An expressway to attacks on democratic rights! For democratic mass working peoples’ defence committees!

The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) sees the imposition of the state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe as another wrong step taken by the President Jonathan government in its so-called war against terrorism. Even if it curtails the violence that has admittedly taken over the North Eastern part of the country over the last 3 years in the short term, this is bound to be just a temporary respite. Far from a solution, this declaration of state of emergency which is another name for a brutal and indiscriminate military clampdown will most definitely, especially in the medium and long term, lead to the escalation of the conflict to an unimaginable proportion.

This is because just like other strong arm measures taken by the government in the last 3 years, this new step fails to seek an efficient solution to the root cause of violent extremism which is only possible by resolving the crisis of poverty amidst plenty, absence of social infrastructures and the alarming wealth inequality in Nigeria which constitutes the fertile soil of alienation upon which violent extremism flourishes and is reinforced.

Besides, the consequence of a state emergency, which according to the President means deployment of more military forces, is the intensification of the on-going militarisation of the country under the guise of fighting Boko Haram terrorists. We recall that the special military squad (Joint Task Force), which is more notorious for attacks on democratic rights of the innocent working people than exchanges of fires with Boko Haram insurgents, has been in the region for the past years. We therefore hold that the emergency proclamation is nothing more than deployment of more troops and tanks to the states and further curtailment of democratic rights. It is indeed instructive that the proclamation of state of emergency came few weeks after the massacre of about 200 innocent civilians in Baga in just one day by soldiers. This shows what the state of emergency has in stock for the ordinary people of the affected areas.

The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) is completely opposed to the reactionary activities of terror groups like Boko Haram. We are indeed against any act or method of individual terrorism in the struggle against policies and conducts of the thieving ruling elites. But as we have aptly stated in our last statement on the Baga massacre, the root cause of the Boko Haram insurgency, as well as other violent crises in other parts of the country, some of which were stated by President in his speech, is the unresolved nationality question as well as the widespread discontent over issues of poverty, unemployment, homelessness and the unbridled corruption of the capitalist ruling elite in a country endowed with vast oil and mineral wealth. Brutal military and police clampdown cannot resolve this crisis, it will only escalate it. It should not be forgotten that the 2009 killing of Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf after he had been arrested and paraded before the media only served to strengthen the group. The truth of the matter is that this government, firmly rooted in defending the current capitalist system, cannot resolve the underlying economic and social causes of Nigeria’s crisis while, as part and parcel of the systematic looting of the country, is incapable of maintaining democratic rights.

Though now on much bigger scale, we recall that this not the first time that a state of emergency has been declared on some parts of the North by Jonathan administration. Since December 2011, 15 local council areas cutting across 4 states including Yobe and Borno (others are Niger and Plateau) have been under intensive military invasion and occupation as a result of state of emergency but without being able to rein in the activities of Boko Haram. We hold that while this current military expedition and offensive in the northeast could temporarily tame the situation, but as examples in Mali, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, etc show it cannot effectively stamp out insurgent and terrorist activities so long as the fundamental cause of the problem is not addressed. Besides, the news reports have revealed that the crackdown in the northeast has started provoking surge in terrorist activities in other parts of the north.

It is also instructive to warn that the state of emergency, which arrogates power to the military, subjugates the civilian authorities and suppresses democratic rights in the affected states, is an open invitation, albeit inadvertently, to the military adventurers to take political power in the country. It has given the impression of the incapacity of the civil rule to tackle and overcome the security challenges in the country.

Therefore, against its support for military offensive under the guise of state of emergency, we urge the leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress to support our demand for formation of democratic mass defence committees at workplaces, communities and streets under the democratic control of the trade unions and mass organizations of poor farmers and working people as the first step in confronting the menace of Boko Haram and other terror groups. Such democratic defence committees involving the working class people, poor farmers and youths and cutting across all ethnic or religious divides will have the duty to patrol and maintain security both day and night, carry out surveillance and investigations necessary to identify terrorists or criminals and mobilize en-masse to liquidate them.

It is only if Labour leads such an approach that it can be possible to begin to tackle the Boko Haram menace in a pro-working peoples’ manner that can also prevent a nationwide descent into bloody ethnic and religious strife. The reality is that the JTF, which has been behaving as army of occupation and now that they have been further empowered with martial law to suppress democratic rights, cannot endear themselves to the ordinary people whose support is a major requirement to defeat Boko Haram.

Having said the above, the SPN is also particularly in sympathy with rank and file soldiers, police and other working class members of the armed and security forces who are also victims of terrorist violence created as a result of the policies of the corrupt Nigeria’s ruling elite. The SPN stands with rank and file soldiers and police, many of whom are poorly paid yet have bled and died in the discharge of their duties. We urge the labour movement to issue a public appeal to the rank and file troops not to turn their arms against the ordinary people under the guise of fighting Boko Haram and refuse to attack the on democratic rights of the working people. This however requires that the activities of the police and armed forces have to be subjected to democratic control of the elected representatives of the affected communities. Labour should also show interest in the welfare and condition of the police and armed forces by leading the demand for the rank and file police and other armed forces to belong to or form trade unions through which they can agitate for living wage and better conditions.

Also imperative is for the labour movement to come up with a programme of action that recognizes the undemocratic nature of the founding of Nigeria as well as the condition of exploitation and mass poverty that a majority of the population is confronted with as the fundamental causes of the rising spate of ethno-religious violence in the country. This is important as a step towards curbing or totally stopping the menace of Boko Haram and other terror groups. Such a programme will have to include the trade union movement building nationwide mass campaigns and actions involving strikes and mass protests that can unite working masses and poor youth across the country to struggle against such issues as unemployment, homelessness, education commercialisation, non-payment of a living wage and the capitalist system that breeds inequality and chaos.

The escalation of ethno-religious crisis in the country must be a wakeup call on the labour movement and pro-working peoples’ organisations to lead the campaign for the urgent convocation of independent Sovereign National Conference (SNC), not at the permission of the government, with the full democratic representation of the working class, the youths, ethnic groups etc. that would have the primary aim of debating whether or not Nigeria ought to be one and, if yes, on what terms and conditions. In essence, the much touted unity of Nigeria should be democratically negotiated and not taken for granted.

Labour must realise that the rapid deterioration of the situation is a dire warning of how Nigeria’s crisis can quickly worsen the ethno-religious divisions, and the repressive measures that can be implemented by the government. Labour needs to act now and not throw away opportunities like they did most recently with the January 2012 mass protest and general strike.

Only the working masses of Nigeria can unite the country through joint struggle against the ruling elite. There can be no confidence in this government which has, like its predecessors, acted to defend the power and wealth of the elite. It has hardly "punished" the looters wrecking the country while at the same time being prepared to suppress civil rights, like banning the "Fuelling Poverty" documentary film on the January 2012 general strike. To prevent total ruin, the labour movement needs to come out fully as a social force that can lead Nigerians out of the mess and chaos created by the ruling elite by convening such an independent Sovereign National Conference (SNC) and building a mass working peoples political party that can implement the resolutions of such a conference by taking political power from the corrupt ruling elite and forming a workers and poor people’s government on socialist programme. As a clear step towards the formation of such a mass party we call on workers, youths and the poor to join in building the Socialist Party of Nigeria.

Segun Sango

Protem National Chairperson

Socialist Party of Nigeria

Committee for a workers' International publications

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