By Comrade Abiodun Aremu*
The latest physical violence in the South East should be understood properly before the country is misled. The onset of ‘Operation Python Dance 11’ has brought about “social and mainstream media intellectuals” interpreting the 1999 Nigeria Constitution on point of legality or illegality. They are begging the issue. So also the appeals to emotions and sentiments that the IPOB is nonviolent in its agitation and that the military should not have been brought in now but the Police (another organ of the State). All these do not address the fundamental challenge of the ongoing anarchy. It only shows how much we have sunken into allowing ringworm to take centre stage at the expense of leprosy as captured in the Yoruba expression “a fi ete le, a un pa lapa lapa”.
The Nigeria State since the 1960s, in the hands of each successive rulers and irrespective of their ethnic origins, has been unleashing Economic Violence on the majority of the people in the country. That is why we have evidence of Economic Violence everywhere – hunger, poverty, poor funding of public education and public health, arrears of unpaid salaries and pensions, neglect of social welfare, unemployment, lack of social security, lack of affordable markets for the poor, demolitions of the poor people’s homes and shops – all these are acts of Economic Violence against the people committed by the Nigeria State in collaboration with the “ethnic champions” of marginalisation and restructuring. It is the Economic violence that produced the likes of Nnamdi Kanu whose lack of understanding of the larger picture of the contradictions in our society between the haves and the have-not reduced him to hate speeches and appeals to the emotions and sentiments. The problem is not Kanu, the problem is the exploitative system being used by the Nigeria State in a way that creates an audience for the Kanus of this world.
Yes, we must condemn the Nigeria State for the military violence and its complications in the South East but we have to go beyond the rhetoric of legality and illegality. We should equally alert the public and remind ourselves that the use of the State to unleash violence on the people has nothing to do with whether we run a military regime or a civilian government. Fela Anikulapo Abami Eda was philosophically apt in his masterpiece rendition – “Army Arrangement” vis-a-vis the character of the Nigeria State.
In 1980 under Shagari, a Civilian regime, Bakalori – a settlement of over 50 communities was razed down with military/police might. Bakalori is in the old Sokoto State and Shagari is from Sokoto. On the night of January 15th, 2012, President Jonathan ordered military violence across the country to suppress the January 2012 Uprising in the country. Obasanjo both as military Head of State and as a Civilian dictator has the notorious record of military violence in Odi in Bayelsa and Zaki Biam in Benue aside from massacre of students and youths in 1978 across the country. The same OBJ is now being commended to intervene in the latest Buhari obsession for violence. That is their “regular trademark” and the challenge is to organise the working and oppressed people beyond the ethnic and religion divides to struggle to DEFEAT both the physical and economic violence.
This is because what we see in the current situation whereby the Nigerian State deploys its full military arsenal to unleash violence in a section of its territory (South East) should be understood as the State is doing its Duty, the duty of ‘rule of raw’. ‘Rule of raw’ could be physical as in the current operation in the East but it could also be Economic Violence.
The consequence or the reality today is that we are all open to genocidal impulse across the country, whether anyone likes it or not. There are two groups now in the country flexing muscles on the legality or illegality of military madness – the ethnic warlords and apostles of Restructuring and their sympathisers on the one hand and the State and its fascist mob on the other. But majority of the population do not belong to the two groups and should resist being conscripted. Those of us who are united by economic interests (for public education, public healthcare, mass employment and job opportunities, decent housing, improved standard of life, adequate and functional infrastructure, democratic control and management of all aspect of our politics & economy) must organise with the hapless majority of the population as a United Movement to avert further degeneration of the country into Total Anarchy..
We must resist being drawn into genocidal because Buhari, Obasanjo, Dangote, Jonathan, Governors, IBB, the Sultan, 1st Class Obas, Obis and Chiefs, Arewa Elders, Ohaneze Ndigbo and Afenifere chieftains, etc would not be affected. Their children who are now schooling abroad won’t be affected either. Their private jets abound in our airports to speed out when the confusion becomes uncontrollable.
Who are those who want to restructure the country? Most of them (though there are few genuinely concerned patriots there) are cohorts of the Nigeria State. They profited from the largese of the Jonathan National Confab. Restructuring is just another strategy of redistribution of looted wealth among the governors or aspiring governors, rulers of the ethnic groups and so-called stakeholders in the regions/states. People should be wiser now – where has Resource Control led us into? Has it not led us into increased funding to governors without anything to show or on what happened to such allocations? There are no schools, no hospitals but only arrears of unpaid salaries and pensions, collapse of roads & infrastructure and so on.
A country (by extension, regions/ groups) that cannot feed its population, shouldn’t toy with war. Nigeria is a country in which both the State and the ethnic warlords will depend on foreign arms and importation of foods to neutralise each others. The ethnic champions have opened all of us now to defencelessness because their armies (existing or imagined) are not on the streets to defend us against the military. We don’t need to learn any lesson from Rwanda yet! Our lesson is Right here at home. Just imagine the January 27th 2000 Accidental Bomb Discharges in Ikeja, Lagos and the confusion that enveloped the country then. On that unfortunate day, the poor people of all ethnic extractions in Lagos faced one direction, running to nowhere and ended up killed in a canal whose surface was covered by water hyacinth at Okeifa Isolo. In the midst of the confusion, most of the governors outside Lagos were sighted at the country’s borders, set to get out before sanity returned.
The United Movement should comprise those who are victims of the economic violence and are prepared to eschew ethnic and religious divisiveness while equally willing to struggle under the Banner of an Alternative political and economic agenda of changing the system. That is, real change. Going forward is to change the music and the dance. The music is system change. The dance steps are the various battles in the struggle to change the exploitative system. It may include sending the APC-PDP/Buhari regime packing, canvassing and installing alternatives to the Chop-chop political arrangement in place now. Ultimately, the struggle is for political power to free our economy and politics of foreign control and to ensure that public wealth is used for public goods – (public education and healthcare to all). And a New State that guarantees democratic management and control of our human and material resources is guaranteed.
Comrade Aremu, a veteran of popular democratic struggles in Nigeria, wrote from Lagos