Boko Haram and the West’s InterventionArticles/Opinion, Latest News Monday, May 12th, 2014
By Kola Ibrahim
The kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok town some three weeks ago has drawn widespread global opprobrium. Instinctively, Nigerians and people globally, pricked by human feeling, have seen the latest barbaric onslaught on poor Nigerians by the murderous Boko Haram terrorists, as an assault on human dignity and safety. To most people, this terror sect has reached its crescendo with the abduction of innocent schoolgirls.
Jonathan Government’s Stunning Callousness
Ironically, the Nigerian government, led by Goodluck Jonathan did not see reason why it must be bothered about kidnap of schoolgirls. For it, the logic that this is not the first time justifies its lukewarm attitude. This explains government’s careless attitude to the plight of the pupils and their parents. Even at the peak of the outcry by the parents to the government, the Jonathan government did not issue a single statement, at least to console the parents. On the contrary, it exploited the issue for its political interests. For instance, while the government did not sanction senior security chiefs who misled the nation by claiming that most of the schoolgirls have been rescued, many protesters, especially in the north were illegally arrested.
Tragic-comically, the president’s wife, Patience Jonathan, whose husband could hardly lift a finger for two weeks, was quick to issue ‘order’ for the immediate release of the schoolgirls. She even arranged a tear-shedding session with journalists. Interestingly, the following day, two of the selfless and concerned parents, leading the campaign for the release of the girls were clamped into detention, because they ‘embarrassed’ the government of the madam’s husband.
While Mrs. Jonathan was performing her own theater somewhere, the President, at a media chat, was busy asking journalists to help him find the missing girls, because they (the journalists) know more about security and defence of the country than the Commander-in-Chief does! The same president that budgeted close to a trillion naira for defence last year was asking journalists to guide him on national security! Prior to this time, the President, in a show of pure callousness attended a political rally in Kano dancing, while in the nation’s capital city, Abuja, more than seventy lives were burning to ashes in a terrorist bomb blast. Surely, Nigeria is in deep shit, when it comes to governance.
While Nigeria’s military has been declared weak and repressive, the reality is that the atrocities and rottenness in the military reflects the neo-colonial character of Nigeria’s political class. For instance, while close to a trillion naira was budgeted for defence in 2013, the rank-and-file soldiers, especially those engaged in the anti-terror campaigns, are living in horrible conditions, improvising to feed. This has led to low morale, desertions and frustration. Money meant for welfare of foot soldiers and provision of needed logistics for the soldiers, have been looted. This has led to military, in the absence of adequate logistics and infrastructures for intelligence and movement, having heavy casualties. It is therefore not accidental the indiscriminate killings being carried out by soldiers in response to unstoppable attacks from terrorists.
Added to this is the neo-colonial nature of Nigeria’s armed forces, which is tailored towards defending the rich few in power and big business. For instance, while soldiers drafted to secure multinational oil installations and government buildings are well kitted, those fighting terrorists in the north are in rags. According to a report, a quarter of police force undertakes private security services to handful of big businesses and politicians. In 2012, one third of around 300 billion naira budgeted for internal security went to the Office of the National Security Adviser domiciled in the presidency but with just about a hundred staff; while the police force, with over 400, 000 men, got N200 billion naira. This meant a police station collecting less than N2, 000 a month for logistics and operations. All this has meant an armed forces existing at the fringes of civilization, which has further isolated it from the communities and the society. Therefore, it is easier for the police to arrest harmless and helpless protesters than contend with armed criminals.
Imperialist Intervention: An Assured Failure
Consequent upon these official shenanigans, not a few people will be ready to accept any means possible to rescue these kids and reunite them with their parents. However, in our quest for immediate release of the girls and end to terrorism, we must spare thought for the kind of solutions on offer. The current messianic status being accorded western imperialist governments of the United States (US), Britain, France, etc as being expressed in major newspapers in the country and internationally, is misplaced and indeed dangerous. Of course, behind the latest imperialist intervention is Nigeria’s bankrupt, corrupt capitalist ruling class, through is rotten politics, which has failed Nigerians in all areas. While the western governments claim that only a few military and intelligence forces will be involved, the reality is that the country is in a protracted foreign military hostage.
