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Party Building





Zed Press, 57 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DN.


Problems of Socialism: The Nigerian Challenge was first published by Zed Press, 57
Caledonian Road, London in 1982.

Copyright Eddie Madunagu



Introduction: The Need for Self-Clarification


1. The Politics of Illusion, I960- 78

The Interests of the Nigerian Ruling Class
National Unity - A Slogan for Exploitation
Return to 'Democratic' Rule

2. The 1979 Elections

The Limits on Competition and Participation

The Role of Money
Manipulation of Fears and Prejudices
Consolidating the New Civilian Government
Its Record

3. An Underdeveloped Capitalist Economy

The Neo-capitalist 'Revolution': 1970-80
Mechanisms of Working-Class Repression
Unresolved Conflicts Within the Ruling Class
The Bankruptcy of a Neocolonial Solution
Conclusion: Neocolonialism and the Quality of Life

4. The Ethnic Minority Question in Nigeria

Minorities under Colonial Rule
Minority Groups and Present-Day Politics
Conditions for a Real Solution to the Ethnic Minority Question
Conclusion: Ethnic Minority Problems and the Struggle for Socialism


5. The Tragedy of the Nigerian Labour and Socialist Movement

The Nigerian Socialist Movement Before the Military Intervention of 1966
The Nigerian Socialist Movement During the Military Regime (1966-79)
Factors Preventing the Emergence of an Integrated Revolutionary Movement

The Socialist Movement and the Return to Civilian Rule

The Military Regime and the Unification of the Labour Movement

6. The Ambiguity of Student Radicalism

Protests During the Colonial Regime
Protests During the first Post-Colonial Civilian Regime (1960-65)
Students' Roles During the Military Era: Their Strengths and Limitations

7. The UPN Today: A Socialist Party?

Philosophical Foundations
Immediate Practical Measures
Theoretical Assertions
A Final Reflection

8. The Importance of Correct Analysis

Is There a Class Struggle in Nigeria?
What Constitutes a Revolutionary Situation?
The Need: Concrete Analysis of Concrete Situations

9. The Question of Strategy

The Transition to Socialism: Competing Views
Provisional Theses

10. The Way Forward

The Urgent Task: To Build An Authentic Nigerian Socialist Movement
Problems to be Overcome

What is to be Done?

Appendix: A Comment on National Unity in Nigeria

The work which appears in the following pages was originally drafted as a short
essay intended for publication in a Nigerian journal. When the manuscript was shown to
some friends it was suggested that, because of the political importance of the subject, it
should be revised, expanded and prepared for publication as a pamphlet. This was duly
done. It was then that the present publishers were contacted. At their suggestion, the
manuscript was further expanded and revised, and finally re-written completely, resulting in
the present volume.

Throughout the period of development of this work (December 1978 to May 1980)
the author tried to maintain two elements of its original character: its polemical form and its
political objective.

The work is polemical because its aim is to combat bourgeois falsifications of

Nigerian history and social reality, on the one hand, and pseudo-socialist prescriptions for
social change, on the other. It is political because it poses, once again, the question of
socialist revolution in Nigeria.

For the reader who would like to know from the beginning what this book is all about,
we offer the following summary. By examining very critically the position of Nigerian society
today, it raises the urgent question of what must be done to force a socialist revolution onto
the agenda of our national development a socialist revolution thoroughly informed by
history and Marxist theory. No more and no less.

Introduction: The Need for Self-Clarification

This book should he seen as an open attempt by a Nigerian Marxian socialist to

reach self-clarification on several problems connected with organized socialist struggles in
Nigeria, at least over the past decade. It is made open so that it can serve simultaneously as
an invitation to Nigerian socialists to inaugurate a new phase of debate on the problems of
socialist transformation a debate which has been made necessary by the present
diffuseness1 of socialist voices in Nigeria.

We are also attempting an exercise which, at least in this country, has nearly always
been evaded for reasons of opportunism, or only timidly carried out by socialists; that is, to
locate the specific problems of socialist transformation in Nigeria within a global perspective.
In other words, although the various concrete problems considered in this essay are
encountered in Nigeria whose present political conjuncture supplies the challenge for the
work we are proposing that the theoretical (and even practical) issues involved belong, in
varying degrees, to the world socialist movement at large.

The implication of the term 'world socialist movement' is clear to us and we assume
full responsibility for it. This is simply that the problems of socialist transformation have not
been completely transcended anywhere in the world. These problems are therefore relevant
not only to movements in countries yet to take the first step towards socialist transformation
the political overthrow of capitalist rule (or local national wing of world imperialism) but
also to movements which have taken this step and are tackling the question of socioeconomic and cultural reconstruction. To that extent, the following text should be seen as an
attempt by a Nigerian socialist to reformulate, critically, the global problems of socialism as
they now present themselves on the Nigerian scene.

If we permit ourselves to separate existing social forces in world broadly into two,
imperialist forces and socialist forces2 (ignoring the various links between them and
differentiations within each system forces), we see immediately that socialist forces have
won great victories over the last two decades. In this respect we can mention, on one level,
the victories scored in Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau and Cape
Verde), in Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Laos), and in the Middle East (Yemen,
etc.). On another level, we can mention the intensification of revolutionary struggles in Latin
America and Southern Africa, among others.

But just as there have been victories, there have also been problems, reversals and
defeats which can be grouped on at least three levels. On one level we have the defeats
suffered by revolutionary movements which had actually gained control of state power
(Ghana under Nkrumah, Chile under Allende). On another level, we have the reversals
suffered by revolutionary movements pushing for state power (Bolivia, Ceylon, etc.), by
those movements which were simply pre-empted and crushed (Indonesia, Sudan etc), and
by those movements whose organizations have been repeatedly 'nipped in the bud'
externally or aborted internally (Nigeria, Ghana, etc). We must not forget the uneasy and
sometimes bloody alliances between nationalist and socialist parties (e.g. the alliance of
Ba'ath and Communist parties in Iraq, Syria, etc)3.

On the third level, we have problems raised by the experiences of the various
established socialist regimes. There are problems of internal degeneration of revolutionary
leaderships; objective problems arising from the existence of only one world market,
dominated at present by imperialism but in which socialist countries participate, albeit
peripherally; problems raised by the fact that revolutionary movements are today organized
within national boundaries4 which are largely created by world imperialism. There are also
immense political and ideological problems thrown up by the history of the first successful
socialist revolution; problems arising from the fact that socialism is a designation for a
transitional social order which can take several forms; problems arising from socialist
commitment to prevent imperialism (actively by military deterrence and passively by the
policy of peaceful co-existence) from unleashing another global war on Mankind.

This book does not aim to provide solutions to the various problems raised; its only
objective is to formulate or reformulate them in the light of our concrete experiences. For as
Marx wrote:
Where speculation ends in real life there, real positive science begins: the
representation of the practical activity, of the practical process of development of men. Empty
talk about consciousness ceases, and real knowledge has to take its place. When reality is
depicted, philosophy as an independent branch of knowledge loses its medium of existence.
At the best its place can only be taken by a summing-up of the most general results,
abstractions which arise from the observation of the historical development of men. Viewed
apart from real history, these abstractions have in themselves no value whatsoever. They can
only serve to facilitate the arrangement of historical material, to indicate the sequence of its
separate strata. But they by no means afford a recipe or schema, as does philosophy, for
neatly trimming the epochs of history. On the contrary, our difficulties begin only when we set
about the observation and the arrangement the real depiction of our historical material,
whether of a past epoch or of the present.5

A revolutionary, theoretical self-clarification becomes necessary when a certain set of

formulations repeatedly fails to grapple with the essence of a problem. It is a fundamental
proposition of historical materialism that no social problem presents itself as immediate until,
the pre-conditions for its solution have developed or are at least in the active process of
development. When, therefore, a certain problem is identified as one whose solution is
crucial to the solution of other problems that is, when a problem is identified as immediate
then self-clarification becomes necessary, if the solution to this problem is not to become
more elusive every day.

For the socialist movement in Nigeria the need for self-clarification is urgent. For
more than a decade, continuous attempts (varying in their degree of seriousness) have been
made to unite the various localized and backward Socialist/Marxist groups in the country.
The equally persistent abortion of these attempts has become almost a tradition and a
culture. It is a tragedy which reflects certain fundamental errors of theory and practice, and
therefore calls for thorough self-clarification. This is the fundamental premise of this analysis.

The exercise of self-clarification involves the submission of key concepts,

formulations and applications to critical re-examination. It also involves re-examination of
present and past revolutionary practice. In other words, both theory and practice our
entire heritage must be examined. We recognize the critical character of such points in
history critical in the sense that the result of such an exercise is most often either a leap to
higher revolutionary engagement or a slip into disillusionment, capitulation and surrender.

Social reality is complex. The problem of grappling with this complexity is a

theoretical one. Were reality a simple and obvious fact, were history a unilinear process, the
need for theory would hardly arise.6 Since, however, the comprehension of reality involves
the telescoping of its various aspects through abstraction, theory presents itself as
indispensable. Our basic attitude, therefore, is that theory has no autonomous existence
except as an indispensable tool for the comprehension bf the complexities called reality.

Theory itself bears a dialectical relationship to reality. It is a means of comprehending

reality and to that extent it tails behind it. On the other hand, it is a tool for transforming
reality, and to that extent, it goes beyond it. Theory remains properly so-called so far as it
can maintain its dialectical (contradictory) character coherently through its various stages of
development. As soon as theory ceases to make reality comprehensible or falls to illuminate
possibilities for further transformation of reality,7 the need for self-clarification arises.

There is an important and decisive aspect of self-clarification which should be

mentioned. Every revolutionary or revolutionary organization is subjected to a multiplicity of
forces class enemy forces, pressures from the toiling classes, internal tensions within the
organization (or internal contradictions within the individual revolutionary) forces which
can at once be political, ideological, economic, social, or cultural. No practising revolutionary
can pretend to be indifferent to these forces. since self-clarification, involving a temporary
halt to current political practice, can at times take the form of ideological or political
concessions to the enemy. The danger of such situations is very clear.

It can be argued and very strongly too that continuous self-clarification is the
duty of every revolutionary and revolutionary organization. This objection presupposes the
existence of the condition for such continuous exercise. But the need for self-clarification of
the type we are now discussing arises at a point in a process of zig-zag empiricism. It can
also be argued that self-clarification is achieved only through political action whose results
proves or disproves a theoretical premise8 or at least breaks an undesirable stability.9 Again
this serious objection presupposes that the present conjuncture opens up possibilities for
meaningful political action based on our existing tradition which, one may argue is no
tradition at all, judging from its extremely fragmented and episodic character.

We admit that the last paragraph has an alarmingly pessimistic note. Although this
pessimism is real in Nigeria, it is not our intention to perpetuate it. Instead we believe that a
clear admission of our political tragedy is a necessary condition for transcending it.

1. This diffuseness is expressed both ideologically and politically. The ideological expression
is simply the absence of any formulation of socialist strategy, while the political expression is
the fact that, whereas all the officially recognized political parties in the country have selfprofessed socialists in their leading positions, there is no nationally organized socialist
2. With this broad classification, we include within the socialist system of forces all those
movements whose objective directions of struggle constitute a challenge to imperialist
hegemony (whether military, ideological, political or economic) and through which the
specific socialist forces in the country could gain an enhanced strategic position. (We use
the term `socialist' instead of the more appropriate designation 'anti-imperialist', simply
because several wings of imperialism in the Third World have verbally appropriated the
ideology of anti-imperialism and emptied it of all content and meaning.)
3. To that extent, whatever the dreams of Ayatollah Khomeiny may be, the current Iranian
Revolution belongs to the socialist system of forces.
4. With the possible exception of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde Islands where a single
revolutionary party the African Party for Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde
(P.A.I.G.C.) is in the leadership of both countries, or was until the coup of November 1980
on the mainland.
5. K. Marx and F. Engels, The German Ideology, (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976), p.43.
6. G. Novack, Understanding History, (Pathfinder Press, N.Y., 1974), pp.15-16.
7. Reality in the context we now employ it, includes human social practice. Hence the
transformation of reality embraces the re-direction of human social practice.
8. K. Marx, Second Thesis on Feuerbach in Marx-Engels: Selected Works, (International
Publishers, N.Y., 1977), p.28.
9. Che Guevara gave this as one of the reasons for his embarking on the Bolivian
revolutionary enterprise to end the isolation of the Cuban Revolution and break the
stalemate over the Vietnam War by opening a new revolutionary front.

PART 1 Nigeria Today

1. The Politics of Illusion, 1960-78

And as in private life one differentiates between what a man thinks and says of himself and
what he really is and does, so in historical struggles one must distinguish still more the
phrases and fancies of parties from their real organization and their real interests, their

conception of themselves from their reality.... Thus the Tories of England long imagined they
were enthusiastic about Monarch, Church and the beauties of the old English Constitution,
until the day of danger wrung from them the confession that they are only enthusiastic about
the groundrent.1

There is always the danger, in writing a political tract during a time of rapid change
that projections and predictions can become falsified even before they get to press. But
though we are aware of this danger, for the purposes of this essay they are irrelevant,
precisely because its subject matter, the socialist movement in Nigeria, cannot intervene in
any possible developments as an organized force unless the preconditions for this
intervention are first created. In what follows we discuss the problems of creating the
preconditions for future intervention rather than the problems of intervention in current
political struggles.

It is not our task here to tell the history of Nigeria. We shall merely describe the
present political scene a scene before which the socialist forces have miserably
disintegrated. If we are compelled to go into history, this will be done as briefly as possible
and for the sole purpose of 'clarifying the present situation.

The Interests of the Nigerian Ruling Class

Every self-conscious social class (whether ruling or subordinate) articulates and
defines the problems of society from the standpoint of its own interests. However, these
interests, in the case of the ruling class, are falsely presented as, and proclaimed to be, 'the
interests of the nation'. In contrast, subordinate and dominated classes openly admit the
class character of their interests, but proclaim them 'the interests of the masses' on two main
grounds. First; the low subordinate and dominated classes constitute the immense majority
of the working people who create the wealth, civilization and culture which the minority ruling
class appropriates and administers. Secondly (and this is particularly valid in countries with
more bankrupt ruling classes for example, Latin American countries) the subordinate and
dominated classes realize that the ruling class can continue to represent their interests as
'the interests of the nation' only at the cost of intensified dehumanization and insecurity, not
only for the oppressed, but also for the oppressors.

The Nigerian ruling class sees the greatest problem of the country as that of 'national
unity and stability'. Shed of all ideological colourations and rhetorical embellishments, this
problem can be formulated as follows: how can the ruling class of Nigeria unite its various
economic, ethnic and religious factions so as to achieve a permanent and stable social
hegemony over the entire country? We must hasten to add that the Nigerian ruling class has
not always articulated its interests exactly in this form; it is clear that the articulation of the
interests of the various classes is necessarily bound up with the development of the country
and the contending classes themselves.

During the first post-independence civilian regime (1960-65), the various factions of
the ruling class were all equally cynical on the issue of 'national unity'. With centres of
political power located in the four regions (North, East, West and Mid-West), the problem of
the ruling class in each region was how to use regional hegemony as a lever to grab as
much as possible from the centre through several political combinations in Lagos. These
combinations were never stable; and as many times as instability reached crisis point,2 so
was the corporate existence of the country threatened.

The regionalism of the First Republic is not inexplicable: it was rooted in our history.3
Nigeria, which became a 'nation' by British imperial decree in 1914, was effectively carved
into three autonomous regions in 1946 before any nationalist movements spanning the
entire country could emerge. Of course, we do not deny that there were nationalists who
opposed this regional set-up and agitated for a unitary state (we may mention the militants of
the Zikist Movement), just as there were merchant and feudal forces supporting the set-up.
Neither do we deny that the various political parties chanted the slogan of national unity after
1946 while subverting and denying it in practice. It can even be argued that some of these
parties often believed their own false slogans. The crucial fact is that the Richards
Constitution of 1946 dealt a, severe and effective blow to the movement for national unity. By
the time the country achieved independence in 1960, regionalism had already reproduced
and entrenched itself under the hegemony of the feudal, merchant and rising capital classes.

Side by side with the forces of regionalism which were led by the regional factions of
the ruling class, there were other social contradictions which together determined the fate of
the First Republic. Among these we can mention the contradictions of 'ethnic minorities' in
the regions, the restlessness of impoverished working people and the subterranean
influences of vested imperialist interests. Suffice it to say at the failure to reach an `algebraic'
form for the collective peaceful looting of the wealth of the country by various factions of the
ruling class led to the collapse of the First Republic and the Civil War.

National Unity A Slogan for Exploitation

The 13-year military regime which was inaugurated in January 1966 will go down in
history for the reason that under this regime the economic, political and military conditions
were created through the regime's deliberate actions and by sheer natural factors
under which the consciousness of the ruling class, as a class, took a very sharp upward turn.
A Nigerian Marxist has rightly observed that every new political slogan of a class is an
indication of a new moment in the development of the consciousness of that class. This is
particularly true of the ruling class's newly discovered slogan of 'national unity, stability,
security and discipline'.

The 30-month Civil War (July 1967 to January 1970) which was fought by the loyalist
bourgeoisie 'to keep Nigeria one' and by the rebellious bourgeoisie `to assert the principles
of self-preservation and self-determination' had several historical consequences; but two of
them stand out by the sheer force of their contradictory impact. The same tragedy which left
so many dead and many more deformed and impoverished also created several millionaires
of the 'importer-exporter-general contractor' breed.

When the military took over in 1966, the professional politicians retreated from the
overt scene of political society into the covert scene of civil society.5 The state of emergency
which was imposed on the country only regulated the affairs of political society; its effect on
civil society was selective. It imposed severe economic exactions on the poor (contributions
for the war effort, scarcity of goods, non-mobility of labour, etc.) but did not prevent those
who had roots in the civil society from making millions of naira out of the war economy from
contracts and agencies for arms supplies, rehabilitation, of war-affected people, and other

The War ended and oil came. It became necessary to build barracks for thousands of
soldiers. It became necessary for us to show the world that we were not, after all, primitive:
that we were aware of arts and culture (even though we appeared to have negated culture
by slaughtering one another). All these needs impelled the award of contracts for the building
of barracks, the award of contracts for the building of the FESTAC village,6 the Trade-Fair
Village and the 'Parabolic Parabola'.7 The actual hosting of these festivals also threw huge
sums of money into the pockets of Nigeria's 'moneybags'. The country was flowing with
money; the ports were congested with hundreds of ships waiting to unload varieties of
imported luxury commodities. Inflation descended heavily on the whole nation. The working
people, who had borne the brunt of the war economy, saw no improvement in their living
conditions. Instead of sharing the good fortune of the oil boom, they were-blamed for the
inflation. Nevertheless, they agitated, and their wages were re-graded upwards. The wage
awards had two consequences which were of importance: firstly, the structure (or hierarchy)
of wages was left intact, and secondly, inflation immediately absorbed whatever additions
were made to wages and salaries.

It will not be difficult now to understand why the ruling class suddenly appeared with
the slogan of 'national unity, stability, security and discipline'. The country was already
flowing with 'milk and honey' all in the hands of importer-exporter-general contractor
businessmen and women. Which ruling class in history has failed to defend the 'stability,
security and territorial integrity' of such a fortunate country? Thus, for the sake of the stability
and security of Nigeria, the Agbekoya revolt8 of 1968-69 was brutally crushed; in the interest
of the stability and security of Nigeria, the civil agitations against Gowon's arbitrary rule and
corruption were silenced with bestial cruelty (including long periods of detention).

The cry of national unity by the ruling class is at once tied up with a new type of
nationalism. The economic boom made the 'love of Nigeria' an ideological imperative for
those who are in the position to plunder it collectively although this love is immediately
negated by the framework of neocolonialism.9

The nationalism of the bourgeoisie cannot be dismissed summarily; it can only be

described as contradictory and ambiguous. As one writer has lucidly pointed out,

the bourgeoisie's nationalism Is the outcome of its wish to appropriate resources back from
the foreigner; its commitment to foreign investment is the outcome of its concrete dependence
on neo-colonial political economy. National unity and reconciliation express its ambition to act
as an hegemonic class, providing moral and political leadership at the national level and
within the international political arena. Its tribalism is the outcome of its lack of control of the
productive resources of the economy and hence of the competition among the bourgeoisie for
favoured access to scarce resources, and the need to manipulate particularistic interests and
sentiments among the poor to maintain the bourgeoisie's political domination. 10

In 1972 an Indigenization Decree was passed which reserved certain sets of

enterprises for Nigerians and stipulated a mandatory local-foreign ratio of ownership in other
enterprises. This led to a stiff struggle within the bourgeoisie for control of the business
opportunities left vacant by foreigners. A struggle also ensued between the various factions
of the bourgeoisie over a national oil policy.

The struggles between factions of the bourgeoisie necessarily projected themselves

on to the overt political plane where they often converged with violent protests arising from
mass dissatisfaction and disillusionment. The rupture on the political plane in 1974-75 clearly
showed the extent to which the ruling class had succeeded in unifying the various bourgeois
interests (economic, ethnic, and religious), a unification which is seen as a precondition, and
a form of existence, for overall bourgeois economic and political hegemony over the entire

The military regime always presented itself (and was always so presented by factions
of the bourgeois ideologists, intellectuals, 'patriots', liberals, and so forth), as the
embodiment and historical agency of Nigeria's national interests. This ideological pretension,
which among the working people assumed the form an optical illusion,11 became
strengthened during the War and was institutionalized by the muted tendency towards the
creation of a one party state. But the series of crises in 1974 and 1975 shook the very
foundations of bourgeois pretensions and illusions. Let us attempt a separation of some of
the more important of these crises,

On the level of the state, the bourgeoisie could not agree on what should be
accepted as the correct population figures for the country. This agreement was not easy to
reach since political representation and revenue allocation wore still to be tied to the
populations of the constituent states. The crisis was not resolved by the regime's unilateral
acceptance of the 1973 census figures which gave Nigeria a population of almost 80 million.
Indeed, several bourgeois politicians (who were then waiting anxiously to replace the military
regime as the political representatives of the people) and members of the regime itself
voiced their opposition to the census figures even as they were being adopted officially.
The war of words was reminiscent of a similar event more than ten years earlier (the 196263 population count).

The return to civilian rule, to which the regime openly committed itself in 1970, was
becoming more and more difficult to realize as the opposing factions of the bourgeois class
embarked more vigorously upon both subterranean and overt mobilization of their economic,
ethnic, and religious bases thereby seriously undermining the achievement by the military
regime of its historical task: the consolidation of bourgeois hegemony. As a result, the
military regime which stood for 'national interests' naturally had to intervene in 1974 and call
off the return to civilian rule indefinitely.

Side by side with this specific bourgeois struggle, there were mass struggles all over
the country struggles which, though arising from the oppressive concrete life situations of
the people, were quickly exploited, fuelled and derailed by the competing bourgeois factions.
The economic boom created millionaires out of the bourgeoisie, state functionaries,
bureaucrats and technocrats. Official corruption necessarily accompanying this boom
reached such a scandalous level that workers, students, intellectuals (liberal and
revolutionary) and professionals, ignoring the state of emergency and the ban on politics,
had to mount open agitations against the regime - agitations often assuming the specific
form of demands for a return to civilian rule.

Some bourgeois factions joined in these agitations not because they were
opposed to corruption, but because they wanted a more equal access to the opportunities
and benefits of corruption. Thus there was the bourgeois-led, but publicly supported,
campaign against a Federal Commissioner. The regime was forced to advise the
Commissioner to resign. Then came a similar agitation against a state military governor. But
this did not result in his resignation; instead, it led to the detention of the leading accuser.

The battered military regime sometimes responded to these attacks very bravely. It
mounted a reign of terror in the form of mass detention of agitators, police-military
brutalization, dismissals, and threats. But the decisive factor in the crisis emerged as soon
as the military regime itself became sufficiently divided to prompt a settlement through 'the
barrel of the gun'. The Gowon regime which had come to power in August 1966 was easily
removed in July 1975.

Return to 'Democratic Rule

The Murtala-Obasanjo military regime came to power as a result of the convergence
of several factors: the internal corruption and decay of Gowon's regime and its militarybureaucratic base, acute. struggles between the various factions of the bourgeoisie,
disillusionment of the masses and the radical (though uncoordinated) challenge of a crosssection of the working people and students. The new regime came to power waving the
banner of social reforms and the entire bourgeois press joined the wagon of 'revolution'.
Once again, the masses, lacking authentic revolutionary organizations of their own, were
deceived and once again their hopes and expectations were entrusted to a new militarybureaucratic movement.

The new regime acted with such rapidity that even a large section of the political left
were dazed, carried away, and integrated into what might be described as national illusions.
The regime acted swiftly where Gowon had acted timidly or indecisively. Within hours of its
coming to power, all military officers above the rank of brigadier were dismissed, police
chiefs retired, several army officers redeployed, and several bureaucratic 'heavyweights'
removed from office. This was the first necessary step to dislocate Gowon's militarybureaucratic base and make a regrouping for an immediate counter-coup difficult.

The second step came a few weeks later when the regime embarked upon a
systematic purging of military and civilian officers, civil servants, bureaucrats, diplomats,
university teachers, judges, etc. This move was also necessary if the regime was to secure
legitimacy for itself, since the Gowon regime had been characterized, towards the end of its
life, by large scale and open corruption and social scandal. Our erstwhile 'socialists'
accepted and indirectly urged the working masses to accept the view that the purged
officials, and not the system, were responsible for the Gowon administration's corruption.

In October 1975, the regime announced a political programme for the return to
democratic rule. According to this programme announced with fanfare and amidst
acclamations from the bourgeoisie and various petty-bourgeois groups (including their leftwing 'socialist' section) the country was to return to democratic rule in October 1979. This,
to the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois democrats, was a far cry from the previous era when
Gowon with equal fanfare (but less acclamation) had dismissed the idea of an end to military
life in the foreseeable future.

The following political steps were set down to lead to October 1979: 1) creation of
more states in the country; 2) creation of local councils and organization of elections for
them; 3) the appointment and the setting to work of a Constitution Drafting Committee
(C.D.C.); 4) election to a Constituent Assembly and the approval of the Draft Constitution by
this Assembly; 5) lifting of the ban on political activities and political parties, the holding of
federal and state elections and the handing over power to democratic governments in
October 1979.

To demonstrate its commitment to this programme, the regime went on immediately

to appoint a 50-member, all male, Constitution Drafting Committee to write a constitution for
the country. The fifty men came entirely from the ranks of senior university teachers and
administrators, big professionals, politicians, state bureaucrats, and big businessmen. There
were a few inaudible, inarticulate, protests from mass organizations over the bourgeois
composition of the C.D.C., but these protests were drowned in the maze of new-found
nationalism of the petty-bourgeois strata. The C.D.C. was set to work immediately.

Four events between late 1975 and early 1976 sharpened the contradictions within
the new regime and within Nigerian social reality as a whole, indicating clearly the path of
further development and inevitable decline of the new political order.

First, the regime, shocked by the logic of its retirement exercise (i.e. the military and
bureaucratic purges), halted in mid-stream and set up a machinery for considering protests
from those purged. Secondly, it promoted several military officers to the ranks of general,
lieutenant-general, major-general, and brigadier. This exercise brought a wave of protests
from radical mass and student organizations and perhaps the first internal discontent within
the regime (from those left out or less favoured in this exercise). Thirdly, the Angolan civil
war posed a test for the new radical posture in foreign affairs. The regime first came out in
favour of the so-called negotiated settlement and unity between the various Angolan
movements. But later, the logic of its own radical pronouncements and the reactions of
radical mass organizations pushed the regime to ally itself with the M.P.L.A. The internal
cohesion within the regime was further weakened, while some factions of the bourgeoisie
(together with their imperialist masters) became clearly alarmed.

Lastly, in early February 1976, the regime announced the re-division of Nigeria into
19 states, making an addition of seven more states. In the same announcement, several of
the previously retired military officers were now dismissed 'with ignominy'. Some bourgeois
and petty-bourgeois interests were assuaged and others subverted by the new state
divisions; the army itself was terribly shaken by the ignominious dismissals of former military
chiefs, some of whom still had some measure of influence.

It became clear at this stage that neither the regime, with its shaken internal
cohesion, nor the alarmed bourgeoisie and bureaucrats, nor indeed the newly awakened
nationalism of the petty-bourgeois democrats could stop a counter reaction. Within seven
months the regime had set in motion a general political dislocation which it neither had the
capacity nor the will to control or consciously extend. The working masses, the only
authentic alternative, were too unorganized to act beyond confused contemplation.

The country therefore waited for the next move, which came on February 13,1976.
What happened on that day is still largely shrouded in mystery. All that can be said now is
that a military coup was attempted by a right-wing section of the regime, aided by a section
of the bourgeoisie and a section of world imperialism. The attempted coup came as a nodal
point in the contradiction between radical politics and pronouncements on the one hand, and
imperialist economic integration and entrenchment on the other; between the regime's desire
for popular legitimacy by means of is purges and its inability to extend them in any
systematic way; between the regime's desire to assuage bourgeois-ethnic-feudal interests
and the desire to prove that it stood above these loyalties.

The attempted military coup claimed the lives of several military officers while about
50 others were publicly executed later as participants or accomplices in the incident. Federal
and state governments were reconstituted, while the nation was promised a continuation of
the same revolutionary line. We know, however, that by the time the wave of executions
ended despite a new upsurge of petty-bourgeois nationalism the military regime had
exhausted all its potential, and had become politically bankrupt. However, it still verbally
committed itself to the political programme announced in October 1975.

