By Denja Yaqub
Consistently committed in deploying his unique intellectual capacity and organising skills for decades, he is one of those who has brought Marxist socialist thoughts closer to the ordinary person in effortless manners, not just through his writings but in practical actions in organising peasant farmers, workers, students and all their allies without sectarian dispositions or postulations. Educated as a mathematician at the Universities of Ibadan and Lagos, Nigeria, Dr. Edwin Madunagu can safely be described as one of the few intellectuals who have succeeded in sustaining Marxian discourse in contemporary Nigeria, even when the strength of the movement seems waned by the incursion of non-state organisations commonly called Non-Governmental Organisations funded by imperialist interests. Dr. Madunagu still believes in the efficacy of an efficient mass organising model in changing society to a better place for humanity.
He has written several books on political economy and opinion articles as a columnist with one of Nigeria’s most popular liberal newspapers, The Guardian for decades and maintain a resource centre in Calabar that will possibly serve the reading/research public globally for centuries to come, if well preserved.
Eddie who was once sacked as a lecturer at the University of Lagos by the military regime led by General Olusegun Obasanjo for mobilising students and the public against anti people policies that were not just driven towards mass assault on education, but focused on deepening mass poverty in the country was appointed a member of a committee that eventually turned out to be a cover for personal intents of a reprobate regime headed by General Ibrahim Babangida. Less than a year after the Babangida gang seized power, the regime constituted the National Political Bureau to engage the Nigeria people in discussions around the political future of the country and also, among others, to “review Nigeria’s political history and identify the basic problems which have led to our failure in the past and suggest ways of resolving and coping with these problems.”
Despite his open radical dispositions and critical credentials, Dr. Madunagu’s name was announced as one of those to conduct the debates that ended up as smokescreen by the regime to entrench itself in power. The seventeen-member Political Bureau was inaugurated in Abuja on January 13, 1986. The bureau, headed by Dr. Samuel Joseph Cookey had Dr Madunagu as member along with Abdullahi Augie, Dr. Bala Takaya, Oye Oyediran, Mrs. Hilda Adefarasin who was then President of the Nigeria Council of Women Societies, E.O Ewa, Professor Tunde Adeniran, Mrs. R. Abdullahi. A.D Yahaya, Professor Sam Oyovbaire, Dr. Ola Balogun who later opted out of the team, Comrade Paschal Bafyau, then General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Railway Workers and later elected as President of Nigeria Labour Congress, Sanni Zahradeen, Mallam Haruna Adamu, Comrade Ibrahim Halilu, then General Secretary of the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees, as well as O.E. Uya.
Of all the seventeen members, Dr. Madunagu was clearly the only well known Marxist-communist who had once left his teaching job and relocated to Odeomu, a village somewhere in Osun State, close to the university town of Ile – Ife along with Dr. Seinde Arigbede and others to organise peasants and their allies for the struggles against oppression and exploitation of the Nigerian people. He had no illusions about the bureau accepting his inputs and consequently ended up writing a minority report that was published by the Newswatch Magazine which immediately suffered a ban for publishing the report. Such attacks were regular attributes of the Babangida government, a major feature of all fascist regimes. Not a few media organisations suffered the same fate, with the exception of those that were the regime’s apologists.
The place of Dr. Madunagu in the left movement in Nigeria is colossal as he has been involved in organising cells around campuses and communities for decades; leading to the formation of several mass organisations across the country. Despite the post glasnost and perestroika assault on the left and decimation of left movements across the globe by deliberate proliferation of non-state organisations, popularly referred to as non-governmental organisations, with attractive funds from imperialist sources, Eddy’s writings, sustained commitment to the struggle and unwavering principles surely encourages us, the younger ones to keep the fire burning as we believe the tunnel will open with shining lights. We should never give up as the oppressing system won’t give up without a nifty battle.
The challenge of having a leader like Eddie still with us without any relapse is for the rest of us, especially younger comrades, to redouble our commitment and abilities to organise without all the contemporary nuances such as ethnicity and religion. We must refocus our commitments to building mass organisations with clear ideological, internationalist focus without sectarian dispositions. This will be the greatest honour we can give to all our ageing comrades. As we celebrated Dr. Ewin Madunagu this Saturday, 15th day of May 2021 at 75, we will continue to be encouraged and emboldened by his writings, principles and consistent commitment to our collective struggles.
It is still ‘Happy birthday’, great Comrade.
Denja Yaqub is an Assistant Secretary (Industrial Relations) at the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC), Headquarters, Abuja