The US and other western government’s military involvement in the Boko Haram issue will not guarantee peace in the northern Nigeria or elsewhere. In fact, it has the capacity to draw in stronger forces of global terrorist network into Nigeria, as the country will be seen as another outpost of western imperialism against terrorism (a seed capitalist imperialism sowed in the first instance). Whether the Chibok schoolgirls are found or not, the US and western imperialist militaries will use the opportunity to seek a permanent base in the country, and play more roles in the internal security policies. With this will be deeper involvement of western imperialism in the politics and economics of the country. He, who controls the defence, dictates the pace of the politics and by extension controls the economy. A review of western media editorials and reports suggests that there is a conclusion being drawn that Nigeria is a failed state, and the government is incapable of addressing not just security situation but also the problems confronting the polity. This is a background to placing western capitalist governments as savior of Nigeria.
Already, western militaries, with US African Command in the lead, are playing decisive roles in the Gulf of Guinea, with the possibility of building military bases in the coast of Nigeria around Lagos. This is being done under the guise of combating oil bunkering and piracy. The Nigerian government, under Goodluck Jonathan, has already surrendered Nigeria’s coastal defence to the western imperialist forces. With the latest involvement in northern Nigeria, in the name of fighting terrorism, the cycle may be complete. Moreover, the US drone bases have been situated in Niger, which borders Nigeria, while France has presence in Mali and other francophone African countries. There have also been previous attempts to set up a drone base in Nigeria without success. Just few years ago, Nigerians rejected citing of US African Military Command (AFRICOM) base in Nigeria; but today, western militaries may have achieved more than they dreamt. Nigerians must reject western military intervention.
The #BringBackOurGirls Campaign
The current social media campaign, especially the #BringBackOurGirls twitter campaign, while playing vital role in drawing international attention to the terror campaign in Nigeria, without clear background to the underlining causes, may be feeding the imperialists’ interventions with confidence and authority. A one-line slogan hides a lot of information about the role of western governments in the germination and growth of terrorism itself. It, on the contrary, makes open-ended what kinds of solutions are needed to rout terrorism, thus leaving the initiative to the imperialist forces. A parallel can be drawn with the #Kony2012 campaign, which allowed imperialist forces to invade not just Uganda, but other countries like DR Congo, South Sudan, etc under the guise of finding Joseph Kony of the LRA (the Uganda rebel group, which has unleashed murderous terror on children and women).
While Kony has not been found, the US and other European military forces are still domiciled in the continent. With this, the US AFRICOM has been able to secure semi-permanent bases in many east African countries. In other parts of the continent, especially North Africa, US and European forces, under the guise of fighting terrorism and stopping genocide have secured bases in such countries as Mali, Djibouti, Niger, CAR, etc. While terrorism, genocide and piracy have not stopped, western forces are still present in Africa than ever. Therefore, the current social media campaigns, which may lose steam without clear mass mobilization campaign, need a class-conscious analysis to determine what solutions are needed and who should provide them. It is surprising that discredited capitalist politicians like David Cameron (who wanted to wage bloody war against Syria), Gordon Brown, Tony Blair (who, alongside George Bush, was the architect of the imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq), Hillary Clinton, etc are now using the campaign to rescue the girls as a whitewashing and image laundering tool. Moreover, this campaign, without a clear-cut slogans as the tendency to gloss over worse atrocities being perpetrated. For instance, just few days ago, over 300 lives were again wasted in Gamboru Ngala, in Borno State. This definitely cannot be covered by a #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
Western Imperialism’s Bloody Records
While we must reject terrorism, and demand immediate release of Chibok schoolgirls, and those teenage girls previously kidnapped, by Boko Haram, we must understand that western military interventions cannot achieve short- and long-term peace. In fact, they can instigate worse security situations, not to mention turning the country into western military outpost. It should be pointed out that western military interventions, ‘humanitarian’ or otherwise, have only engendered worse crises. For instance, in Afghanistan and Iraq, chaos and anarchy wrought by US-led invasions of these countries have made living in these countries nightmare. US military intervention in Somalia has not made the country better, but ungovernable for two decades.
