By Adagbo Onoja
In spite of the present dismal governance of Nigeria, what is still clear is that Almighty God will not abandon a nation of 170 million Nigerians. So, there is still no basis for losing hope even as the president who should animate the nation has apparently completed his transition from the Commander-in-Chief to a Commander-in-Cage.
But as every contradiction produces its own resolution, so would this. In fact, for the first time, Nigeria is on its way to rejecting an incumbent president by acclamation, courtesy of GEJ’s paradigms and praxis of politics.
It is in this respect that some people are mourning the disappearance of the Left from Nigerian politics. As articulated by the text message from an elder comrade in the Kano-Jigawa axis last Saturday which triggered this column, “As some of our comrades are in APC, believing that they are pushing a correct task while some others are consumed in civil society advocacy, the arena is vacated and ideological struggle and work on the way forward is compromised.
My stance is that we need a class based democratic response, articulate the context, the immediate question and the urgent tasks on the deficits of democratization”.
His text would strike at the chord of virtually every member of that generation of radical student, gender, human rights and pro-democracy activists in Nigeria between the early 1980s up to 1995, especially on the question of what happened to the struggle. Why did radical politics disappear in Nigeria totally, including even the variant of progressive politics symbolized by the progressive governors in the Second Republic, over 60% of who formed the nucleus of the PDP where they have also lost out completely?
My response in the subsequent discussion was to remind him what Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim (aka Jibo) said vis-à-vis the question of anything superior to left migration to APC, for example. Jibo is always the reference point in discussing the present ideological and political confusion within the left in Nigeria because he operates solely by Jibogram, defined by Muazu Maiwada of ABU, Zaria as Jibo’s unit of measurement.
It was by that unit of measurement that he declared that he had exhausted the potentials of Marxism in the early 1990s and went on to detonate an intellectual bomb on the African Left via his “History As Iconoclast: Left Stardom and the Debate on Democracy” in 1993.
At the conference of “Progressives and the Pro-Democracy Movement” at Mambayya House in Kano in November 2010, Jibo said that Leftists over the past fifty years were effective in advocacy skills and made progress in students union, journalism, academia, trade unionism, civil society and in legal practice but that they were promoting liberalism rather than the national democratic revolution/socialism which they foolishly thought they were fighting for as Marxist-Leninists, trying to do what Lenin/Mao did for Russia/China.
His clincher was that we lost the revolutionary debate in Nigeria first, by the killing of the Zikist Movement and second, with the ‘confiscation’ of the NEPU-PRP tradition by Rimi and Bala Usman in the 1980s in Kano and Kaduna respectively.
There is a sense in which Jibo’s is a major but an incomplete intervention. Incomplete because, up to 1990s, the Left was not only clear-headed, it was also clear-eyed. My recollection of the minutes of the Socialist Congress of Nigeria, (SCON) particularly from 1989 to around 1993 attests to this.
There is absolutely nothing happening today that the reports of each General Secretary in particular did not foresee, both in domestic and international politics. Why that perceptiveness did not convert to a sustainable popular movement is partly why Jibo’s analysis in Kano is a major intervention.
Could Jibo be right in attributing to limited skills in politics of national democratic revolution as the reason for Left failure to transcend the constraints of four key crossroads for radical politics in contemporary Nigeria: the collapse of the USSR and the subsequent theoretical and ideological confusion that followed what Putin described as the greatest tragedy of the 20th Century; military dictatorship and the associated repression of radicals whose deeper and more genuine nationalism was actually sustaining the nation from academia to the media, the bureaucracy, diplomacy and in politics; the horrifying impoverishment generated by the SAP which made struggle absolutely difficult, both at the level of cadres and at the level of the national audience that had retreated to ethnic and religious enclaves in search of meaning and security and lastly, June 12?
It was Left breakdown in the face of these challenges which resulted in the dispersal of those with grooming in ideological politics into three main different arenas. The first is foreign funded civil society activism which has made incredible modernizing contributions to Nigeria but whose terms and templates are different from those of Left politics.
The second is ethnic organisations like Afenifere/OPC/AD. No one can say what these might have been like if radicals were not there but again, such platforms have little relationship with Left politics. The third is dispersal into traditional political parties. Left membership or participation in bourgeois democratic politics/government has always been a controversial theme in African politics since the 1970s.
In Nigeria in 1979, it took the weighty voice of a Professor Eskor Toyo to settle the controversy as to what the leftists were doing in the People’s Redemption Party, PRP. He said it was ideologically right and proper for the Left to be in PRP. But even then, Left participation still degenerated into a major split especially at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where the Left base of the party was located.
Somehow, APC is bound to bring back memories of Left crisis because it is showing a Left face in people like Ekiti governor and Comrade Salihu Lukman as well as others readying themselves for the great enterism but not in any way comparable to the PRP sense because the Left is not an issue in APC formation.
The great thing about APC is its potential to make “our great party” (PDP) to stop taking power for granted even as we confront the question of how anyone can make a progressive out of some of the masterminds of APC. This would not have arisen if the party didn’t have the word ‘progressive’ in the name.
What it all boils down to is that APC is not a destination of choice or an alternative to the PDP, particularly for those who trace their ideological lineage to the NEPU/PRP/PPA trajectory in the PDP and who would be mismanaging tendency tenacity by migrating.
But, unlike my elder comrade, (whose identity only Comrade Y. Z. Yau with whom we were musing the previous night at an Abuja fish joint knows), I see nothing wrong in comrades migrating into APC. I don’t see how that hinders them from being part of the process of rejecting a president by acclamation because what 1999 to date has taught everyone, including the comrades, is that we have trusted too much in our plastic understanding of democracy.
Only problem would be if we don’t bear Jibo in mind or if anybody were to engage in what Gbolabo Ogunsawo would call mandibular wakabout regarding APC and the organizational requirement for strategic rather than regime change in Nigeria.
As long as there is no Left party or a broad based democratic coalition in Nigeria, comrades would have no options than spread to whichever platform they find space to continue the struggle in whatever ways possible.
It is more beneficial if the example of the Lamido regime’s global coalition against poverty from tucked away Jigawa State in 2007, barely three months after its take-off is anything to go by. It was a decidedly Left project and statement.