NIGERIA: TO BREAK OR NOT TO BREAK?
There is no other time in Nigerian history when the country is deeply divided along ethnic and religious lines. The cacophony of voices rent the air from the Southeastern part of Nigeria, which has the history of the three-year Biafran secessionist struggle in the 1960s to the Southwestern part of the country, where there is also fresh agitations for secession.
The question is what should be the attitude of working-class and socialist activists to all these agitations. Should the Nigerian federation be broken up with all aggrieved ethnic nationalities allowed to go their separate ways? Should the Nigerian federation be kept together at all costs?
The conception of Nigeria was by the British colonialists, who for administrative convenience and reduction of costs of running the government at the commencement of the First World War decided to amalgamate the Northern Protectorate, the Southern Protectorate and the Crown Colony of Lagos, without any democratic consultation of the working people living in the geographical areas. Before 1914, British colonialism, at least for more than half a century, from circa the 1880s has begun a subjugation of the resources and peoples of different ethnic nationalities that now exist in the imperialist contraption called “Nigeria”.
Since 1914, the question of whether or not the Nigerian Federation should be sustained or dissolved has riveted the federation. The preponderance of three ethnic groups, the Hausa-Fulani in the North, the Yoruba in the West and the Igbo in the East has also led to agitations of ethnic minorities in the present-day Niger Delta and the Middle Belt. This unresolved national question inflamed the First Republic with the eventual outbreak of civil war from 1967 to 1970 when the short-lived Biafra Republic (encompassing both the present-day South-east and South-southern parts of the country) fought for its life.
The decades of military rule only further deepened this intractable question and the emergence of civil rule from 1999 onwards has not resolved the question either. The contest of Moshood Abiola, a bourgeois politician in the 1993 general elections fueled hopes of a President of Yoruba extraction after decades of Northern-dominated central government. The annulment of the 1993 elections with the repression of the protests that trailed it and the emergence of the tyrannical Abacha-led regime deepened the agitations for secession in the Yoruba-speaking parts of the Southwest.
The death of Abacha and Abiola paved the way for the emergence of the Olusegun Obasanjo-led regime, which was a soft-landing for the agitation for a Yoruba Presidency. The Obasanjo regime faced agitations from militant socio-cultural groups such as the Odua People’s Congress (OPC) and the Movement for Actualization of the Sovereign States of Biafra (MASSOB), which were brutally repressed and put down. It also saw the rise of Niger Delta militancy, which continued under the Yar’adua regime. The accidental emergence of Goodluck Jonathan from one of the oil-rich minority states, Bayelsa State temporized Niger Delta militancy with militants handed out amnesty grants, thereby transformed into overnight multi-millionaires.
The dramatic emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as President on the crest wave of the “Change” momentum failed to meet the aspirations of many. The nepotistic appointments and neo-liberal policies of the regime fueled ethnoreligious tensions and secessionist agitations. One of the most outstanding developments is the emergence of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by Nnamdi Kanu, currently living in exile after facing trial. IPOB has drawn a lot of mass support from working-class and youth elements of Southeast extraction, looking for a way out of the blind alley of poverty and oppression through secession.
AGITATION FOR BIAFRA: IS TERRORISM A BETTER METHOD?
The recent period has seen the upsurge of attacks on Police formations and correctional centres. Both the Buhari-led regime and the State Governors have blamed the Indigenous People of Biafra and her self-defence security network, the Eastern Security Network for these attacks, which it has denied.
A spectacular attack on the private residence of Hope Uzodinma, the Imo State Governor drew out the ire of both the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police Force and the State Security Services, who in a sting operation terminated the life of the Vice President-designate of IPOB, one Okiso Commander and other IPOB elements. IPOB has threatened to retaliate.
For the MSA, terrorism is a hollow method for oppressed elements agitating for self-determination. It alienates the working class and creates a “Messiah” effect instead of building a mass movement. The MSA asserts that aggrieved ethnic nationalities have the right to self-determination. To achieve genuine socio-economic liberation, working-class and oppressed people of all ethnic nationalities within the Nigerian contraption need to build a pan-Nigerian working-class political movement that will dislodge from power the entire ruling elite and enthrone a revolutionary working people’s government. This will open up a voluntary socialist Nigerian federation wherein all aggrieved ethnic nationalities will be conceded the right to self-determination and the choice to belong or not to belong to such a voluntary socialist federation.
SUNDAY IGBOHO AND YORUBA SECESSIONIST MOVEMENT: WHICH ROAD TO ACHIEVING SELF-DETERMINATION?
The Southwestern parts of Nigeria is also witnessing fresh agitations for secession. The incessant Fulani herdsmen attacks and bandits in the interior parts of Oyo State drew bold armed resistance by Sunday Igboho, a secessionist agitator who has drawn support from many oppressed elements of Yoruba extraction. However, Sunday Igboho has antecedents of being a hitman for various wings of the South-west ruling elite and offers no fundamental programme of resistance against the ruling elite of the region based on class issues such as education, healthcare and others.
For the MSA, the road of agitation for secession is not a new road for working masses and oppressed layers in the Southwestern parts of Nigeria. The Oodua People’s Congress commanded a larger base during and after military rule. However, without a comprehensive class-conscious programme, the organization degenerated into a cultural organization and its leadership integrated into the multimillionaire class.
EMERGENCE OF THE FULANI NATIONALITY MOVEMENT: WHAT DOES THE ATTACK ON GOVERNOR ORTOM OF BENUE STATE REPRESENT?
We have also seen the emergence of the Fulani Nationality Movement (FNM) which claimed responsibility for the attack on Governor Ortom of Benue State. It would be recalled that the Middle Belt have suffered blistering attacks from herdsmen, which have fueled anti-Fulani settlements. One of the most outspoken elements of the Middle Belt ruling elite voicing opposition to open grazing by Fulani herdsmen is Governor Ortom of Benue State.
It was within this scenario that the Fulani Nationality Movement emerged and claimed responsibility for the attack on Governor Ortom of Benue State. The Fulani Nationality Movement with its terroristic methods and reactionary strategies is a blind alley for oppressed Fulani elements looking for a way out of the dislocation, displacement and deprivation occasioned by the capitalist crisis in Nigeria.
WHAT’S BEHIND BUHARI’S UNIDIRECTIONAL APPROACH TO NATIONAL QUESTION
It is also crucial to interrogate the basis of the uni-directional approach and Fulani nepotism of the Buhari-led regime, which it has not hidden at all. The answer to this lies in the fact that the ruling regime, caught in the web of the global capitalist crisis and left with no choice but to implement neo-liberal policies to sustain its luxurious lifestyle has to resort to bolstering ethnoreligious tensions.
NIGERIA TOTTERS ON THE BRINK: CAN A PAN-NIGERIAN WORKING PEOPLE’S REVOLUTIONARY STRATEGY COME TO THE RESCUE?
Currently, the situation is complex and combustive. There appears to be no end in sight to the wave of ethnoreligious tensions, banditry, terrorism, kidnapping among others. What the situation urgently needs is a pan-Nigerian revolutionary working people’s revolutionary strategy that builds a mass movement of workers and youth and links it to the task of wrestling power from all sections of the ruling elite. This is the task that the MSA has assigned to itself with the prioritization of the building of cadres rooted in Marxism in the workers, students and youth movement.