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State of the Nigerian Nation Today

Monday 11 March 2013

Omotoye Olorode, Workers’ Village, Gwagwalada-FCT.

In the last few years, some of us have become more and more persuaded that the real problem of Nigeria’s growing crisis of underdevelopment (political and economic independence, poverty, security, education etc.) has boiled down to understanding the nature, depth, and endurance of what we think we know. Knowledge, as we understand it, is awareness of our environment (social, political etc.), and ourselves as individuals and as collectivities. We are propelled into action or inaction by what we “know”; what we choose to know; who decides what we should (or need) to know, and how we know!

This matter is complicated by the received, usually complacent and class-based, perception of our age as “information” age and the dominant vision of “development” today as information- or knowledge-driven development. The media through which this “information” or “knowledge” is transmitted are of course, the print media, the electronic media and especially the internet. I have wondered also about claims such as “This is the age of the internet”, “age of globalisation” etc. and the validity or appropriateness of these claims in an epoch in which the vast majority of humanity is excluded from the basic promises of modern science and technology—drinking water, decent shelter, education and healthcare! This exclusion of this global majority is enforced by the economic, cultural and class power of the owners of the media at global, regional national and local levels.

In the foregoing context, the content of information package may be so totally different from its form and its externalities. Elements of information are so tendentiously selected and their hierarchies rigged to achieve all manners of predetermined effects. Massive tracts of newspaper spaces are allotted by editors to those who peddle unfounded but clearly incendiary tribalist and sectarian or confessional prejudices. I admit that the media belong to their funders. I also agree that opinions, no matter how outrageous, should be allowed airing if only to expose them to public scrutiny, rebuttal or corroboration. But when the dominant trends exclude opinions that definitively articulate and promote the interest of the majority of the oppressed across Nigeria’s ethnic and confessional divides or fail to support and defend solidarity among them, a very serious crisis exists.

There is some eerie unity and relatedness within the deluge of events encompassing NATO’s alleged “war on terror”, the re-colonisation of the Sahel (and the proxy war in Mali), the consolidation of France’s hold on Central African Republic (CAR), and the duplicity (or is it multiplicity) of the so-called “international community” that has become a euphemism for NATO. There is the unity of events and processes such as Obama’s invasion of Africa from the Maghreb to the Nile Valley, the economic and ideological crisis of the imperialist western countries, the bourgeoning subversion of democracy by capitalist accumulation etc. etc., USA’s plethora of wars across the globe, impunity of NATO’s power and war mongering occasioning fluidity of alliances with victims and perpetrators of ethnic, racial and confessional dictatorships and hegemonies across the globe.

All of the foregoing is related, many times in direct causal contexts, to Nigeria’s economic, political and socio-cultural crisis of the last two decades and, especially, of the last five year or so. The “triumph” of neo-liberalism produced the omnipotence of the market, financialisation, and privatisation. The ‘less-government’ ideology also produced ruling classes in the capitalist metropolises dominated by fraudsters in the banks, war mongers in defence industries, private security organisations and “end-of-history” ideologues in the dying universities, crass individualism, social cannibalism in the polities, and the escalation of xenophobia and racism in the metropolises—USA, Canada and EU countries.

From the late 1970s neo-liberal institutions (IMF, World Bank, IFC, etc) produced and nurtured their clones in Nigeria and empower their corporations to directly take over state apparati, MDAs, government Ministries, educational institutions, media and communication organisations. There are incredible identities between the relationship of western imperialist states and the rest of the world on one hand, and the relationship of the Nigeria’s ruling class and the masses of the Nigerian people on the other. While the imperialist states are blackmailing the rest of the world with their alleged global war on terror (GWOT), the Nigerian ruling circles are blackmailing the masses over their pre-occupation with security. In both cases “security” has become the pretext for pillage, mass murders and impunity.

