners. The North is in a far worse situation as it currently has the highest numbers of out of school children in Africa.

An almajiri population stretching into millions of young boys and girls with no education whatsoever, and a massive population of unemployed youths all of this combine to provide a ready-made recruitment channels for the Boko Haram, with promise of fame and spirited illusion of fighting the cause of Allah. Yet this false consciousness in face of the failure of the rule of capital and its neoliberal creed, is for the Boko Haram and such Islamic groupings like the ISIS an ideological counter framework against mis-governance capitalism, even when in reality its mechanism for running society when stripped off its moral code amounts to the same, profit motive. This was an aspect of the Iranian revolution of 1979 when then many saw the idea of an “Islamic republic” as a ‘republic of the poor’. However the religious fundamentalists that captured leadership of the revolution sought to impose a medieval moral code of conduct while at the same time safeguarding the properties of the rich who were prepared to work with the new Islamic regime.

This false perspective is further reinforced by the failure of the leadership of the labour movement to defend the interests of Nigeria’s working class and poor against the ravages of capitalism and the greed of the ruling elites. While not offering a political way-out of the capitalist-induced crisis of mass poverty in the midst of plenty, the labour leadership have also failed to defend the most modest interests of worker, youths and poor to a living wage, gainful employment, public education, health care and shelter. Even when it comes to the blatant corruption of political office holders and other members of the ruling elites, all labour has offered is weak criticism which fails to capture the frustration and anger seething among the poor in society.

Against this background, every attack of Boko Haram against the institutions of the State increasingly resonates in the hearts and minds amongst sections of Nigeria’s poor and alienated youth, a big portion of whom are in the North, and is unfortunately seen by this layer as something worth supporting even if the Sharia ideology is abhorrent. However, there are media reports that the support base of Boko Haram has started dwindling because their murderous activities and barbarism undermine the prospect of mass recruitment. Hence they reportedly resorted to conscription of youths to its ranks.

Only Marxism can in reality put an alternative programme before the working masses that can help undermine the appeal and isolate the religious fundamentalists. A key part of this is the formation of pro-working people political organization that seeks to provide leadership for the struggle of the working masses to resist the attack of the ruling elites on all fronts, organizing to challenge for power and end rule of capital, and have society reorganized to meet the needs of the working masses under a workers farmers and common people government with commanding sectors of the economy nationalized and placed under democratic management and control by the working people

This alongside an end to the imperialist subjugation of Nigeria’s economy will free society from the clutch grip of private profiteers and make available the resources with which to provide the necessary development and infrastructural needs and improve the living conditions of the working masses. Only this socialist arrangement will provide the growth for mass literacy and access to the enormous strides that humanity has made in the field of science, beyond the question of appropriating its by product, usage and consumption. Human beings, especially in neo-colonial Africa, Asia, South America etc., can then begin to avail themselves with all of the knowledge of science rationally take up materialist perception to life, only then can religion in all of its forms begin to gradually become inconsequential. With the working masses no longer needing to look to heavens for their needs to be provided for, groups like Boko Haram will then indeed have no pole of attraction what so ever for the youths and the working masses.


“Boko Haram are better armed and are better motivated than our own troops. Given the present state of affairs, it is absolutely impossible for us to defeat Boko Haram”. This statement by Kashim Shettima, the Governor of Borno state, is not far from the truth. One cannot ignore the fact that the question of corruption and mismanagement of state funds by both past and current regimes and as well as the top echelon of the military made up of Generals (both retired and serving) is to be blamed for the poor state of both hard and soft warfare equipments in the Nigeria’s military. Added to the above is the complete loss of morale among the rank and file – a consequence of worsening living conditions not any different from that of the rest of the working masses. The soldiers do not enjoy adequate insurance. Soldiers and police officers are made to pay for their boots and uniforms. Their dead colleagues are treated as nobodies, and their surviving families practically have nothing to fall back on the death of their bread winner in the course of military assignment.

This is the very reason behind the complete refusal to go to war with bare hands against the Boko Haram who now hold sway in the part of the North East of Nigeria and have taken over some towns.