Radical sections of the population, who had largely been carried away by the
upheavals of the previous months, began to ask themselves at this stage what, in concrete
terms, the regime had done for the people apart from pseudo-radical rhetoric. Reformist
socialists began to have doubts, but were still too dazed to draw a conclusion. What was the
real situation? The purges, on which the regime built its legitimacy, had largely been a failure
since many officials who logically ought to have been purged remained unpurged and
unpurgeable, while several purged ones had found their way back to positions of economic
and political dominance. The only victims - the only real ones - were the poor workers who
were thrown out of their jobs on the grounds of declining productivity after they had been
thoroughly squeezed.

A wage freeze had been imposed on the workers; strikes were banned and offenders
threatened with execution, imprisonment or proscription of their unions; inflation was rising;
student radicals were being rusticated and universities and colleges were being closed
down, while the working class movement (notably the trade unions) was being subjected to
state bureaucratization.

A bourgeois, illusory and empty agrarian programme termed Operation Feed the
Nation was announced. The programme was ostensibly aimed at boosting food production;
but the real producers of agricultural foodstuffs - the peasants - were ignored, while loans
were being granted to capitalist farmers. The whole nation was urged to engage in part-time
farming, while students on vacation were drafted to state demonstration farms where they
did nothing (since there was no urge to do anything even if there had been something to
do!). The best they did was the planting of flowers, while they earned monthly salaries higher
than workers' wages. In the midst of all this, it was announced that individual peasants who
wanted the 'help' of students would have to provide their wages. Knowing the general misery
and impoverishment of the peasants, this announcement betrayed the bankruptcy of the
entire programme.

Meanwhile oil revenues increased, the bourgeois and military-bureaucratic capitalists

increased their affluent consumption and doubled their holdings; imperialists continued their
rape of our resources; colour television was introduced in a country where the vast majority
live in a state of permanent economic, political and social marginalization, filth and poverty.
Prestige state festivals and international jamborees were organized and millions of naira
squandered. The regime attempted to control the prices of manufactured goods and
foodstuffs, and even attempted to control house rents by decree. These attempts were
bound to fail woefully even if they were sincerely motivated, since the state cannot control
prices in an anarchistic and free enter-prise economy; neither could the state control the
activities of middle-men and merchants while the economic structure still allowed their

The regime ignored all these stark realities and pushed on with its so-called political
programme. A programme for local government reform was announced over the heads of
the people. The country was carved up into several local council areas and dates for

elections were fixed. For these elections (December 1976) no political activities were
allowed, since the ban on political parties and activities was still in force. A money
qualification to stand as a candidate was also imposed. The state was given the right to
nominate up to 25% of the membership of each local council, and the chairman of each
council, though to be elected by the council, would have to be confirmed by the state. The
secretary of each council was also to be appointed by the state and be responsible only to
the state. Neither the chairman nor the secretary both to be highly paid was to be
removable by the council, while the state reserved the right to suspend or dissolve any local

The elections came and went and the new councils, as expected, were completely
dominated by the big bourgeoisie and professionals. The broad masses of the people were
either ignorant of the event or simply apathetic as the response of the electorate clearly
showed. The bourgeois Constitution Drafting Committee, meanwhile, came up with its draft
constitution. The draft was fascistic in content, but liberal in form. Its aim was to entrench
Nigeria further in the periphery of world capitalism and disarm the working masses.

1. K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 1, (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1973),
p.421. The particular work from which this passage is taken, The Eighteenth Brumaire of
Louis Bonaparte, was written by Marx as a political commentary on the class struggles in
France, in the course of which the various contending bourgeois parties operated behind
false revolutionary slogans only to be exposed in due course for what they were.
We may mention just two of these crisis points: the crisis over the national census in
1962 (which led to a new count in 1963) and the crisis over the conduct of the 1964 Federal
Elections. Each crisis nearly tore the Federation apart.
For a quick appreciation of the political developments summarized in this chapter,
see for instance: James S. Coleman and Carl G. Rosberg, Political Parties and National
Integration in Tropical Africa, (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1966), pp; 5 97-551
and J.H. Price, Political Institutions of West Africa, (Hutchinson, London, 1975), pp.35-39,
For another quick appreciation of the dimension of the problem of ethnic minorities
before the military intervention, see for example, G. Williams, Nigeria: Economy and Society,
(Rex Collings, London, 1976), pp.76-89 and the Nigerian Journal of Sociology and
Anthropology, Vol. 1, September 1974, No. 1, pp.39-56. Also see Chapter 4, Part I of the
present book.
We define 'civil society' simply as that arena where citizens daily struggle to earn a
living, reproduce their lives and accumulate wealth, or dream of doing so.
The Festival of Arts and Culture which took place in Nigeria between November 1976
and February 1977.
'Parabolic parabola' is the name given to the shape of Lagos Arts Theatre, the main
centre for the Festival of Arts and Culture.

In 1968 and 1969 during the Civil War peasant farmers in parts of Western
Nigeria rose in armed revolt against excessive taxation. During the revolt, the Agodi Prisons
at Ibadan were attacked and prisoners released. One natural ruler was beheaded by his
subjects for treachery against his own people. The revolt was finally crushed by an armed
detachment of the state but not before heavy casualties had been inflicted on both sides.
By neocolonialism we mean a dependent (i.e. peripheral) capitalist economic order
(within a larger world economic order) characterized by 1) economic development taking its
impetus and direction from the needs of the more economically powerful nations; 2) the
existence and hegemony of a national exploiting class which acts as a 'conveyor belt' for the
more powerful nations; 3) the existence of a system of unequal economic exchange between
the centre and the periphery of capitalism.

Williams, op. cit., p.34.

By optical illusion we, mean the inability to see or construct an alternative to a
phenomenon owing to the sheer force (or presence) of the status-quo. See George F.
Novack, Understanding History: Marxist Essays, (Pathfinder Press, N.Y., 1974), pp.71-72.

2. The 1979 Elections

The 'free and democratic' world welcomed the moves to return Nigeria to civilian rule
in 1979. It had been argued that a military regime however benevolent was at best, an
aberration since 'it is an inalienable right of the people to choose those that should govern
them'. It was further asserted that any government that comes to power by a free and
democratic choice of the people is necessarily good for them precisely because it is their

This is the current political ideology of the ruling class in Nigeria and it is dominant in
the sense that there is no opposing one which has any force behind it. But like every other
ideology of a ruling class, this particular one is a misrepresentation of reality, not because it
is false, but because it is an abstraction from the totality of social reality an abstraction
which deals with mere forms, remaining silent on specific content.

Democracy and freedom, as political categories, cannot be conceived of abstractly:

there is nothing like 'democracy in general' or 'freedom in general'. The citizens of a country
exercise their rights within the limits of choices available (or imposed). In other words,
democracy and freedom are historically conditioned. It is true that Nigerians went to the polls
to elect a new government. But this truth is not complete, for it is equally true that they did
this under conditions that were in fact Nigerian.

What were these conditions?

The Limits on Competition and Participation

(1) Of over 40 political parties formed in the country between September and November
1978, only five were officially given the right to exist and take part in the elections. Others
simply had to disappear. The-implication of this was that, whereas Nigerians were given the
democratic right to elect a government of their choice, they had to choose this government
from the parties officially presented to them. Thirty-six parties were a priori declared outside
the limits of the people's democratic choice not because their programmes were bad but
because they failed to satisfy certain conditions which could only be satisfied by the
possession of huge sums of money.

Why did the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) legislate 36 parties out of
existence? The decision of FEDECO was not legal; it was purely political. The movement
towards increasing bourgeois hegemony makes a two-fold demand: first, the forces of
opposition should be silenced; and secondly, the areas of conflict between the various
factions of the bourgeoisie have to be narrowed. FEDECO therefore legalized only those
political parties which together appeared to embrace the greatest interests of the greatest
number of the bourgeoisie and whose suppression was likely to engender sizeable and
effective opposition within the country.

(2) Several candidates were prevented from contesting the elections because they had been
found guilty of corruption or had not paid their taxes as and when due. One is not defending
corruption, but one has to question the meaning of corruption in the contemporary Nigerian
context; one also has to question the methods and processes of determining what amounts
to corruption. In the Nigerian free enterprise system where one can become a millionaire
overnight simply by importing goods and handing them over to a government institution, in a
system where a senior government official can build a house with a government (or quasigovernment) loan and hire out this same house to the government (provided he is clever
enough to use a fake name), in a system where a retired government functionary is given a
higher appointment after collecting his gratuity, how do we determine what corruption is?
The result of the disqualification of certain candidates was that the people were prevented
from including these candidates in their range of democratic choice on account of charges
that were falsely (or at least, incompletely) conceived.

(3) Democracy formally includes the right to vote and the right to be voted for. The Nigerian
electoral regulations loudly proclaimed these rights. But these were mere formal rights, for
the same regulation stipulated that a necessary condition for transforming these rights into
real rights was the possession of money: candidates contesting the elections had to pay
money deposits. We were told that this measure was taken in order to discourage would-be
frivolous candidates. But the payment of deposits cannot deter rich candidates; it can only
deter the poor ones. Therefore, frivolity had its roots in poverty! (Of course, the contesting
political parties in fact although they did not admit it endorsed this position: after all,
their leading members and candidates are rich men.) What, then, remained of the
democratic rights of the people?

(4) Nigeria is a country of unfulfilled promises. Between 1966 and 1979 the country passed
through two civilian and three military regimes. The civilian regimes made their promises to
the people before coming to power, while the military regimes made their promises after. But
all these promises of life more abundant have, remained unfulfilled. The people the
under-privileged people have predictably become cynical. It was under this condition of
national cynicism that the people were called upon to exercise their largely amputated
democratic rights. How do cynics choose between party programmes? One may retort that
the question of cynicism is a subjective one and can therefore not be included in what
constitutes the objective. conditions. But the fact remains that this subject condition had its
consequences: people simply did not vote on the basis of party programmes!

(5) The state of emergency was lifted in September 1978, but it was simultaneously replaced
by a special decree empowering the state to detain trouble-makers' indefinitely without trial.
This decree anticipated a revolutionary disruption of a carefully laid scheme to maintain the
bourgeoisie (or a faction of it) in power. That this decree was never invoked was not an
Indication of the tolerance of the military regime, which was the supervisor of the politics of
transition. It was rather an indication of the absence (or impotence) of revolutionary
movements. In any case, this was a concrete condition of transition: anybody who did not
like it had to keep quiet or risk his freedom.

To demonstrate the farcical character of the 1979 elections, let us consider in turn the
main methods that were used (with varying degrees of conscious cynicism) to influence the

The Role of Money

That money played a crucial role in the 1979 elections is not in dispute. Everyone
including those who did the spending and those who were on the receiving end admits it.
What is in dispute is the claim that the prevalent use of money was almost inevitable. This is
our claim. How was money actually used? There were three steps. First, a group of people
(or just one person!) literally bought the core of the party. This core was made up of
strategically placed people in society and the state, that is, those who could influence the
people or the state apparatus1 by any means imaginable. Secondly, the party having been
constituted, ambitious party members bought their party nominations as candidates in the
various elections. Finally the party candidates bought the voters.

As an illustration of the phenomenon under discussion, here is a short account given

by a Nigerian daily paper in December 1978:

We are getting too many reports from the states of wealthy men getting party nominations
simply because they paid out more money to delegates. In one particularly disturbing case,
one successful candidate won the nomination for governor by paying out N325,000 (three
hundred and twenty five thousand naira). This is how it happened. First it was decided that all
delegates to the state party convention would vote to select a candidate for governor.

Candidate A promptly dished out money to them all 300 (three hundred) of them. What
Candidate A didn't know was that his opponent, Candidate B, was intriguing to have the rules
changed so that only members of the steering committee would be eligible to vote. Candidate
B succeeded in his plot, mainly because he convinced the committee members that they
stood-to get a lot more money from him than they had already received from Candidate A who
had had to spread his own money quite thin. There were only thirteen members in the
committee. Candidate B paid each of them N25,000 (twenty-five thousand naira) and
naturally (emphasis ours) sewed up the nomination. He made things even more certain by
getting the committee members to swear on oath that they would not defect. The funny part of
it all was that Candidate A didn't have much ground for lodging a successful protest. . . . When
the matter was taken to the national executive, the wise men gave out a verdict that Solomon
would have been proud of. They held that the successful candidate's only crime was that he
used his money more wisely.2

We have chosen to reproduce this story in full because it was even in its details
typical of how party candidates won their nominations. The candidates, in turn, bought
influential people (including chiefs), through whom the voters were ultimately bought. The
number of people to be bought, their prices, the number of times the purchase had to take
place, the forms of payment (whether in kind, that is, in food and drink, or in cash) all
depended on the wealth of individual candidates, the size of the constituency, the strategic
importance of a particular constituency and the state of local politics (that is, the relations of
the opposing candidates, the degree of local cynicism, the extent of poverty, etc).

We offer three main reasons for the prevalence and decisiveness of the use of
money in the 1979 elections:

(1) The politicians had very little concrete that they could promise. On the other hand, the
people were convinced that those seeking election to public office only wanted opportunities
to enrich themselves; the candidates themselves could not, and did not, strongly deny this.
The only convincing or immediately rewarding appeal was the offer of money. In any case,
most of the people were so poor that a small gift of money could perform wonders!

(2) The ban on political activities was officially lifted in September 1978, while the first round
of elections took place early in July 1979. This meant that the parties had only nine months
to get organized, set up party machines, formulate their programmes (or at least formulate
the lies to be fed to the people), and pick their candidates, in addition to appealing to the
people for votes. The time was just too short; any short-cut to achieve the same objective
electoral victory would be welcome. Money was just such a universal short-cut.

(3) The need for the various factions of the Nigerian bourgeoisie to control the state (or to be
the senior partner in this control) is a life-and-death one.3 The state is all important: since
most of the bourgeoisie make their money as foreign manufacturers' representatives,
importers and distributors of commodities, contractors, etc., they can be made and unmade
overnight by state actions and directives. Every party knew that its leading members might

cease to be rich men if the party failed to win the election. Hence everything must be done to
win elections. Money, and what money could buy, were by far the strongest weapon.

Manipulation of Fears and Prejudices

Next to money, the most powerful weapon used by politicians was the deliberate and
open manipulation of fears and prejudices that still weigh heavily on the consciousness of
the vast majority of Nigerians. Politicians massively introduced ethnic and religious
differences as election issues; they distorted recent history and made frightening predictions.
Some parties identified others as vanguards of certain religions, while all the parties accused
one another of being the vanguards of certain ethnic groups. The message was clear: if you
vote for Party A, you will surely he enslaved by this religion or that ethnic group. Some
people were reminded of their experiences and sufferings during the Civil War: a victory by
Party B (which was identified as 'belonging' to a particular ethnic group the ethnic group
that 'caused' the war) would be a prelude to another war and another round of suffering.
Others were reminded that the party supported by them during the First Republic (1960-66)
had been in opposition then and that this had brought repression from the government: the
same experience would be theirs if on this occasion they failed to vote for the party that was
sure to win which every reasonable person knew to be Party A! A candidate would remind
'his people' that, since they constituted a minority ethnic group, there was no hope of their
ever producing the head of government for the country. The wisest thing to do was to seek
accommodation with the party of the majority ethnic group, instead of antagonizing it and
risking victimization and economic and political neglect.

These and similar messages were repeatedly drummed into the ears of the people.
In the absence of a revolutionary movement to expose systematically these falsifications and
present a correct formulation of our national problems, that is, in the absence of a radical
and authentic alternative programme, most of our people either became victims or became
simply apathetic. The victims voted according to the logic presented to them.

A candidate wins an election if he scores more votes than any of his opponents.
There are many ways to ensure this in Nigeria, where election malpractices are the norm,
rather than the exception. The candidate can buy the voters or blackmail them;4 he can
prevent as many 'enemy' voters as possible from voting; he can buy the electoral officers
(after all, they are human beings!), he can physically convey hungry voters to the polling
stations and pay them on the spot 'instant purchase of voters', and so on. All these
methods were massively used, although not equally by all the parties.

What was the result of these manipulations? Of about 47 million voters who were
said to have registered for the elections, less than ten million actually voted. Several reasons
have been officially given for this low turn-out: ignorance of the people concerning the
importance of elections, the fact that many people being illiterate could not identify the
polling stations to which whey belonged, etc.

True, millions of Nigerians did not know the importance of elections, or rather could
not appreciate the importance of the election as it was officially presented to them. It is also
true that millions of our people are illiterate, if by illiteracy we mean the inability to read or
write. Under this condition, they would find it rather difficult to recognise their names in the
voters' lists. But our people are articulate enough to ask literate people to help them identify
their names and the polling stations to which they belonged if they actually intended to

The official reasons failed to include the main reason for the poor turn-out: apathy.
Everybody except (possibly) the officials alone knew that the elections were a joke.

Consolidating the New, Civilian Government

How did the new regime, elected between July and September 1979, consolidate

Although the process of consolidation is still going on and may continue for a long
time to come, we can nevertheless isolate the main stages it has passed through. Towards
the end of September 1979, the outgoing military regime promulgated a decree empowering
the President to summon the first meeting of the National Assembly at his own convenience.
The aim of this decree (as several political commentators have already pointed out) was to
allow the President to work out a comfortable support in the National Assembly. This
objective was realized in the agreement between the National Party of Nigeria (N.P.N.) and
the Nigerian People's Party (N.P.P.). Eighteen of the nineteen state governors did not need
this decree since their parties control the respective State Assemblies. The only exception
was Kaduna State.

The second stage of consolidation was the actual constitution of the various
governments. On the state level, this involved the struggle for, and the distribution of,
patronage posts as commissioners, permanent secretaries, special advisers, chairmen and
members of boards. The philosophy of ethnic balancing, intrigues, treachery, cynicism, etc.,
all converged to produce the various state governments. The constitution of the Federal
Government entailed greater difficulty for two main reasons. In the first place, since the
Nigerian People's Party (N.P.P.) went into an alliance with the National Party of Nigeria
(N.P.N.) in order to share out offices (and not 'to save the nation', as some people now
claim), the government had to be consolidated on an `equitable' share of the available
offices. In the second place, the political weight of the Unity Party of Nigeria (U.P.N.), as an
opposition party, is substantial. The government was, nevertheless, constituted.

The third stage of consolidation the present stage is an interesting one:

consolidation through dislocation (or disintegration) of the enemy camp. In his article: 'The

Stolen Presidency', published in the Sunday Tribune off November 4, 1979, Tai Solarin (a
leading member of the U.P.N.) made an unusual kind of prediction, namely, that:

If this government (meaning the Federal Government) lasts four years, the four year-old
N.P.N. will have been firmly planted as Government Party everywhere, and the U.P.N., the
G.N.P.P., the N.P.P. and the P.R.P. will have been drained to annihilation, both in membership
it is already starting and in morale. The 1983 election would, therefore, be between the
N.P.N. and the Revolutionary Party which having studied how the N.P.N. came to power
knows exactly what to do to supplant the N.P.N. for the presidency. There would then be a
confusion on the national raft. Then a splash. Then commotion among the sharks. And we,
the common people, will have, as victims, paid the supreme sacrifice.

We agree that only a revolutionary agency, fighting consistently for an entirely new
social order, can ever dislodge the N.P.N. from power. But we do not share Tai Solarin's
pessimism. It arose from the fact that he made a separation between the people and the
revolutionary party a type of separation that does exist currently between the people and
the existing political parties. A genuine revolution can only be made by the people under the
leadership of their revolutionary organization, and such a revolution demands the highest
forms of optimism and moral courage. When bourgeois political parties fight for power over
the heads of the people, manipulating and exploiting their fears and miseries, then the
people cannot but be victims. Nor can these parties be said to be fighting for the people's
interests. But when the people stand up to fight for their correctly conceived interests, they
cannot be said to be paying 'the supreme sacrifice' (a mystical term): they can only be said
to be performing a historic duty to themselves and to future generations.

However, a correct prediction about the political future of this country cannot be
made in isolation from a consideration of the concrete measures being taken by the present
civilian regime. There is a world of difference between concrete measures and promises.
And in Nigeria a land of unfulfilled promises this difference assumes a particularly large
dimension. As for electoral promises, everything under the heavens was proclaimed as a,
reward for voting for one party or the other. There were, in fact, two sets of promises:
general promises and specific promises. General promises included those of good roads,
good drinking water, high quality education, abolition of armed robbery, loans for every
Nigerian to build his own house, responsive government, the rule of law, abolition of poverty,
life-more-abundant, paradise-on-earth etc. Specific promises included free education, free
medical. services, abolition of cattle and community taxes, and lifting of the ban on the
National Union of Nigerian Students (N.U.N.S.). The main difference between general and
specific promises lies in the possibility, or otherwise, (if criticizing a failure to fulfil them.
Whereas one can easily pinpoint; and therefore criticize, a failure to fulfil a specific promise,
general promises - because they are vague and elusive cannot be easily pinned down.

A student, for example, either pays school fees; or does not; there is no third option.
A patient is either asked to pay hospital fees or he is not. If some forms of taxation are
abolished, the effect of this measure will be felt immediately. But under Nigerian conditions,
how does one actually pinpoint a failure to eradicate poverty, provide more food, institute the
rule of law, provide high quality education? We know, for instance, that the process of
awarding a contract for the construction or reconstruction of a road may take over two years;

the actual construction itself may take a decade. In the interim, however, it is impossible to
accuse the government of neglecting roads.

To the best of our knowledge only two of the five political parties made specific, that
is concrete, promises. The others merely dazed the people with catalogues of generalities.

How does one assess the capacity of an entirely new political party to realise its
promises? The first criterion is, obviously, its ability to win an election, by fair means or foul.
The second is the character of the party itself. If the party of business tycoons, fat landlords,
ten-percenters tells us that will abolish poverty, we are justified in responding cynically to
such a promise. Similarly, a hierarchical autocratic organisation, whose leaders respond to
public opinion and demand with insensitivity, cannot be serious about instituting equality and
the rule of law.

But the elections have come and gone. The people are supposed to have voted
freely and rationally for the parties of their choice. If these criteria have any value, they
should be borne in mind for 1983 and beyond. For the present letters consider the civilian
regimes performance since October 1979.

Its Record
When the President addressed the Second Annual Convention of the National Party
of Nigeria (N.P.N.) he listed the achievements of his regime. These consisted of the
appointment of political officers and the inauguration of various commissions. Nothing more.
We know, of course, that a new regime must constitute the various statutory agencies and
commissions necessary for effective governance. But one would have expected that a
civilian government, coming to power after a 13-year military dictatorship - would
immediately do something something for the people that had borne the main brunt of the
dictatorship - to signify a real break with the past and to justify the termination of military rule.
We are still waiting.

But if the new regime has not done anything concrete for the people, it has
nevertheless done something for itself: the prescription of fat salaries (what is called
remuneration) by the National Assembly for its members and for other public officers. It is
noteworthy that many people cried out against this particular attempt to loot to the nation. It
is equally noteworthy that the first exercise of the Presidential veto power, was his open
opposition to the fat salaries.

Where do we go from here? The National Assembly cannot be defeated at least

on the question of prescribing privileges for itself. Its strength in this matter lies in the fact
that it is united: progressives and reactionaries, populists and fascists, humanists and anti-

humanists, are all agreed that they deserved the prescribed salaries. Since confronting the
President would be dangerous, the National Assembly devised a subtle way of justifying its
position. First, it requested a statement on the nation's economy a request which ought to
have been made before the fixing of salaries. Secondly, a number of high-ranking public
functionaries and bureaucrats were summoned before a committee of the National Assembly
to declare their salaries and privileges. It was a very clever ploy!

The outcome of these manoeuvres is predictable. Some concessions will be made to

the President's opinion, the press and the public will be rebuked for their disrespect towards
the law-makers of the land, minimal reductions will be made in the interest of the nation
on the prescribed salaries. Thereafter, the matter will be closed and history will move on.

Let us now look at the upper house of the National Assembly the Senate. This has
become the main scene of the new regimes activity.

The process of confirming the Presidents ministerial nominees was a protracted and
and turbulent one, raising the question why the Senate, so united in the fixing of fat salaries,
should be torn apart on the question of confirming ministerial appointments? We are
surprised because the question of allocating the nations resources is more important to the
people than who becomes the minister in a government whose basic character has been
determined. Of course, we are far from saying that senators have no right, or even
obligation, to question the integrity of some ministerial nominees. What we questioning is
the status importance assigned to that task.

The proclamation of free education and free medical services was undoubtedly a
major break with the past; it is a concrete amelioration of the suffering of the people. But it is
one thing to make proclamation and quite another thing to carry it through honestly and
thoroughly. Ultimately, the proclamation will be honest and thorough only if the burden lifted
from the shoulders of the people in the sphere of education and health is not reimposed in
other spheres of social life. Above all, this calls for political will. As we all know, not everyone
is happy with the abolition of privileged schools. The opponents of this measure will try all
means to ensure its failure. Therefore to succeed, the authorities must realise that, apart
from a real reallocation of resources which is the measure implies - if it is to be executed
honestly and thoroughly - there are immense administrative and physical problems involved.
These problems must be tackled; and all those who regard themselves as militants and
progressives in the party concerned must see to these problems rather than attacking the
already established federal government in the pages of the newspapers.

Our comment on the abolition of community and cattle taxes follows the same line:
the necessity for this measure to be executed honestly, consistently and thoroughly. In
carrying through this measure, the governments concerned need not worry themselves
about the feelings of other state governments or parties. They should rather derive their
courage and will from the masses - the wretched of the earth.

Besides these three measures abolition of school fees, hospital fees and
community and cattle taxes whose execution is by no means guaranteed, there are other
measures (or attempted measures) which are worthy of mention not because they are
concrete or significant but on account of the unusually noisy controversy and exhibitionism
accompanying them. These are the abolition of the compulsory use of motor-cycle crash
helmets, the termination of various contract awards, the institution of various commissions of
enquiry, and the declaration of several parts of the country as disaster zones.

Our reaction to these acts of showmanship is simply to point to our own history.
When the last military government (1975-79) came to power, it dazed Nigeria and the whole
world with a barrage of commissions of enquiry, task forces, contract terminations and
awards, dismissals and retirements, executions, long statements, etc. When it left office in
September 1979, what did we see? Void.

We shall end on a humorous note: the word talakawa means the common people,
that is, the oppressed, exploited and dominated people. To solve the problem of the
talakawa, the Kano and Kaduna state governments proposed the abolition of community and
cattle taxes. To solve the same problem, the Plateau state government proposed an even
simpler solution abolition of the word itself!

1. Of course, the Nigerian Electoral Decree stipulates that civil servants, traditional rulers,
members of the armed forces and judiciary must not belong to political parties. But what this
provision really means is that these officials and agents of the bourgeois state must not be
seen to belong to political parties: they must help preserve the myth of state neutrality a
myth which, when effectively broken, will constitute a major revolution, a breakthrough in the
2. Daily Times (Nigeria's most widely circulating daily paper) December 11, 1978.
3. We doubt whether the question of which of the two dominant parties either in the United
States of America or in Britain wins an election ever assumes such a life-and-death
importance. We doubt whether the multi-millionaires and barons of multinational companies
would lose their fortunes simply because one or the other of the bourgeois parties comes to
power. That this is the case in Nigeria is a testimony to the backward-ness of the economy
and the role of Nigeria in the world capitalist division of labour.
4. A short story illustrates how blackmail could be used. Forty-nine persons, including a
village head have appeared in court for holding a political meeting. . . . The court was told
that in his address the chief compelled the villagers to vote for no other party except the
National Party of Nigeria. The court further heard how the chief threatened to invoke
"mbiam" juju on any person in the village who wouldn't vote for the party. . . .' The
Nigerian Chronicle, a daily newspaper published in Calabar, July 27, 1979, p.9.

3. An Underdeveloped Capitalist Economy

The Neo-capitalist 'Revolution': 1970-80
The new prosperity from the oil industry, which began at the end of the 1967-70 Civil
War, reinforced in the Nigerian bourgeoisie the hope of building and developing capitalism.
But to develop capitalism it is not enough to contain all opposition from the exploited and
oppressed classes; it is equally necessary to contain or regulate the contradictions and
struggles between the various factions of the bourgeoisie. A bitterly divided ruling class
cannot develop anything capitalism or socialism.

The Nigerian bourgeoisie have always been aware of the need for unity within their
own class. But before the 1966-70 national crisis (which included the Civil War), each major
faction of the bourgeois class spearheaded unity only to the extent that it was unity under its
own hegemony. (Factionalism in Nigeria is primarily along regional and ethnic lines and only
secondarily along lines of production sectors.) No other type of unity could be articulated and
promoted. This led to the Civil War.

The end of the Civil War and the reunification of the country coincided with the oil
boom: The need for unity therefore proclaimed itself. How could the ruling class endanger
this prosperity by in-fighting? The more discerning and articulate faction of the bourgeoisie,
the bureaucratic bourgeoisie has since 1966 been in the forefront of the campaign for unity
based on the supremacy of a central authority (Nigeria is a federation) whatever may be
the composition of this authority.

The bureaucratic bourgeoisie, the senior civil servants who use their positions to
build up personal economic fortunes (mainly in the export-import business and in domestic
trade), played a vital role in the preservation and enforcement of federal authority in 1966
and 1967.1 They also urged the redivision of the country into 12 states as against the
existing four regions. This measure was aimed at diffusing centres of local power and
increasing the authority of the central government: 'The federal government appropriated an
increasing share of the rising oil revenues, and controlled the allocation of the remainder to
the states.2

With the end of the War and the unification of the country, the question of unity in the
bourgeois class as a necessary condition for the development of capitalis had to be
posed again. In 1971, Allison Ayida, one of the most influential of the federal permanent
secretaries, formulated the conditions for capitalist revolution in Nigeria. Inter-ethnic and
inter-state rivalry must stop; development objectives must be above politics; the Federal
Government must operate 'a system which knows no loyalty other than loyalty to the nation
and the people';3 the formulation and maintenance of Plan objectives must be left to the
executive 'made up of ministers, planners, administrators and other public officials.'4

The emphasis was on the need to maintain and promote the supremacy of the
federal authority over state and ethnic factions. This emphasis still remains: the supremacy
of the federal authority is the only form of bourgeois unity possible in the Nigerian situation
since there is a countless number of ethnic bourgeois factions, agitating for a 'fair share'
of the national cake. The bourgeois cry for national unity is, in fact, a cry for the unity of the
bourgeois class. But this need has to be universalized since the production of 90 fruits of
unity has to come from the sweat of the oppressed and exploited masses. The Second
National Development Plan (1970-74) was therefore made to articulate the new universal
ideology of national unity. According to this ideology, Nigeria must be established as: 1) a
united, strong and self-reliant nation; 2) a great and dynamic economy; 3) a just and
egalitarian society; 4) a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens; 5) a free and
democratic society.