Western imperialisms have been fingered in the arming of Islamist rebels, linked to terrorist organizations, in the Syrian conflict. In Egypt, state murder of thousands of people and detentions of several more, have not stopped the Obama government from sending apache helicopters to the military regime. In Ukraine, the US- and other European governments- supported fascist government has plunged the country into deeper crises. Just two weeks ago, western imperialism-supported Right Sector and other fascist groups killed scores in Odessa, in southern Ukraine. Indeed, western imperialism has trail of blood behind it. Today’s Al Qaeda terrorist group is a creation of US imperialism. It was the US that armed Osama bin Ladin and his Mujahidden brothers in an attempt to defeat the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan in the later 1970s. Therefore, western imperialist interventions cannot solve the problem of terrorism in the short or long run. It is only a recipe for greater crisis.
This is in addition to gross human rights abuses this will engender. For instance, while one of the excuses of western imperialism in Afghanistan is the need for women liberation, the country, thirteen years after, has seen further degeneration of women’s conditions with abduction, rape, etc being the order of the day. In Nigeria, half of over 1500 deaths in the first quarter of this year alone in the terrorist campaign were attributed to Nigerian military’s indiscriminate killing, with many of those killed by the military suspected to be innocent people or detainees awaiting trials, according to Amnesty International report. Should we forget that the same Nigerian military razed a whole town sometimes last year, killing hundreds of people (the Baga massacre). Indeed, western intervention can only worsen these situations. The drone killings in Afghanistan and Pakistan are clear examples.
The western governments’ rush for ‘support’ to free the abducted schoolgirls has more of shock doctrine to it than genuine or altruistic concerns. Several hundreds of lives have been wasted by the murderous terrorists in Nigeria, with western imperialisms lazily issuing statements. In fact, the French government was rumoured to have paid ransom, possibly through the Cameroonian government more than a year ago, to seek release of its citizens. While this was disclaimed by French government, the question of how the captives were released without paying ransom, while other foreign captives previously captured (including Italians and Britons) were killed by the terrorists is yet to be explained. Possibly the ransom, paid in hard currency, oiled the terrorists’ murderous campaigns.
Not even when UN office in Abuja in 2011 was bombed did western imperialisms show interest in counter-terrorism in Nigeria. Therefore, the current rush to ‘help’ Nigeria is suspect. While the global outcry played a role in forcing western imperialisms to show concern, the reality is that this is possibly another chapter in the shock doctrine of western imperialisms. Shock doctrine is a theory in which capitalist big brothers use calamities and adverse conditions, such as natural disasters, wars, terrorist attacks, coups, etc, to drive through imperialist projects and pro-big business neo-liberal policies, by exploiting the desperate conditions of people.
Nigeria’s Political Economy seduces military interests
Africa’s political economy is vital for global capitalism. Africa is home to important minerals, not to mention its vast agricultural resources. Added to this is the estimated one-billion population, which is a huge potential market. A ten-percent middle class population out of one billion people is a huge market for global capitalism. It is not accidental that Africa has become destination for luxury goods – private jets, wines, etc, even when poverty is growing rapidly and digging deeper in the continent.