Instead of attempting to reverse these trends and combat the question of corruption in the military, the Generals have chosen to make scapegoats out of the victims of their corrupt practices. They put 12 soldiers on trial in a mutiny show and sentenced them to death. They are: Cpl David Musa, Cpl Jasper Braidolor, LCpl Yusuf Shuaibu, LCpl Stephen Clement, LCpl Friday Onun, LCpl Igomu Emmanuel, Pte Ifeanyi Alukhagbe, Pte Alao Samuel, Pte Allan Linus, Pte Andrew Ngbede, Pte Nurudeen Ahmed and Pte Amadi Chukwu. What is labelled as mutiny is a legitimate protest by soldiers to express their anger at sighting the bodies of twelve of their colleagues who were ambushed and killed by Boko Haram. They had warned against the possibility of an ambush, but were coerced to adhere to the command dictates of their GOC Major General Ahmadu Mohammed. If the military was democratic, the General would have admitted his error and showed remorse at the fact that his order against the best advice of the rank and file was responsible for the death of these officers.

We in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) outright demand quashing of the death sentence and recall of the soldiers to their posts without a single loss of pay. We at the same time call for the democratisation of the military through the establishment of democratic decision-making organs composed of elected representatives of the rank and file soldiers and other officers to discuss every plan of action. We also call for the immediate halt to the new court martial trial of another set of 97 soldiers for mutiny. The DSM demands improved pay and conditions for all rank and file soldiers as well as the recognition of their rights to form and join a trade union to defend their interests.


The lack of genuine democracy in the army, the anger of the rank and file at the sentencing of their colleagues and the lack of equipments to fight coupled with the fact that an average soldier has no justifiable reason to want to die for a government of thieves and looters are some of the factors that rules out a successful military solution to Boko Haram menace. In fact there is no simple military solution to this menace; as long as the economic, social and political conditions that helped give rise to Boko Haram remain there will always be the possibility of a new version arising. Only by organizing to take their destiny into their own hands can the people free themselves from the terrorism and onslaughts of both Boko Haram and Nigeria’s capitalist ruling elites. As an immediate first step the DSM calls for the formation of armed non-sectarian, multi-ethnic and multi-religious defence committees, whose members are democratically elected and subjected to the control of the people, to maintain security in streets, villages, towns and cities and to also fight to liberate territories already captured by Boko Haram.

The civilian JTF despite its reported bravery is as presently constituted not non-sectarian, democratic and independent. While working people and youth frustrated at the increasing success of Boko Haram and the obvious incapability of the military may harbour illusions in the civilian JTF, socialists must warn that one of the factors that created the Boko Haram monster in the first place was government’s and politician’s penchant for funding groups that appeared to have mass youth followership in order to use these groups to accomplish ulterior political ambitions. By being dependent, funded and armed by the military and government, Civilian JTF risks becoming a force for the perpetration of sectarian violence under the guise of rooting out Boko Haram, its alleged sponsors and supporters. This in itself can create a frightening crisis of ethnic, religious and sectarian bloodletting that can quickly envelope the entire region of the North East and its environs especially in the wake of a Boko Haram retreat from captured territories. Reports have it that civilian JTF members have also carried out extra judicial killings or perceived Boko Haram members as well as intimidation of innocent residents.

What is hurriedly needed in the North East is the rapid building of non-sectarian, democratic and independent mass organisations that can unite the working masses around a programme to fight to defend their communities against Boko Haram’s onslaughts as well to fight to demand provision of social services like public education, healthcare, employment and the rebuilding of public infrastructure. The labour movement, civil society and the pro-people organisations have a role to play in this. The repeated calls by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on the Federal Government to stop Boko Haram and ensure the safety of Nigerians are not enough and directed to the wrong audience. By issuing press statements every time (and now attacks occur daily) Boko Haram commits new atrocities, the NLC is trying to create the impression that it is actually actively responding to this crisis. The truth actually is to the contrary. So far, the response of the labour movement has been incoherent and insufficient. The hope the NLC and TUC continue to invest in the ability of the military and government to stem the tide of insurgency has become embarrassingly untenable, it is time that labour acted.

A coherent programme that can offer a way out to the working masses and youth of not just the North East but the entire country is urgently needed. The DSM earnestly calls for an urgent conference of the labour movement to discuss specifically what should be the immediate response of the working class to the Boko Haram menace and what should be done now to defeat it.

The menace of Boko Haram is more of a question of the failure of governance and can only be better addressed militarily only as a part of development plan to develop society and provide for all of the needs of the working masses, both in North East and indeed in the whole of the north and the rest part of Nigeria. This programme of meeting the needs of the working masses in the areas of education, health, housing, roads, jobs, etc are not issues on the agenda of the Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as it seek to be reelected in the coming 2015 General Elections. Nor can the All Progressive Congress (APC) be trusted with this agenda. This explain why the DSM has taken the step to commence the registration of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), side by side with a call for labour movement to form and build a mass working peoples’ party, so as to build a movement for an alternative political platform through which the working masses can organize to challenge for power and reorganize society to meet the needs of the vast majority.