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For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

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Socialist Democracy Nov - Dec 2005



A Manifestation of Societal Rot

By Sankara O.S.B

The Nigerian army and the police for the umpteenth time on Tuesday, October 4, 2005 engaged in violent clashes at the popular Ojuelegba area of Lagos. The clash which the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, described as "a minor clash in the enforcement of the law" left in its wake, five civilians dead and scores of innocent citizens injured while properties worth over N3.5 billion were destroyed. The clash also rendered tens homeless as a result of the burning of buildings within the Ojuelegba police barracks.

The Army-Police clash came up against the backdrop of various violent clashes that have rocked Lagos and other parts of the country in the recent past. Notable amongst such clashes are the Army/Agbero/Area Boys clash at Oshodi in May, the OPC/NURTW clash at Iyana-ipaja among others. These clashes recorded varying degrees of damages including loss of lives and destruction of properties.

These clashes, including the intermittent ethnic and religious clashes all over the country, reveal the large scale unease and discontentment arising from mass poverty and impoverishment of the mass majority of ordinary Nigerians whose hope of a better life since 1999 has been dashed by the Obasanjo regime commitment to IMF/World Bank neo-liberal policies of privatisation, commercialisation, retrenchment and intermittent increases in the prices of petroleum products amongst others.

The immediate reaction to the incident from members of the public was a veiled expression of joy at the fact that the military boys had woken up to help give a more than deserved beating to the police for their unending harassment and forced collection of bribes from members of the public. This joy, however does not in any way resolve any of the contradictions that make the police one of the most hated of jobs, at the same time the most difficult, which would have been most unattractive to many, if not for the state of mass unemployment which leaves many with no option whatsoever.

Men and women of the Nigerian police, many of whom have to pay their way to join the police, trained under one of the most inhuman conditions imaginable, as attested to by the state of the police colleges and after training, buy their own uniform, boots, writing materials, torchlight and all other working tools. It would amount to asking too much to expect anything less than their bestial treatment of ordinary Nigerians. Added to the above is the fact that they have to go on for upward of four to six months before they can earn their first monthly salary, which amounts to nothing at the end of the day. Therefore, the root of the endemic bribery and corruption synonymous to the police is a product of a faulty system that thrives on the impoverishment of the vast ordinary working people for the benefit of the thieving minority ruling elite.

To worsen the matter, the Nigerian State has refused to recognise the right of the police to organise under a democratic union, so that they can legally take on their employer - the government- on the need to improve their appalling working condition, even to the point of embarking on a strike.

Left with no option of employing the constitutional right to organise and associate with themselves under a democratic union, an average Nigerian Policeman or woman turns round to employ the advantage of his or her gun and uniform to meet some basic needs, even if it means harassing and shooting innocent Nigerians, like the Apo Six Killing reveals. The police rent their guns out to robbers, embark on illegal raid and arrest of innocent Nigerians with the intention of extorting bail money before setting them free etc.

The arrest, trial and jocular sentencing of Tafa Balogun to six month imprisonment for 17 billion naira stolen public funds meant for the Nigerian police again brings to the fore the tacit endorsement by the ruling elite of corruption by the police big hierarchy, who criminally loot the resources of the police force.

The working conditions for the rank and file of soldiers, the navy and air force, while slightly different from that of the police is not necessarily better off. these personnel also suffer the very pains that afflict poor working masses, a consequence of the continued years of attack of neo-liberalism which has meant that education, food, electricity, water and now accommodation, which in the past were guaranteed, among a host other basic needs, have to be exorbitantly paid for from the meagre and irregular wages that has been eaten deep by the rate of inflation.

The top echelon of the military, like their counterparts in the police, are well catered for by the ruling elite in Nigeria, especially with the long years of military rule in Nigeria. Like in the past, the lot of the rank and file of the military would necessarily be better off, if even a coup were to be effected to overthrow the present civilian regime of Obasanjo, which was consciously instituted by the top echelon of the military in 1999. The rank and file of the military, like in every other coup, would only be an instrument to be used and dumped, even if there were to be a successful change of government.

If anything, the high incidence of police/military clashes has only made clearer that the entirety of the ruling elite, both the civilian and military, who all subscribe to neo liberalism have failed and needed to be booted out of the corridors of governance. For this to be accomplished, the rank and file of the police, the army, the navy and the air force most correctly see themselves as a part of the working masses, and collectively work in unison to bring an end to the rule of capital and its regime of neo liberalism and replace it with a workers, poor farmers, and rank and file soldiers/police government that will commonly owned democratically control and manage the resources of society to meet the needs of all, instead of the profit motive of capital as it presently obtains.




Socialist Democracy Nov - Dec 2005