The ideology continues:

A just and egalitarian society puts premium on reducing inequalities and inter-personal
incomes and promoting balanced development among the various communities in the
different geographical areas of the country. It organises its economic institutions in such a way
that there is no oppression based on class, social status, ethnic group or state. 5

But behind these platitudes lie the real problems of bourgeois unity, the real problems
of capitalist development in Nigeria. According to Gavin Williams, the development of
capitalism in Nigeria requires:

1) The supremacy of the federal state over both state governments and private and sectional
interests, and the regulation of competition among them for the allocation of state patronage;
2) regulation and adjustment of the relations between Nigerian and foreign capitalists; 3)
regulation and adjustment of the relations between public and private economic activity; 4)
regulation and adjustment of relations between capitalist and non-capitalist modes of
production, particularly between the need for surplus appropriation from, and for development
of, peasant production, 5) regulation and adjustment of relations between the exploiting class
and the exploited classes, especially the proletariat and export crop farmers; 6) the
articulation of a 'national ideology' and the inculcation of commitments to the symbols of
national authority.6

The successive federal military regimes from 1967 to 1979 particularly to the last
one (1975-79) committed themselves to, and constituted the bourgeois vanguard for, the
resolution of these problems. In this effort they found a strong ally in the federal bureaucratic

Every passing day makes the question of national unity more urgent. The basis of
this urgency has always been the oil boom. In 1971-72 oil revenues of N640million provided
half of government revenue. By 1975-76 they had risen to N4,600 million out of a total
revenue of N5,300 million. Oil then provided 93% of export earnings.7By the last week of
September 1979, the annual oil revenue had risen to N 6,880 million.8 (One Nigerian naira is
equal to approximately 0.70 pounds sterling.)

The division of the country into 12 states in 1967, and its further redivision into 19
states in 1976, were both aimed at regulating 'political competition by ensuring to the
bourgeoisie of each state an area in which it is protected from outside competition, and by
increasing the number contenders so as to produce an equilibrium of diverse alliances at the
centre rather than the domination of a single region and party'.9 The successive formulae
adopted for the distribution of revenue, (mainly from oil) between the centre and the states
were also aimed at achieving the same 'national' objective: an ever-increasing supremacy of
the federal authority over the states politically as well as financially. The insistence that only
'national' (rather than state or ethnic-based) political parties should be-registered for the
1979 General Elections was aimed at creating the political framework for the resolution of
the question of national unity for the bourgeoisie.

The objectives of the 1972 Indigenization Decree (implemented in 1974) have been
variously formulated. To the federal government, the decree was another step in the building
of Nigeria as 'a just and egalitarian society, a land of bright and full opportunities for all
citizens, a free and democratic society. Specifically, the government maintained that the
decree was aimed at promoting 'active indigenous participation in all aspects of the
economy'10 industrial, agricultural, commercial, etc.

But what the bourgeois class and its state apparatus proclaim as the objectives of
their policies and measures are frequently very distant from their reality and effects. To the
bourgeoisie, the nation, the country, the people, the fatherland, the public, etc., all mean the
same thing: the bourgeois class. National interest means for them the interest of the

In reality, the 1972 Indigenization Decree was aimed at adjusting relations between
foreign capital and expanding indigenous capitalists to the latter's advantage'.11 The decree
did, or tried to do, this by reserving specific economic opportunities for Nigerians and
requiring Nigerian participation in firms engaged in a wide range of activities. The
government now has a 40% share in all commercial banks and a 55% share in all oil
companies,12 and shares have been offered to the Nigerian 'public' by major expatriate

The major beneficiaries of the decree were the bureaucratic bourgeoisie who were
responsible for the formulation and execution of the decree), indigenized expatriate firms
(who were to effect the sale of shares to the public'), commercial bank executives (who were
to give loans to the to purchase indigenized enterprises or shares) and finally the
commercial bourgeoisie (the 'businessmen') who alone possessed the real opportunity to
buy shares and enterprises through their access to bank loans.

The working class, as a corporate body, gained nothing either economically or

socially from the decree. The offer of 10% of shares to workers within an industry as
stipulated by the decree is yet to be implemented.13 The working class remains
marginalized in relation to the spread of oil prosperity and the benefits of indigenization.

In order to guarantee the triumph of their interests in big questions', Leon Trotsky
said, 'the ruling classes are constrained to make concessions on secondary questions,
naturally only so long as these concessions are reconciled in the book-keeping'.14 The
Nigerian ruling classes attempted, on certain occasions during the period 1970-75, to make
popular concessions particularly to the working class. These concessions took the form of
periodic national upward revisions of wages in 1970-71 and 1974-75.

The bourgeoisie, however, took steps to ensure not only that the concessions were
not extended beyond bounds, but also that the fruits of these concessions were quickly and
effectively reappropriated as surplus. The chain of anti-labour decrees (whose cumulative
effect was to outlaw active trade unionism on pain of detention or death) made it difficult
for workers to ask effectively for wage revisions beyond, or different from, what the
government had offered; the prohibition of further wage increases (except those authorised
by the government) and inflation together absorbed the marginal benefits arising from the
new wage and salary structure.

Mechanisms of Working-Class Repression

The anti-labour decrees, promulgated during the 13-year period of military rule
(1966-79), were all aimed at achieving the same objective and were seen as partial solutions
to the same bourgeois problem: how to regulate, adjust and contain the relations between
the exploiting class and the exploited lasses. Since the containment of actual and possible
opposition from the oppressed classes is a necessary condition for capitalist development,
this military regime was prepared to use any means ideological, political, economic and
military to keep the people in line or to enforce discipline'.

The commitment of the military regime to the maintenance of 'discipline' among

workers was clearly stated in June 1977 by Major-General H.E.O. Adefope, who was then

the Federal Commissioner for Labour. Addressing the 63rd session of the International
Labour Conference, the Commissioner warned:

The regime in Nigeria will not tolerate indiscipline and is committed to a new trade union
structure in the country which will ensure that workers can elect their leaders in accordance
with a code of conduct consistent with the government's overall national programme of
enforcing discipline in all facets of public life.15

The main concern here is 'discipline' and not internal democracy in the labour
movement (which argument was used merely as an ideological cover). The new trade union
structure to which the government was committed is the present streamlined and heavily
bureaucratized labour movement in the country. This bureaucratic machine acts as the first
layer of check on the working class, since the structure and the constitution that formalizes it
completely outlaw workers' self-determining activity: every corporate demand by workers
has to be channelled through this huge machine from whence it rarely re-emerges.
Furthermore, labour bureaucracy offers one of the best opportunities for self-promotion in
the country. The President of the Nigerian Labour Congress earns N14,400 a year in a
country where the majority of workers earn less than N1,000 a year.

Since workers' protests i.e. strikes have been banned and offenders are liable
to prison terms and the loss of their jobs (which for labour bureaucrats means the loss of fat
salaries) the new, labour bureaucracy, constituted largely of degenerated opportunists and
careerists, simply rules out the possibility of the labour movement ever adopting a
revolutionary posture. In effect, if not in words, the new labour bureaucracy now operates
completely within the framework prescribed by the state:

The Trade Unions in Nigeria are a branch of the social tree and not an artificial
appendage. For this reason, the interests of the unions should extend beyond the
collective bargaining aspects. They should concern themselves with the ultimate
social and economic goals of the society.16

Unresolved Conflicts Within the Ruling Class

The ruling class, under the leadership of the military regime (1966-79) and supported
by the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, had reached the conclusion that bourgeois unity must be
premised on the supremacy of the centre over state and ethnic interests. But, as we have
already pointed out, the centre itself was not, and is not, homogeneous. There are factions in
the central state apparatus. The question then arises as to who or which faction is to preside
over and administer central supremacy.

These serious divisions within the ruling class, reflected in the state apparatus but
often concealed under the slogans of 'national unity', 'political stability', 'territorial integrity',
'national security', etc., burst asunder in 1975, predictably over the oil question. For, since
1970, the struggles within the bourgeoisie have been centred around the issue of control and
distribution of oil revenues and the host of export-import and commercial enterprises which
increased earnings from oil have boosted.

The coup d'etat of July 1975 showed that the bourgeoisie were far from solving the
fundamental problem of unity (nor are they nearer the solution wilily). General Yakubu
Gowon, the Nigerian Head of State from August 1966, to July 1975 who had championed the
cause of 'egalitarianism' and equal opportunities for all, was accused of forming a clique
around himself for the purpose of appropriating an unfair share of the oil boom. This the
clique did by making the Nigerian National Oil Corporation directly responsible to the Head
of State 'over the heads and in defiance of the opinions of the Federal Executive Council17
the real custodian of federal supremacy. Thus, while the public welcomed the overthrow
of General Gowon because the increasing corruption, arbitrariness and intolerance which
characterized the last stage of his regime, the people who actually brought about his overthrow were prompted mainly by his 'bad' oil policy. Understandably, one of first acts of the
new regime was to terminate the appointment of the General Manager of the Nigerian
National Oil Corporation. This was because the basis of disagreement was Gowon's
personalised control of the sharing the surplus rather than more institutionalised forms of
national control, wit as through an effective national oil corporation!18

The Bankruptcy of a Neocolonial Solution

The Nigerian bourgeois class has set itself the following economic objectives: 1) selfreliance; 2) rapid development; 3) even development. The realization of these objectives,
according to the bourgeoisie and their intellectual representatives, depends largely on
national discipline, the transfer of technology (including the transfer of managerial capability)
and a new international economic order.

But as with all their battlecries when confronted by acute national crises, the
bourgeoisie are extremely confused and eclectic in their understanding ltd profession of the
need for self-reliance. Let us, therefore, try to bring some order into this subject.

To be self-reliant is not to withdraw completely from the world market, as some

utopians both from the Right and the Left advocate. To be self-reliant, is to create the
conditions under which the need and impetus for development comes from within and not
from without; to be self-reliant, a country must maximally exploit, mobilize and deploy its
natural and human resources for the realization of its national objectives. Thereafter, the
country can look inside its borders for means of supplementing its efforts.

What this immediately implies is that the volume of exports will be determined only
when the products meant for export (e.g. crude oil) have been put to maximal use internally
or have been planned for such use. It also implies that the character of imports (namely,
what is imported and in what quantity) must be determined by the maximal use (or projected
maximal use) of internal resources to satisfy genuine national needs.

To be self-reliant in the agricultural sector of the economy another bourgeois

battlecry is not only to be self-sufficient in food production (as we are often made to
believe), but also to base industrial development (what is manufactured and how is is
manufactured) on agriculture. But even when we restrict ourselves to the bourgeois
formulation of this goal (self-sufficiency in food production), we cannot escape the essentials
of an agricultural revolution a rapid rise in agricultural output and productivity of
agricultural labour.

If Nigeria is to stop importing food (it has been estimated that an average of N 80
million worth of food was imported monthly in 1978), then both the volume of food production
and the productivity of food-producing labour must rise. These are two sides of the same
coin; and they are intimately linked.

To increase the volume of food production, it is not necessary to bring more people
into this activity; apart from the fact that more than 60% of the labour force is at present
engaged in it (a more than adequate size), we have also seen that the campaign to get
everyone engage in part-time farming (Operation Feed the Nation) has yielded little result in
terms of increase in total national food output. To increase food output, to the extent of
making the country self-sufficient, all that is needed is to initiate measures aimed at a radical
increase in the-productivity of agricultural labour.

This means an increase in the productivity of the human producers the farmers.
And the total productivity of farmers will only be increased when an average farmer produces
more per unit of labour time than is previously the case. For this to happen such that the
country becomes self-sufficient in food, conditions of rural life standards of living, health,
education, housing, water and electricity supplies, and communication networks, must all
be radically improved. This is imperative since human beings constitute the main productive
forces; we cannot talk about productivity of labour without considering the human conditions
of the human producers.

It is equally necessary to revolutionize the technical aspects of production, namely,

the implements and methods of production. Machetes and hoes must be replaced, not
necessarily by modern agricultural machinery based on advanced technology, but at least by
machinery based on the so-called intermediate technologies. The projected machines and
the technologies and resources on which they would be based can be described as follows:

1) Unlike modern machines which are capital-intensive and carry with them capitalist
relations of production, intermediate machines would have to be labour-intensive and must
be able both to 'establish socialist relations of production and develop productive forces
even beyond the level reached by capitalism: for it is both economically and socially
desirable to revolutionize methods and instruments of production without dispossessing
millions of people or throwing them off their means of livelihood which was the main
feature of the agricultural revolution in England.

2) The intermediate machines must be based, not on imports (either of raw materials or socalled expertise), but on local natural and human resources. Thousands of mechanics,
blacksmiths, engineers, technicians, and others at present working in isolation, can be
mobilized nationally both for designing and producing these machines on a mass scale.

All in all, self-sufficiency in food production (or agricultural production, in general)

requires not just that we mobilize more determinedly and more vigorously than ever
before our natural and human resources and deploy them in in agriculture, but in fact that
agriculture becomes the basis and the centre of our entire economic development. By this
we mean:

1) Since the vast majority of our people live in the rural areas and are engaged in food and
other agricultural production, industrialization and the character of imports must serve the
mass of the peasantry. In other words, our industrial production and imports must be for
popular rather than luxury consumption: the importing of cars, television sets, carpets and
rugs, furniture, etc., must give way to the local production of ploughing, planting, harvesting,
processing and storage machines for agriculture products, building materials, the
development of curative and preventive medicine; the building of modern airports and sea
ports must give way to the building of hospitals, health centres, roads, schools, and
recreational centres. And so on.

2) The wholesale export of petroleum products, which is now the basis of our entire
economic development, must cease to take place. Crude oil must now be put to maximum
use internally: petro-chemical industries producing fertilizers and other synthetic materials
can be developed on a mass scale. These industries must then serve agricultural
production. A severe curtailment ol oil exports, of course, implies an equally severe
curtailment of imports, which must now be restricted to goods for essential and popular

It is of course clear that the bourgeoisie who mouth the slogan of self-reliance in food
production will never accept any of the above pre-conditions Igor this self-reliance, nor its
implications. For instance, in the 1978-79 financial year, out of a Capital Expenditure of
5,200 million and Recurrent expenditure of N 2,800 million, agriculture was allocated a
miserable N 83 million and N 20 million respectively. Similarly in the following financial year,
It of a total Capital Expenditure of N 6,610 million and Recurrent Expenditure of N 2,900
million, agriculture was allocated N 183 million and N 34 million respectively. In the latter

year defence was allocated N 602 million for Capital Expenditure and N 520 million for
Recurrent Expenditure. Any measure aimed at restructuring budgetary allocation which in
the Nigerian case means the reallocation of oil revenue (constituting as it does more than
93% of total state revenue) will be stoutly resisted.

The imperative of basing economic development on agriculture is, of course, the

imperative of altering the role the country plays in the world market, for this means in the first
place, that Nigeria would cease to be a source of raw materials (mainly oil) for capitalist
industries in the metropolitan countries. It also means that it would no longer be a market for
luxury goods imported from North America, Western Europe and Japan. (This dual
implication would, of course, immediately destroy the main source of bourgeois
accumulation in Nigeria, not to talk of dealing a blow to the entire culture of consumption.)
The oil industry would be expanded and diversified and the present irrationality of the
mainstay of the economy employing less than 0.02% of the labour force ended. (The oil
industry employs about 6,000 people out of an estimated labour force of more than 30

There is a familiar debate concerning the contribution which countries of the Third
World make to the wealth of the advanced capitalist countries, and in particular, to the
standard of living (or value of labour) of workers in those countries. There is also the parallel
debate as to the possible consequences on the advanced capitalist countries of socialist
revolutions in Third World countries.

Some writers assert, for instance, that 'workers in advanced capitalist countries are
able to raise the value of their labour power in their own country more easily, because
surplus value is transferred from underdeveloped countries to developed countries via
unequal exchange'.20 But others maintain, that imports from Third World countries contribute
so little to the gross national product of the advanced capitalist countries (imports from the
Third World presently represent no more than 2.3% of the industrialized capitalist world's
GNP')21 that the loss of such imports would not radically alter standards of living in advanced
capitalist countries. The latter argument concludes:

It is therefore unscientific to assert that the American working class is a direct

beneficiary of imperialist exploitation; it is rather the tool that makes possible
imperialist domination: it forges the chains of the Third World at the same time as its
own. The profits accruing to American corporations from their huge investments in
foreign industries (which by 1966 amounted to some 45 billion dollars) are not shared
by American workers.22

Arguments and figures can be found in support of both these contentions. What this
means is that the question for the Third World is not whether or not the high standard of
living enjoyed in Europe and America depends heavily on the looting of the Third World, or
whether or not the working classes of the advanced capitalist countries benefit from this
looting (and therefore become indirect looters themselves). The question is what the

termination of neocolonial status means to the Third World. We are not concerned with the
interests of the imperialists.

The cessation or severe curtailment of oil exports from Nigeria may or may not mean
a lot to America and Europe (since they can easily find substitutes), but it definitely means a
lot to Nigeria since, as we have noted above, this is a condition for self-reliant economic
development. Similarly, the dissolution of the Nigerian luxury import market may mean little
or nothing to American and European capitalists; but it definitely means a lot to Nigeria.

We are equally unimpressed by the argument that the main source of capitalist
nations' wealth and power is their powerful industrial base, abundance of skilled manual and
intellectual labour, the high level of productivity and accompanying high rate of exploitation of
the domestic labour force23 if the implication is that we should first aim at creating these
conditions. It is an illusion to think that Nigeria or any other peripheral capitalist country for
that matter can develop a strong, autonomous and self-reliant capitalist economy along
the lines of the central capitalist countries. The fact of Nigerias integration into the world
economy where it performs a specific, but dependent role has blocked this possibility.24 In
any case, we reject the entire problematic of capitalist development.

Conclusion: Neocolonialism and the Quality of Life

In contrast with, and as a polar opposite to, the core capitalist countries of North
America, Western Europe and Japan, Nigeria is an underdeveloped capitalist country a
neocolonial country. But the country's underdevelopment is not confined to the economic
sphere: it is underdeveloped socially, politically and culturally as well. Its ruling ideas are
equally underdeveloped.

But like poverty, there are two types of underdevelopment. A country may be
underdeveloped partly on account of harsh natural conditions and environment (location in a
land-locked desert area, absence of mineral resources, insufficient natural water supplies,
etc.), although the consequences of these conditions can be successfully combated. If
Israel, a capitalist country characterized by continuous struggles between capital and labour
can combat them, how much easier will it be for a country in the Sahel like Upper Volta or
Chad under socialist mass mobilization? But the fact remains that in some Instances
underdevelopment derives, in part, from geographical location and poor natural endowment.

This is not the case with Nigeria. Nigeria is underdeveloped (that is, when one places
it alongside countries like Britain, the U.S.A., or Japan) not on account of harsh natural
conditions, but solely on account of neocolonial plunder. Nigeria is plundered by a chain of
thieves: on the one hand, there are multinational companies and banks, and on the other
hand there is the local commercial and bureaucratic bourgeoisie as well as speculators,
various types of businessmen (importers/exporters/general contractors), who forge the links
between the multinationals and the Nigerian people. Precisely on account of this continuous

plunder, precisely because the chain of plunder extends beyond the boundaries of Nigeria,
social development becomes alienated i.e. bears no relationship to the actual conditions
of life, needs, and hopes of the people. It is merely a process and a means of plunder.

The multinationals and the local bourgeoisie, by massively looting the country,
prescribe harsh and almost unbearable conditions for the masses, but, by default, they also
prescribe extremely irrational and sub-human conditions for themselves. Since the aim of
bourgeois plunder is to promote the bourgeoisie, everything is done to develop the sphere of
life exclusive to the bourgeoisie, and to that extent, underdevelop the sphere of life exclusive
to the masses or population as a whole. It is precisely in the implementation of classdiscriminatory development plans (real plans, and not the 'plans' periodically presented to
the nation), that the bourgeoisie are caught in terrible contradictions.

There are in Nigeria today several outrageously expensive hotels for the exclusive
use of the big bourgeoisie and their foreign collaborators. Of course, nobody is formally
excluded from these hotels since the charges alone are sufficient to maintain their
exclusivity. But most even of these hotels have no water supply (a basic necessity of life),
precisely because the bourgeoisie discriminate against water supply, viewing it as a general
(not an exclusive) need. The Nigerian bourgeoisie are thus extremely irrational and underdeveloped. Their counterparts in Europe, North America and Japan have long realized that
to ensure an exclusively comfortable life; for themselves, they have to make some
concessions to the masses. Thus a developed bourgeoisie would build good roads to their
exclusive hotels, ensure good and efficient water and electricity supplies in the major
industrial commercial and administrative centres facilities which the masses by, default,
will also enjoy. But what do we see in Nigeria? Colour-television sets but an unreliable and
inefficient electricity supply, luxurious cars but bad roads, ultra-modern airports but extremely
backward and inefficient postal and telecommunication systems, ultra-modern residential
areas which are surrounded by, and approachable only through filthy slums.

Because each Nigerian bourgeois is concerned with the promotion of his or her
immediate exclusive interest, he or she exploits every situation for personal benefit even
when such exploitation works against the interest of the bourgeois class as a whole, and
undermines bourgeois collective comfort. Thus a bourgeois civil servant who awards a state
hotel construction contract to an incompetent contractor (who will give him a handsome kickback) is undermining the collective comfort of the bourgeoisie while promoting his own. A
bank director or manager himself a bourgeois who, in order to accelerate the process
of his own 'primitive accumulation', joins other thieves to rob his bank (a very common
occurrence in Nigeria) is dealing the bourgeois class a double blow while trying to promote
his own interests. He is ideologically discrediting his class, the class with the 'natural right' to
rule, and he is at the same time putting bourgeois property at risk. Similarly, a bourgeois
politician who, temporarily forgetting the gulf that separates communism and capitalism,
enlists the support of a communist (on account of the latter's superior courage and clarity) to
destroy his bourgeois political enemy (another common occurrence in Nigeria), is not only
undermining the stability of the bourgeois social order but the entire bourgeois system itself.

This phenomenon is not just another instance of inherent (that is, irreconcilable)
contradiction between individual and collective interests under the bourgeois social order.
This is a question of ideological and political backwardness, or underdevelopment. In
recklessly pursuing their individual interests at the expense of the masses, the bourgeoisie
undermine their collective interests and give their collective social life an irrational character.
Not only has it become increasingly difficult for the bourgeoisie to enjoy their stolen wealth
as a result of the contradictions in their development, it has also become impossible for them
to arrive at a formula for the collective protection of their future.

1. John Dunn, (ed.), West African States: Failure and Promise, (Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, 1978), p.153.
2. Ibid., p.153.
3. Gavin Williams, op. cit., p.45.
4. Ibid., p.45.
5. Ibid., p.57.
6. Ibid., p.45.
7. John Dunn, op. cit., p.153.
8. Business Times, 10 October 1979.
9. Gavin Williams, op. cit., p.46.
10. The Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Decree.
11. Review of African Political Economy, No. 4, Nov. 1975, p.96.
12. Gavin Williams, op. cit., p.47.
13. The Workers' Charter of Demands (a document of the Nigerian Labour Congress), p.24.
14. Leon Trotsky, Their Morals and Ours, (Pathfinder Press, N.Y., 1979), p.23.
15. H.E.O. Adefope, The Dawn of a New Era, (Federal Government Publication).
16. Ibid.
17. Review of African Political Economy, op. cit., p.97.
18, Ibid., p.97.
19. John Dunn, op. cit., p.153.

20. Andrew L. Friedman, Industry and Labour: Class Struggle at Work and Monopoly
Capitalism, (Macmillan, London, 1977), p.132.
21. Andre Gorz, Socialism and Revolution, (Allen Lane, 1975), p.6.
22. Ibid., p.6.
23. Ibid., p.7.
24. Writers on Peripheral Capitalism, such as Samir Amin and Andre Gunder Frank, have
demonstrated this fact in many books and papers over the past two decades.

4. The Ethnic Minority Question in Nigeria

The question of ethnic minorities is a historical one. The origin, development,
manipulation and solution of ethnic minority problems - either within the boundaries of a
single country or in the world at large are bound up with the movement of history, which not
only has concrete bases, but also involves several social forces, often acting in conflicting
directions. These problems are neither accidental, any more than history itself is a mere
accident; nor are they the creation of an evil genius, any more than history is the handiwork
of an evil genius.

It is necessary to make this seemingly elementary statement at the outset because of

the way the minority question is often formulated in Nigeria. Many analyses completely
ignore its historical character as if some people just woke up one day to find themselves a
minority. Others who pretend to take a historical perspective merely cite the past autonomy
of an ethnic group or community as sufficient grounds for demanding an autonomous state
within the Nigerian Federation. This reactionary viewpoint completely ignores the long
historical transformations, some of them irreversible, which have undermined microautonomies, not only in Nigeria but globally.

But the minority question is real enough. One merely has to look round the globe to
see how real it is. In countries like Spain, France, Ethiopia and Britain the minorities are
fighting it out with guns; in the United States of America the minority question exists albeit in
a different guise. In this case the usual formal solution to minority problems increased
autonomy is not applicable, since the minority ethnic groups the Blacks, Native
Americans and Chicanos are not located in separate geographical areas.

In several parts of the world ethnic minority problems are being tackled either
positively or negatively - positively if the social, economic, political and cultural disabilities
associated with minority status are being systematically removed, and negatively if these
disabilities are either denied or given mere bureaucratic solution (e.g. the creation of more
states which in no way challenges the hegemony of the big ethnic groups). The reality of the
ethnic minority question is therefore not in doubt. All we are saying is that this question must
be presented within a historical perspective. This is the only real beginning for its solution.

The very act of creating Nigeria also created ethnic minority problems. This is not to
say that minority problems did not exist in pre-colonial Nigeria. In fact, pre-colonial Nigeria
was characterized in several areas by forms - often very brutal of ethnic minority
oppression. But since we are limiting ourselves to the experience of Nigeria as an
independent country, we shall refer to pre-colonial Nigeria only to the extent that a particular
form of contemporary ethnic oppression is rooted in it.

Minorities under Colonial Rule

The act which constituted Nigeria in l9l4 brought together under one political control
more than 300 ethnic groups. (This is not guesswork for several writers have attempted a
compilation of the ethnic groups involved).1 According to the 1952-53 population census (the
last one that can be taken as reliable), the population of these ethnic groups altogether was
about 31 million. Of these the Hausa-Fulani accounted for more than 8.5 million, the Ibos
almost 5 million and the Yorubas about 4.5 million. Therefore, these 3 ethnic groups, put
together, accounted for almost 18 million outnumbering the remaining 297 ethnic groups.2

These other ethnic groups were, therefore, transformed into minorities by the
creation of Nigeria. They became minorities in a double sense. In the first place, each of
them was a minority in relation to each of the three dominant ethnic groups, and in the
second place all of them combined constituted a minority in relation to the three dominant
groups put together. This minority status was initially formal, that is, in terms of population
only. But as time went on, it acquired social, economic, and political features.

Everyone knows that the colonialists did not come here to respect ethnic autonomy
or cultural identity. They came for serious business: to establish and maintain Nigeria as a
source of raw materials, a virgin land for capitalist investment (which would benefit from an
abundant supply of cheap labour) and a market for European industrial products. The
realization of these aims by an alien power in an entire geographical region demanded a
centralized and autocratic political structure. It is these necessities that transformed the
formal problem of being a demographic minority into one carrying real social, economic,
political and cultural disabilities.

For the purposes of effective administration, the colonialists first divided the country
into the Northern Protectorate, the Southern Protectorate and the Colony of Lagos. later on,
the country was reorganized into three regions: the Northern Region, the Eastern Region
and the Western Region.

The Northern Region had a population of 16.9 million in 1952. Of this the HausaFulani claimed about 8.5 million while the Kanuri, Nupe, Tiv, lgala, Idoma, Gwarri, Igbirra,
Birom, Chamba, J aba, Sura, and other minority groups accounted for 8.4 million.3 Hence
the Hausa-Fulani constituted not only a majority relative to each of the other ethnic groups in
the then Northern Region, but actually constituted an absolute majority over all the other
ethnic groups combined.

The Eastern Region had a population of about 8 million. Of these the Ibo had a
population of 5 million - while the Efik, Ibibio, Annang, Ijaw, Ekoi, Andoni, Oran, Ogoni, Ikom
Ogoja and other ethnic groups together accounted for 3 million.4 As in the case of the
Northern Region, the Ibo constituted not only a relative but also an absolute majority in the
then Eastern Region.

The population of the Western Region was 6.4 million, of which the Yoruba
accounted for 4.5 million. The Edo, Urohbo, Ijaw, Ibo, Itsekiiri and other ethnic groups
comprised the remaining 1.9 million.5 The colonial government administered Nigeria as a
federation of these three regions. The colonial Governor-General was not only a coordinator,
but also the central and over-riding authority. Later on, the federal character of the country
was further institutionalized by the creation of the federal capital of Lagos (from the former
Western Region) and the establishment of a federal council of ministers.