Nigeria, now the biggest economy in the continent, and the 26th in the world is an important factor in all this. Aside the huge oil and gas resources and other minerals available in the country, Nigeria is also a huge market for global products. The exponential rise in telecoms markets and the rise in private jet ownership (and other luxury goods) show the role of Nigeria in African capitalist market. This is even more so as global capitalism is undergoing historic decline, with the turbo-growth in China’s economy unraveling. Global capitalist interests in Africa is definitely not meant to develop Nigeria’s, nay Africa’s economy, but to further plunder them by enforcing neo-liberalist economic policies that will throw more people to the heap of poverty, while providing more wealth for global capitalism.
Added to this is the contagious effect a Nigerian crisis will have for the rest of Africa, especially west and north Africa. For every seven Africans, there is a Nigerian. A political crisis in Nigeria will have social, political and economic repercussions in the rest of Africa, especially west and north Africa. For instance, serious political and social crises, leading to refugee movement to other African countries can upset the precarious situations in these countries. Currently, according to UNHCR, over 250, 000 have been internally displaced, while as much as 60, 000 (22, 000 of which are Nigerians, and the rest foreigners, mostly Nigeriens, who came to Nigeria for greener pasture) have fled into neighbouring countries like Cameroun, Chad and Niger, as a result of the terror campaign in the northern Nigeria. What will happen if this population is doubled or tripled is a million dollar question. All of these, among other factors, have made Nigeria a focal point in western imperialisms’ policies on Africa.
According to a report in UK Guardian, (09 May, 2014) “although Boko Haram’s abduction of school girls has thrust the violence in Nigeria onto the world diplomatic state, the crisis has been high on Washington’s African agenda for several years. But even before that, the most populous country in Africa was a centerpiece of US security policy as the continent’s largest oil producer.” While the journal did not state how many years “the crisis has been high on Washington’s African agenda”, it however mentioned the fact that a war college in Pennysylvania, US had staged a war game “in which the Nigerian government is on the brink of collapse and the US intervenes to protect the oil supply”.
It is no accident that western imperialism played role in the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as president, with the former US Assistant Secretary for Africa, Johnnie Carson expressing US interests in the 2011 elections: security of oil and gas investments in the Niger Delta. Carson even visited retired top military autocrats like Babangida to resolve the disagreements among capitalist politicians in the run up to the 2011 elections. Therefore, the current ‘sudden’ interests in Nigeria’s terrorism are an attempt to deepen interests in the country’s political economy. There are newspapers reports that the western forces will stay beyond 2015. According to local Punch newspaper, quoting a US security source, “the American and other foreign troops are expected to remain in the country till after the 2015 elections. The mission is to sort out the issue of terrorism in the country.” Also, the local Guardian newspaper, quoting another security source, stated that the tenure of the US forces will only be determined when they arrive.
By helping to find the schoolgirls, western imperialisms will become an important factor in the counter-terrorism policy of the government, and the overall defence system of Nigeria. On the contrary, if the girls are not found, it will justify protracted involvement in Nigeria’s internal security. Already, according to the UK Guardian, the British foreign policy experts and politicians are discussing using the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle, a 2005 principle agreed to at the UN, which has been used by imperialism for predatory interventions in Darfur, Libya, Yemen, Mali, etc. Also, some sections of US security and diplomatic corps are considering the Yemen option. This means having unfettered right to locate and destroy enemies (potential and real), using lethal weapons including drones, without approval or oversight from local government. It will also involve control of a country’s intelligence network, which will mean direct profiling of citizens. Why these may not be on immediate agenda, they are open options depending on how far western imperialisms are allowed by Nigerians. For instance, without strong opposition from the working people, western imperialism will be mired in deeper engagement with terrorists, not only in Nigeria but throughout the continent, using Nigeria as a launch pad.
2015, the horrible prospect and the oily factor
As 2015 elections draw nearer and the crisis within the capitalist political class get deeper, the presence of western military forces to ‘counter’ terrorism will be a veritable tool to play active role in the politics of who gets what. For instance, the question of ensuring political stability as a factor for fighting terrorism is a potent tool for western forces to determine the pace of Nigeria’s politics. This is more so that the 2015 elections portend greater crisis for the country. The current Jonathan government is totally discredited based on its monumental failure, cluelessness and unprecedented corruption. The working and poor masses cannot wait a single day to send the government packing. However, the alternative of the opposition party, especially with its presidential candidate coming from the far northern part of the country will also pose another challenge for not just the ruling class in Nigeria, but also for imperialism.