The global crisis of capitalism as encapsulated in neo-liberal ideology and as manifested in the fight back by its specific victims and victims of its colonial and neo-colonial antecedents is what necessitated what they now call global war on terror. Historically, the war on “terror” was also called other names—war against “extremists”, war against communists, clash of civilisations, etc. But in plain terms whether in Viet Nam, apartheid South Africa, Algeria, Nicaragua, Kenya, Cuba etc., it was war of capitalist imperialism to establish and entrench its hegemony.

Simultaneously, the “cold war” aligned imperialism with disparate forces such as Zionism in Israel, Mobutu in Congo, military dictatorship is Burkina Faso and Nigeria, apartheid in South Africa imperialist-sponsored terrorists in Mozambique and Angola and the Talibans who were fighting the Moscow-backed regime in Kabul (Afghanistan). It is the same Taliban that the US and western imperialism now call Al-Qaeda—the main and alleged target of GWOT in the Middle-East, Somalia and the Maghreb!

For imperialism and its NATO propagandists, what they call Al-Qaeda has different names depending on NATO’s interests: they were freedom fighters in the anti-Gaddafi war in Libya and the current war to overthrow Assad in Syria. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Algeria and Mali, NATO insists the same Al-Qaeda are “terrorists”.

The GWOT had thus become an excuse for NATO countries to re-colonise the world and especially to re-occupy Africa. US troops are now reported to be in at least thirty-five countries in Africa under different guises. USA is now re-asserting what Chomsky described as the fifth-freedom—the freedom to occupy any country in the interest of USA—freedom of impunity. Consequently if Al-Qaeda does not exist, NATO would have needed to create it—USA actually created it. The so-called international media had been handy with NATO propaganda by inventing the “Islamists”. They forget that Morsi of Egypt is an “Arab Springist”, that Zionism is historically a violent terrorist movement, that George Bush Junior and Tony Blair are Christian fundamentalists (Bush characterised USA’s war against “Islamists” as a “Crusade”).

Just as NATO’s GWOT had become the smokescreen for NATO generally and USA, in particular, for occluding its global crimes, impunity, pillage and hegemonism, the shrill noises of Nigeria’s ruling circles with their media and other ideological and political institutions, have created a security scare as an omnibus smokescreen for their underlying crimes. This security scare is tendentiously narrowed down to the “Boko Haram” insurgency in parts of Northern Nigeria. This is happening as they and their ideologues ignore equally blood-chilling violence of vandalism, gruesome inter-communal wars and mass murders (even in communities that speak the same languages and worship the same God(s)), kidnappings, the ravage of natural disasters and of IMF/World Bank neo-liberal viruses of hunger, diseases, unemployment and violent uprooting of whole communities in Lagos, at the water front in Port Harcourt on the Plateau and of the indigenes (the Gbagyi) in the Abuja Federal Capital Territory.

At the level of the Nigerian polity the insistent focus on the “Boko Haram” enables the ruling circles to propagate the Muslim North/ Christian South mythology which BBC, VOA and CNN peddle everyday and which enables the purveyors of this stereotype to hide the generalised ruling-class crimes of looting and wholesale hand over of Nigeria to international finance capital and their intelligence and military institutions that now rustle our army into neo-imperialist wars of recolonisation from the Maghreb to the Nile Valley! This piece is not really about Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Laddah’awatih wal-Jihad (JASLJ) which translates to “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophets Teaching and Jihad”. However, a few comments are necessary about certain definite attempts to subvert the truth about JASLJ origins and development, and manipulation of the facts of the development of its activities in the conjuncture of the interests of western imperialism and the contest for power among factions of the Nigerian ruling class. First, various interests in the media have forced us to forget that when it surfaced in 2002, JASLJ was a peaceful organisation until state terror transformed it into an implacable insurgency and the media popularised the derogatory name “Boko Haram” for it—a name that wreaks of imperialist ideological and cultural contempt for non-western world views!

Secondly, the southern faction of Nigeria’s ruling class especially its Christian wing has used post-2009 insurgency of JASLJ as a bogey for blackmailing the “northern”/Muslim wing of the ruling class in the contest for political power which they jointly use for allocating the booty from public treasury.