Let us now look more closely at the regions and their origins. The general form of
British colonial administration has been described as Indirect Rule. According to the authors
of this doctrine, Indirect Rule was a system of administration through indigenous political,
social and cultural institutions. In reality, however, Indirect Rule meant the domination of a
people by using and manipulating some of the existing institutions. The particular institutions
used were, in the case of Nigeria at least, carefully selected and with a definite purpose in
view effective colonial administration.

As we said earlier, colonialism required centralized and autocratic rule. Centralization

and autocracy, in turn, required a form of uniformity over large areas. Having divided the
country into regions, the British sought to impose a political and social uniformity, if not on
the entire country, then on each of the regions. Effectiveness and efficiency demanded it.

Indirect Rule - even when we accept the British definition of it - had to operate within
two major constraints. On the one hand, it had to enhance the overall hegemony of the
British colonial government, and through it the British Government itself. On the other hand,
the indigenous institutions to be used for Indirect Rule had to be those that could be
universalized more easily than others. In particular, those favoured institutions must cover
wide areas of the region concerned, and the more autocratic they were, the better.

In the Northern Region, for example, the colonialists found the emirate system
extremely useful. The institutions of this system were not only feudalistic but extremely
autocratic. But the emirate system did not cover the entire Northern Region. It was found in
Hausa-Fulani states, but it was completely absent in the non-Muslim Tiv and Idoma areas.

The British nevertheless imposed this system over the entire Northern Region. The
cultural and social institutions of the minority ethnic groups were simply suppressed or
seriously undermined, and in their place hierarchical structures modelled on the emirates
were created.

But this was not all. As one writer has said: Not only did the British extend the
principle of Indirect Rule, and thus patrimonialism to the pagan areas, but they
incorporated these areas into an hierarchical system in which they occupied a subordinate
position to the Mohammedan administration of the emirates.6

In the Eastern and Western Regions the British administration utilized the institution
of kingship; in areas where obas and obis did not exist (for example, in some parts of
Iboland) the British created them. These created chiefs, in the case of Eastern Region, were
called warrant chiefs.

In consequence of this centralization and uniformity, the dominant ethnic groups in

each region emerged as the most favoured in the colonial patrimonial system a system
where social relations were vertical ties of domination and dependence, with subordinate
clients jostling for the favour of their patrons,7 who, in this case, happened to be the British
administrators. Of course, the British actively promoted this state of affairs since the
dominant ethnic groups constituted the centre-piece of their Indirect Rule system and the
mainstay of their domination. To measure the mood of the colonized people it was easier to
pay attention to three dominant ethnic groups each of which was the core of a region
than to engage in an almost impossible investigation of more than 300 ethnic groups! And if
privileges, palliatives or bribes were to be offered, it would be more effective to offer them to
majority ethnic groups.

It is important to emphasize that not all members of even the majority ethnic groups
benefited equally under the system a point often forgotten by bourgeois writers. For just
as the whole country was constituted into majority and minority ethnic groups, so each ethnic
group and hence the entire nation was divided into privileged and underprivileged
elements. Ethnic divisions existed (and still exist, of course) side by side with class
distinctions, although they continuously reinforced each other.

Minority Groups and Present-Day Politics

Minority status would be a myth or at most a purely formal term, if it were not
associated with concrete (that is empirically verifiable) disabilities - disabilities that continue
to be reproduced by the structure of majority-minority relationships.

To appreciate the historical dimension of these disabilities, let us consider the country
when it was already divided into three regions and moving towards political independence
under the impetus of nationalist agitation. Three major political parties emerged. Two of them
were dominated and led right from their birth by two of the three majority ethnic groups
respectively. The third party was initially much more national in its support and nationalistic,
but it was nevertheless dominated and led by the third majority ethnic group. These
developments were not accidental. In the first place, as we have seen, when more than 300
ethnic groups many of which had been autonomous for centuries in spite of their

interactions had been mechanically merged into one country, they could not be expected
to develop a national consciousness within a few years. In the second place, the carving up
of the country into only three regions produced three loci of power corresponding to the
geographical location of each of the three biggest ethnic groups.

When the first set of pre-independence 'native' governments were formed, these
three parties naturally assumed power in the three regions respectively, while sharing power
at the centre. From then on, ethnic minority problems assumed ever more open and
concrete forms and minority oppression became more blatant and direct.

The pre- and post-independence governments were essentially governments of

patronage. The government of each region would handsomely reward its main supporters
with political appointments, awards of contracts, scholarships, loans, import licences, etc. In
addition, the main areas of the ruling party's support were set aside for special, and
sometimes exclusive, social development. This special treatment was also a guarantee of
future electoral success.

This system of government was, of course, a necessity for a regime that intended to
keep intact and reproduce the colonial structure of domination and subordination, privileges
and disabilities.

On the other hand, the ethnic minorities were permanently at loggerheads with the
ruling parties since these parties were seen as perpetuating and intensifying obnoxious
colonial policies. As a result, the minority areas in each region were neglected socially and
economically, and victimized politically. The minorities, in turn, would refuse to vote for the
ruling parties. The result was the perpetuation of an opposition-victimization cycle.

From the time the three regions were created until the advent of the military regime in
1966, every region had its own backyard of oppressed, neglected, and brutalized minorities.
This situation, of course, was not peculiar to Nigeria. Capitalism develops through a process
which simultaneously develops some regions and underdevelops others. This dichotomy
exists not only between the central capitalist countries and the Third World but also within
the various countries themselves. Spain, France and Portugal name only a few all
have solid backyards of underdevelopment. But here our concern is with how this
development-underdevelopment dichotomy originated and developed in Nigeria.

Ethnic minority disabilities, like every other historically determined social problem,
can only be combated effectively by organisational and political means. Several ethnic
minorities in Nigeria acquired this consciousness early enough. In the Northern Region, the
Igbirra Tribal Union, United Middle Belt Congress, Middle Zone League and other political
parties were formed to fight for ethnic emancipation. Similar organisations were formed in

the Eastern Region (e.g. the Calarbar-Ogoja-Rivers State Movement and the Niger Delta
Congress) and in the Western Region (e.g. the Mid-West State Movement).8 The demand of
these organisations was the usual historic one: the right to self-determination, which, when
demanded within the context of a single country, meant the right to autonomous regions or

The basis for this demand is the conviction that only when people are in control of
their own resources can these resources be deployed and allocated according to their
needs. But this formal proposition which is true as far as it goes, was constrained by one
factor. Local autonomy within a federation could not extend too far without endangering the
corporate existence of the country. The 'extra' rights surrendered to the central authorities
could again be manipulated by the dominant ethnic groups to the detriment of the minority
groups even when constituted as autonomous regions or states. This is particularly the case
in Nigeria today.

None of the three dominant political parties supported the creation of new regions
within its own area of authority. The only exception was the Mid-West Region which was
created by default in 1963. It was possible to force the Mid-West Region out of the Western
Region simply because the erstwhile ruling party in the Region had been weakened by
internal crisis and repression by the federal authorities. The creation of the new region then
came as a compromise between two political parties which were only too eager to supplant
the battered party in government. The reluctance of the dominant parties to consider the
creation of more regions from their respective areas of control was based on two factors.
None of the parties wanted a reduction in the area under its control. Also, the preindependence Commission on Minority Questions the 1955 Willink Commission had
come out strongly against the creation of new states, because it felt that 'the fears and
problems of minority groups could be better solved within the existing political framework'.9

The first serious attempt to confront the ethnic minority question came in 1967 when
the military regime divided the country into 12 states. Although some of the minority ethnic
groups thereby realized their immediate aims, this did not get to the heart of the minority
question for as the Willink Commission had earlier correctly stated: 'The cores of the minority
movements were too small compared with the area which they claimed for their new state.'1
The result of the creation of more states was that new minorities were created. After all, we
must remember that Nigeria has more than 300 ethnic groups!

Three other measures were subsequently adopted by the military regime as further
attempts to tackle the minority question. These were:
1) The adoption of the new revenue allocation formulae which financially enhanced of the
position of the Federal Government in relation to the states. The Federal Government it was
theorized, could then use its improved position to cater equally for all the states.
2) The Local Government Reform of 1976 which considerably undermined and weakened
the powers of traditional rulers in local administration. This was particularly true in the case
of the autocratic emirate system.

3) The further subdivision of Nigerian into 19 states in 1976.

But in spite of, and in defiance of these progressive measures, ethnic minority
problems still persist. The creation of more states is still demanded as a condition of equal
access to economic, political and social endowments of the country. Question is Why?

Conditions for a Real Solution to the Ethnic Minority Question

It is unfortunate that the most popular formulation of the ethnic minority question in
Nigeria is premised on a false assumption, namely, that the most significant divisions
between the people of Nigeria are ethnic and religious. Economic and social divisions
while admitted are either treated as accidental, that is, non-structural, or else they are
reduced to ethnic divisions.

But in reality, socio-economic divisions - that is, differences in the means and
materials available to various peoples for the reproduction of their lives - are equally
fundamental. There are rich and poor people both in the majority and in the minority ethnic
groups; just as there are exploiters and oppressors in the majority ethnic groups, so they
exist in the minority ones. And taking the country as a whole, just as the majority ethnic
groups exploit and oppress the minorities, so do exploiters and oppressors from both the
majority and minority ethnic groups lord it over the masses.

As soon as we recognize the existence and reality of rich-poor, exploiter-exploited,

oppressor-oppressed dichotomies side by side with ethnic differences; as soon as we
recognize that those who dominate the economic, social and political life of this country
actually constitute a tiny minority (drawn from all the ethnic groups - minority and majority) in
relation to the masses of underprivileged people, then our understanding of the ethnic
minority question will be much more profound and our perspective for treating it will be much

It is only then that the crucial question can be posed: Who actually benefits from the
creation of more states? The immediate answer is of course 'the people'. But how, and to
what degree, do the people benefit from state creation? For we know that an immediate
consequence of creating a new state is the setting up of a new governmental structure and
the filling of political, administrative and bureaucratic posts thus created. Commissioners,
permanent secretaries, judges, etc. are appointed, contracts are awarded for the
construction of an infrastructure, and so on. In short, a new fraction of the national
bourgeoisie is constituted and given a home base. But the common people, in whose name
the state is demanded and created, remain common people.

Of course, some common people also get promoted, or move up the social ladder.
But not all, not even a majority, can be so promoted; in fact, most of the citizens of the new
state remain exactly as they were under the old order of things.

If any further proof were needed of the acute nature of Nigeria's ethnic minority
problems, one has only to compare the social and economic realities of Oyo and Anambra
states on the one hand, with those of Cross River and Benue states on the other. Ancient
towns, such as Calabar, Ikom, Abak, Makurdi, and Ogoja remain as they were in the early
days of colonial rule. Several towns have, in fact, fallen into ruins, or simply disappeared, as
a result of perpetual neglect. On the other side of the coin there are new towns like Ibadan,
Kano, and Enugu where the benefits of the oil boom at least so far as the bourgeoisie are
concerned are much in evidence. The ethnic composition of the bourgeois class and of
the various state apparatuses (and the maner in which they are reproduced) reveal ethnic
discrimination. Nor can we deny that there are differences in the general conditions of the
'common man' as one moves from one part of the country to the other.

The implication of what we are saying is simply this: that the ethnic minority question
cannot be properly posed or properly tackled unless and until the principle is laid down that
all Nigerians (and not only the 'leaders' of ethnic groups) are equally entitled to the wealth
and fruits of development in the country wealth and development which are, in fact,
created by the common people. As soon as this is done, the politics of state creation will lose
its present chauvinistic character and will cease to pose a constant threat to the unity and
stability of the country. Nigeria will then enter the state of her real history, a history
epitomized by the maxim: 'the free development of the individual is the condition for the free
development of the country'.

Conclusion: Ethnic Minority Problems and the Struggle for Socialism

We see socialism as the only condition for the solution of ethnic minority problems.
But we have to emphasize once again that this solution does not automatically follow a
socialist revolution, for it is quite possible for the oppression of ethnic minorities to persist
in new forms under a socialist regime.11

Socialism is the condition for the abolition of ethnic oppression precisely because
socialism is based, above all, on the socialization of the means of production; and it is these
means, under the domination of the bourgeoisie of the majority ethnic groups, that constitute
the main weapon for oppression of the minorities.

But this historic step may fail to resolve the ethnic question, for it is quite possible for
the administration of the socialized means of production to be still controlled by the majority
ethnic groups through state and party bureaucracies. In other words, a reconstitution of the
material weapon of ethnic oppression is quite possible under a socialist regime. The
conclusion we draw from this is that socialization of the means of production is nothing more

than the foundation (which is lacking under the bourgeois social order) of a revolutionary
process of democratization of all aspects of social life economic, political, and cultural.

If ethnic oppression is possible under a socialist regime, the revolutionary socialist

movements (that is, those movements struggling for socialism) must integrate a specific
programme of struggle against the oppression of minorities into an overall programme of
socialist revolution. This implies that, if a socialist movement does not see it as incompatible
with the final goal to struggle for the realization of immediate goals (so-called reforms), it
must also struggle for consistent reforms in the sphere of ethnic oppression. For such
reforms are no more impossible than reforms in the sphere of class oppression. Similarly, if a
revolutionary socialist movement must negate the present society in its organizational
structure and programme (in terms of solidarity, democracy, equality, and collectivity), it must
in particular negate ethnic oppression. In other words, the revolutionary movement must
struggle to realize and reflect the future equality of all ethnic groups in its organization.

1. See Uganda Okpu, Ethnic Minority. Problems m Nigerian Politics, (Acta Universitatis
Uppsaliensis, 1977), P.7.
2. Ibid., p.24.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. Gavin Williams, Nigeria: Economy and Society, (Rex Collings, London, 1976), pp.76-77.
7. Ibid., p.20.
8. Ugbna Okpu, op. cit., p.15.
9. Michael Crowder, The Story of Nigeria, (Faber and Faber, 1973), p.295.
10. Ibid., p.295.
11. We may remind ourselves that ethnic minority problems in the Soviet Union (e.g. MuslimArab ethnic groups) and Yugoslavia (e.g. the Albanian ethnic group) not only remain
unresolved but can explode into violence.

A Critique of the Nigerian Left

5. The Tragedy of the Nigerian Labour and

Socialist Movement
Only on the basis of a study of political processes in the masses them-selves, can we
understand the role of parties and leaders, whom we least of all are inclined to
ignore. They constitute not an independent, but nevertheless a very important,
element in the process. Without a guiding organisation the energy of the masses
would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a pistonbox. But nevertheless what moves
things is not the piston or the box, but the steam.1 (emphasis ours)

The Communists are distinguished from other working-class parties by this only: 1) In
the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and
bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all
nationality; 2) In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working
class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere
represent the interests of the movement as a whole.2 (emphasis ours)

The response of a political movement to a national political development is, to a large

degree, a reflection and an expression of its own strength. This depends on the extent of the
movement's mass base, its organizational power and cohesion, its capacity for continuous
existence and development, and its 'ability to propound the basic historical problems of the
time, to define them in clear terms, and to indicate... the direction in which the basic
solutions may be found and the form of action that is called for.'3 These various elements of
a movement's political strength can best be understood by considering its history. Let us
therefore start by sketching the general character of the history of the Nigerian socialist
movement, which is, in fact, inseparable from the history of the Nigerian labour movement.

This inseparability is not simply theoretical. In general, every organization of labour is

political (and therefore engenders its own political contradictions) and socialism (of whatever
brand) is the only political movement against the conditions of labour under capitalism. But in
Nigeria the inseparability of the socialist and labour movements is more specific and more
concrete as we have shown below.

We should, therefore, be pardoned when we use the terms 'socialist movement' and
'labour movement' interchangeably. We should also be pardoned for using the word
'movement' very broadly. This is done purely for convenience of exposition, and should not
be seen as a misuse of categories with time tested and accepted meanings. For example,

we shall often use the term 'socialist movement' to describe a situation where only the
existence of isolated individuals with socialist ideas, and maybe commitment, can be
asserted, in the absence of organizational forms or programmes.

The Nigerian Socialist Movement Before the Military Intervention of 1966

The Nigerian labour movement,4 born out the general nationalist response to colonial
political economy, had an uninterrupted history of militancy between 1940 up to the advent of
military rule in 1966. Although this history was also marked by perennial factionalism, splits,
groupings and regroupings within labour unions, central labour organizations and workeroriented parties, the workers' movement as a whole maintained a continuous impact on the
Nigerian political scene during this period.

The period (1940-66) can be, divided into two sub-periods according to the general
political tendencies within the movement. The first period was characterized by:
1) A series of uneasy alliances between the nationalist parties and the labour movement;
2) A split, during the early years of the movement, into a right wing and a left wing with the
left wing favouring an alliance (through workers' parties) with the nationalist parties and the
right wing favouring independence from political influences;
3) An ever-increasing influence from international labour organizations on the movement
which had the effect of further perpetuating the split into right and left.

The second period, which can be taken as dating from the eve of independence
(1960), was characterized by:
1) A tendency within the left wing to break off alliances with nationalist parties (which were
then fast becoming ruling parties) and independent workers' parties; and the right wing still
opting for political neutrality;
2) A tendency towards institutionalization of intercine struggles with the leaderships of both
right and left wings for vantage positions to grab the resources of the movement and
material aids coming from international labour organizations;
3) The perpetuation of the split between right and left and the blocking of all attempts and
opportunities for a sustained united front of workers mainly for reasons mentioned in (2)

The splitting of the Nigerian labour movement into right and left was initially
engendered by conflicting attitudes on the part of the labour leaders towards colonial rule in
general (and not just towards colonial labour policies). The initial factors were therefore

The first central labour organization in the country, the Trade Union Congress of
Nigeria, which was established in August 1943, made a political declaration to the effect that
its aim was 'to press for the nationalization of milling and timber industries, township
transport and other public services.'5 This declaration was not fortuitous; it expressed the
political motivation of those who spearheaded the formation of the Congress.6 When the first
major split in the central labour movement occurred in 1949, it was at least overtly over
the question of what political stand to take up vis-a-vis the colonial administration, right or
left. While the right wing declared itself independent of political influences, the left wing
proposed 'to press for the socialization of important industries in the country with a view to
realizing Socialist Government where the identity of the working class would not be lost and,
ultimately, the achievement of a world-wide parliament of the working classes.' 7

It was the fate of the Nigerian socialist movement that political questions within the
labour movement, which initially gave the socialist movement its organizational and political
forms, gradually became eliminated. Opportunistic tendencies developed equally within the
left and right factions, and with time, these tendencies completely overshadowed and
falsified the political questions. By the time the army assumed power in 1966, the right-left
political split was largely meaningless.

We shall come later to what we consider the main causes and elements of the
opportunistic tendencies which dominated the movement up to 1966, and which, under new
forms, continue to dominate it today. But for now let us note that the year, 1963, is very
significant in the history of the Nigerian socialist movement. This was the year the Socialist
Workers and Farmers Party (S.W.A.F.P.) - a party originally embracing the vast majority of
socialist intellectuals and activists (Marxist and non-Marxist) as well as left-wing labour
leaders in the country - came into being.

It can now be said, in retrospect, that whatever may have been the illusions or
alternatively genuine determination of some of the participating Marxists, the S.W.A.F.P.
actually came into being to institutionalize and promote opportunism still further within the
socialist movement. This historical development is by no means inexplicable, nor could the
then Nigerian Marxists be completely absolved from blame for not foreseeing it. The
opportunism of S.W.A.F.P. (or its leadership) was predictable.

In the first place, starting from independence onwards, struggles within the labour
movement in general, and its left-wing faction in particular, became gradually transformed
into mere struggles for leadership between labour bureaucrats. This tendency was both the
cause and effect of another phenomenon, the increasing divorce of rank-and-file union
members from the politics of their unions and the leaders' increasing alienation and loss of
credibility. It was these same leaders leaders who by 1963 had organized themselves into
veritable mafias for the struggle to loot workers' funds who constituted the labour core of the
new party.

In the second place, the party, and the need for it, did not develop from the conscious
activities of the rank-and-file.8 The party came into being bureaucratically, namely, by the
mechanical merger of socialist intellectuals (some of them socialists only by label,
association, or self-acclamation) and left-wing labour leaders. Of course, we do not deny that
the Nigerian working masses were still very militant at the time the S.W.A.F.P. came into
being; all we are saying is that the people who, in 1963, constituted themselves as the party
had only formal links if any at all with the workers.

By the end of 1963 (that is, by the time the S.W.A.F.P. was established as nothing but
a mere bureaucracy), it had become almost impossible for the left-wing labour leadership to
mobilize workers for purely political actions; nor could the new party (dominated at least
bureaucratically and financially by the same set of people) provide a credible political
leadership for the working class.

Also, by the end of 1963, as many as five central labour organizations (which
together with the S.W.A.F.P. constituted the main organizational forms of the Nigerian
workers' movement) had emerged in the country. These are briefly described below.

1) The leadership (but certainly not the rank-and-file) of one of the central labour
organizations - the Nigerian Trade Union Congress (N.T.U.C) - claimed, to be and was
largely described as left-wing. The actual situation was that, though the leadership of this
particular organization evolved out of the militantly anti-colonial labour leadership of the
previous two decades, the new leadership's claim to leftism was now based solely on this
historical link and its affiliations to a left-wing international labour organization. The loss of
the organization's militant content was bound up with the birth of purely opportunistic
struggles between members of the leadership. It is worth noting that the organization's
leadership at this time came to power by physically seizing the secretariat and not
through rank-and-file decision.9

2) The leadership of the second central labour organization The United Labour Congress
(U.L.C.) was reputed to be right-wing. There were stronger reasons for calling this
particular organization right-wing than there were for labelling the first organization left-wing.
In the first place, the leadership evolved historically from the moderate wing of the labour
leadership under colonialism. Secondly, this leadership explicitly and officially labelled the
leadership of the first labour organization communist.10 Thirdly, the post-independence
Federal Government had accorded it official recognition for being moderate a moderation
which was indeed shown in actions involving direct confrontation with the state. Finally, the
organization had a link with a right-wing international labour movement. Again, not much
could be said about the political attitude of the rank-and-file.

3) The third central labour organization The Labour Unity Front (L.U.F.) was formed by
these leaders in the first organization who had been removed by a coup dtat. This
leadership can today claim to have continuously represented the tradition of militancy,

nationalism and workers' power in the Nigerian labour movement. Hence this leadership's
leftist label was more correct than that of the first.

4) The last two central labour organizations were formed by splinter groups from the first and
second central organizations respectively. One was allied to an international Arab labour
organization while the other was allied to an international Christian labour organization.

The existence of up to five central labour organizations in the country in the 1960s
was due mainly to the struggles amongst labour bureaucrats for vantage positions to control
the finances of the movement. A labour leader would rather break away and form his own
union however small than remain in an organization over whose finances he had no
control or to whose funds he had no direct access. Although political factors were not
completely absent from these struggles, they were little more than slogans and banners
under which sordid opportunistic struggles went on between labour leaders.

This was the situation into which, as we have noted, the Socialist Workers and
Farmers Party (S.W.A.F.P.) was born. We have earlier expressed the view that the character
of the leadership of the new party constituted a terrible inheritance which immediately
indicated a possible direction of development for the the party. But this does not mean that
all the conditions (objective and subjective) for its developing into a powerful mass party
were absent. In fact, the party was formed under a very favourable set of political conditions.
these were the mass anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and nationalist resentments generated by
the events in the Congo (1960-61); the attempted Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact; the
attempted Preventive Detention Act; the series of national crises through which the country
had been passing (the crisis over the 1962-62 census figures, the crisis leading to the
declaration of a state of emergency in the then Western Region, etc.); mass dissatisfaction
of workers; and the attempted formation of an all-party government at the federal level.

But all these favourable conditions were lost without the new party being able to build
on them.

The party itself emerged as a bureaucratic union between the leadership of the
Nigerian Youth Congress (N.Y.C.)11 and the new leadership, (which had seized power
through a coup dtat) of the left-wing central labour organization, the Nigerian Trade Union
Congress. It is still being claimed by some older Nigerian socialists that this coup dtat in
the labour movement was gaged by those who wanted leading positions in the new party.
The formation of the party, therefore, had the immediate effect of further perpetuating the
split in the labour movement not only into right and left but also into various factions of the
left. It is therefore not surprising (judging from the state of the labour movement at the time)
that the new party was unable to its potential and remained largely still-born until it was
decreed out of existence along with other parties when the military came to power in

Within a few months of the birth of this new working-class socialist party and the
coup dtat in the left-wing Nigerian TUC, a shattering new crisis developed within the
reconstituted socialist movement (now made up of the left-wing' labour centre, the party and
the Nigerian Youth Congress or their leaderships).12 Twelve years later, Eskor Toyo, one
of the leaders of the movement, identified the major causes of the crisis as including:

1) gross arbitrary and irresponsible mismanagement of thousands of naira of the

movement's funds; 2) a bourgeois and irresponsible non-accountability for scores of
thousands of naira worth of the movement other property; 3) gross abuse of position to
favour blood relatives in the award of scholarships and contracts made available to the
movement; 4) the use of bourgeois employer-boss and employee-servant methods in
dealing with the movement's cadres; 5) the inordinate ambition on the part of the party's
secretary to be a secure and comfortable bourgeois millionaire benefactor holding the
purse strings, dictating to the movement and holding it to ransom by means of financial
power; 6) the use of thuggery just like bourgeois fascists to silence their critics within the
socialist or the trade union movement; 7) a shameless and dishonest exploitation of the
differences in the international communist movement to perpetuate their gross
opportunism; 8) several acts of political opportunism in the Nigerian bourgeois style; 9)
open betrayal ... of democratic fronts and falsifications before international

While history has largely confirmed this diagnosis to be correct,14 it is pertinent to

ask: What was responsible for the existence of such a degree of false consciousness and
opportunism in the leaderships of a 'Marxist' party and a left-wing' central labour
organisation? In posing this question, we must not forget that the leaderships of the
Movement (Party and union) did not evolve continuously and organically from the
movement; in other words, the leadership had, by 1964, become almost detached from the
movement, thus making it impossible for rank-and-file to intervene effectively in the struggle
within the leadership.

We propose the following as guides to an answer:

1) The severance of the political alliance between the nationalist parties and the labour
movement: The historical reason behind this phenomenon was that, as the country
advanced towards independence, the political posture and interest of the nationalist parties
became more and more bourgeois and hegemonic. Since the labour movement was born
and developed under conditions of nationalism which was politically led by the nationalist
parties, the working-class parties which were formed after this severance found themselves
in stiff competition with the nationalist parties for support within the working class a
struggle which working-class parties did not even wage, let alone win.

2) The damaging influence which the huge financial and material support from international
labour organizations and parties had on the Nigerian socialist movement: In a social,

economic and political situation thoroughly permeated by bourgeois corruption (almost

evolving into a culture!), the influence of these large sums of money on a detached
leadership can be imagined.

3) Ideology: (We offer this as only a provisional thesis). It would appear that the labour and
socialist movement was born into an international ideological atmosphere which was
dominated by an emphasis on the objective factors for socialism and ignored the subjective
factors. In other words, such revolutionary demands as socialist morality, humility, solidarity,
honesty, or revolutionary example, were completely absent from socialist politics.15

The last pre-civil war revolutionary act of the Nigerian working class, as a political
class constituted nationally, took place in 1964. It took the form of a General Strike (echoing
that of 1945), which came as a reaction to a rare convergence: political dissatisfaction and
economic grievance on a national scale.16 In the brief period of a few months, the Nigerian
working class condensed and brilliantly re-enacted its history of militancy, and equally
suffered (also in a condensed form) a repetition of all the treachery and betrayal by its
leaders that had occurred in 1945.

An indication of the general political mood of the workers at this time is given by the
resolution passed in August 1963 by the first Annual Delegates Conference of the Eastern
District Council of one of the central labour organisations. In the resolution, the Conference
urged the parent organization:

To set up a political Action Committee which will have as its primary objective the propagation
of a socialist welfare state and the furtherance of the workers' power and influence in the
national politics of Nigeria ... and to proceed to establish proper liaison between it and other
organizations, political or otherwise, that subscribe to the principles of a socialist welfare state
in Nigeria.17

Under the pressure of workers, the leaders of the central labour organizations and
other 'neutral' trade unions decided to set up the Joint Action Committee, whose first act was
to issue a call to the Federal Government 'to set up a governmental enquiry into wages and
salaries with a threat that, if this were not done, the unions would call out their members on
27 September,1963.'18 The government was compelled to set up a commission the
Morgan Commission to advise it on 'a general upward revision of salaries and wages of
junior employees in both government and private establishments.'19

The General Strike started eventually early in June 1964, initially as a pressure on
the government to release its decisions on the report of the Morgan Commission. In the
course of the strike, the decisions were released; but, falling far below the recommendations
of the Commission, they led to an intensification of the strike and further spread its coverage.

Robin Cohen described the height of the General Strike in these words:

The Prime Minister issued a Canute-like order to the strikers to return to work without having
either the credibility or power to enforce this order. The strike involved perhaps 750,000
workers, many of them not unionists, and spread over the whole countryside. In contrast to
1945, the tin miners in Jos also joined the strike. Besides the wage and salary-earners, a
large measure of support came from other sources. Many domestic servants refused to work,
while in the towns, a number of unemployed joined the workers at political rallies and mass

The government was compelled to give in; a committee of government and labour
representatives was quickly set up to consider the report of the Morgan Commission and
make recommendations to the government. But, as we said earlier, the 1964 General Strike
was both a success and a failure. It was a success because the very foundation of the
Federal Government was shaken by the united action of determined rank-and-file workers,
and the erstwhile arrogant administration was terrified and forced to swallow its pride, climb
down, and enter into negotiations with the workers. On the other hand, the strike was a
failure because the workers' hope that the Joint Action Committee would become a
permanent organization and unite the Nigerian working class was quickly betrayed by most
of the leaders of the component central labour organizations who struggled to recover the
independence of their separate bodies after the strike.