In 2011, the West supported Jonathan to stabilize oil exploitation, but on the basis of the glaring failure of the administration, coupled with its failure to curtail terror campaigns, the western governments are finding it difficult to openly associate with the regime. On the other hand, the choice of the opposition, especially with a Muhammadu Buhari candidature, aside not necessarily being able to resolve the Boko Haram conundrum, can renew militant campaign in the Niger Delta. While the opposition capitalist politicians are relying on the failure of the Jonathan regime, especially its inability to curb terrorist campaigns, as a tool to seek power, the Jonathan regime is aiming to use Niger Delta as a pawn to get western imperialism’s support. The working masses, without a clear-cut socialist or working class political alternative will be divided along this line. For the West, it is not a straightforward question.
Jonathan government, as a way of getting local support, financial and strategic, is using oil to woo local supporters and blackmail western imperialism for support. This has meant lucrative oil blocks being given to local middlemen, as against previous arrangement where western oil companies corner most of the juicy blocks. Of course, the local middlemen rely on international finance capital and big multinational oil companies, as partners and funders, as a result of the weakness of the Nigeria’s capitalist class. However, the idea that western oil corporations will have to pay more money – albeit to local middlemen serving as front for political forces – in order to get greater access to Nigeria’s oil and gas sector is clearly unsavory. However, the alternative of the opposition is neither cheery. The fact that many of the opposition politicians and big business partners, who have been sidelined from playing central role in the oil and gas sector, will want to redefine the existing arrangement, is a major disincentive for western governments. The power sector, where local capitalists are well favoured as middlemen, with big multinational corporations playing supportive and technical roles in the privatization spree, follow the same pattern.
Therefore, the 2015 elections is an important factor for western imperialism as far as Nigeria’s political economy is concerned. The latest involvement of western forces (and of course the mad rush to intervene in the abduction saga) fits into the calculation properly. Therefore, the idea of using military coup – if all other methods prove abortive – to resolve issues as 2015 elections draw closer, is a live question. Of course, because of general weakness and failure of Nigeria’s armed forces, coupled with the rotten history of military rule, there will be overwhelming opposition to military rule. However, the question of further degeneration of political, social, economic and security situations, may create a desperate situation that military rule, while may not be attractive, may be accommodated by a section of not just the political class but even of the working class – in the absence of a clear-cut working class alternative and platform. The fatalistic manner in which the western intervention was accommodated gives a glimpse of this. However, as a result of the divisive (north-south) tendency within the military itself, resulting in high level of mistrust within its top hierarchy, military rule can further disintegrate the country. For the working class and the poor people, the spectre of a military coup or disintegration is a terrible omen, as either of these can only accentuate to stratospheric degree, the misery and suffering faced by the working and poor people. The society will only be thrown back.
This therefore raises the question of what alternatives are left for the working people to counter terrorism. Of course, there are no quick-fix solutions to the problem of terrorism in Nigeria, but we must know that attempt to use western imperialist intervention as solution can only generate worse crises, politically, socially and economically. Ending terrorism in Nigeria, nay in the world, require the working and poor people globally organizing independent mass movements to defeat terrorism.
