Olamide Adabale

One of the most contemporary issues confronting the country today is no doubt the question of Self-determination which is attracting a series of various reactions, especially in reaction to the belligerent actions of the Federal Government against the agitation. This is not unprecedented in the history of the country, concerning the Nigeria civil war (from May 1967- January 1970) under the Gowon Military regime.

The war turned out to be extremely devastating recording huge human losses of millions on the part of the Biafrans and the entire Southeast people to restore to the country, a memory which still lingers and in itself a point of reference in the renewed agitation for the Biafra Republic from out of Nigeria, as currently led by Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB.

The Southwest has also come alive with agitations for the Oduduwa Republic though not in the same measure as the Southeast, but in echoes that it cannot be dismissed. This interestingly was in response to the persistent attacks of some of Fulani herders encroaching on the farmland of sedentary farmers with records of killings, kidnapping, and worst enough is the lackadaisical and ineffective response of the Buhari –led regime.

Even in cases where mass actions were affected and some of these herders arrested and handed over to the police, they were released with alacrity giving currency to the insinuation that the Buhari regime is favouring his Fulani’s clansmen, throwing into the air the notion that the Federal Government is not representing the general interest of all the ethnic groups in the country. This is what has fuelled the agitation for self-determination in Southwest.

But instead of taking on the issues and seeing how these can be resolved on a win-win basis for all involved, the Buhari-led regime has chosen to aggressively clamp down on the agitators, with unwarranted arrests of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) with the tagging of IPOB as a terrorist group, the illegal attack on Sunday Igboho’s house- the leader of “Yoruba Nation Now” agitation leading to the killing of some of the agitators and arrest of some.

This is the background under which the question of the status of the right of self-determination is posed. Is it a democratic right? Can the working class put this slogan in its banner and agitate for it? What should be the attitude of socialists to this cry for self-determination? Should it suffer denouncement under the cry of rallying the working class onto a singular banner without taking stock of the state of consciousness of the agitators, even when it gains a mass echo among the ethnic nationality group agitating for this right?

But first, it is in a way necessary to address the issue within the context of bourgeois legality since this is the dominating world system. Thus, what is even meant by self-determination? According to the United Nations (UN) Charter, Self-determination is defined as the right of people to determine their social, political and economic life. Again a question is also posed; does the right to Self-determination mean the right to secession?

Of course, the answer to this is not direct, leading to the dual categorization of self-determination into two: internal self- Determination and external self-determination, with secession falling into the category of the latter.
Bourgeois legality is however formulated on a class arrangement that makes democratic rights and indeed agitation for self-determination a right that would only benefit the wing of the ruling class leading it since in most cases it agitates for a new legal state of its own would ultimately rest on bourgeois law and politics as defined by neoliberal capitalism.

This is where the error of the self-determination struggle under capitalism emanates from as all of the socio-economic contradictions and factors engineered by capitalism are all ignored, unemployment, criminality, continual deterioration in the health sector, underfunding of education with unceasing attacks on the democratic rights of the people. Self-determination agitators, who lack a pro-working people’s outlook place blame not only on the ruling elites and class in power, but also the dominating ethnic nationality group in power and by so doing lump the working masses of the agitating ethnic nationality as same and one with the ruling elites from their stocks.

This is why at all times that socialists put forward the idea of working-class unity as opposed to ethnic nationality unity since the question of who controls the wealth and manage the resources of society is in reality not determined by nationality but by class.

The working masses produce the wealth of society. They deserve as much to determine how this wealth is distributed and managed and for what purposes, but capitalism doesn’t grant this right. It legalizes profit-making and ownership of private property and makes the ownership of the mean of production a private enterprise.

Unlike in the South, the agitation in the North has taken a different colouration, there are as many agitations, if not even more in the North than in the south, there are armed groups officially against the Nigeria state. Even though not based on ethnic nationality but religious postulation, there is the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), a breakaway group from Boko Haram, and many other bands of bandits and groups. It is the same socio-economic contradictions of poverty and mass unemployment, the undeveloped state of the means of production that are the same issues fuelling the same agitations in the North as well.

Thus nothing may be more “genocidal” than all these, the alarmingly high rate of suicides due to depression and frustrations, the killings all over, these, in reality, are the root and general bases for the agitation and break up of Nigeria, and not many are conscious enough to know the differences and that the various manifestations of the economic difficulties they are encountering are rooted in the capitalist system.

But with the consciousness of the working masses not at the same level as revolutionary socialists, socialists cannot outrightly dismiss the question of self-determination as anti-socialist, but at no time must the question of working-class unity be sacrificed or subjected to the slogan of self-determination.

But socialists must intervene in every growing mass agitation and fill it with socialist content, point out what the real issues are, and use the involvement as a means to provide socialist consciousness and direction. This tactic must in no way be interpreted to mean that socialists are abandoning agitation for a socialist revolution for the right of self-determination. Where such agitation has a mass appeal, we must take up the cry to clarify issues, and insist that without the overthrow of capitalism and a programme of internationalism, the lives of the working masses cannot be fundamentally improved upon.

The Buhari-led regime and its mechanical approach to unity cannot guarantee the unity of Nigeria, not with the clampdown on peaceful agitations for self-determination and its screaming of a “National Unity”. The regime ignores the fact that it cannot “permanently” force “national unity” into being by coercion and brutality. The rule of capital which the ruling elites and the Buhari regime represents, more than anything is what divides the people of the country and threaten its unity. In the end, unity can only be fostered on social and class lines.

The working masses uniting against the general attacks of government at all levels, organizing against capitalism and the entire system of oppression with the collective synergy of all oppressed layers of the society, gathering strength to accomplish a socialist revolution and commence the journey for the liberation of the working masses, and enshrine on its banner the cry for workers of the world to unite, first with Africa and forward to a socialist Federation of the universe. Workers of the world truly have no fatherland.