Faint drumbeats of radical politics and actions are beginning to be heard across Nigeria again. The question though is whether it is anything new and qualitative or just residual spasms of a glorious past when the now dead Socialist Congress of Nigeria, (SCON) held the Nigerian ruling class and its military elite in check, successfully combating its excesses through debate and street actions. A combination of summons, series of high profile celebration of the anniversary of significant symbols of the African struggle for emancipation and a major conference on Marxism suggests to some observers the return of radical nationalism on the agenda of radical politics in Nigeria. Coinciding with rising concern as to whether the Nigerian elite is not consciously or unconsciously playing geopolitically instigated script to break-up Nigeria, many people are asking if these activities collectively signify a sound pointing at the return of radical nationalism in the country at last and what the sound might signify – a siren or a trumpet.
Radical nationalist politics was eventually smashed in 1994 in Nigeria when the cumulative impacts of structural adjustment politics and the numerous tactics of repression associated with it scattered left politics. Since then, Nigeria has been on a steady decline as the political space was completely taken over by a combination of unmitigated fall back to localism, the rise of unproductive identity checkmate politics between ethno-regional and religious groups as well as the phenomenon of the most clueless political leadership. The elite has become so fragmented and violent in their struggle for political office and the fear is strong in some quarters that the Nigerian elite has learnt nothing from how powerful global interests instigated the break-up of a number of countries in the contemporary world through the sort of anarchy going on in Nigeria today. Some of the loudest noisemakers in the current anarchy in Nigeria might not even know whose script they are playing or that they are being used by insidious forces. Some have collected their price and are earning it by spewing hatred and securitising others. In all these, the Nigerian State has no intellectual, intelligence, symbolic counteracting powers even as its capacity to prevail militarily is being challenged by insurgent elements.
While the Lagos based Amilcar Cabral Ideological School (ACIS) is issuing a clarion call for resistance of the reduction of democracy in Nigeria to a theatre dominated by money bags, looters of national wealth and agents of IMF and World Bank (military and civilians in the past and present), the Nigeria Labour Congress is massing up in Kaduna against the sack of 36, 000 teachers by the state government on the ground that they are unqualified. Meanwhile, a memorial session takes place on January 30th, 2018 for Dr Sanusi Abubakar, the ABU, Zaria economist who died last year. On February 10th, 2018, “Amilcar Cabral: An Example of Ideas for Chinese Model of Development in Africa” will be the subject of contestations among paper presenters in Abuja. Before it would be the “Marxism, Capitalism and Revolutions” conference near Abuja. Although many are wondering why the free floating title that does not more creatively tie it to the crisis of capitalism in Nigeria or Africa, the conference, however, has potentials to construct new imaginaries about the possibility of another Nigeria different from the existing one which is clearly locked into a stalemate the ruling class has no ideas about how to get the country out from.
In contrast to the ruling class framing of the contradiction as one of restructuring, the ACIS, for instance, is insisting on what it calls a new political and socio-economic transition in Nigeria that will terminate the situation in which 98% of the Nigerian population cannot be voted for because the polity is dominated by rich people who manipulate the right of the people to vote at every elections. The result, it says, is whereby the people are reduced to making choices on which of the looters and rulers to vote in response to deceptive campaigns by the politicians to recycle themselves in government. It is, therefore, ruling out the possibility of any credible Nigerian or political party with pro-people policies winning election in that sort of electoral environment because elections have been reduced to mere endorsement of the looters and rulers.
Asking the people to resist being divided along ethnic and religious lines, ACIS demands commencement of sustained resistance against the privatisation policies in Electricity, Water, Aviation, Education, Health, Steel, Oil and Energy Sector, Basic infrastructures (rail, roads, communication), Mines and the Public Services. It calls for mass resistance and protests by labour, working people organisations (artisans, farners, traders), students and youth, academic and professional groups against IMF and World Bank policies of privatisation, auctioning of national assets, demolition of homes and shops of the poor people, hike in school fees and electricity tariffs.It asks the people to organise towards rapid industrialisation of the Nigerian economy based on public ownership and democratic management of all major sectors of the economy as guaranteed in Section 16 of the 1999 Constitution.
A new Nigeria, it argues, needs to remove ethno-religious sentiments in governance by scrapping the House of Representatives and reducing the National Assembly to one representative per state, ensure that ministerial appointments at the state and national levels are limited in numbers and are based on socioeconomic interests of labor and all categories of the working population such as academics, youths, women and professionals. Whether this is the ‘revolution’ that is playing out in Kaduna remains unclear but the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC) and the state government are squaring up in a test of strength with explosive potentials.
While no one doubts that these seemingly unrelated activities could merge into a qualitative moment, there are fears whether a radical movement that has been inducted into the luxury of foreign funded NGOism can sustain radical nationalism again. The example is cited of NGOs in Nigeria being supported to fight for repatriation of proceeds of looting in Nigeria from the countries of the funders. Another cause for worry is the possibility of recovering lost grounds from narcotising deployment of ethnicity, localism and religion by smart Alec preying on the misery and helplessness of the majority of the people in the hands of poverty, hunger and disease. But some observers are hopeful. They cite how easily Nigerians overcame the ethno-regional and religious fault lines in January 2012 against the Goodluck Jonathan administration, a very poor example though since January 2012 was not, strictly speaking, a radical project.
So, while the totality of the Nigerian elite – the top intellectual workers (journalists, academics, civil society); the labour aristocracy; top politicians and businessmen; religious and traditional rulers do not have a constituted and patriotic sense of Nigeria or they would not have handed over the country to external interests as they have done, the radicals do not appear to be in a position to offer much alternative even as politically educated and patriotic they have been in the past. Only time would, therefore, tell of the outcomes.