Rise of Boko Haram
This is because, terrorism itself is a product of poverty, injustice, inequality and oppression, which are what capitalism offers to the majority. For instance, the seed of current wave of ultra-right Islamist groups like Boko Haram, was sown in the early 2000s, when the US and its western allies launched wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, and carried out massive crackdown on Muslims, and democratic rights of people globally. This rather than curb terrorism only drove more people, especially young people to the hands of radical rightwing and religious tendencies. In Nigeria, the bankruptcy and treachery of the neo-colonial political forces could only worsen the case here. For instance, in an attempt by various sections of the rent-seeking political class to hold stake in the national cake in the new civilian political dispensation, the northern ruling elites came with the pawn of Shari’a as the main jurisprudential authority in the north. This was not meant to ‘cleanse’ the society of ‘evil’ as they claimed, but to force themselves into reckoning, having lost political power to their southern colleagues. This action, coupled with the global rise in religious fundamentalism, could only breed a new generation of religious fanatics.
While the northern ruling elites tried to bamboozle their populace with Shari’a, the wealth accruing to the region was creamed off by the elites, while they participated in the plundering of national wealth at the centre. This created a rapidly growing layer of disenchanted youths, many of whom are jobless, or could hardly make ends meet with their backbreaking but poorly remunerated jobs. In the absence of a national working class platform, the anger against the system was diverted to divisive tendencies, one of which is religious fundamentalism. Thus, Boko Haram (actually named by its members as Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, i.e. People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad), which was born around 2002, just like many other right-wing populist religious tendencies, fed on this situation, by campaigning against ostentatious lifestyles and condemning poverty of the rich. They were calling for stricter religious practices, ostensibly through enforcement, to cleanse the society. To them, the political elites have become renegades; therefore, stronger religious practices are needed.
On the other hand, the leaders of these religious sects, looking for influences and wealth, became pawn in the chessboards of politicians. Politicians, having seen the popular base of these religious sects, tried to curtail and exploit them for political ends. Thus, there were attempts to co-opt and assimilate them. For instance, in Borno, religious sects were used for elections, while their leaders were co-opted into the government. During theAli Modu Sherrif administration in northern state of Borno (2003-211), a patron of Boko Haram, who was later murdered by the military during crackdown in 2009, was made a Commissioner for Religious Affairs. In Kano State, under the Ibrahim Shekarau administration, religious sects were incorporated into the local group of para-military law enforcement agency for Shari’a. In fact, many northern state governments were reported to be paying popular religious groups subventions.
After elections, many of the religious groups started losing government and politicians’ patronage. By 2009, the Boko Haram, which was a creation of the politicians, have developed more radical followers, who were posing direct danger to the state, with their open anti-state and hate campaigns against non-supporters and sometimes violent activities, that usually led to skirmishes with the state. One of such skirmishes, where the group was disallowed from undertaking some activities, led to the burning of churches, government buildings and killing of about 20 persons by the Muhammed Yussuf-led Boko Haram. In response, the military, acting under directive from the then president, Umaru Yar’Adua, himself a northerner, undertook what could be termed genocide – killing as much as 700 people in Borno State. Foreign media, such as Al Jazeera, screened the footage of a horrible scenario in which scores of people, who were neither investigated nor prosecuted were lined up in the streets and shot dead by soldiers. The leader of the group himself, Muhammed Yussuf, was summarily executed by the police.
This actually was the turning point in the rise of the sect. As against a group that was campaigning for stricter religious practices, to a group that was campaigning for an Islamic state, Boko Haram developed into a dreaded and blood-sucking group. As against a group comprising young men who felt socially neglected, the sect developed into a clearly retaliatory and revengeful octopus. It was thus easier for the group to find soul mates across borders, who are also seeking blood. As against the triumphalism of the Yar’Adua government when there was the group was repressed in 2009, well over 4, 000 lives have been wasted by the terror campaign of the group, and its splinter group, Ansaru, since then.