Precisely because they all profit from the manipulation of religion, they are unable to visualise or defend Nigeria as a secular state and religion as a private matter. They have virtually declared Islam and Christianity as the sole religions of Nigeria with huge public resources being used to build churches and mosques in Universities, government houses and parastatals, and with huge annual public expenditures on pilgrimages to Mecca and Jerusalem. When some states in the North imposed Sharia, complete with Sharia police, none of those now heeing and hawing against “Boko Haram” insisted that imposing a state religion in a multi-religious polity is unjust. Some of our so-called leaders carry their religion on their heads kneeling down publicly at the feet of pastors and evangelists!

Finally, on the so-called Boko Haram, the Nigerian people must become aware about how imperialism has “mainstreamed” the Boko Haram insurgency into its global war on terrorism. Our army is consequently right inside the vortex of USA’s AFRICOM and France’s reassertion of her influence in the Sahelian and sub-Sahelian space. The US Department of Defence and State Department laid the foundation for all these since the days when the only “terrorists” they were talking about were MEND, OPC, MASSOB, Egbesu etc! It is particularly frightening that Nigeria’s National Assembly allowed our army to enter the Mali affray so unceremoniously to fight a war that NATO already unleashed with or without Nigeria’s consent! We may just add that the fear of Boko Haram has helped the ruling circles to significantly divert the attention of the poor from their economic crimes and ideological fundamentalisms; they have increased the incendiary power of religious sectarianism with the power of ethno-nationalist fundamentalism. In many instances, the ethnic-nationalist warlords are also the arrow heads of religious fundamentalisms.

The continued promotion and entrenchment religious and ethnic divisions among the masses had become a major political and social project of Nigeria’s ruling class and their intellectuals. This is because the project is efficacious for private and, especially, primitive accumulation by their class. And, as we have insisted, Boko Haram has become a strategic bogey in the hands of Nigeria’s ruling class and their World Bank sponsors for the cover-ups of auctioning and pillaging Nigeria and for diverting international and local attention from other major security and existential crises they have manufactured to confuse their victims. This bogey is identical in all material particulars to the promotion of the “Islamist” threat that western imperialism had erected for confusing and pillaging the entire world! And, specifically, what are they covering up in Nigeria? In spite of the valorisation of privatisation and private enterprise which is foundational to all the corruption that has become a national plague, industries, banks and national infrastructure are collapsing. The main buyers of public infrastructures being auctioned (PHCN, roads etc) are former heads of states and their foreign and local friends. Those who loot our resources are largely untouchable. The “new rich” are the mainstay of the major political gladiators; they all now run major “foundations” and NGOs which are mere parasites on the Nigerian state. Even some of the former World Bank agents who were our ministers are setting up NGO shops in Abuja to bring light to our “African darkness”.

In all of these, major accumulative wars are creating confusion for ordinary people. There are private wars between alleged local manufacturers and commodity importers (as in the case of the current “cement crisis” between Ibeto and Dangote). Apart from the major geo-political wars, the Nigerian ruling class is creating wars inside-wars between states (Bayelsa vs. Rivers, Kogi vs. Anambra, Akwa Ibom vs. Cross Rivers, etc.), between parties (ACN vs. LP in Ondo) between neighbouring communities ( in Ebonyi, the Eggon-Magili conflicts in Nassarawa) and amon groups inside states (such as the alleged marginalisation of Idoma in Benue State, etc.) and flash mass murders (floating bodies in river) , kidnapping, spectacular armed robberies etc. They are getting Nigerians to see many of these horrific events as “normal security challenges”.

The point which religionists and evangelists and members of the ruling class are denying is that all the elements of this generalised violence have economic and material base. The generalised violence is the production of the legendary opulence of the Nigerian ruling circles and the massive profit that have accumulated to the foreign corporations and their financial institutions (IMF, World Bank, IFC) and their individual mentors (Soros, Lynda Chalker, Tony Blair etc.). They are denying the fact that this generalised violence (actually counter-violence) arose from the anger of the victims—a generic anger that is, at times, harvested to resolve ruling class conflicts at local and international levels and that gets, at times, indiscriminate, suicidal and senseless!

