Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Comrade Rotimi Sankore (June 5, 1968 – April 12, 2024): A Conscientious Defender of the Oppressed

The name of Rotimi Sankore is engrained on the marble of history of struggle against military dictatorship in Nigeria. The historic July 5-7, 1993 mass protests, following the annulment of June 12 election by Ibrahim Babangida junta, was a catalyst in the struggle. Millions were on the streets calling for an end to the military rule. Sankore contributed to making this happened. Together with Kola Odetola, he canvassed the proposal of Labour Militant (now Democratic Socialist Movement, DSM) for mass action to confront the military at a meeting of the Campaign for Democracy (CD). The fire of mass resistance set in July 1993 would consume Babangida in August as he had to leave office against his wish while the heat was kept on until the eventual exit of the military in 1999.

The above demonstrates the indelible contribution of the man who breathed his last on April 12, 2024 after a period of illness.

The return to civilian rule has not meant an enthronement of democratic ideals. So, the struggle has continued. In and outside Nigeria, Sankore devoted himself to contributing to the building of democratic rights in the country. This is not only by articulating measures for credible elections but also through fighting for policies which are people-centred. He fastidiously deployed facts and figure as a weapon to arm critical voices in the engagement of government on policies.

However, Sankore appreciated the limitation of capitalism especially in a neo-colonial country like Nigeria with a primitive ruling elite to embrace or implement the measures he articulated. Of course, there could be incremental changes but nothing fundamentally that could qualitatively transform the lives of ordinary people, for instance by guaranteeing full access to free quality public education and health care. Nonetheless, such efforts at promoting developmental issues are not wasted. It helps educate and mobilise the masses around what should be the responsibility and role of the government, and there is possibility of pressure to build up therefrom making the government to grant some concession. The only problem is taking such a development work within the confines of capitalism as a model to transform the society and guarantee the need for the vast majority.

Sankore believed in the need for socialist change; hence, his membership, since his student days, of the DSM which is a revolutionary organization. Therefore, he was not just a development expert. He appreciated the need to build a working people political alternative to contest and win power in order to use human and material resources of the country for the need of the vast majority. He was part of the decision of the DSM in 2012 to initiate the formation of a party as a striking example of such an alternative following the failure of the labour movement to build one. However, while he supported basing the party on socialist programs, he argued that its name should not overtly bear socialism as a tactics to make it more appealing to wider layers. After discussion a majority of comrades strongly held that we should not in any way hide the socialist identity, hence the formation of Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN). The party was registered in 2018 following a protracted legal and political struggle. During the 2019 electioneering, Sankore used his position in Nigeria Info FM to provide a big platform for the party to reach out to the public with its socialist alternative to the different anti-poor capitalist policies of the big parties.

Sankore also made an important contribution to the development of the DSM’s political activity amongst women. As a revolutionary socialist organization, we recognize the special oppression of women; indeed, a double oppression. First, oppression as female gender in a patriarchal society and second, as part of oppression of working-class people under the profit-first capitalist system. Therefore, right from its inception, women’s issues have been an integral part of our program and perspective. However, it is to the credit of Sankore that we set up a women’s wing for the first time in the year 2000 to coordinate our campaign on women’s issues which is linked to class struggle against exploitation and oppression under capitalism.

By and large, the theme of the memorial event to celebrate his life, Class Struggle and Multidimensional Interventions, aptly captures the way he pursued his dedication to the cause of humanity.

Comrade Rotimi Sankore Lives on.

Peluola  Adewale

For Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)