According to Eskor Toyo, there were two main causes of the labour leaders' consistent
resistance (as distinct from the junior cadres and ordinary members of the labour unions) to
efforts towards labour unity. The first was what he called opportunistic perfidy, and the other
sheer ignorance'. He went on:

The labour malefactors ... know all about the sources and disposal of the finances of their
organisations. These elements are anxious to impress some circles outside Nigeria that the
trade union front in Nigeria is permanently divided (by themselves); that the other faction is
being heavily financed by its mentor; that nothing on earth can be as necessary as the
preservation and expansion (of the separate central labour organisations). The war of
empires and the anti-unity arguments ... are only the camouflages of perfidious and callous
empire builders . ... The second reason for the opposition of certain elements ... to the reality
of Nigerian trade unions is sheer ignorance mistaken leftism by those who have read little
of Marx or Lenin, who know nothing at all about the basic sciences on which Marxist or
Leninist reasoning is based but who think they are great Marxists indeed. These men think
that workers can be carried for revolutionary action only on the day when practically every
worker has become a Marxist.21

By the time the army assumed power in January 1966, the labour movement had lost
the unity of 1963-64 and was again divided rigidly into five or more central labour
organizations; the labour bureaucrats themselves had become miserably alienated and

discredited, while the state of the socialist movement was no better. Under these conditions,
Nigerian workers could hardly be expected to intervene or play any class role in the events
leading up to the Civil War (1966-70). Today, more than nine years after the end of the Civil
War and in the face of contradictions within the bourgeois camp and the miserable
conditions of the people, the socialist movement is as divided as ever. But let us consider the
concrete history of the Nigerian socialist movement under the military regime, for this is the
immediate key to its current tragedy.

The Nigerian Socialist Movement During the Military Regime (1966-79)

It must not be thought that the Nigerian working masses did not struggle against their
alienation from the affairs of their movement by the labour and socialist leaders. They did
wage struggles but they lost! The workers struggled unsuccessfully on several occasions
against the dissolution of the Joint Action Committee which had been formed by the central
labour organisations to direct the 1964 workers' agitation; they attempted, again
unsuccessfully, to throw out the corrupt leaders of the left-wing central labour organizations;
some workers also struggled against the opportunistic leadership of the Socialist Workers
and Farmers Party and, in fact, as a result of this, a rival workers party, the Nigerian
Labour Party (N.L.P.), was formed in 1964. But the new party quickly degenerated under the
weight of the same disease opportunism and corruption which had led to its creation.

Why did the workers fail in these struggles? In the first place, the labour movement
was heavily bureaucratized. Since the workers were dispersed and, any case, since most of
them were tied down with the problems of daily physical survival, the affairs of the movement
almost became the affairs of the leaders alone. Moreover the movement was so constituted
and structured that the summoning of meetings, conferences and conventions and even the
selection of delegates, were the responsibility of the same corrupt leaders. ln the second
place, the leaders freely and shamelessly used the funds, resources and privileges of the
movement to buy support for themselves, thereby entrenching themselves. This was the
situation when the army came to power in January 1966.

The first political act of the military regime was to decree politics and political parties
out of existence. One would have expected a revolutionary party, whose legal existence
under a neocolonial regime was an exceptional (and therefore a temporary) situation, to
respond to this decree by going underground. This did not take place, nor could it have
taken place: a political party with no mass base and whose leadership was bitterly divided
over the issues could not possibly pretend to go underground a process where absolute
secrecy, discipline, courage and sacrifice are demanded. Of course, a group of leaders
secretly planning how to continue looting the movement's funds could deceive themselves
into believing that they were holding an underground party meeting!

The impact of the decree on the socialist parties was total: the parties simply
disappeared. Henceforth the question before each leader was how to grab and appropriate
as much of the parties' property as possible for himself. Thuggery, theft, blackmail and
falsifications were freely used as means. In these battles, it would appear that the labour
leaders in the party leadership had an initial advantage. Whereas the labour leaders still had

an open and legal platform the trade unions on which to operate and with which to
disguise their activities, the intellectual socialist leaders had no such platform (at least not
immediately), and were therefore much more open to dangers of being accused of violating
the provisions of the anti-politics decree. The labour leaders fully exploited this situation.

What was the immediate attitude of the labour and socialist movements towards the
military regime? Like many other pressure and opposition groups and organizations in the
country, the socialist and labour leaders generally welcomed the military regime. But it was
only a general welcome the type that was extended to the new regime even by those who
had benefited under the old political dispensation and hoped to benefit equally under the
new. Although rank-and-file workers like many other ordinary Nigerians were relieved
to see the corrupt, tyrannical and insensitive politicians go, and expected their conditions to
be improved under the new regime, their leaders had neither the orientation, the will, nor the
capacity to translate this wish this realizable wish into action. This is not strange,
considering the miserable state of the labour movement on the eve of military intervention.
Robin Cohen described this pathetic failure of the labour leadership to influence the military

For the unions this was a golden opportunity gone to waste. The Ironsi government was a
desperate improvisation, a child of circumstance, whose power rested on sufficiently shaky
foundations for the workers, had they acted quickly under a united leadership, to gain some
kind of voice in the decision-making process. As one might expect from the tortuous history of
the labour movement, the union leadership was incapable of producing any initiative, while
conscious of the possibilities of cooperation with the military authorities, the union centres
made no sustained common programme. In the event, Ironsi fell back not on the support of
the unions, but on a power base that would have been more familiar to his civilian
predecessors, his fellow Ibos in the civil service and officer corps. 22

It is, therefore, not surprising that, when the national crisis23 erupted a few months
later, the labour movement was unable to intervene other than by issuing statements
pleading for peace and unity. A further blow fell on the movement when the crisis developed
into secession and civil war in 1967. The movement simply split into two not only
geographically, but also ideologically each component upholding and supporting the
particular military regime under which it found itself.

As soon as the Nigerian crisis developed into an open war, a new form of
opportunism emerged in the labour movement.24 Whereas under the previous civilian
regime, the labour and socialist leaders had competed with one another for access to the
movement's funds, materials and privileges, under the military regime they competed to
assist the federal military regime in its war efforts. Several leaders from both the right and
the left took part in this new race.

The Federal Military Government was badly in need of industrial peace, domestic
political support and foreign military, economic and diplomatic assistance; and it was ready

to grant privileges and give facilities to anybody who would assist in providing these. The
right-wing labour leaders responded to the government's economic needs by swinging their
ideological pronouncements solidly behind the Federal Government's line even to the point
of pronouncing a no-strike policy for the duration of the War.25 The left-wing leaders adopted
a slight different ground and offered their assistance to the military regime on the political
and diplomatic fronts. In this they were joined the socialist intellectuals who were only too
happy to seize the opportunity the government's needs to come out of their forced holiday
from political activities. Organizations were formed to campaign and mobilize support for the
government's war efforts; delegations were led to the socialist countries where they
presented their credentials as Marxist-Leninists fighting against imperialist attempts to
dismember their country.

It must not be assumed (and, of course, history cannot be deceived) that the national
and international support which these leaders helped to gain for the government was a
reflection of their authority, popularity or credibility. These leaders merely exploited the public
sentiment which had been moulded by the slogan of One Nigeria. The immediate
consequence of this new role of the leaders was their further entrenchment in the leadership
of the movement. Internal struggles, if any, were confined as-before to the circles of the
leadership, and as always centred round the control of funds.

The war ended and One Nigeria was achieved. But the leadership of the labour
movement emerged from the War as thoroughly divided, and as completely alienated from
the rank-and-file as ever. With the end of the War, the honeymoon which the leaders had
enjoyed with the state also ended. They were duly reminded that the state of emergency and
the ban on political activities were still in force and as if to drive home this fact, some of
these leaders were thrown into detention shortly afterwards, for making statements
'prejudicial to the interests of the state'. Of course, no finger was raised by the workers
against the detention of their leaders'!

Factors Preventing the Emergence of an Integrated Revolutionary Movement

Between the end of the Civil War in January 1970 and the return of open political
activities in September 1978, several attempts were made to forge national, mass-based
and revolutionary (as opposed to localized, esoteric and academic) socialist organizations in
the country. That these various attempts resulted in failure was due to a number of historical,
economic, political and ideological causes which we shall now attempt to enumerate.

1) The Influence of the Past on the Present

The main approach which socialists and Marxists have repeatedly adopted over the
past eight years to forge a socialist united front in the country has been the summoning of
meetings or conferences which have always been dominated by intellectuals, students and
labour bureaucrats. Whenever any such meeting or conference included the older socialists
(and more often than not they were included), they dominated and directed it even when
initiative for the meeting did not come from them, and the actual preparation for the meeting
was not done by them! The result? The old divisions, antagonisms and prejudices (most of

them now completely exhausted and baseless, or at least irrelevant) quickly intervened and
doomed the conference.26 Nothing significant has ever been achieved by such a conference.
More often than not a sterile and boring statement of commitment to socialism and liberation
of the Nigerian masses from imperialism and neocolonialism' would be issued a kind of
statement that, in Nigeria today, merely reminds the people of the impotence of the socialist
movement, rather than its determination.

On other occasions, the conference might succeed, not in adopting concrete and
realistic programmes for workers' organization, education and struggle (and a method of
testing every participating socialist or socialist group by these programmes), but in setting up
a bureaucracy whose initial character, namely, its sheer size and composition, always
predicted its immediate death; and it always died, even before the first meeting. A new
socialist conference would then be arranged and the same process would be re-enacted.
This catalogue of failures would, of course, not compel Nigerian Marxists and socialists to reexamine their method. No; the struggle must continue in the direction that has been chosen
and ordained as 'correct'.

2) The Appearance of a New Generation Without Heritage or Concrete Experience

The military regime and the Nigerian crisis had a certain effect which, in a historical
(though limited) sense, can be regarded as positive: the development of a new generation of
radicalized Nigerians mostly young intellectuals and students. In the early years of the
crisis this radicalism was rooted, and found expression, in the military-led campaign, first
against corrupt civilians, and later against 'imperialist intrigues to dismember Nigeria'. Later
on, as a result of further evolution of the military regime and the economy, this radicalism
became more and more differentiated; on certain levels it acquired the voice of antimilitarism and anti-capitalism.

But this is only one side of the story. It is also true that this new generation of radicals
came into existence, and initially developed, under a set of historical conditions which
together helped to shape them into what they are today.

Firstly, the young radicals came into existence when the old leadership of the
socialist and labour movements had been totally discredited, and a new one had not been
created. They could not take over the leadership of the movement because, on the one
hand, the old leadership was firmly entrenched, and on the other hand, most of them had
little or no contact with the labour socialist movements. Nor could the young radicals accept
or work under the leadership of the older socialist and labour leaders, for that carried, and
still carries, the danger of the new inheriting the reputation of the old. Hence the new
radicals developed mainly outside the working-class movement.

Secondly, these new radicals came into existence and developed during the state of
emergency and the ban on political activities. Hence, their radicalism did not acquire serious

and continuous organizational forms except when these forms were created specifically
for the immediate (and sole) aim of demonstrating support for the regime. The result was the
development of a generation of militants with strange ideas and illusions about what
socialism and revolution were all about ideas and illusions which could only be tempered
and corrected by concrete organizational practice, rooted in the working population.

The new generation of militants therefore developed under a double disadvantage.

On the one hand, there was a near-complete absence of heritage (i.e. of continuity from the
past to the present), and on the other hand, there was an absence of concrete practical
experience. Under these conditions, they could not easily have displaced the old leadership
and provided a new one for the socialist movement.

Of course, the new generation recognized its disability, and often struggled to
overcome it. Since the older generation had experience and roots in society, they were
indispensable in any attempt to forge a national revolutionary organization. On the other
hand, since these same old leaders were discredited, there was a danger in serving under
them. Therefore, they should be invited to meetings with the hope of confronting them with a
'revolutionary' programme which only the new activists could execute. But as we noted
earlier, the old leaders always dominated and doomed such meetings and the struggle

3) Political Power and Ideological Hegemony of the State

As we said above, the military regime imposed a rigid ban on political activities as
soon as it came to power in 1966. It was precisely under this condition that a new
'nationalism' the defence of the country's unity and territorial integrity developed. In the
absence of independent political organizations, the state became the vanguard of the
people. A genuinely revolutionary organization, even when officially banned, could still have
provided either the vanguard of genuine nationalism or the vanguard of struggle against
false nationalism. But the vanguard did not exist, and had in fact ceased to exist even before
the military came to power; the military merely formalized a de facto situation by imposing a

Side by side with the state's ideological hegemony was the menace of the effective
use of the state's political and military power. Strikes were banned, and offenders were
threatened with detention under emergency regulations. Of course, it was left to the state
and its bureaucracy to determine what constituted a strike or a strike situation: a peaceful
meeting could be one, so even could a public statement. Under these admittedly difficult
conditions, and in the absence of a radical programme to confront them, revolutionary
consciousness (rooted in revolutionary practice) could not have developed, nor could the
state's ideological hegemony be broken. How could a national revolution organization be
forged under such conditions?

4) The Effect of the New National Prosperity

Towards the end of the War, a new prosperity the oil boom - descended on the
country. The state's revenues and, foreign, exchange earnings doubled and doubled again;
fantastic projects were initiated and hundreds of contracts went out to businessmen;
everybody became, or hoped to become, an importer or distributor of consumer goods
flowing into the country from Euro-American industries. This phenomenon had a devastating
effect on the working class and those commonly referred to as the petty bourgeoisie. There
was simply no sustained class solidarity any more, nor was there any need for it since
everybody hoped to escape from the slavery of wage labour into the freedom of business

Who was to confront this situation? On the one hand, we had the socialist and labour
leaders who had been thoroughly discredited and divided and who were, in any case, in any
case, in the same mad race to accumulate wealth. On the other hand, there were socialist
intellectuals and students who, though not in the race (except possibly in their dreams), had
neither the necessary links with the working class nor the capacity and will to establish them.
The result was an effective penetration of bourgeois ideology the ideology of free
enterprise into the working population. Only an equally effective revolutionary programme
of education and mobilization could confront this phenomenon. But this programme was

5) The Question of Strategy

Since this question will be dealt with more fully in the chapters that follow, we shall
merely present it very briefly here.

The question 'Which way to socialist revolution?' has been asked at every gathering
of socialists at least since the present writer's active and conscious involvement in
socialist struggles in Nigeria. It has acquired a particularly urgent tone in the last few years,
and has caused many painful, and sometimes violent, splits within socialist grouping. It is
over this question that some very serious revolutionary (though localized) socialist
organizations which the present writer believes had the potentiality of developing into
revolutionary vanguards have disintegrated. But as many times as the question was
posed; as often did it fail to produce a unanimous answer; and the more urgent the tone of
the question, the more elusive the answer became.

An answer could not be found, precisely because it was the wrong question to ask.
For a revolutionary organization, the ability to formulate a strategy for revolution depends not
only on intellectual knowledge of objective situations in the country, but also on the concrete
experience of the organization. In a situation where the only revolutionary experience is, at
best, localized, primative and sporadic, any excessive (that is, immodest) claim to intellectual
power of articulation is a self-delusion. In our view, for a group of genuine revolutionary
socialists coming together to forge an organization, the correct question to ask is: 'What are
the irreducible conditions for any revolutionary strategy at all'? When this question is asked,
the organization will begin to see the need for workers' education, newspapers and journals,

insertion into mass organizations, the creation of material and structural conditions for
continuous existence and development, etc. It is partly on the basis of these elementary
preparations and the experience gained from them that the question of revolutionary strategy
will be correctly posed and correctly answered.

The set of problems enumerated above characterizes as we have said earlier

the organizational experience of the Nigerian socialist movement from the end of the Civil
War to September 1978 when open political activities were once again allowed in the
country. It was indeed a terrible experience. These problems also give an indication of the
political and ideological weakness of the movement. With the movement lying heavily
crushed under these problems, and with no capacity even to pose the proper questions of
how to transcend them, the movement's influence on the daily lives and activities of the
people or on national political questions could not but be marginal.

Of course, committed (and one could say, mature) revolutionary socialists have
always existed and have been continuously reproduced in the country since the 1940s.
These committed men and women have always tried both as groups and as individuals
to intervene in national political and social questions. But, as we have noted, they have
always dissipated their energies in asking and trying to answer the wrong questions. Their
intervention in the national crisis has always naively anticipated the collapse of the social
and political order, or at least a major concession from it. Whenever this anticipation was
lacking, the revolutionaries would sit back and refuse to intervene in what was usually
dismissed as petty bourgeois agitation.

The result? When the state failed to collapse or even make any concession to
popular demands which was always the case the revolutionaries usually declared the
struggle lost; no attempt would be made to draw lessons from the failure or ensure an
elementary continuity of some organizational forms of the struggle for the purpose of
preparing for future struggles.

The Socialist Movement and the Return to Civilian Rule

In September 1978, the 13-year ban on political activities was officially lifted; but long
before this date, political organizations had started to take shape underground in cynical
anticipation of the military's faithfulness to its pledge to return the country to civilian rule in

The response of Nigerian socialists to this anticipated return were as varied as the
movement itself was atomized. But their aggregate was simply pathetic. In the space of a
few weeks, they demonstrated first to themselves and later to the country and the world at
large, that they constituted no threat whatsoever to the present social order, either in their
reality or in the direction this reality was moving. In the space of a few weeks the theoretical
degeneracy, confusion, infantilism and opportunism tendencies which hitherto had been

partially concealed under the conditions of the state of emergency became thoroughly
exposed for the world to see.

Let us briefly sketch the main responses.

1) Some 'realistic' socialists claimed that the socialist movement was too weak materially,
and that, in any case, the consciousness of the masses was too low, for socialists to
contemplate forming a separate political party to fight the bourgeoisie'. But since socialists
must nevertheless take part in the struggle', they should infiltrate the bourgeois parties with
the hope of taking them over from within. Such captured parties would then be reformed and
used as instruments for socialist revolution! These 'realistic' socialists would not say which
particular parties should be infiltrated and whether this infiltration should be done as a group
or as individuals. Of course, none of them could contemplate any other form of working with
the bourgeoisie.
2) There was another group of socialists slightly to the left of the group mentioned above who believed that two of the five officially recognized political parties should be so infiltrated
since, according to them, these parties were 'near-socialist'. Again, nothing could be said
about the form of infiltration.
3) There was a third group of socialists who believed that the two parties mentioned in (2)
above were, in fact, socialist (or at least, mass-oriented) and should therefore be joined by
socialists. The question of which of the two parties was more socialist was left to individual
socialists to decide.
4) There was a group of 'experienced and authoritative' socialists who maintained or
pontificated that the Nigerian working class was too backward for anyone to envisage
forming an exclusively workers' party. The correct thing to do was for socialists to join hands
with 'liberals, democrats, nationalists, patriots and so on' to form a 'people's party'. This
group believed that any workers' party formed at this stage of the revolution which they
characterized as the stage of national democratic revolution would necessarily become
dictatorial (as a result of the backwardness of the workers) and might lead to fascism if it
came to power. These 'authoritative' Marxists failed to say categorically whether a workers'
party must put before itself the question of capturing state power through the 1979 electoral
processes. In any case this group later 'joined hands' and formed one of the two parties
mentioned in (2) and (3) above, without even saying whether they hoped to transform this
party into a socialist party or break away and form a socialist party when they felt strong
enough or when the workers had become more advanced.
5) There was a group of socialists who argued that an open socialist party must be formed
now by all means. This group can, in fact, be divided into two sub-groups. There were two
main differences between them: a) whereas one sub-group maintained that such a party
must compete with the bourgeoisie in the 1979 general elections, the other left the option of
competition or non-competition open; b) whereas the first sub-group argued that such a
party should be a mass party, the other maintained that it must be Marxist-Leninist. But the
two sub-groups were both agreed that the conditions were ripe for such a party, that the
masses were waiting for it and that the whole country would laugh at socialists if they failed
to seize the opportunity offered by the government. The two sides to this debate simply
refused to consider the fact that the same government which had given the signal for the
formation of political parties also prescribed the conditions for existence of such parties.27

6) There was also a group of socialists who were convinced that the time was not ripe for the
formation of any socialist party in the country. As to what should be done, this group did not
offer any concrete suggestion.
7) There was, finally, a group of socialists who, like the group in (6), believed that the time
was not ripe for the formation of a socialist party; but unlike that group they offered concrete
suggestions as to what should be done: serious and active socialist groups in the country
should come together and form a centre and this centre should work towards the formation
of a workers' vanguard party when the material, ideological and political conditions for its
existence had been created through revolutionary practice. This group was even prepared
to satisfy those who wanted the name 'party' to give the centre the name 'party'. But
they insisted that it must be composed and structured according to the principles of
Marxism-Leninism, and must remain unannounced until it became strong and authentic

These were the various responses which Nigerian socialists gave to the anticipated
return to open political activities. But what actually happened when the ban was finally lifted?
A number of open socialist parties came into existence, but they quickly disappeared28 when
they were decreed out of existence for failure to satisfy the conditions for existence. Several
leaders of these parties later found their ways into the legal bourgeois parties a step that
more 'realistic' socialists had earlier taken. They bowed to reality, offering their supporters
various types of rationalization. Other leaders simply disappeared with the proscription of
their parties. The lesson of this tragedy is a simple one: that the Nigerian socialist movement
(or even the idea of it) has not transcended its historical problems, and therefore, has not
created the conditions for the resurgence of organized socialist political practice in Nigeria.

The Military Regime and the Unification of the Labour Movement

When the last military regime (1975-79) came to power, it made it clear that its
mission was to enforce discipline in the general population including the workers and their
organizations. It did not require much effort on the part of the regime to come to the
conclusion that a necessary condition for the realisation of this aim was the unification of the
Labour movement. In this exercise the regime effectively exploited the disunity within the
movement, the notoriety of the labour leadership for its corruption, and a series of petitions
sent by rival labour leaders asking the regime to intervene in the labour movement of
course on the side of the petitioner.

The unions were thus unified by decree. More than 1,000 trade unions were reduced
to 31 by the merger of unions belonging to the same industry; finally, the new labour
organization was heavily bureaucratized and its officials placed on salaries on a par with, or
even higher than, the salaries of the most senior government officials. The exercise was a
bureaucratic one: the discredited union officials met and were constituted into electoral
colleges; the electoral colleges elected the new labour central's leaders; finally the leaders,
in conjunction with government representatives, elected the paid full-time union
administrators. It is therefore not surprising that neither the alienation of the labour
leadership nor their bad reputation, let alone the political impotence of the labour movement
as a class organization has been removed by the state's bureaucratic intervention.

The problems of the movement, therefore, still remain. We only need remark that the
state unification of the Nigerian trade unions just like its state capitalist nationalization of
certain industries can become a lever for the promotion of socialist struggles; but to make
use of such an opening, or even to recognise it, depends largely on the existence of an
authentic movement of working people.

Several Socialists and Marxists have criticized the government for its intervention
which was considered a violation of the democratic rights of workers to evolve freely their
own organizations, elect their leaders, and unite or refuse to unite all this at the workers'

We agree with the charge of anti-democratic practice brought against the state, but
we wish to offer the following comments;

1) It must be remembered that state intervention was not opposed either by the
leaders or the rank-and-file. This opposition failed to come for various reasons. The leaders
were eager to occupy the high positions, salaries and privileges attached to the new labour
bureaucracy; and on the other hand, the whole exercise of unification was carried out behind
the backs of rank-and-file workers, and in any case, they were too atomized organizationally
to present any credible opposition.

2) No bourgeois government is under any obligation to restructure the trade union

movement exactly in the way labour leaders want. The Nigerian Government readily, and
indeed happily, accepted the various petitions addressed to it and unified the movement
not, however, to please even the petitioners, but rather in accordance with the government's
plan, which the Commissioner of Labour had clearly stated on several occasions.

It is again necessary to add that some marginal but revolutionary influences other
than those sketched here might have been present, in the movement during the period of
unification. We have been concerned mainly with the dominant influences precisely in order
to reveal to these marginalized elements what they have to do to become dominant.


1. Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution.

2. K. Marx and F. Engels, The Communist Manifesto.

3. Andre Gorz, Socialism and Revolution, (Allen Lane, London, 1975) pp.55-6.
4. For a greater appreciation of the political evolution of the working-class movement in
Nigeria, see Robin Cohen, Labour and Politics in Nigeria, (Heinemann, London,
1974); Wogu Ananaba, The Trade Union Movement in Nigeria, (Ethiope Publishing
House, Benin City, Nigeria, 1969); Eskor Toyo, The Working Class and the Nigerian
Crisis, (Sketch Publishing Co. Ltd., Ibadan, Nigeria); J.S. Coleman, and C.G.
Rosberg, Political Parties and National Integration in Tropical Africa, (University of
California Press, Los Angeles, 1966, pp.340-81.
5. Robin Cohen, op. cit., p.72.
6. Among these early militant working-class leaders, we may mention Michael Imoudu,
who today remains a committed fighter for workers' emancipation.
7. Robin Cohen, op. cit., pp.73-74.
8. We agree with Andre Gorz that 'a genuinely revolutionary organization can be built
only after the need to organize had been experienced by people engaged in mass
struggles.' Andre Gorz, op. cit., p.65.
9. Many writers, labour leaders (living and dead) and socialists have given accounts of
this episode. See, for instance, R. Cohen, op. cit., p.89.
10. Wogu Ananaba, op. cit., pp.259-317.
11. The Nigerian Youth Congress (N.Y.C.) was a militantly anti-colonial movement which
was formed on the eve of independence. The Congress drew its initial membership
from the ranks of militants who had been purged from nationalist parties. Most of
these militants belonged to the Zikist Movement (the youth wing of one of the
nationalist parties), an organization through which an anti-colonial alliance between
labour and politics was effected.
12. It might be more correct to say that the existing contradictions within the labour and
socialist movement were carried over into the reconsti-tuted socialist movement.
13. Bab Oluwide, Dapo Fatogun School of Falsification, (Ororo Publications, Ibadan,
Nigeria, 1978), pp.13-14.
14. It is instructive to compare this analysis with what some of the combatants saw as
the cause of the crisis 15 years later: 'Then came the first crisis in the party which
arose from causes that were minimally fundamental but largely personal and
subjective. All the Marxist-Leninists in the party broke into two. Ultra-leftists took
charge of one half and party-line discipline took charge of the other. The first half
backed out of the party (some of them expelled) and the disciplined half (emphasis
ours) decided to sort its problems out and keep the party flags flying.' New Horizon,
(A Nigerian Socialist Monthly Journal), Vol. 3, No. 4, June/August 1978. Eskor Toyo
and his group were the 'ultra-leftists' of New Horizon, whereas the 'disciplined half'
was the group criticized above by Eskor. As if in anticipation of New Horizon, Eskor
Toyo had written two and a half years earlier: 'Only in the socialist movement in
Nigeria are we being called upon to behave like harlots whose bed is free to all
callers, no matter their past or present, who come along with a silly seductive smile.'

15. We offer this thesis almost in total defiance of the possible impact of the Cuban
Revolution on the world revolutionary movement. But it would appear that the impact
was quickly absorbed and lost.
16. For descriptions of this convergence and the actual strike, see R. Cohen, op. cit.,
p.64 and Wogu Ananaba, op. cit., pp.228-52.
17. Ibid., p.237.
18. R. Cohen, op. cit. p.165.
19. Ibid., p.165.
20. Ibid., p.166.
21. Eskor Toyo, op. cit., pp.76-77.
22. Robin Cohen, op. cit., p.218.
23. Several accounts of the Nigerian crisis (including the Civil War) between 1966 and
1970 have been written. We may refer to the following: R. Cohen, ibid., pp.216-239;
F. Forsyth, The Making of an African Legend, (Penguin, 1977); N.U. Akpan, The
Struggle for Secession, (Frank Cass, London, 1971).
24. In socialist political circles, opportunism is defined generally as sacrificing the overall
interests of the movement for the interests of a section of it (this section may just be
one person) or sacrificing or endangering the long-term interests of the socialist
revolution for temporary and questionable gains (in most cases, of a section of the
movement). Opportunism can be manifested in many forms and can be rooted in
various historical, ideological, economic and political conditions.
25. Robin Cohen, op. cit., p.244.
26. We are definitely not falling into a common metaphysical (i.e. undialectical) error of
dividing Nigerian socialists (like Nigerians in general) into old and young. What we
mean here is that the problems which we had earlier identified always succeeded in
dominating and frustrating these meetings, and that the older socialists were the
dominant carriers and expressions of these problems.
27. Among the 'conditions of existence' which a party must satisfy (accord-ing to the
Electoral Decree) are the following: a) that every party must operate fully staffed and
equipped party offices in at least 13 out of the 19 states in the country; b) that the
National Executive Committee of every party must 'reflect the national character of
the country'; c) that such a party must show 'evidence of having grass-root support'
(which means opening up offices in the rural areas), etc. It is clear that a necessary
condition for satisfying these conditions was the possession of huge sums of money.
No socialist grouping in the country could boast of this.
28. They disappeared in reality; they did not go underground for the conditions for
underground existence were simply not there.

6. The Ambiguity of Student Radicalism

The question of the role that students play in society, or more specifically, their role in
social reproduction, has often been distorted by an insistence that the various aspects of
social reproduction remain quite separate. One writer has defined 'social reproduction' as
'the combined mechanisms that ensure the re-creation of the physical, social, political and
ideological conditions for the functioning of a given society'. It is quite possible to break down
this definition, that is, separate it into definitions of economic reproduction, political
reproduction, ideological reproduction, and so on. This method is useful to the extent that it
allows us to isolate the various aspects of social reproduction in order to determine their
links and relative weights in a given situation or a given historical period.