Not to be left out is the fact that the period of the rise of this sect and its stronger hate doctrines coincided with the growing pauperization and suffering in the midst of unprecedented wealth. By 2009, Nigeria has earned nothing less than $300 billion from oil, yet joblessness, poverty and illiteracy were the order of the day, especially in the north. For instance, in 2012, about eighty percent of young people in Borno State, the cradle and base of Boko Haram, have no job, while poverty, put at over eighty percent in the same state, was the highest in the country. The sight of exotic mansion and cars of few rich by young people, who come from poor families that live at the fringes, can only generate social crisis. As against the 1970s and early 1980s when there were functional industries in the north, the emergence of civil rule since 1999 has meant greater deindustrialization, with over 800 factories reported to have closed down, in the country. The old glory of the north – textile industry, has been decimated. Infrastructures like railway, that linked many northern and southern states, and provided jobs for thousands of families, have been run aground. Global finance capital-instigated neo-liberal policies of privatization, trade liberalization, deregulation, commercialization, which has ensure transfer of wealth from the poor to the super-rich locally and internationally, have destroyed the living standards of the majority. It is thus no accident that northern cities like Maiduguri, Kano, Kaduna, etc that were once known for flourishing nightlife and tolerant culture, are fast becoming socially isolating.
What is the way forward?
Consequently, Nigerian working people must understand that the capitalist classes, whose policies provided the breeding ground for terrorism to thrive, cannot genuine end terrorism. At best, they can only replace one terror with another. In ending terrorism, capitalists have created more problems than solution. Therefore, the genuine solution can only come from the working people themselves. As immediate measure:
- NLC and TUC must call a 48-hour general strike with mass protests across the country, to mobilize popular mass movement against terrorism, and the flippant manner the Jonathan government is handling it. Such mass movement must also reject imperialist intervention but mobilize for working class and community based defence committees. This strike and mass movements should be linked with all the other basic socio-economic demands of the people. By mobilizing mass movement across the country, Boko Haram will be isolated, and Jonathan government will need to justify its continued existence.
It is important to note that where mass of working and oppressed people are united in their collective struggle against anti-people policies, divisive tendencies of terrorism and fascism are easily subsumed. This is because, as stated earlier, divisive tendencies like terrorism are product of suffering wrought by globalised capitalism. Therefore, only mass movements of working and oppressed people can detach and erode the base of these divisive groups. Throughout the January 2012 protests and strike against hike in fuel price in Nigeria, no single bomb was thrown, neither was there any terror attack. However, a day after labour leaders botched the protests; a terror attack killing scores of people was carried out in the city of Kano. Indeed, the defeat of sit-tight regimes in the Arab world was not accomplished by bombs but by mass movements of workers, youth and the oppressed. Indeed, where mass movements develop, terror forces are isolated.
Therefore, the lukewarm attitude of the Nigeria’s labour movement leadership, and its treacherous support for greater military interventions, are disservice to the struggle to end terror. At the last May Day, labour leaders at national and state levels collaborated with governments to militarize venues of workers’ rallies. It is not accidental then that the May Day witnessed one of the worst terror bomb attack in which more than 70 people were killed at a popular car park in Abuja. Despite this open affront, the labour leaders did not deem it fit to declare a national protest and warning strike. This kind of leadership is surely neck-deep in relationship with the bankrupt, corrupt, neo-colonial capitalist class. Only mass pressure of rank-and-file of workers, youths, activists and the Left can force labour leadership to take pro-working people’s action.
2. Democratic community and workplace defence committees should be set up across the country, especially in the north, as a counterweight to brutality of the terrorists and the Nigerian military. These defence committees should organize defence of communities, including intelligence gathering, searches, armed resistance, etc. The excuse that people will be killed does not suffice, as people are already being killed senselessly and without opportunity of self-defence. In fact, Chibok community people, including women organized a search and rescue team in the wake of the military’s pusillanimity. According to a Dr. Manaseh, whose sister was among the abducted, “after the incident, over 204 people including volunteers from Chibok mobilized a day after the attack and stormed Sambisa forest with many contributing N15, 000 each for fuel to be used in their motorcycles for the rescue…” (Vanguard, 11 May 2014). Who says working and poor people cannot organize?
