Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Pro-Biafra Protest again repressed

Pro-Biafra Protest again repressed

DSM member, Comrade Chinedu Agbebire, who was at the protest in Aba Abia State, brings the following eye-witness account as well as comments on the movement’s strenght, limitations and the way forward.

On January 18th, 2016, thousands trooped out in Aba Abia State, South East Nigeria, in answer to the call of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other pro-Biafra organizations to protest the detention of Nnamdi Kanu and demand a Sovereign state of Biafra.

Nnamdi Kanu, who is the leader of IPOB and the director of Radio Biafra, was arrested on the 14th day of October, 2015 and ever since has been in detention, first at the Department of State Security (DSS) custody and now in Kuje prison. His continued detention is in a clear violation of several court orders granting him bail.

As early as 6:30am, an enthusiastic crowd had gathered at the National High School, Port-Harcourt Road, Aba, singing and dancing to solidarity songs. Government repressive agents were not missing in the picture. Armed with different sort of weapons, they had only come to crush the peaceful protest. Even before the protest officially kicked-off, they had commenced unwarranted and roadside arrest of perceived pro-Biafran protesters right from the convergence point.

The protest march commenced at 10:30 am, four hours after. The circulation of the leaflet of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) titled “Biafra: Self-determination Is an Inalienable Right! … But Capitalism Must Be Defeated” attracted many of the protesters who were amazed at such circulation. To them, circulation of leaflets was a new trend given the fact that this was the first time a group would distribute leaflets in their protests.

It was not too long after the commencement of the procession that security operatives descended heavily on the protesters at Asa Road with the firing of teargas and random shooting. Meanwhile the number of protesters had increased by now as people kept trooping in as the march progressed. The shooting only disorganized the procession for awhile as people quickly re-organized and continued the march.

The peaceful protest however turned sour on approaching Saint Michel by York where two persons were gunned down by security operatives. At this moment, people had started running for dear life as the police went on arresting and unleashing terror on the people. It was later learned that some groups of protesters defied the security operatives’ threat and proceeded to Ariaria International market where there were more clashes with the security operatives. In the process, a good number of protesters sustained injuries while one more person was gunned down by the trigger-happy security operatives.

The militarization of the protest, unwarranted arrest, killing and clampdown by Nigeria security operatives is counterproductive and condemnable. This has the tendency to provoke some people to begin to think of taking up arms as the best way to confront the Nigerian state and achieve the objective of a Sovereign State of Biafra.

From December 2, 2015 till now, about 26 people have been brazenly murdered across South Eastern states by Nigeria security operatives in a bid to crush the pro-Biafra protest. In all, the Onitsha Head Bridge protest recorded the highest loss of lives with 9 people felled by police bullets in that single protest. Contrary to the expectation of Nigeria government, many more people are joining the protest every moment.

The turnout at the protest which numbered between 10,000 and 15,000 people is significant. To many of these people, a sovereign state of Biafra means an end to their poverty, deprivation and want.

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) supports the right to self-determination up to secession if it is the democratic resolve of the people as well as the call for an unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu and other detained pro-Biafran agitators. However, we are also quick to warn that mere agitation for self-determination or secession from Nigeria government is incomplete without linking it with a call to an end to capitalism – the chief culprit of inequality and poverty in society. Only a democratic socialist system based on common ownership of the means of production and equitable distribution of wealth and resources can meet the needs and yearnings of the working class and poor masses. This perspective can be authenticated given the impoverishment of the South East by the Igbo ruling elites in collaboration with their accomplices across the federation. In this case therefore, if Biafra is achieved without an end to capitalism, it would only mean that the same corrupt elites that are responsible for the present ruination of Nigeria will grab the young Igbo nation and continue the ruination.

Besides, hate speech as part of propaganda adopted by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is wrong and unacceptable. It is important to understand that all the oppressed classes in Nigeria and indeed in the whole world are one and the same. An average Igbo man in Aba is not different from an average Hausa man in Daura. The only apparent artificial difference is the geographical borders between them. All ordinary Nigerians irrespective of tribe and religion are victims of capitalism. It is therefore wrong to hold a poor Hausa man responsible for the deprivation of the Igbo man. This understanding is one of the reasons why all the oppressed people in Nigeria must be ready to rise in solidarity to the cause of their fellow brothers and sisters in need of class solidarity regardless of ethnic, cultural and religious differences.