The truth is also that, for good or for bad, religions (Christianity and especially Islam in more recent times), have also been, for a long time, coherent platforms for fighting percieved social and political injustice. Christian churches in Latin America have played significant roles in popular, including armed, insurrections. Islamic Jihadists have been pivotal to the resistance against occupation armies, rampaging capitalism, monarchist dictatorships, and sectarian hegemonies in the Middle East. In the late 1960s and in the 1970s, resistance to internal colonialism and racism in the USA produced the Nation of Islam led by Elijah Muhammed and others. Today, arising from the ramified crisis in Europe, there is increased conversion of young French citizens to Islam. In Nigeria, a segment of the Niger Delta militancy is led by the Gaddafi loyalist Mujahidin Asari Dokubo!

The new imperialism, in spite of its bravado and its insistent violent adventures, is in crisis even of survival in its centres. Notwithstanding, because of the apparent paralysis of its global victims, it carries on with its myths of “no alternative” and triumphalism. Yet the intellectuals of neo-liberalism, from Fukuyama to Sacchs and Stiglitz, are yelling about the dire social consequences of neo-liberalism. But these belated worries have been in the forefront of theory and policy by intellectuals of the oppressed peoples (like Chomsky, Amin, Fidel Castro, Escobar Madunagu, Mamdani, Mokwugo Okoye, Bala Usman, Arundathi Roy, Onimode, Asobie, Iyayi, Kagarlitsky, Ola Oni etc.) for at least decades. The double talk and posturing among the intellectuals of capitalist barbarism is represented in more grotesque forms in the peripheries! In Nigeria, the collaborators of IMF and the World Bank have been using public fora (like University convocations etc.) and their ubiquitous government-funded summits, retreats and workshops others to conduct nauseating rehearsh of what serious people-oriented economists and development analysts have been saying for decades. The neo-con economists have now discovered that there is a debt trap; that the ruling-class (that they served) has been squandering Nigeria’s foreign reserves and the so-called excess crude earnings; or that World Banks economies of pillage and violence against the people suffer the fate of “reforming the un-reformable!”

But all the crises of neo-liberalism have not affected the thinking and policies of the Nigeria clones of new imperialism. Perfectly true to their subaltern role as agents of new imperialism, while their mentors like Joseph Stiglitz are loudly querying the myths of market forces, deregulation, less government and roll-back of government intervention in social-service provisioning, their agents in Nigeria remain atavistically fundamentalist about orthodox World Bank ideology of less government, privatisation, deregulation, removal of subsidies, etc.

The strategic political upshot of all of the foregoing is that while Nigeria’s so-called political parties are regrouping for 2015 to continue the road to Nigeria’s national ruin, they are agreed on the auctioning of Nigeria and on subverting Nigeria’s sovereignty by looking up to the institutions and local evangelist of neo-liberalism for answers to the crises they have imposed on Nigeria. This is why all sorts of permutations of 2015 presidential candidates as the ones that produced the incumbent regime in 2011, will lead nowhere!

The foregoing are the outlines of the specific and growing chaos that neo-liberal intellectuals keep quibbling about and which they are covering up with religion and varieties of nationalism and ethno-nationalism globally and in the peripheries.

For decades, socialist alternatives, in spite of their distortions and defeats, have been on the agenda of popular struggles across the world and especially in the peripheries of capitalist accumulation. We are, consequently not posing the foregoing questions to persuade the adherents, and ipso-facto beneficiaries, of neo-liberal barbarism. Rather we are trying to impress it upon the victims (and the allies of the victims) of neo-liberalism that we need to have a country—a country that belongs to the labouring masses of our peoples. To have that country, the victims of neo-liberalism must return to what Mokwugo Okoye, in 1986, called The Politics of Liberation.