Being the consciousness of the organisations that they work for is still what distinguishes leftists from ordinary salary earners or careerists. So, why are the leftists in the All Progressives Congress, Nigeria’s ruling party, quiet at a time Nigeria is running all the risks? Leftists do not, individually or collectively, owe the president, the party or anybody any obligation but they owe the Nigerian State an obligation to speak up because the state cannot unravel without human suffering. As abhorrence of human misery is the article of faith for all variants of left politicians, speaking up and drowning manifest and latent forces of disorder becomes a duty in terms of open, conceptual warfare rather than behind the scene moves. Except if we are witnessing a case of a silenced Left or Left silence.
It is true that the post modern imagination has left even well heeled leftists in governments, political parties and big corporations stranded and miserable in terms of being the consciousness of such organisations. A big part of the problem resides in what Barbalet captured very powerfully in his 1988 book Citizenship: Rights, Struggle and Class Inequality. It has to do with conceptually coming to grips with “the variety of needs, and diverse histories, discourses and practices that constitute the modern political subject” as opposed to what he called the older universalist conception of citizenship when invocation of class asymmetry solved all problems in the struggle for power. There is no such common, mega identity into which differences can be absorbed today. Democracy which he hoped would help towards a new conception of citizenship that must come to terms with difference so that no groups suffer exclusion in the context of diversity thrown up by post modernity has not worked that way. In fact, some people are already saying that democracy, like law, is an ass. It is scoring better in producing uncomfortable outcomes all over the world than Barbalat’s optimism.
So, the business of expansive view of citizenship that can accommodate new body of rights corresponding to emergent social forces in the national community that he advocated has been nothing but a work-in-progress. For leftists who have been inflexibly brought up on the categories handed down by Marx himself and which only Lenin was able to amend significantly, coping with this challenge has been a problem. In the recent election in the UK, this showed very clearly in the language of Jeremy Corbyn who went as far as promising re-nationalization. For a world that has been fed on the linguistics of the neoliberal Moment for too long, it would have been great if he won. The world might not wait for too long.
In other words, the ability to even map the identity space, frame narratives that responds to each distinct community of interest in electoral politics could be a problem for leftists. Some may not even be aware of this just as some may not think it goes against the grains of emancipation to lump large number of people together in today’s world without suppressing specificity. The Multitude, yes but also the specificity of reality.This has been shown to be one of the most difficult aspects of peacekeeping where the needs of women and men, for example, are so different it had better been imagined than mentioned. Yet, this was never adequately taken into consideration and reflected in conflict management until recently. It is just one example.
The great news though is that in a pre-industrial society such as Nigeria, the categories of peasants, urban poor and, to a great extent, the working class are still reliable. So, the postmodern imagination may not explain the silence of the leftists. Secondly, isn’t Femi Falana, SAN, talking? His critics attack him but so did they do to Bala Usman, for example. At some point, they even said Bala Usman had been bought over by IBB. Now, everyone is missing him because he is not here to say the kind of things he alone could say. Today, there is none serving a more enlightened role in the society than Falana in his opposition to the shallow notion of restructuring that limits it to just the ethno-regional arithmetic but not the restructuring of the political economy of Nigeria.
Why isn’t that stuff coming from APC leftists, either as a collective position or the articulated individual counter to menacing purveyors of technicism about the remaking of Nigeria? Everyone knows or should know that in all pre-industrial societies such as Nigeria, the one single most important question is that of how to move the society to an industrial economy. How then did the question of ethno-regional conception of statehood become more important than that of the ideology of rapid industrial transformation if not political quackery?
There are sufficient number of communists, socialists and left of centre or just activist oriented politicians in the APC whose collective voice can checkmate narratives that could lead to unintended collapse of Nigeria. Some of then rose as far as members of the Central Committee of the defunct Socialist Congress of Nigeria, (SCON). Any leftists who attained such rank in that foremost socialist platform before the June 12 crisis led to its eventual death has mastered the overall capacity to even run Nigeria better than many of those learning on the job in various capacities across the country. The ‘silence’ of the leftists in the APC government at a time state survival is under threat, is, therefore, surprising.
The silence is worth raising a piece about because that is exactly what happened and eventually led to the death of the PDP before its recent resurrection. Majority of the organic founders (as opposed to some of the people beating their chest and introducing themselves in newspaper interviews today as founders) were progressives and, by inference, part of the broad left in Nigerian politics. As trained and tested agitators, they were the crowd movers during the presidential campaign. They had the confidence, carriage or bearing corresponding to their ideological self. Unfortunately, the ‘Left’ died the week Obasanjo won election. A combination of factors and forces in Nigerian politics led to that. Not much has changed but the forces and factors at the moment are not the same as to kill the leftists in this government and in the party.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Acting President is communicating. He is framing the issues very well but Prof Osinbajo’s pedigree is that of a lawyer, pastor and informed liberal. Why wouldn’t the retired communists, pastor Marxists, Socialist technocrats, global scale social activists and communist propagandists in the party supplement his efforts with the unique language of equalitarian levelers? The truth of the matter appears to be that the Nigerian system has run out of the language by which to endear the Nigerian State. The decay is mind boggling. But since language constructs and constitutes reality, language use can certainly help.