It is nevertheless an atomized method. That it is usually adopted by our academics

and politicians is not altogether inexplicable. We all know that there is an immense division
of labour in social reproduction party necessary and partly unnecessary. Our academics
and politicians merely reflect this division and perpetuate it in their views, sometimes
unconsciously (that is uncritically) and sometimes for definite conscious reasons. But
atomization is both useless and harmful. It is useless because it does not allow us to see
clearly how the various social activities are linked together and how they mutually reinforce
their conditions of performance; neither does it allow us to see how the movement from one
function to the other by the same human agency is effected.

We all know that in a given society the people will continue to perform their economic
functions so long and only so long as the political and ideological conditions ensure
social compliance. As soon as the existing political and ideological conditions are sufficiently
undermined, the abstract economism of our academics and politicians collapses. For
instance, in January 1979 at the height of the Iranian Revolution, the instructions of the head
of the Iranian Oil Corporation were as worthless as a scrap of paper precisely because the
worker the 'economic man' had suddenly become a 'political man'. But the same man
had believed a few months earlier that he was part of a process of pumping oil from the soil
for ever. This incident vividly establishes the connection between politics, ideology, and

Again, we know that the description of a man by his profession (e.g. teacher,
plumber, farmer, student, politician, etc.) is at best a statement of first approximation. A
plumber who helps his child with his homework is doing the work of a teacher; if he has a
farm on which he works, he is a farmer; if he debates politics at night, he is a politician, and
so on. His description as a plumber is simply a question of his dominant (but not exclusive)

role, and the stamp put on him by the needs of the division of labour. Similarly a motor
mechanic who presides over a church after work is both a mechanic and a priest. If there are
unions for the two professions, he will belong to both; and if the two professions are to be
investigated, his evidence will be important in both.

Finally, we are aware that intellectuals are identified socially by their ideological role.
But an intellectual or student who engages in private business is as much a businessman as
he is an intellectual thus breaking the false boundary between economy and ideology. For
example, in the 1972-73 academic session, the president of the Lagos University Students
Union was also the president of Motor Owners and Drivers Union. Hence the abstraction
called 'intellectual' is only approximate, if not entirely false. Indeed, as Antonio Gramsci said,
though intellectuals may exist, non-intellectuals certainly do not exist, since every human
labour involves some mental exercise.

Atomized definitions of social reproduction then, have little or no use. As for the
harmfulness, atomization allows the academics and politicians to say to students: 'Your job is
to read and pass examinations. You have no business interfering in how you and your
parents are governed. You have no business talking about corruption and public theft, or
criticizing the courses and programmes imposed on you or debating politics.' It allows them
to say to the mathematician: 'Your business is to teach mathematics; you have no business
discussing the lives of those you teach; you certainly have no business delivering a lecture
which a professor of political science is trained to give.' It also allows them to say to the
organizer: 'Your job is to organize cultural dances and displays; you certainly have no
business presiding over a lecture, or discussing the larger social existence of the dancers'.
These are all practical implications of atomization. We should repudiate it. In our discussion
of the place and role of students, we must adopt a total view of their role in social

In Nigeria, as well as in most other countries, the term 'student' normally refers to
people engaged in formal academic courses. It does not. For the purpose of this chapter
include those engaged in various practical apprentice-ships or training and only for this
purpose we shall adopt the same convention. Therefore when we use the term 'students'
the limited sense in which we use it should always be borne in mind.

Students are formally divorced from material production even though they do
manual work during vacations, because this practical integration of roles is not given
theoretical recognition. But this formal divorce ends on the economic plane. All attempts to
extend it to ideological and political planes have always ended in complete failure and will
continue to do so, for various reasons.

1) Students are linked to the larger society by family, marriage, friendship, religion,
ethnicity, culture and history generally; and they cannot pretend to be indifferent to the fate of
this society. When the rulers inflicted a civil war Nigeria, students suffered along with the
larger society.

2) Students are trained to take up positions in the social organization of labour. The
conditions of this imminent integration into the larger society riot but affect students'
consciousness, negatively or positively. Since there is no passive consciousness, in other
words, since every consciousness strives to express itself in human action, students are
often compelled to anticipate their imminent integration by political and ideological actions.

3) Students are maintained in their education by the larger society either collectively,
individually, or both. They cannot therefore be expected to be indifferent to social
developments and policies which, by increasing the economic and social burdens of the
larger society, directly threaten to disturb or terminate their education.

4) By virtue of their training, students have access to information and ideas. They can
therefore articulate, rightly or wrongly, the various state policies, and measure rhetoric
against reality. They can also compare their society with other societies with which they have
come in contact through information and ideas. The result is critical consciousness; and as
indicated above, consciousness always struggles to express itself in action.

We can therefore conclude that, though students are formally divorced from material
production, they cannot be divorced from ideological and political struggles. Precisely
because ideology and politics have a dialectical influence on material production, students
can be said to have one foot in material production and one foot outside it. This ambivalent
location in social reproduction in general lies at the root of the limitations of the students'
role; and it is at the same time the objective cause of the ambiguity of this role.

So much for students in general. Let us now deal with Nigerian students in particular.
We shall first briefly discuss students' roles during the colonial and immediate post-colonial
civilian periods. We shall then discuss students' roles during the military era but within the
context of their limitations. In this way their ambiguity can be revealed more vividly. In order
not to be abstract, we shall base our analysis on at least 22 student protests in 1944 and
between 1959 and 1979. These are:
(I) The King's College strike of 1944;
(2) The protest against the Western Regional Housing Bill (May 1959);
(3) The protest against the Eastern Regional Pension Bill (1959);
(4) The protest against Harold Macmillan over his government's attitude to Africans'
conditions in Southern Africa;
(5) The protest over the Sharpeville shootings (1960);
(6) The protest against the French for testing atomic weapons in the Sahara;

(7) The protest against the proposed Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact (November
(8) The protest against the murder of Patrice Lumumba (February 1961);
(9) The protest against the American Peace Corps (October 1961);
(10) The protest against the Press Law;
(11) The protest against the proposed Preventive Detention Law (1963);
(12) The protest against the census manipulations of national population figures
(13) Various protests preceding and during the Civil War (1967-70);
(14) The protest over the murder of Adepeju (1971);
(15) The protest over the National Youth Service (1973);
(16) The protest over police disturbance of Adepeju's memorial processions
(February 1974);
(17) The protest against Gowon's detention of critics (1974-75);
(18) The protest over promotions in the army (1975);
(19) The students' demonstration against the February 1976 attempted coup dtat,
led by Colonel Dimka;
(20) The protest over school fees (1978);
(21) The protest over the Technical Education Programme (1978-79);
(22) The protest over University admissions (1979).

Most of these protests are important on account of their national and patriotic, rather
than localized and sectional character. Students could also be said to have engaged in most
of these particular protests more spontaneously and consciously than in several others.
They are also representative of the general trends in student militancy during three
successive stages of our national political history: the colonial, post-colonial civilian, and
military stages. Of course, students also engaged in numerous trivial and elitist protests
during these periods. Although these often gave students' militancy an ambiguous character,
it nevertheless remains true that, during the first two periods under consideration, our
students tried consciously and unconsciously to integrate their elitism with genuine
nationalism and patriotism.

The first six protests took place during the colonial period; the next six during the
post-colonial civilian period and the last ten during the military era. We shall consider them in
these three groupings.

Protests During the Colonial Regime

The colonial administration initiated a programme of higher education for two main
reasons: first, to train middle-level manpower which would serve the increasing needs of the
colonial economy and administration; and secondly in response to nationalist agitation for
higher education. The first generation of Nigerian higher education students (from Kings
College, Lagos, Yaba Higher College and University College, Ibadan) were therefore both
nationalistic and elitist.
Let us first consider these two tendencies in turn, and then their inter-relationship.
The students' nationalism sprang from their opposition to the inferior recognition accorded
them both in school and on graduation in relation to their European counterparts with the
same qualifications. The students increasingly realized that the solution to this inferior
treatment was an end to colonial rule. This opposition to colonial rule immediately linked the
students politically to the nationalism of the larger society. This is not to say that Nigerian
students opposed colonialism purely for selfish reasons, which would be untrue, but to point
out that their opposition initially sprang from their own position in society. This opposition
could, and often did, acquire additional consciousness with time. For instance, the King's
College strike of 1944 was in protest against 'bad food and unhealthy accommodation'. The
colonial administration responded to this strike with arrests, trials and forcible conscription
into the army. This immediately gave the protest a nationalistic character by bringing in the
political parties, workers and other nationalists. One writer has recorded that this particular
crisis accelerated the formation of a nationalist political party.1

In May 1959 the students of the then University College, Ibadan, staged a protest
against the housing allowances approved by the government of Western Region for its
Premier and other members of the government. In particular they denounced the 800
allowance for the premier. The students' protest letter reads in part:

It would be realized that fantastic salaries as are being paid to Nigerian politicians have
helped to produce a type of professional politician who are more interested in the pay than in
the public service. ... Let us appeal to the Premier not to continue to exploit the indifference
with which the people of the West treat all governmental activities in this process of
establishing a country where all the state money is spent to enrich the purses of politicians. 2

This is the voice of Nigerian students 20 years ago. The premier, his government and
other political appointees responded very sharply and harshly. One particular party stalwart

Nigeria is not the first country to have the experience of undergraduates who seek to run
Governments of their respective countries from their University Campus. ... Therefore
Nigerian students in the University College, Ibadan, and in other institutions, who in their
enthusiasm and ignorance endeavour to apply to our public affairs data copied from,
textbooks are only following a tradition.3

This was the voice of a Nigerian politician 20 years ago. Has he changed?

Needless to say, the housing allowance bill was passed. Not long after this event, the
students protested 'against clauses in the Eastern Region Legislative Houses Bill, which
provided pensions for high political office-holders.4 The protest was joined by some other
social groups in the country; and the result was the withdrawal of the clauses. These two
protests and their respective failure and success were significant in two major respects. In
the first place, they show the relative intolerance, insensitivity and arrogance often exhibited
by the early political leaders. Secondly, and more importantly, they show that victory in
students' political protests depends heavily on mass participation. The lesson is crucial.

Before independence, the Nigerian students engaged three other politically

significant protests of a Pan Africanist character; against Macmillan, the Sharpeville shooting
and French atomic tests respectively. These protests stand to the credit of our colonial
students. But the students were also elitist. Their elitism sprang from their relatively
privileged position vis-a-vis the colonized people as a whole. While in school, the students
were exposed to privileges not hitherto enjoyed by the colonized people at large and which
had their counterparts only in the circles of European colonizers. They were served meals in
dining halls; their rooms were cleaned for them; they were waited upon by stewards, etc. On
graduation, the students were immediately catapulted into the Senior Service. This privileged
position was, of course, reflected in their consciousness and it exhibited itself as elitism.

The convergence of nationalism and elitism gave the students' political role an
ambiguous character. Were the students struggling for freedom from colonial bondage in the
interest of the people as a whole, or were they merely desirous of filling the positions hitherto
occupied by the colonizers? We shall not give an answer, but merely propose that this
duality is characteristic of several phenomena in nature and society, and that the ability to
combine contradictory aims properly and effectively is a powerful motor for social change.
We shall say more about this further on.

Protests During the First Post-Colonial Civilian Regime (1960-65)

Independence brought the nationalist parties to power and simultaneously expelled
the colonizers from the overt (but not covert) political scene. Students still remained
students; but their former allies in the political parties had now ascended the social ladder.
The contradictions between students and political leaders, hitherto concealed under overall
nationalism, became more and more visible. The students still complained often violently
over bread and butter issues, and they still agitated for increased social recognition. But

they also protested against state policies which they considered inimical to true
independence and against the interest of the people.

In these protests their main allies were no longer the ruling politicians, but the
workers. In other words, the location of students in the balance of social forces was shifted.
Between 1960 and 1965 in addition to protests over food and recognition Nigerian
students engaged in at least six protests of a political and national character. These, as we
indicated above, were against the projected Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact (November 1960);
against the murder of Patrice Lumumba (February 1961); against the American Peace Corps
(October 1961); against the projected Press Law; against a proposed Preventive Detention
Act (late 1963); and against the national census figures (1962-63).

The workers were physically involved in at least three of these protests. What were
the results? The plan for an Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact was dropped. Lumumba could not
be brought back from the dead but the political significance of the protest was registered in
Europe and America. The American Peace Corps was withdrawn although not
immediately. The proposed Preventive Detention plan was dropped. All these historic
protests and partial victories stand to the glory of Nigerian students and workers; and they
showed decisively that students could be a vital political force under specific conditions.

But in these patriotic protests the students often still fell under the ideological and
political influence of the rulers. We may mention just one instance. A particular students'
union protested loudly not against the national census figures as a whole, but in support of
the stand taken by the government in the particular region where the institution was located.
The students failed to understand that the common people had no interest whatsoever in
population figures, that population figures were only important to the professional politicians
who saw them as political levers for a greater share of the national booty. It should also be
remembered that in those days political party branches were organized in colleges; and
students often carried out purely partisan protests in support of particular parties the
effect, in large measure, of political influence.

Students' Roles During the Military Era: Their Strengths and Limitations
We now come to the core of this exposition. Why did all major protests, except those
staged in support of the regime, result in failure? In particular, how was the regime able
subsequently to issue a detention decree and a Press Law against which the students and
workers had successfully agitated more than 15 years previously? Why was it possible to
ban the National Union of Nigerian Students (N.U.N.S.)? The answers to these questions
are located in the present objective and subjective limitations of students' protests
limitations which, we hasten to add, can be progressively negated.

Let us list some of these limitations and then illustrate them by means of actual

(I) The socio-economic position or role of the students in social production

(2) The state factor, especially the various government institutions and policies,
ideologies, etc.;
(3) Students' illusions as to their aims and objectives and ways to realize them;
(4) Students' illusions as to what they are: 'leaders of tomorrow';
(5) Students' elitism towards other social groups, and therefore their inability to
integrate their specific interests with the interests of society at large especially the
(6) False consciousness which manifests itself in uncritical comprehension and
analysis of social and political developments (religion, ethnicity; etc.);
(7) Increasing class consciousness now exhibited by men of so called timbre and
calibre, import-exporters and general contractors, and partisans of discipline,
security, unity and stability;
(8) Internal organization, that is, questions of democracy, leadership, unity, etc within
the students' movement.

What was the immediate impact of the military regime on students' consciousness?
The collapse of the discredited civilian regime in 1966 and the ability of the military regime to
present itself as standing above sectional interests and as representing the national interest,
immediately placed an ideological block on students' consciousness. In that early stage they
saw the military regime as one with which they shared identical national aspirations. This
block was not removed even when the regime split politically and geographically in two: the
students merely followed suite and also split into two one group in Nigeria, the other in
Biafra. The two ideological blocks later reunited. But this optical illusion which we have
called an ideological block has been undergoing a progressive transformation since the
Adepeju crisis of 1971, except for a brief period in 1975 and 1976.

By 'ideological block' or 'optical illusion', we mean the inability to see any other
possibility beyond what is given. Thus when the military came to power, it was immediately
accepted as the only logical and rational solution to civilian maladministration. No other
better solution could be seen. When a leader comes to power, he is immediately acclaimed
as God-given, thus implying that God has suddenly withdrawn his recognition not only from
his predecessor, but also from other possible leaders. In short, the optical illusion consists of
elevating historical accidents to a status of absolute laws before which we must bow or stand
condemned. The military deposed the corrupt civilian regime yes; but it also produced an
optical illusion. The students and almost all the vigorous forces in the country fell for this
illusion, so that when the God-given leaders then imposed civil war on the country, a third
force was lacking.

But to return to the main discussion. With the out-break of major civil and military
disturbances in July 1966, the student movement with the possible exception of a small
fraction of it completely succumbed to the ideological and political domination of the new
rulers. Furthermore, it became increasingly polarized along the lines taken by the various
factions of the military-civilian barons. By the time the Civil War broke out in July 1967, the
polarization in the student movement had become complete. We had the pro-Nigeria faction
and the pro-Biafra faction. Of course, the students were not completely free to choose their
factions; their respective choices were to a large extent prescribed and imposed on them
irrespective of their higher consciousness. As we have said earlier, students are tied to the
larger society materially and emotionally: their fees are paid for by the society, they have
families; they come from particular parts of the country, they grew up in specific cultural and
religious conditions, and so on. These various ties confronted the students as an objective
reality before which they were forced to bow. But it is equally true that, given a different
political and ideological consciousness, the students could have confronted this 'objective
reality' differently.

What happened? For three years the students were unable to play an independent role apart
from echoing the war slogans of the two factions and engaging in actual combat, organized
and led by the factions. Most of our students were unable to see that the slogans of One
Nigeria and self-determination were meaningful only to the extent that the import-exporters
and general contractors (and their ideological hirelings) did not distort and subvert them for
their personal interests. Most of our students did not realize that, though millions of Nigerian
people had sufficient reasons to take the stand which they initially took, these reasons
became increasingly betrayed and emptied of all content by those who subsequently
benefited from the crisis. The lesson of the crisis is that official formulations of national
problems given by the rulers (and those who aspire to rule) are in most cases aimed at
serving their own interests and not the interests of the people; that what-ever benefit
might accrue to the people is merely a by-product in the process of achieving the rulers'
interests and hardly ever the conscious aim of the rulers; hence, official formulations should
always be approached critically.

What were the limitations of the students' role as brought out by this crisis? The first
was the limitation imposed by objective and subjective ties; and the second was the
limitation imposed by their lack of critical consciousness, which immediately placed the
students under the ideological and political hegemony of the ruling class. We shall come
back to this in relation to students' response to the current political campaigns.

We have earlier observed that students are formally divorced from material
production and that their role in social reproduction as a whole is heavily mediated. This fact
and its implications are brought home to students in any major confrontation with the state.
For instance, the state can afford to close down all schools and institutions of learning for
weeks or months at a time with little or no adverse effect on the economy; but it cannot close
down the harbours or airports for more than a day except where it is fighting for its own
survival. We can cite instances of extended school closures from many countries
Senegal, Egypt, Ghana, Liberia and Ivory Coast, among others. In Nigeria, the state took
this step in the students' crises of February 1974, February 1975, and April 1978.

We have also mentioned students' difficulty if not inability to relate their specific
interests to the overall interests of the people. If we set aside student protests over mundane
bread and butter issues (which also, of course, have their importance since students must
eat) and consider major crises, we can mention the protest over the National Youth Service,
the protest over Technical Education Programme and to some extent, the protest over
school fees, as most vividly exhibiting this weakness and its consequences.

With the interests of our students as expressed by them only remotely related
to the general interest, the larger society could not be expected lo rally round the students
even if they could. What is more, even in practical protests, the students often resorted to
terrorizing the campus workers and other underprivileged people. The result is usually
increased alienation, indifference and opposition on the part of the larger society. When thus
left to their fate, the students are isolated, encircled and finally defeated.

The recent student agitation over the new Technical Education Programme is a case
in point. The students are right to demand that they be involved in the process of drafting a
programme designed for them. This is a democratic demand. They are even right in
demanding that their specific interests as students and future producers be protected. But
the students are definitely not right in isolating their interests from the interests of other
people whose elementary democratic rights are continually violated. The students must see
that the violation of their democratic rights is a specific instance and only an instance
of a general phenomenon. More fundamentally, they must relate their interests and positions
on the new programme to the interests of other producers the workers and peasants.
Only then, can the students hope to get the people's sympathy and support. In the crisis
over school fees, the students' interests and the general interest objectively coincided on a
certain level whatever the consciousness of the students, the larger society pays the
students' fees.

To some extent students recognized this objective coincidence. But we cannot claim
that, in the actual execution of their protest, the students' actions consciously and
consistently reflected it. Many ordinary people who were also directly or indirectly affected
were still terrorized, and ordinary campus workers were manhandled. In a certain sense,
this particular weakness of the student movement can be described as elitism a feeling of
separation, a feeling of superiority. But elitism has its own logic which operates not only
between groups.

It is not surprising that the feeling and practice of superiority which the students
exhibit in their relationship with underprivileged members of the society are ultimately carried
into their own ranks. We then have big students and small students, graduate students and
undergraduate students, university students and technical students, degree students and
diploma students, rich students and poor students, female liberationists and male
chauvinists, northern, students and southern students. Just as export-importers feel superior
to the rest of society and logically to one another, so do our students feel superior to workers
and peasants and logically to one another. This logic is responsible for the dichotomy
between the banned National Union of Nigerian Students (N.U.N.S.) and the National
Association of Technological Students (N.A.T.S.). The result is disunity within the student

movement which leads (increasingly and dangerously) to lack of mutual solidarity in

struggles and reduction in student overall effective political weight.

Early in 1979, thousands of Nigerian students demonstrated against University

admissions alleging discrimination. We sympathize with them, although we equally
chastise them. The students failed to ask the fundamental question: Why is it that, of the
candidates who had the necessary qualifications and who were desirous of entering
university, less than 20% were finally admitted? Instead of a Darwinian struggle for limited
opportunities, why is there not opportunity for all? These are the questions students must
ask, because in a situation of limited opportunity there is bound to be discrimination based
on ethnicity or politics, or both. The students should always ask these questions if they hope
to see through the false problems presented by the powers that be.

We cannot conclude our analysis of this period without mentioning the patriotic role
played by the students against the attempted coup d'etat by Colonel Dimka in February
1976. Even while the bourgeoisie were still hiding under their beds or escaping to their home
towns to hide under their mothers, even while it was still in doubt whether the counter-coup
would succeed or fail, the students came out in opposition to Dimka and in support of the
government. They protested and smashed up the British and American embassies, and the
government upheld their action. We now ask the police: Why did you not shoot at the
students in February 1976 when they were actually violent, but shot at them in April 1978
when they were not? The answer is an immense political lesson which may not be found in
any textbook.

1. Wogu Ananaba, The Trade Union Movement in Nigeria, (Ethiopia Publishing Corporation,
Benin City, Nigeria, 1969), p.87.
2. J.S. Coleman and C.G. Rosberg, Political Parties and National Integration in Tropical
Africa, (University of California Press, Los Angeles, 1966), p.430.
3. Ibid., p.43.
4. Ibid., p.432.

7. The UPN Today: A Socialist Party?

The ban on political activities in Nigeria was lifted in September 1978; the 13-year-old
State of Emergency was repealed and was immediately replaced with the Public Order

Decree. This new decree was a reminder to the bourgeoisie that they had to find a peaceful
solution to their differences and a reminder to the revolutionary forces (wherever they might
be) that the situation had not changed and that their time had not come.

As we know, all but five political parties were ruled out of existence. All five promised
the people-of Nigeria every good thing on earth. In the words of Africa magazine, all the
parties were

wooing the voter with promises of basically the same goodies. All are offering free medicare,
free education, cheaper and better housing, pipe-borne water in all the villages and cities,
more Made in Nigeria goods, jobs for every man and woman, self-sufficiency in food
production through mechanised agriculture, better and cheaper transportation, etc.

The only difference in their programmes was specificity. For instance, while one of
the political parties promised that on coming to power in October 1979 it would decree free
education 'on all levels', the other parties merely promised to effect free education when 'the
country is able to finance the cost'.

Some political commentators grouped the five registered parties into two camps:
three of them were said to be capitalist while the other two were said to be socialist. The two
parties which were described as socialist did not deny the charge. Indeed one of them, the
Unity Party of Nigeria (U.P.N.), under the leadership of Awolowo, a self-declared 'democratic
socialist' of more than 20 years standing, explicitly stated that socialism was its final goal.

When the ban on political activities was lifted, Awolowo was the first to announce the
formation of a political party: in fact he did this within hours of the government's decree. In
this very first announcement he categorically stated his commitment to socialism.
Subsequently, the party's programme, manifesto, policy statements as well as statements by
its leading members, enunciated the party's strategy and tactics for socialist transformation.
These can be sketched under three main headings: 1) philosophical foundations;
2) immediate practical measures; 3) theoretical justifications and projections.

Philosophical Foundations
There are three main elements to this. First, the party claims to be completely
opposed to violence and believes that violence is not a necessary means of attaining
socialism at least not in Nigeria; secondly, it claims to believe that the purpose of society
is service to man, and hence, economic, political and social programmes must be formulated
and executed from this premise; finally, the party claims that it believes in equality and social

Every, brand of socialism would accept the second and third 'philosophical
foundations; no comment is needed except to remind ourselves that the problems of
socialism are not philosophical, but political: in the sphere of politics, philosophical naiveties
and illusions quickly disappear. As for violence, we state categorically that no Marxists (since
Marxists are those normally accused of violent tendencies) would extol violence for its own
sake or promote the 'inevitability of violence' to the level of theory. But to rule out the
possibility of violence, ab initio, from the process of negating a social order maintained by
violence is simply unscientific. The question of whether violence will be used or not does not
depend on the pacifism or aggressiveness of a party. It depends rather on circumstances
which one cannot completely determine in advance: the strength and resistance of the social
order being negated, the strength of the revolutionary movement, the international situation,
historical accidents, etc. Hence a genuine programme of socialist transformation, while not
glorifying violence, must recognise its possibility and be informed accordingly.

From time to time the party reminds us that socialism is a fixed end which has
several alternative means of attainment. The party has chosen 'non-violent' means! The
comment above applies here also, but in addition, we have to remind ourselves that, in real
life, means and ends cannot be rigidly separated. In theory some separation can be done,
but only for the purpose of analysis and no more. Some ends immediately and logically rule
out certain means, just as some means decisively rule out certain ends. For example, it is
simply crazy to think of defeating an armed detachment by prayers or verbally convincing the
capitalist class (not just individual capitalists) that the society would be more peaceful and
more humane under socialism. In any case, there is a tendency for this question to become
rhetorical. The truth of it is tested in the struggle to transform society. Revolutionaries in
Chile are no longer debating the question.

Immediate Practical Measures

The party proposed a four-point programme which, it believes, would prepare Nigeria
and Nigerians for peaceful socialist transformation: 1) free education at all levels for all
Nigerians; 2) free medical services for all Nigerians; 3) full employment; 4) integrated rural

No one doubts that these are revolutionary measures whose execution will
immediately transform the quality of life of millions of Nigerians. There are doubts, however,
as regards the means of executing the measures. As the writer remarked at the time:

If a party tells us that it is going to mechanize agriculture, we are right to doubt it unless the
party tells us simultaneously that it is going to stop the importation of luxury goods in order to
be able to finance the importation of agricultural machinery. . If a party tells us that it is going
to double the national minimum wage, workers will be right to dismiss the promise unless the
party simultaneously promises to reduce the wages and incomes of some other people, since
the national income cannot be multiplied at will. . . If a party tells us that it is going to ensure
full employment, we shall be justified to have a big laugh unless the party simultaneously tells
us that it is going to nationalize key sectors of the economy since no government can
indefinitely enforce employment in businesses it does not control. ...

Theoretical Assertions
The party makes certain theoretical assertions as justification of its non-violent and
gradualist socialist programme: 1) that socialism cannot be achieved 'in one fell swoop', it
has to be constructed stage by stage; 2) that there are no Nigerian capitalists(!) and that the
pseudo-capitalists are too few to constitute any real threat to socialist transformation led by a
patriotic and committed party. What we have is foreign capitalism which can be confronted
by such a party; 3) that foreign capitalism will be defeated as soon as Nigeria acquires the
necessary industrial technology and Nigerians acquire the necessary industrial and
managerial skills.

These assertions ignore certain facts.

(1) Socialism is a revolutionary process: it is a continuous process of negation of

capitalism viewed, of course, as an integrated world system where every nation, though
having its own peculiar but historical characteristics, nevertheless occupies a definite place
and plays a definite role. This process has economic, political, social and cultural aspects
which are not negated uniformly. for instance, where economic concessions are objectively
necessary, these have to be balanced by greater political intransigence and determination.
The Russian Revolution, which is cited by friends and foes alike, showed very clearly that
socialism is a contradictory process of transformation. The revolutionary regime, at one
stage, had to grant economic concessions to the capitalists and allowed the restoration of
some forms of free enterprise. But simultaneously, the state intensified its political campaign
against the capitalists and further restricted their political rights. It is the intensity of these
contradictions and the ways in which they are continuously resolved in the overall interest
of the working people that characterize socialism. The case for socialism cannot be
presented in terms of stage-by-stage or one fell swoop.

(2) The problem of socialism is not reducible to the question of transfer of technology or the
question of replacing foreign experts by indigenous ones. One must ask: Technology for
whom and in whose interest? Indigenous experts in the service of whom? In Nigeria today
technology and technological expertise are certainly in the service of some people, and there
is no reason to believe that their being owned by Nigeria will put them immediately at the
service of all the people. We need to be reminded that Nigerians are differentiated, and the
acquisition of technology and technical expertise (if we over- look the naivety with which this
expectation is normally expressed) will not remove these differentiations, neither will it, taken
alone, create the condition for their removal. In other words, the acquisition of technology
and technical expertise (viewed as purely economic gain) will merely transform our class
relations; it will not obliterate class differentiations.

(3) In terms of ownership, control and profit appropriation, it is true that the productive capital
operating in Nigeria is partly foreign and partly indigenous. But this capital cannot be
physically split up into two component parts corresponding to this duality (except for the
purposes of sharing profits). In other words, productive capital, though composed of two

parts, goes into the market as an integral entity. It is false enough to assume this rigid
dichotomy; it is atrocious however, to proceed on this basis to declare that, since the foreign
share is predominant, capitalists do not exist in Nigeria! Foreign capital does not operate in
a social vacuum. It enters and operates in the country through structural and human
agencies - the conveyor belts. These agencies play a definite and necessary role in the
world capitalist system of production, realization of profits and accumulation of profit. It does
not matter whether this role is a subordinate one or not: the fact remains that one cannot
regulate the operation of foreign capital in Nigeria without dealing with the structural and
human agencies. One may, of course, hope that this will be an easy task, but contemporary
history indicates otherwise.