Will such self-defence committees not be abused? This is why there is need to put such committees under democratic control of communities, with every household involved in the formation and control of such committees. These committees will be different from the so-called Civilian JTF currently existing in Borno State, which has become an appendage of the deadly military forces, aside not being under democratic control of communities. It is nevertheless important to emphasize that the spontaneous rise of the Civilian JTF (a form of community defence committee), though not on democratic basis, shows the potential for independent organization by working and community people, if there is a national lead. The leadership of the labour movement, youth movement and the Left, in such initiative can make such committee serve as revolutionary platform.
3. Working and oppressed people must organize to bring down this bankrupt Jonathan capitalist regime and the rotten, neo-colonial capitalist system it superintends over. This system is the root cause of terrorism. How do you convince a 20 year old that book is not haram when all he ever saw in the past 14 years of civil rule is poverty, hunger, joblessness, oppression, injustice and obscene display of wealth by a rich few? How will you convince a young Nigerian who has not seen the wonders of chemical reaction or the importance of electromagnetism that book is not haram? The last 14 years of civil rule has seen unprecedented wealth accumulation in the country, which can take Nigerians to the Space more than 20 times, yet it is a miracle for Nigerians to have safe transit from Lagos to Kano. A government that can commit a trillion naira to defence, but can hardly spend less than a quarter of this on education and healthcare is a government of social terror.
We must end capitalism before it ends us all. Build revolutionary workers’ party now! Workers should take over their unions and rebuild them on democratic, anti-capitalist and revolutionary basis! Build democratic revolutionary committees linked up from grassroots to the national level to replace this corrupt regime. Working people need a revolutionary socialist government that will put mainstay of the economy under democratic public ownership. With this, the enormous resources of the country, rather than being cornered by the rich few and multinational corporations, will be committed to developing infrastructures, creating decent and secure jobs, educating the youth, providing adequate healthcare, and industrializing the country. This is the only way divisive and deadly forces of religious fundamentalism, ethnic chauvinism and social annihilation can be ended.
With the economy of the country under democratic ownership, control and management of the working people, communities, professionals, etc, we can plan how the resources and wealth of the country will be best utilized, on an environmental sustainable basis, to secure decent and fulfilled lives for all Nigerians and incoming generations. This will also require the working people in Africa, and globally to rise to defeat globalised capitalism, and enthrone a democratic, revolutionary working peoples’ governments. For instance, with revolutionary working people’s governments in West Africa alone, enormous resources – human, material, natural, etc – can be harnessed to develop the region, as a prelude to forming a Socialist Federation (or Confederation) of Africa. That terrorism is fast spreading in Africa, and the world, underscores the fact that only an internationalised united working class struggles to end capitalism can permanently defeat terrorism. This is why the working people in Nigeria must build mass movements across borders to defeat both terrorism and globalised capitalism that is at the root of terrorism. The current wave of solidarity protests across continents shows that it is possible to build a trans-continental movement against capitalism.
Even if the Boko Haram sect is defeated, without working class revolutionary and socialist alternative, other divisive forces will tear society apart based on the present rotten arrangement. We need a working class political platform to lead the struggle for a socialist revolution.
A freelance writer, author and activist, is a member of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN)
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May 12, 2014
- Punch newspapers, May 10, 2014, Schoolgirls: American, British experts arrive Nigeria
- Guardian (London), 09 May, 2014, “Dear world, your hashtags won’t BringBackOurGirls
- Guardian (London), 09 May, 2014, Nigeria kidnapping: why Boko Haram is a top security priority for the US
- Guardian, 08 May, 2014, Tenure of American security forces not yet decided, say envoy
- Reuters, 22 April, 2014, Nigeria favours local firms in $40 billion oil contract awards
- UNHCR, Briefing Notes, Refugees fleeing attacks in north eastern Nigeria, 09 May, 2014
- Vanguard, BringBackOurGirls: Shettima in tears, declares three days of fasting
- The Independent (UK), David Cameron joins #BringBackOurGirls Nigeria campaign
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