In conclusion, and as a general remark, it seems strange that a programme for

stage-bystage socialist transformation can be drawn up without a word on property
relations: the question of who owns what. Perhaps we can help the theoreticians of this party
by logically deducing the partys position on property relations from its general position on
socialist transformation. The most logical deduction would be that the question of ownership
will be settled (by nationalization) as soon as the country acquires the required technical
skills to take over and run the nationalized industries and services.

This position is the same as the one criticized in (2) above. We only need to add that
nationalization is not the same as socialization. It is indeed possible to achieve complete
nationalization under capitalism without essentially altering capital-labour relations, that is,
without advancing to socialism at all. Means of production, are not automatically passed on
to the producers simply by nationalizing them merely a legal act for the relationship
between capital and labour is more than a legal, one. It is a social relationship. According to

Changes in legal forms of ownership do not suffice to cause the existence of classes and for
class struggles to disappear... These conditions are rooted... not in legal forms of ownership
but in production relations, that is, in the form of the social process of appropriation, in the
place that the form of this process assigns to the agents of production in fact, in the
relations that are established between them in social production. ... The existence of state or
collective forms of property is not enough to abolish' capitalist production relations. ... The
bourgeoisie can continue to exist in different forms and, in particular, can assume the form of
a state bourgeoisie.1

In other words, workers are oppressed and exploited under capitalism not just
because the law says that the means of production belong to the capitalists. Similarly, the
agonies of the workers would not end the day the law decrees that the means of production
now belong to all the people. The conditions of oppression of workers under capitalism are
made up of the following elements (among others):

a) Workers are treated as part of the costs of production just like machines and raw
materials. Hence nothing like the human needs of workers are seriously considered by

capitalists. Human needs are extra-economic, and hence irrelevant, under capitalism
because production is primarily for profit. The price of labour is wages, which are calculated
just like the price of a machine.

b) Workers have no power to deploy and allocate the means of production, have no power
to determine the conditions under which they produce, have no power to determine the
deployment and distribution of their products. All these powers belong to the capitalists or
their agents.

It is hardly necessary to argue that these conditions can remain, and therefore
perpetuate the social relations of capitalism, even when all the means of production have
been nationalized.

The party's position on the character of the state is as ambiguous as its position on
property and class relations in spite of the presence of many socialists' and 'Marxists' in
it. We doubt, however, if the party is under the illusion that the state is neutral in the social
struggles between the citizens. The personal experience of some of the leading members of
the party and the experience of the party as a whole in the 1979 presidential and
parliamentary elections are sufficient to dispel such illusions.

Final Reflection
Socialism is both a critique, and a process of negation, of capitalism. As a critique,
socialism denounces capitalist society as a civilization which, having grown on the
accumulated material, scientific and cultural acquisitions of man, has now become a
condition for his exploitation, oppression an, frustration. As a process of negation, socialism
maps out, and undertakes the execution of, a programme of continuous transformation (in
the realms of economy, politics and culture) from the present regime of exploitation,
individualism and irrationality to a regime of free association, collectivity and rationality.

The alternative programme with which socialism confronts capitalism is not, and
cannot be, a complete programme for it is derived solely from present social contradictions
and the possible directions of resolution of these contradictions; possibilities which can only
be realized through the practical actions of men. In the course of the struggle to realize
these possibilities, new contradictions develop and new possibilities present themselves.
Thus the process of transformation continues.

Although no social order can be negated or transformed all at once, there are
existing pillars, on which every social order rests and which continuously reproduce this
social order, which must be dismantled if the process of transformation is to begin at all. This
is the essential point about the categorical imperatives of socialist transformation.

Furthermore, since socialism is a process of continuous transformation of man and

society, the problem arises as to identification of the point at which it can be said to be
completed. We can only say that a completed socialist construction cannot be claimed until
at least the dominant characteristic features of capitalist civilization private property, wage
labour, commodity, the law of value, the state, etc have been transformed; no one can say
when man will reach this stage of historical development, but definitely no country has yet
fully reached it.

Socialism is therefore a necessarily contradictory process; it is a continuous

transformative process which is characterized at every stage by combined capitalist and
socialist forms. Although it is impossible to construct socialism on the old inherited political
forms (state, party, bureaucracy, etc.), it is equally impossible to build it on entirely new
social forms. 'For the old ones cannot be abolished all at once. In other words, socialism is
the initial phase of communism during which these contradictory processes evolve, while the
predominance of new forms of a specifically communist nature will mean that the first phase
has been overcome.' Lenin frequently commented on this contradictory process and
emphasized that 'it always exists in the development of nature as well as in the development
of society' and that 'only by a series of attempts each of which, taken by itself, will be onesided and will suffer from certain inconsistencies will complete socialism be created by
the revolutionary cooperation of the proletarians of all countries.'2

1. Charles Bettelheim, Class Struggles in the U.S.S.R., First Period 1917-1923, (Monthly
Review Press, N.Y., 1976), pp.21-22.
2. V.I. Lenin, Selected Works in Three Volumes, Vol. 2, (Progress Publishers, Moscow,
1970), p.640.

8. The Importance of Correct Analysis

The subject of this chapter is the relationship between historical events or situations
in Nigeria and the ways in which these have been theoretically described. As we have
already stated in the introduction to this work, theory bears a dialectical relationship to
reality, sometimes lagging behind, sometimes projecting ahead. It is our contention, to be
demonstrated with reference to two particular misrepresentations of reality, that dogmatic
insistence on the fixed nature of phenomena which have been characterized in a certain way
has serious repercussions at the level of action and the empirical understanding of existing

Is There a Class Struggle in Nigeria?

Kautsky resembles the miserable schoolmaster, who for many years has been repeating a
description of Spring to his pupils within the four walls of his stuffy schoolroom, and when at
last, at the sunset of his days as a teacher, he comes out into the fresh air, does not
recognize Spring ... and rises to prove that Spring is not Spring, after all, but only a great
disorder in Nature, because it is taking place against the laws of natural history.

Recently two university students confronted the writer with a series of questions:
When can a class struggle be said to take place? Under what conditions can a class struggle
be said to take place? And, what are the characteristics of class struggles? The writer did not
attempt to answer these questions (if ever they can be answered in the way they were
posed!), but instead wanted to know their origin.

It appeared that a senior lecturer in political science - one of-those who might be
described as library Marxists had pontificated to his students that a social class could not
wage a class struggle until it has evolved from a class-in-itself to a class-for-itself. Having
given this abstract definition, the lecturer concluded that, since the Nigerian working class
was not yet a class-for-itself, it could not wage a class struggle; therefore, class struggles did
not exist in Nigeria!

Our dear lecturer is not alone in this type of metaphysical error which can be
described as that of seizing on historical moments identified. by Marx and rigidly
separating and ossifying them. This is an attribute of those who can recognize a social
phenomenon only in textbooks and never in reality. Of course, this common mistake is also a
result of non-involvement in, and inability to observe and reflect, political practice. It is above
all a reminder according to Trotsky that Marxism is not a method of analysing textbooks but of analysing social events.

The question of the correct characterization of historical situations is a recurrent

theme of discussion in Marxist and non-Marxist academic circles in Nigeria. We would not
have considered this particular question worthy of comment here but for the fact that it has
profound practical and political implications for those who often feel compelled to go from
speculation to action. The manner in which one acts upon a social situation depends, at
least initially, on one's characterization of it.

The concepts of existence-in-itself and existence-for-itself were not created by Marx;

but like every other concept which he appropriated,2 Marx shed them of all mystifications and
integrated them into his general theoretical and methodological framework which is
thoroughly materialist and scientific. These concepts can, therefore, be regarded as Marxian
concepts only if they are considered in relation to Marxian methodology and theory.

Pre-Marxism dialectics held that no object or phenomenon ever came into existence
fully developed: every existence had to pass through quantitative and qualitative stages of
development, every historical phenomenon went through various stages coming into
existence, (growth or development) and going out of existence (decay). Marxian dialectics,
while making the same assertion, insists that the passage from one stage of development to
another has a material basis; that is, this passage is not imposed on the developing object or
phenomenon out of the blue by an all-powerful, all-wise Mind.

In tracing and analysing the development of contemporary social classes, Marx

employed the concepts of class-in-itself and class-for-itself: this he did on several occasions,
sometimes implicitly. In his 1847 polemics against the French metaphysical philosopher,
Proudhon, Marx urged that in relation to the bourgeoisie stages of development should be
distinguished: that in which the bourgeois class constituted itself as a class under the regime
of feudalism and absolute monarchy; and that in which, already constituted as a class, it
overthrew feudalism and monarchy to make society into a bourgeois society. The first of
these phases was longer and necessitated the greater effort.4

It is clear that what Marx did here was to identify two qualitative moments in the
development of the bourgeois class the first moment being characterized by feudal
political rule and the second by bourgeois political rule. Marx neither saw, nor introduced,
any rigid separation between the two moments. What he saw and identified was the
qualitative difference between them their dominant characteristics. Nothing more. For, if
the dominant feature of the second stage of bourgeois class development was the political
overthrow of the feudal regime, then this regime must have been sufficiently weakened, and
under mined during the first stage. Even if the feudal regime was over-thrown in a single
battle, the possibility for this must have been previously created.5 The bourgeois class could
not simply wake up one day and over-throw their feudal landlords! Indeed, historically, feudal
and bourgeois classes went through a long period of struggle for supremacy (as Marx
indicated above), and the final phases of this struggle could properly be called those of dual
authority; that is, a situation where one class had control of some spheres of social life, while
the other class held on to other spheres.6 The struggle between these two classes did not
end with the political over-throw of the feudal class: the character of the struggle merely
changed. The rebels became the legal authority and the old authority became the rebels!

The points we are making should be obvious to practising Marxists who see and use
Marxism as a living tool of social analysis, a very powerful tool which, however, must be
creatively and intelligently used. It should also be obvious to those who see Marxism as an
integrated and coherent science, and not one that can be torn apart at will, and used to
justify all manner of political illusions and intellectual laziness. But we emphasize these
points against our pontificating, textbook-quoting 'Marxists' not with the hope of changing
them (although we shall be pleased to see them change) but as a duty to the young and
impressionable Nigerian youths whom they are employed to teach.

As regards the development of the working class, Marx had this to say:

Economic conditions had first transformed the mass of the people of the country into workers.
The combination of capital has created for this mass a common situation, common interests.
This mass is thus a class as against capital, but not yet for itself [emphasis ours]. In the
struggle ... this mass becomes united, and constitutes itself as a class for itself. The interests
it defends become class interests. But the struggle of class against class is a political

We are almost certain that this is the passage to which the Nigerian lecturer we
mentioned above was referring although we are also certain that he would not have seen
the duty of letting his students into the secret, for fear of being confronted with a different

A careful reading of, and reflection, on this passage by any educated person will
bring out the following points being made by Marx:

1) the capitalist mode of production economically defines the working class by that class's
separation from the means of production and by the engagement of its members as wage
2) these workers are objectively - placed in a common situation and therefore have common
interests these interests are objectively opposed to the interests of capital;
3) a common situation and common interests, however, are not sufficient to constitute the
workers into fighters for their specific class interests, into a class-for-itself this specificity
develops with the struggle itself; and
4) 'The struggle of class against is a political struggle'; in other words, a class does not wait
to be constituted first as a class-for-itself before waging a political struggle. The constitution
is via class (and therefore, political) struggle.

It is doubtful that the learned academician had read the passage carefully; or else he
would not have seen it as endorsing the hallmark of Nigerian academic methodology
endowing every social phenomenon or very specific stage of development of society with
ready-made characteristics manufactured in heaven and then imposed on earth. He simply
failed to understand a central thesis of Marxism: that the transition from one stage of human
history to another is accomplished only by a process of human action on nature and society
and reflection on these actions; that even if two moments in the development of a social
class class-in-itself and class-for-itself are conceived in their logical and temporal
sequence, the evolution of one into the other is possible only through a process of active
(that is, human) transformation both of nature and society; that there is no form of class
development or transformation other than the class struggle; in short, that the transition from
class-in-itself to class-for-itself is accomplished through class struggle.

In spite of the violence which official and professiorial academicians have inflicted on
otherwise very useful and penetrating social concepts and categories, we shall still insist on
using them, but shall always try to state our position as and when clarifications are

We, therefore, not only retain the concepts 'class-in-itself' and 'class-for-itself; we
shall also retain the distinctions between these two moments in the development of the
working class. But two points should be clarified. In the first place, just as we noted in the
case of development of the bourgeois class, the two moments are not mutually exclusive:
they merely indicate the dominant character and tendency of the class at a given point in its
development. A particular moment also corresponds to the type of political tasks which the
class poses for itself. In the second place, the distinctions between the two historical
moments are at once political and economic and they are interlocked. As regards the
ideological elements (which are, in fact, the only elements many people have in mind when
considering the development of a class), our position can be stated as follows: the existence
of class struggles does not depend on the identification of the struggles, or on the class's
comprehension and articulation of the fundamental class antagonisms revealed by such
struggles. Identification, articulation and comprehension (in short, consciousness) grow with
the struggles themselves.

Our academic Marxists would do well to reflect on the following passage which they
often quote without much understanding:

Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not
judge such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this
consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the
existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production. 8

We proclaim again that a class does not become conscious first in order to be able to
struggle next: a class becomes more and more conscious as it engages more and more in
struggles. Class and class consciousness, according to Peter Waterman, are not things that
exist but relationships that develop.9

Classes and class struggles exist in Nigeria. They exist under the noses of our
academics who can recognize them only in textbooks. When the workers of the University of
Calabar demonstrated against the University Bursar in 1978, they were waging a class
struggle whether the bursar recognized it as such or not, and whether the workers
themselves thought they were only demanding more 'human feelings' from the Bursar or
'equal treatment with the senior staff. Similarly, the Nigerian workers who beat up their racist
expatriate overseer at the airport construction site in 1977 were waging a class struggle,
even if they believed they were merely defending their country against an insolent and racist
European or were merely struggling to be treated well in their own country.

What Constitutes a Revolutionary Situation?

Though every revolutionary situation is inevitably a crisis situation, not every crisis situation is
a revolutionary situation. Even though the antagonism may have come to the surface, and
there has been a confrontation, and even though the power of the state may have been
brought into question in that confrontation, it may still remain that the conditions are not ripe.
One may not risk throwing one's very existence into the balance, as a party or a class
organization, with sufficient chance of success in making the leap that could win the day.
Everything depends on the balance of forces, in other words, on knowing which one will be
left out, which class will ally itself with which to create the weight of an effective majority.16

Some time ago, the writer had occasion to exchange critical notes on the correct
characterization of a 'revolutionary situation' with a comrade. The comrade wrote, inter alia.

The characterization of more or less sporadic struggles and crises in post-civil war Nigeria as
'revolutionary situations' is wrong. . . . I don't think we've ever reached even a 'prerevolutionary situation', a situation where the crucial opposing classes wage skirmishes and
ambushes as a response to economic and social upheavals; I don't think we've ever reached
this situation in Nigeria.

The following paragraphs give the substance of the present writer's reply, and a
statement of his own position. What constitutes a revolutionary situation can only be grasped
concretely and not abstractly. In other words, there is no such thing as a general
revolutionary situation. There can only be, for instance, a revolutionary situation relative to
the current level of struggle and class polarization. Just as there is no general revolutionary
situation, there is likewise no general revolutionary expectation from a revolutionary

In December 1974 and January 1975 the Nigerian regime was faced with the
following conjuncture: 1) widespread and voiced dissatisfaction with the Udoji salary and
wage awards and the rumoured preferential treatment of the military; 2) weakness of the
regime's internal cohesion over several questions, including the census, the return to civilian
rule, etc; 3) struggles between the bureaucratic and comprador bourgeoisie (each side
supported by sections of the regime); 4) voiced dissatisfaction (involving workers and
students nationally and simultaneously) over the widespread corruption of the regime and its
detention of political critics; and 5) the general economic crises (inflation, etc.) and the
paralysing general strike.

The objective and subjective elements of the national crisis at that time if it had
existed were such that a vanguard could have successfully placed itself at the head of the
movement and forced a solution, with positive results if it had weakened the bourgeois
hegemony. The solution would not necessarily have been the 'dictatorship of the proletariat';
it could have been the inauguration of a permanent crisis, a precipitated-de-militarization of
the political apparatus, etc. But, of course, the question could not even be posed because no
such vanguard existed.

The point here is: a revolutionary situation is not simply called such because a
conscious revolutionary intervention could lead to a sharp change in the class character of
the state. A situation could be revolutionary even if the most that can be achieved is the
deepening of the crisis in the power structure or the sharpening of the contradiction between
economy and politics.

Since the analysis above was originally made, we have had several opportunities to
engage in further discussions and exchanges with a number of comrades (including the
particular comrade who initiated this debate). We have also reflected further on what some
revolutionary Marxists have said and written on the question. In particular, we recall the
famous passage from Lenin's Left-wing Communism:

The fundamental law of revolution which has been confirmed by all revolutions and especially
by all three Russian revolutions in the 20th century, is as follows: for a revolution to take
place, it is not enough for the exploited and oppressed masses to realize the impossibility of
living in the old way, and demand changes; for a revolution to take place, it is essential that
the exploiters should not be able to live and rule in the old way. It is only when the 'lower
classes' do not want to live in the old way and the 'upper classes' cannot carry on in the old
way that the revolution can triumph. This truth can be expressed in other words: revolution is
impossible without a nation-wide crisis (affecting both the exploited and the exploiters). 11

We represent below the results of our discussions and reflections, which elaborate to
some extent correct our earlier position on the subject.

(1) An important element of a revolutionary situation is the subjective aspect; that is, the
state of political, ideological and organizational maturity of the revolutionary class or classes,
the type of questions they pose and the tasks they set for themselves. If a national crisis
temporarily creates a political vacuum which however cannot be filled, then whatever may be
the magnitude of such a crisis, it could hardly be called a revolutionary situation. To that
extent it might not be correct to characterize the situation in Nigeria between the end of July
and early August 1966 (when there was no effective government in Lagos) as revolutionary.

(2) Although care must be taken to avoid the common mistake of retrospectively endowing,
or refusing to endow, a situation with a revolutionary character (all depending on whether a
revolution ensued or failed to ensue from the situation), a wrong identification can, however,
be detected in retrospect. If the balance of social forces is such that a perfect restoration of
the status quo results from a crisis, then such a crisis could hardly be called a revolutionary
situation. Whatever happens, a revolutionary situation being a general crisis involving both
the oppressed and the oppressor classes should lead to a definite change in the political
structure, if not in the economy.

The Need: Concrete Analysis of Concrete Situations

To a revolutionary or a revolutionary movement the task of characterising correctly
every unfolding social reality is a very vital and often extremely crucial one. An
opportunity for effective revolutionary intervention may be lost through a faulty, dogmatic or
metaphysical (that is, undialectical) characterization. Since particular national and
international political conjunctures cannot be recalled at will once the movement realizes its
error, such an error of characterization may in fact become historic and, in consequence,

We are far from suggesting that the fate of a revolution can be sealed, for all time, by
a single error however tragic.12 Such a belief is much more harmful than the belief in
metaphysical absolutes which we have hitherto been criticizing. But we insist that a tragic
error can so shift the balance of social forces13 against the revolution that it may take a
revolutionary movement several years, or even decades, to build up a similar balance. The
tragedies of the Indonesian Communist Party (1965) the Sudanese Communist Party
(1971), and the Ceylonese J.V.P. (People's Liberation Front), clearly demonstrate this fact.

As we have argued earlier in this chapter, social categories and concepts like class,
class struggle, revolutionary situation, imperialism, neocolonialism, etc., cannot be properly
understood if their investigation is approached-meta-physically or dogmatically. They must
be approached dialectically, that is, in their development, contradictions, inter-actions,
mutual influences and totality.

No revolution in history has ever had a 'pure' class character, since, on the one hand,
no social class can come to power without the support of some other social classes, groups
or strata, and, on the other hand, no social order (which a revolution is to negate) itself bears
a 'pure' stamp of the ruling class or faithfully reflects the pure interests of the ruling class. To
the extent that reality is complex and contradictory, so is the revolutionary process a
complex and contradictory one.

It is certainly not enough for a revolutionary to know that Nigeria is located in the
world imperialist system, for Britain, America, Japan, South Africa, Israel, etc. are also
located therein. It is necessary to know what all these countries have in common with
Nigeria, but also in what respects they differ. It is equally not enough to know that Nigeria is
a neocolonial (that is, peripheral capitalist) country, for Zaire, Haiti, the Central African
Republic, etc., are also neocolonial. We know that Nigeria differs very profoundly from these
countries. It is not enough to proclaim socialism as our goal for, again, we know that there
are many socialisms: Russian, Chinese, Cuban, Yugoslav, Senegalese, Iraqi, Sudanese,
etc. We must try to be much more concrete, for we are confronting a concrete reality.

On the level of social formations, it is not even enough to know that there are three
main classes in Nigeria: the capitalists, the peasantry and the working class. It is also

necessary to know that there are differentiations (often politically crucial) within each class,
that the boundaries between the classes are extremely fluid, unstable and in some areas
almost indeterminate, that there are several (some of them strategic) intermediate social
groups and strata. It is also necessary to note that social classes and groups play different
roles in socialist revolutions depending on the specific historical situation of the society in
question. Finally, it is necessary to note that in Nigeria just as in several other parts of the
world class oppression often merges with ethnic oppression, and conversely.

What we are calling for is not new: it is a concrete analysis of concrete situations. For
Lenin, as well as for us, (the categorical requirement of Marxist theory in investigating any
social question is that it be examined within definite historical limits, and, if it refers to a
particular country (e.g. the national programme for a given country), that account be taken of
the specific features distinguishing that country from others in the dame historical epoch.'14

By concretely analysing concrete situations we shall, at the same time, be struggling

against 'revolutionary schematism' which has several, but equally dangerous, expressions
in Nigeria today. Revolutionary schematism is the twin brother of metaphysical

Revolutionary schematism insists that the revolutionary transformation of society has

to be effected in stages; that the 'vital stages' of the revolution cannot be skipped. Since
Nigeria moved from colonialism to neocolonialism, this dogmatic schematism insists that the
next stage of the, revolution must be a national democratic' one: a stage where the working
class has to ally itself with the national bourgeoisie that is patriotic, as opposed to
comprador, which is unpatriotic to overthrow imperialism, and at the same time to effect
some necessary democratic changes. Only thereafter will the question of socialist revolution
be posed. This beautiful schematism fails to say explicitly in what respects the national
bourgeoisie can be considered patriotic, democratic or even liberal; it fails to say what
democratic reforms the Nigerian national bourgeoisie of today can be mobilized to struggle
for. An explicit statement is necessary since a revolutionary programme cannot be based on
implicit assumption.

Revolutionary schematism insists that the working class and its organizations have to
work for political alliances with some other class organizations; it equally insists in
obedience to a time-tested revolutionary dictum that the working class has to lead such
alliances. But it fails to consider the state of the Nigerian working class; it fails to consider
the possibility of the working-class organization moving at some subsequent period from a
weak position to a leading position in a political alliance. It fails to see that the categorical
imperative for communists in a political alliance is not that they should, of necessity, lead
such an alliance, but that, in taking care of the present interests of the revolutionary
movement, they should also 'represent and take care of the future of that movement.'15

Revolutionary schematism insists that a genuinely revolutionary party must be

Leninist in its composition, structure and programmes; that the organization of such a party

must involve 'the selection of a group of single-minded revolutionaries prepared to make any
sacrifice, from the more or less chaotic mass of the (working) class as a whole';16 that the
continuous growth, security, resilience, capability and battle-readiness of the party can only
be ensured by the strictest adherence to the principles of iron discipline, democratic
centralism, revolutionary morality, criticism and self-criticism; that the party must operate on
two levels and be capable of rapidly switching emphasis from one level to the other with the
least damage to its programme and logistics, etc.

All these citations are correct as far as they go, that is, as enunciations of the Leninist
conception of a revolutionary party. But revolutionary schematism forgets that this same
Leninism insists that it is categorically imperative, for a Marxist to be historically specific in
his social analysis.

Lenin's conception of a revolutionary proletarian party is both general and historically

specific. It is general as regards its ideological-political premise and method of its
construction Marxism and the aim of the party, which is the revolutionary overthrow of
capitalism (and whatever feudalistic elements survive within it) and the construction of
socialism. But it is equally historically specific and this is more important. Lenin's
conception rests on what he saw as the immediate task of the proletariat of Europe in
general and the Russian proletariat in particular the overthrow of imperialism. It was also
a direct response to the peculiar absolutist and tyrannical regime in Russia - a country where
police agents and agents provocateurs successfully permeate the entire society. His
conception also draws from the long history of heroic struggles of Russian revolutionaries.

Lenin did not arrive at his conception mechanically; and Leninism does not expect us
to be mechanical. In other words, Leninism demands that we should proceed from the
present situation in Nigeria and demonstrate anew in what general respects the Leninist
conception of a revolutionary party is applicable to Nigeria and in what respects it fails to
apply. This exercise would not amount to a correction or refutation of Leninism. Instead, it
would further enrich it.

1. Leon Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution, (New Park Publications, London, 1962),
2. Such concepts include profit, capital, labour, civil society, the state, etc.
3. It is, of course, clear that Marx could only be referring to the development of bourgeois
classes in Europe and later America where capitalism first developed before It was
'exported' and imposed on the entire world. The development of the capitalist class in other
parts of the world was not linked necessarily with the political overthrow of the ruling feudal
class by the nascent capitalist class.

4. Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, (International Publishers, New York, 1975), p.173.
5. We certainly agree with Montesquieu that 'if a particular cause, like the result of a battle,
has ruined a state, there was a general cause which made the downfall of this state ensue
from a single battle.' Quoted in E.H. Carr, What is History?, (Penguin, 1977), p.101.
6. For example, the bourgeois class could become economically dominant under feudal
political supremacy. Such situations are, of course, merely transitional and cannot be
7. Karl Marx, op. cit., p.173.
8. Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 1, (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1973), p.504.
9. Gavin Williams, Nigeria, Economy and Society, (Rex Collings, London, 1976), p.184.
10. Regis Debray, Prison Writings, (Penguin, 1975), p.122.
11. V.I. Lenin, Left-Wing' Communism, An Infantile Disorder, (Progress Publishers, Moscow,
1975), p.69.
12. Some Nigerian 'socialists' held and expressed, such views towards the end of 1978. The
occasion was the tragic absence of an organized, sizeable, and nationwide socialist
movement from the political scene when the military regime finally lifted the ban on political
activities. These socialists' felt that since we had lost the historic opportunity to come out as
a party, we should permanently forget about socialist revolutions, dissolve our organizations
and enter bourgeois political parties in the interest of the nation!
13. We must not forget that what is usually called the balance of forces has
several elements: political-military, ideological, national, international. A sharp decline in a
movement's ideological credibility may result in a shift in the balance of forces just as
significant as a major political or military defeat.
14. V.I. Lenin, Questions of National Policy and Proletarian Internationalism, (Progress
Publishers, Moscow, 1970), pp.50-57.
15. Marx and Engels, Selected Works in One Volume, (International Publishers, New York,
1977), p.62.
16. Georg Lukacs, Lenin: A Study in the Unity of his Thought, (New Left Books, London,
1977), p.24.

9. The Question of Strategy

The Transition to Socialism: Competing Views

There are two generally agreed points of departure, theoretically and even politically,
as regards the various tendencies within the Nigerian socialist movement. Both are premised
on the level of the country's productive forces.

The first point of agreement is that the transitional (first) phase of socialist
transformation will economically be a mixture of private and state sectors, with the banks,
leading and strategic industries, import-export trade, insurance, education, health, etc. falling
under the state sector. The second point of agreement is that, during this phase, state power
will be an alliance of the working class, the peasantry and some other strata of the

From these general points of agreement, however, divergent political conclusions are
drawn conclusions which, as much as any other factor, account for the near-atomization
of the socialist movement today. Let us try to isolate some of these conclusions so far as
they can be articulated and reconstructed.

(1) Some Nigerian socialists and even Marxists, proceeding from the conception of a
mechanical correspondence between economic base and political superstructure, maintain
that the alliance mentioned above must be realized in a single political organization that
is, in an organization of workers, peasants, petty bourgeoisie, craftsmen, market women,
petty traders, youths, national' and 'anti-imperialist' bourgeoisie, patriots, democrats, etc. No
special political or ideological role is assigned to any class. Similarly, their conception of
economic mixture is a very weak one that is, weighted in favour of capitalism. Some of
these socialists usually call this transitional social order the period of national democratic
revolution. (There is a timid tendency among these comrades to separate the anti-imperialist
phase from the anti-capitalist phase)
(2) Some socialists argue that the alliance will have to be realized as one between two or
more class-based political organizations, that is, the Workers Party and one or more
'democratic' or 'progressive' political parties. The distribution of state power will depend on
the relative strengths of the various organizations participating in the alliance and the social
forces (national and international) they can each mobilize. The degree of economic mixture
is usually left open.
(3) The other socialists, believe that the only way forward to socialist revolution is for
socialists to infiltrate bourgeois political parties as individuals, and working from within, to
revolutionize these parties into authentic agencies of socialist revolution. This school of
thought usually does not present any concrete programme for the socialist transformation of
these bourgeois parties.
(4) There is a fourth school of socialists which maintains that the alliance could be realized
through institutions of popular power (workers' councils, youth associations, women's
leagues, professional associations, etc.) under the overall leadership of a proletarian
vanguard party. Some of these socialists also usually admit the possibility of an accidental
vanguard (e.g. the army). This transitional social order is often characterized as the People's

Democratic Revolution. The degree of economic mixture is usually strong that is, with
heavy socialist dosage right from the start.

These, then, are the four broad strategies of transition as projected by the various
tendencies within the Nigerian socialist movement. We are aware that these do not exhaust
all the thinking of those who, in Nigeria, go by the name socialist or Marxist. We are only
picking up the most significant ones that is, those that have already registered themselves
on the national political scene.

Rather than making a mechanical choice between these four strategies and the
tendencies which express them (which will, of course, be a deviation from the set purpose of
this essay), we shall merely take them as raw material for reflection, and make
commentaries on them in form of provisional theses.

Provisional Theses
(1) For a socialist revolution considered as a continuous process of transformation of the
economy, politics and culture, there must exist an element in the transitional political regime
which embodies the means for the process to be continuous (since a socialist revolution
either moves forward or backwards; the period of stagnation can only be temporary).
Politically, this element is a separate Marxist socialist organization, party, movement, or
(2) We do not rule out any of the following possibilities: i) the separate Marxist formation
being embedded in a larger political party; or ii) the formation being in alliance1 with other
parties; or iii) the formation standing at the head of the entire revolutionary movement as its
vanguard. The choice will be dictated by the concrete conditions in which the Marxist
formation finds itself if of course it exists at all. The organizational form of Marxists'
participation in such an alliance must be properly informed by the balance of forces, the
anticipated form of the inevitable rupture.
(3) The existence, in the transitional regime, of a separate Marxist formation will be politically
significant if this formation is able to struggle for, and ensures, an ever-increasing expansion
and strengthening of areas of popular - and democratic control of social production and
distribution by the working population (workers and peasants, in particular). For instance, the
Marxist formation must struggle for independent workers' organizations, and their
participation in production decision-making, the setting up of peasant collectives which will
be directly in charge of production management and marketing, adequate direct
representation of workers and peasants in the various organs of state power, general
defence of the people's democratic rights, etc.
(4) The necessary conditions for (3) are: i) that the position of the Marxist formation in the
entire regime must be such as to enable it to carry on the build-up of its organization and the
execution of the workers' ideological education; ii) sufficient separation of the formation from
the political alliance, so that it could become effectively critical of state policies and be free to
promote, and take positions on, working people's actions. Several Marxist revolutionaries2
have emphasized these crucial conditions which are far from being abstract, as the recent
history of the world revolutionary movement has shown.

(5) It must be recognized that, over the past decade, the inauguration of socialist
transformation in the Third World in general and Africa in particular has taken the form of a
sudden rupture at the level of political power. This sudden rupture amounting to political
revolution has been 'followed by a struggle between the forces of socialism and those of
state collectivism.'3 Ethiopia provides a classic example of this phenomenon. Marxists must
ponder this, its implications and the problems posed by it.
(6) Generally, and by way of summary, let us remind ourselves that human history has
recorded two different ways by which a people can achieve a revolutionary change in their
society when this change has become objectively necessary for the advancement of the
society as a whole. Trotsky formulated this observation as follows: 'Revolution can be
achieved either by a nation gathering itself like a lion preparing to spring, or by a nation in
the process of struggle becoming conclusively divided in order to free the best part of itself
for the execution of those tasks which the nation as a whole is unable to carry out.'4

The Algerian independence struggle offers a classic example of the first, while the
current Ethiopian revolution offers an example of the second possibility. There is no ground
whatsoever for us to admit the first possibility for Nigeria if we consider the two possibilities
in their pure forms. But these never exist in juxtaposition except in their pure forms which
hardly occur in practice. In practice, therefore, these possibilities are posited against each
other only with respect to their relative weights in a given struggle.

1. It must be emphasized that a political alliance is not granted, proposed or offered by one
political party to another gratuitously. An alliance, if it is one at all (and not the melting of one
organization into another) is struck on the basis of mutual recognition of each others political
weight. Their shares of power reflect this.
2. Writing in 1931 in support of Communists joining a United Front (against fascism), Leon
Trotsky expressed the conditions metaphorically as follows: 'March separately, but strike
together! Agree only how to strike, whom to strike, and when to strike! Such an agreement
can be concluded with the devil himself. . . . On one condition, not to bind one's hands.' Leon
Trotsky, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, (Penguin, 1975), p.106.
3. Samir Amin, Capitalism, State Collectivism, and Socialism, Monthly Review, Vol. 29, No.2,
June 1977, p.39.
4. Leon Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution: Results and Prospects, (New Park Publications,
London, 1971), p.185.

10. The Way Forward

The Urgent Task: To Build An Authentic Nigerian Socialist Movement

Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it
under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered,
given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a
night-mare on the brain of the living. Anti just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing
themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such
periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service
and borrow from them names, battlecries and costumes in order to present the new scene of
world history in this time-honoured disguise and this borrowed language .1

We have repeatedly stated that what we are writing is an urgent call to Nigerian
socialists -- wherever they may be and in whatever political camp they now find themselves
to try and arrest the present confusion, paralysis and stale-mate by re-entering individual
and collective debate2 on several questions which have threatened to ossify the socialist
message and which have almost persistently frustrated the development of an authentic
socialist political organization. The aim is to break through what has now threatened to be a
political and ideological (and maybe also epistemological) block.

The question of this block is not new in the history of the socialist movement. The
Bolshevik Revolution in Russia broke through such a block, a block whose ideological and
organizational expression was the decay of the Second International and most of the parties
associated with it. The triumphant Chinese Revolution also broke through such a block
not, of course, before the Chinese Communist Party had learnt some historical lessons
concerning the dangers of infallibility.3 The Cuban Revolution also broke through a politicalideological block, and simultaneously rendered dogmatism and its organizational
expressions irrelevant.

Corning nearer home, Africa has witnessed, and is witnessing, in this decade several
attempts to break through such particularly handicapping obstacles, whose main component
is the question of the 'overdeveloped post-colonial state4 that is, the phenomenon of very
strong state apparatuses standing guard over backward economic productive forces. The
result is that the revolutionary movement, which partially reflects the level of productive
forces and revolutionary tradition, is confronted by a monstrous state apparatus, which in
most cases has been specially equipped by imperialism. We now witness in several
countries a total absence of correspondence between the level of productive forces and the
political apparatus.

In spite of this particular neo-colonial phenomenon, several political and ideological

breakthroughs have been recorded in Africa during the past decade. All revolutionaries refer
with pride to the 1974 Revolution in Ethiopia the rupture in the state machinery which
immediately lifted the Ethiopian social struggle to a new historic level and sharply altered the
balance of forces in that part of Africa. In spite of later developments, the previous rupture in
Somalia, (also via the army) is referred to with pride.

However, we must observe that, as soon as a way forward is opened by revolution,

history simultaneously appears to close the opening in the sense that its emulation
elsewhere becomes impossible or at least very difficult.5 In other words, each revolution
opens a block, but also creates a new one. Since the Cuban Revolution, a block appears to
have been created in Latin America. Perhaps Nicaragua will produce the long-awaited break.
The question of the liberation of Southern Africa (Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa), not to
mention the question of the liberation of large parts of the rest of Africa from neocolonial
claws, imposes the need for a break at least on the level of theory.

Nigerian socialists hardly need to be reminded that they cannot break through the
present stalemate by sitting back and waiting for history to pro-vide a ready-made break into
which they will then insert themselves. This particular tendency is fed by the belief that the
bourgeoisie will always generate national crises, which, in turn, will furnish revolutionary
situations. Our answer to this naivety is not theory, but history: when the bourgeoisie
plunged the country into crisis in 1966, what did the socialists do?

We are not arguing that the bourgeoisie can in the immediate future find a formula to
prevent national crises resulting from their internal contradictions and pressures from the
population. The road to increasing bourgeois hegemony (which the bourgeoisie are pushing
for) runs through a series of national crises. All we are saying is that any revolutionary
opening created by a bourgeois crisis will be lost unless it is immediately seized by a
revolutionary organization, already existing or which can be created during this crisis.

In a previous chapter we raised some theoretical questions whose clarification

provides the possibility of breaking through the present condition of marginalization in which
the socialist movement now finds itself. To complete the presentation, we summarize below
the practical-political preconditions for a new opening.

The prospects for a resurgence of organized socialist political practice in Nigeria can
be resolved into three separate questions:

(1) What do we mean by a resurgence of organized socialist political practice? In other

words, what will announce or signal the resurgence?

(2) What are the concrete problems and weaknesses which must be transcended if the
necessary conditions for this resurgence are to be created?
(3) What are the immediate practical and political actions which must be taken?

By resurgence of organized socialist political practice we mean both the creation of

conditions (organizational, political, material, etc.) which will permit a resumption of socialist
intervention in the national politics of Nigeria, and the actual intervention itself. We must
create the ability to oppose systematically by organizational, political and ideological means
the false formulations6 continually being given by the bourgeoisie to our national problems. A
resurgence does not mean the sudden appearance of a universal reformer7 on the Nigerian
political scene; nor does it mean the emergence of Nigeria's Karl Marx. A resurgence is a
political and programmatic presentation of an alternative path of social development.

Problems to be Overcome
Turning to the second question, we can identify the following as some of the major
historical problems which must be transcended before a new socialist opening is created
or which must be transcended in the course of creating such opening.

(i) Poverty of Practical and Political Knowledge on which concrete programmes can be
based and from which theoretical abstractions leading to the formulation of strategic and
tactical questions can be made. Most striking is the poverty of knowledge of the history
and political economy of Nigeria. There is also no systematic documentation of usable data
on the economic, social and political development of Nigeria and the world. This problem
must be transcended organizationally and a machinery created for documentation. The
crucial nature of this should be clear. Socialism cannot continue to operate in the air
indefinitely without drying up.

(ii) The Lack of an Economic Base: that is, the problem of how to create the conditions for
the reproduction of resources8 for the execution of political programmes. This is a practical
problem which must be solved practically.

(iii) The Problem of Dangerous Ideological and Political Tendencies all claiming to be
socialist and Marxist: The existence and prevalence of these tendencies is, in part, a
reflection of the lack of strength and reality of the socialist alternative. Among these
tendencies are:
(a) Sectarianism or ideological purity',
(b) Infantilism or the reduction of revolution to the work of a brain-wave;

(c) Subjectivism Romanticism or the attempt to create a Lenin or Castro in the absence of
conditions that created them; or the attempt to recreate the Russian or Cuban Revolutions
outside specific historical circumstances and preconditions;
(d) Putchism Adventurism or the search for the 'quickest road' to socialism;
(e) Dogmatism Scienticism: or the insistence on time-honoured and ossified theoretical
dogmas on the so-called material conditions for socialism dogmas which revolutionary
practice has from time to time tried vigorously to falsify;
(f) State Socialism: the belief that any type of state power can be used by socialists to build
socialism, and hence the insistence on the capture of state power. This naivety leads in
practice to a denial of any need to create a separate socialist or workers' organization and to
what a comrade has called infiltrationism, i.e. the tactical entry of socialists individually into
bourgeois parties with the strategic aim of transforming these parties into agencies for
constructing socialism;
(g) Elite Vanguardism:9 the belief that the struggle for socialism will have to be led by selfappointed elites who know the answers to all socialist questions. The claim of the elites is
based on their current official positions in bourgeois society lecturers, doctors, professors,
labour bureaucrats, etc;
(h) Gradualism: the belief that socialism can be realized solely by quantitative additions
without any qualitative rupture. This illusion is very strong in Nigeria now and is being
expressed in such terms as the 'nearness' or 'closeness' of pertain political parties to
socialism. This tendency assumes that the difference between capitalism and socialism is
the relative purchasing power of the privileged few and the underprivileged majority;
(i) Ideological and Political Impotence: perpetual incapacity to transcend primitive and
localized organizational work, perpetual lack of an overall national revolutionary perspective,
perpetual incapacity to engage in any systematic practical revolutionary programme, and the
glorification and rationalization of this impotence. This tendency is prevalent among Marxist
or Socialist groups in the university campuses;
(j) Opportunism: the tendency which regards the revolutionary socialist enterprise as another
type of bourgeois career and where personal social promotion is the sole aim;
(k) Professional Intellectualism: the tendency which substitutes abstract criticism of reality for
its practical negation.

What Is to be Done?
We now come to the third question: What is to be done now? Arising from the various
problems which have been presented so far in this work, we can propose the following as
imperatives for a resurgence of authentic socialist political practice in Nigeria?11

(a) The establishment of a Centre, to be initially constituted by individuals who have shown
in the last few years that they are committed to the struggle for socialism in Nigeria. There is
no difficulty in the mutual identification of these individuals. This Centre, being a self-

constituted one, will serve as an external vanguard,12 and by a process of self-negation, will
be transformed and developed into an internal vanguard.
(b) The immediate establishment of a Research and Documentation Department.
(c) The unification of the various efforts which committed socialists have been making.
(d) A serious attempt to create an economic base for the new socialist Centre as defined
(e) A serious attempt to develop concrete class-specific and general programmes: journals,
educational (ideological) programmes, workers' co-operatives, farmers' collectives, etc., and
the building of organizational structures around these programmes. The creation of an
economic base must be linked to these programmatic efforts.
(f) Initial deployment of members of the Centre to these programmes based initially on the
unification of efforts mentioned above.
(g) The use of these programmes (and their organizational forms) to effect political
alliances13 and a national political practice
(h) The programmatic and systematic criticism of the tendencies mentioned above both
ideologically and practically; in other words, the new effort must struggle to create its own
authentic voice which will rise above the muffled socialist voices which now dominate the
socialist movement.

We are aware that what we are now calling for amounts to a break with the past and
the creation of a new beginning. We are equally aware that the various theoretical and
political-practical problems which we have tried to articulate cannot be completely resolved
before a determined effort is made to regroup. Finally, we are conscious of the fact that
some determined (and yet abortive and painful) attempts have been made in the past few
years to effect a serious regrouping. Yet, in defiance of these problems and painful
experiences, we are calling for a regrouping.

Tradition including revolutionary tradition is very resistant to change. The

subjective elements of this tradition are even more resistant.14 A call for regrouping is a call
for a break in tradition a call for a break with traditional political practices, a call for a
break (and a leap) in consciousness. This is a difficult problem which cannot be solved
overnight. And even if a break in political practice and consciousness is rendered imperative
by our recent experiences, this will not automatically effect a change in the objective social
reality which the new political practice and consciousness must confront.

Just as consciousness and political practice often tail behind objective social reality,
so do they often leap beyond it. This is where Marxism and Leninism act as an intervention.
We are calling for such intervention now. We are calling for this intervention in the ardent
hope that the experiences of the past few years have clarified our vision.

In conclusion, we commend the proposition made by Regis Delray about 15 years

When the list of martyrs grows long, when every act of courage is converted into martyrdom,
it is because something is wrong. And it is just as much a moral duty to seek out the cause as
it is to pay homage to murdered or imprisoned comrades. 15

1. K. Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, (Marx-Engels Selected Works in 3
Volumes), Vol. 1, (Progress Publishers, Moscow,1973).
2. It may be argued that debates have been going on for over a decade but have produced
no unity. This is admitted. But the debate we are now calling for is not necessarily aimed at
achieving unity as such. It is aimed at creating a nucleus, which will, among other things,
attract other socialist formations to itself or render them historically irrelevant. Such a
qualitative leap would mark the beginning of our resurgence.
3. By 'infallibility' we mean the tendency to regard the revolutionary trajectory that led to a
successful revolution and the ideas of those who led it, as a universal a-temporal blueprint
for revolution.
4. See Review of African Political Economy, No. 5, 1976. We may also note that revolution in
Europe, America and Japan faces an equivalent problem: the existence of a destructive
military machine under the control of imperialism. This constitutes a permanent deterrent to
Euro-communism in particular.
5. The reason is both objective and subjective objective because history is not linear, and
the particular historical conjuncture which produces a revolutionary situation and revolution
is hardly reproduced; subjective because both imperialism and revolutionary forces learn
from revolutionary victories and defeats.
6. Two such false formulations in connection with the current political campaigns can be
mentioned: 1) the question of whether there should be one or more popular ballots for the
presidency; and 2) the question of whether anyone who has not paid his income tax correctly
is fit to rule the country. The first question says nothing about the interests which the
presidential candidates represent, while the second takes for granted that the incomes which
are being taxed have been legitimately earned. Under the bourgeois system, the poor
worker on a salary of 50 naira a month is a criminal if he does not pay his tax regularly, while
a representative of a multinational company, on an annual income of more than a million
naira is a 'good and honest citizen' if he pays his income tax regularly.
7. Some of our erstwhile 'socialists' appear to have recently discovered in one or the other
bourgeois political leader the universal redeemer whom Nigeria has been expecting.
8. The recent failure of some socialist parties to meet the (largely financial) requirements of
the Federal Electoral Decree is a clear pointer to this need.

9. 'We are far from saying that consciousness will descend on the masses out of the blue.
The contradictions of peripheral capitalism at a certain stage are bound to produce
individuals mainly intellectuals initially who may decide to constitute themselves into
groups and assume, the historic role of initiating a challenge to capitalism. But unless they
insert into the masses, they will continue to represent only themselves and may be mere
ideas . . . . The imposition of a revolutionary party from above will create from the beginning
a dichotomy between the leaders and those who are led. . . . A party for genuine human
liberation must grow up from, and be internal to, the mass struggle of the people. E.I.
Madunagu, Against Elite Vanguardism, (Paper presented at the First All-Nigeria Socialist
Conference, Zaria, July 1977).
10. By 'authenticity' of an organization, we mean such qualities as its capacity to intervene
effectively in national politics and prevent social forces developing a stable balance.
11. These imperatives are presented in only a sketchy form here to be developed through
12. For a characterization of external and internal vanguards, see for example, Andrew Gorz,
Socialism and Revolution, (Allen Lane, London, 1975), pp.65-6.
13. This is necessary to avoid premature political isolation.
14. We must confess that we have no ready-made formula to prescribe for confronting this
resistance. Aside from being aware of it (which is very vital), we shall only propose that the
process of conscious creation of a new world out of the old is a contradictory process, a
process which has one leg in the old and one in the new, a process which can only be
completed through self-negation.
15. Regis Debray, Revolution in the Revolution? (Grove Press, N.Y., 1967), p.87.

A Comment on National Unity in
One of the characteristic features of our social life, and one which is at the same time the
main source of the apparent strength and resilience of the present social order, is the fact
that the formulation of our national problems is completely dominated by the bourgeoisie
(those who rule over us), the government (those who govern us on behalf of the bourgeoisie)
and their official and unofficial representatives, spokesmen, thugs, militants, theoreticians (or
seers) and ideologists. The result is that, since the needs and interests of the bourgeoisie
are, in most cases, quite distinct from popular needs and interests, and since bourgeois
views are reflections of these perverted needs and interests, our national problems are
frequently misrepresented, distorted, emptied of all content and meaning, and finally
integrated into bourgeois discourse.

Thus when the bourgeoisie say the public or the nation, they mean themselves; they are the
public and the nation. When they say the security of the nation, they mean the security of
their wealth and the social structure by which this wealth is accumulated. When they talk of
subversion, they mean a threat to the conditions of their own dominance and perfidy. When
they talk of national unity, they mean the unity of the bourgeois class, or a greater fraction of
it, over the people, and when they talk of peace they mean the peace of the graveyard,
where the poor and the neglected can suffer and die in silence.

We may assert here that this type of national unity the unity of oppressors, exploiters and
looters over the masses is not possible except through another bloody civil war. For
history has revealed only one mode of evolution of national unity: the emergence of a class
or a fraction of a class which possesses the will and capacity to represent and enforce its
interests as general interests (German unity realized under Bismarck is a classic example).
With the balance of forces in Nigeria today, such a fraction can only emerge as the victor in a
bloody civil war.

We shall come back to this point; but for now, let us survey the attempts which our rulers
have made since 1966, and are still making, to forge national unity, and see to what extent
they recognize that this is one of the fundamental national problems of our time.

In May 1966, the first military regime under General Ironsi attempted a unification of the
country through the abolition of the four regions East, West, Mid-West and North into
which the country was hitherto divided. Each of the former regions was re-named a group of
provinces, and the existing public services were unified. The authors of this decree believed
that this was the most effective means of weakening the centres of local power and
simultaneously enhancing the power of federal authority vis-a-vis these local centres.

This measure was violently challenged by some sections of the bourgeois class which saw it
as a cover for perpetuating the economic and bureaucratic dominance of the other sections.
The very first act of the Gowon regime which came to power at the end of July 1966 was the
abolition of the abolition-decree and the restoration of the pre-May situation. a 4,

After the costly experiment of Ironsi, the country settled down to 13 years of military rule.
Here are some of the major steps taken to realize national unity in that period:
(1) The creation of more states. The country was carved up into 12 states in May 1967 and
then into 19 states in February 1976. The creation of more states served two objectives: it
met the demands of some sections of the bourgeois class the political leaders of minority
ethnic groups and it reduced the powers of the constituent units of the federation vis-a-vis
the federal authority.

(2) The war to keep Nigeria one (1967-70).

(3) Emergency regulations to keep everyone in line the unity of the graveyard.
(4) The creation of the centrally placed federal territory of Abuja a mechanical conception
of unity.
(5) Revenue allocation changes - the algebra of sharing out the national wealth among the
bourgeoisie in the name of the people, and in the name of national unity.
(6) The federal take-over of universities, colleges and some news media; the setting up of
the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board for the universities (the board has since been
(7) The establishment of federal controlled Commodity Marketing Boards to replace the
various state-based marketing boards.
(8) National Anthem and National Pledge. Children are made to recite their love for, and
loyalty to, the nation even when their parents and relations are oppressed therein, even
when the horizons of their future are so limited by the monstrous social structure we live
(9) Obasanjo's Jaji Declaration, emphasizing the need for discipline, patriotism, loyalty,
national culture and self-reliance.
(10) The unification of the labour movement by the creation of the new Nigerian Labour
(11) The new Constitution which unified the country on paper. The constitution was amended
in many parts by General Obasanjo two days before he left office. The objective: to unite the
country more firmly behind the new President.

This is not the place to go into a detailed exposure and critique of the objectives, illusions,
cynicism, dishonesty and insincerity behind each of these measures. Indeed, they have
since become the subject of several books, papers, articles and conferences. We only have
to remark that unity has continued to elude the ruling class; in fact, that class is much more
divided today than ever before. The reason is that those who officially mouth commitment to
national unity fail to see that genuine national unity cannot be decreed; it has to be built by
the people through their own conscious efforts.

National unity has continued to elude our leaders because, on the one hand, they think of
unity merely as the unity of the bourgeoisie and, on the other hand, they hope that this onesided unity can be achieved by means of constitutional arrangements which allocate
domains of exploitation to the various fractions of their class. They cannot see genuine
national unity as the unity of the masses, the unity of human producers in the process of
production. But unity of exploiters has rarely been achieved through constitutional
arrangements since some exploiters always push to become super-exploiters. In the
Nigerian situation, bourgeois unity has to be imposed, as we have earlier said, by the most

powerful faction of the exploiting class. But, as we have also observed, the balance of forces
in the country today is such that this faction can only emerge through a very bloody civil war.

The Nigerian ruling class, therefore, faces a dilemma: either to initiate a civil war from which
no victor might emerge, that is, a civil war which might mark the beginning of the end of
bourgeois rule altogether; or to continue to propose unworkable peace formulae (like the
various suggestions for a constitutional reduction of the number of political parties). The
more fascistic Nigerian bourgeois thugs are wittingly or unwittingly pushing for the first
alternative. By raising alarms of secession, subversion, communism, etc., these Nigerian
Hitlers and Goebbels hope to force the executive to assume emergency powers or even
suspend the Constitution as a prelude to fascist rule, the most viable form of bourgeois
unity under Nigerian conditions.

These modern fascists will surely go the way of their predecessors since they cannot draw
any lessons from history. Since they cannot learn from what is happening across our borders
which in their foolhardiness they believe can never happen here they are bound to
enact the same scenario. But for the present, it is the duty of all patriotic forces in
whatever camp they may be to help minimize the damage which these people are doing
to to our country.

This brings us to the role of the press in the struggle for genuine national unity. Here we
have to consider the Nigerian press as it is, and not as it should be. Ultimately the press
to the extent that it is controlled by the bourgeoisie can only reflect the interests,
prejudices, and contradictions of the bourgeois class; and to the extent that the bourgeoisie
are enemies of the people, to that extent is it legitimate to describe the press which they
control as the enemy of the people.

The Nigerian press is playing a very dangerous role. This role is not, of course, new; nor is
the discovery of this rule a new one. But we must expose the danger which the press
constitutes, if only to refute the false claims which it makes for itself and which is made on its
behalf by the various factions of the bourgeoisie which it serves.

In spite of their claims, the contemporary role of Nigerian newspapers is the crude defence
of the equally crude political views and practices of their respective sponsors. We pick out
the newspapers published in Cross River State for the particularly dangerous role amounting
to treason against the people.

We all know that the bourgeoisie are organized politically in five parties with varying degrees
of bourgeois concentration (some of the parties are more bourgeois than others!). One of the
parties has since become not only the ruling party but also the only existing and functioning
party in Cross River State. But this evolution of a de facto one-party state is no1 a reflection

of the growing unity of the ruling class, for, in place of party divisions, we now have very
deep and potentially explosive ethnic divisions.

We indict the newspapers in this state not for supporting, or opposing, a particular political
party and its government: every other newspaper in the country is doing this too. We indict
them for allowing themselves to be inserted into the ethnic divisions within the ruling party
and very crudely supporting one side or the other. Supp8rt for ethnic chauvinism of any type
is particularly reprehensible because it is a terrible form of violence on people's

The struggle for, and against, the creation of yet more states is essentially a struggle
between the different factions of the bourgeoisie. Those who are more favoured in the
present scheme of things and whose sphere of influence and exploitation will only diminish
with the creation of more states will naturally oppose state creation. On the other hand,
those who see the creation of still more states as the only solution to their marginalization
will naturally fight for state creation. IR this struggle the common people the masses
are mere recipients of loaded prejudices, they are mere instruments of bourgeois struggles,
mere victims of bourgeois manipulation. In the struggle for, and against, state creation, the
agitators are not seeking promotion of the interests of the masses, but their own interests.
The various factions claim to be speaking in the name of their people while, in reality, they
are merely looking for, or defending, exclusive domains of exploitation and theft.

There is no objective conflict between an Efik worker and an Ibibio worker, between an
Ogoja market woman and an Annang market woman, between an Oron peasant and an
Ibibio peasant, or indeed between night-soilmen of different ethnic groups! But their selfappointed leaders say there are differences, and go further to mobilize them in defence of
these false differences, whereas the only fundamental social difference is that existing
between the masses (from all ethnic groups) and their exploiters.

We are not saying that there are no minority ethnic groups in Nigeria; neither are we saying
that there is no ethnic-based oppression. What we are saying is that the bourgeoisie cannot
lead the struggle for genuine ethnic equality precisely because their interests conflict with
popular interests.

Where is that bourgeois who is fighting for, or against, state creation so that workers may
own the means, and control the processes, of production? Where is that bourgeois who is
fighting for, or against, state creation so that the benefits of civilization, science and
technology currently monopolized by the bourgeoisie will flow more abundantly to our
peasant producers? Where is that bourgeois who is fighting for, or against, state creation so
that our students will have a greater say in the development of their curricula? There are no
such bourgeois. The bourgeoisie that exists are fighting for, or against, state creation so as
to become or remain commissioners, permanent secretaries, special advisors, etc. They are
fighting for contracts and import licences. No more and no less. These are the facts which
the Nigerian newspapers either do not know or deliberately hide from our people. Yet these

newspapers are maintained by the sweat of the same people whose needs, aspirations and
interests they systematically misrepresent, distort and subvert.

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Problems of Socialism: The Nigerian Challenge is a call to Nigerian socialists to overcome

their current confusions and lack of organization. It comes from Dr. Eddie Madunagu
mathematician, academic, and long-time political activist. He is addressing people in the
trade unions, universities, and elsewhere. The time has come, he argues, to establish a
properly financed Socialist Centre which would encourage research into and appropriate
theoretical formulations of Nigeria's problems, with a view to engaging in political education
and organization of Nigeria's workers, farmers and students. The central thrust of this book
is a Nigerian answer to: What is to be done?

Nigeria since 1979 has had civilian rule which makes political activity less difficult than in
the past. Also, the squandering of the country's huge oil income by the bourgeoisie that
controls it is creating an unparalleled opportunity for Nigeria's socialists, as people realize
the new wealth is being used not to abolish poverty, but to line the pockets of the new ruling
class. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is on the threshold, of the development of
a sustained and organized socialist opposition. This book is a contribution to that

Part One deals in brisk fashion with the Nigerian situation today its underdeveloped
capitalist economy; the ways in which civilian and military rule have disguised the growth

and consolidation of the Nigerian bourgeoisie; the undemocratic facade of the 1979
elections which returned the country to civilian rule; and the ethnic minority question.

Part Two is a critique of the Nigerian Left over the past 20 years the trade union
movement, student radicalism, and self-styled socialist individuals and initiatives. The book
then tackles the key questions: Is there a class struggle in Nigeria? What must Marxists do
to develop correct theoretical formulations of the situation? How can the transition to
socialism be worked for? Which are the problems to be over-come in building a revolutionary
socialist movement? Without doubt, this book will stand as a political landmark in the
struggle for socialism in Nigeria.

Edwin Madunagu is a former academic and mathematician who has taught at the
Universities of Lagos and Calabar. He became a socialist while still a student. In 1975 he
was National Secretary of the Anti-Poverty Movement of Nigeria and editor of The People's
Cause. In the same year he was detained while participating in agitation for better conditions
for Nigerian workers and an end-to the Gowon dictatorship. In 1978 he and other lecturers
were dismissed for supporting student protests against increases in fees; three years later
he turned down the University's offer of reinstatement. He is a prominent contributor to
various newspapers and journals in Nigeria.

ISBN 0 86232 027 5