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My ‘unpopular’ propositions – Part 2


And it continued: “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 self-appointed leaders say there are differences, and go further to mobilise 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.”

The relevant excerpts of the 1979 article ended: “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.” End of excerpts.


Thus, the central position taken in my 1979 article on “national unity” and the “national question” in Nigeria was that the ruling class was not capable of resolving the issues on account of its class interest and class practices including its bitter intra-class struggle for primitive (primary) capitalist accumulation. This position remained essentially unchanged until I went into the Political Bureau in January 1986. Here we may recall that the 17-member body, in which I was mysteriously included was asked by General Babangida to organize and conduct public political debates across the nation and, on the basis of the outcome of this national debate, prescribe a new “social order” for the country.

It will also be recalled that the Bureau came out 15 months later with a prescription of Socialism. My own “Minority Report” was also that Nigerians chose Socialism as a new Social Order. The difference between my “Minority Report” and the Main/Majority Report was that mine was more categorical and included the introduction of Collective Presidency and reports on debates and crises within the Bureau itself, including how we arrived at the “Verdict” of Socialism. It was also very clear to all of us – Right, Left and Centre – that only the cases for the creation of Akwa Ibom State and Katsina State were unrefutable. And the two states were created by General Babangida in September 1987, raising the number of states from 19 to 21. However, at a personal political level, the impact of the Bureau on me was that it made me go from mere ideological criticism of the ruling class and its governments to now include concrete demands and prescriptions on several issues in politics and governance. These concrete demands and prescriptions included those on the resolution of the “national question” and the question of “national unity.”


Let us now make a 31-year leap from my “Minority Report” on the National Political Debate of 1986/1987 to April 12, 2018 when my article “Restructuring: propositions summarized” appeared in The Guardian and several other media. I shall reproduce a large part of the article because it embodies what is in the 31-year period. I request readers to follow the following excerpts from the April 2018 article:

“The aim here is to summarise my current position on the question of geopolitical restructuring of Nigeria. I say “current” because as far as I can remember, I started thinking seriously – and then debating and writing – about restructuring from 1986 as a member of the Political Bureau. Today, 32 years later, I am still thinking and writing on the subject. The present piece is implicitly a draft memo on this important political subject to the Nigerian Left.”

What I consider my current aggregate position on restructuring of Nigeria is constituted by several propositions articulated and refined over a fairly long period of time. For the purpose of this piece the propositions can be grouped under the following five broad headings: the impossibility of purely ethnic separation; redeployment and redistribution of national resources; levels of exercise of power and responsibility; principles of triple balancing; and popular-democratic restructuring at a glance. The propositions are not of the same status. Some of them are issues which the Nigerian Left should struggle to have inserted in the Constitution of Nigeria and others are those that the Left should insert in its programmes, manifestoes and occasional platforms. I shall now take the groups of propositions one after the other.


“First cluster of propositions: A little over 20 years ago, on December 3, 1997, when General Sani Abacha was still in power, I attended and contributed to a seminar organized in Calabar by the Cross River State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). The seminar was one of NUJ’s contributions to Abacha’s transition programme after the collapse of Babangida’s experiment. I was asked to speak on the topic, “The ethnicity syndrome: How it affects the development of Cross River State.” But I enlarged the topic to “The national question, the power blocs and popular-democratic transformation of Nigeria,” explaining to the organisers that this would put the subject in a historical and national perspective.

“In the preamble to my contribution I said: “If a 100kg bag of beans and a 100kg bag of rice are mixed, it will be possible, with patience and perseverance, for a school boy or school girl to separate the grains.” I then went on to say that it would be easier for that unfortunate young person to perform the feat than for any political authority or forces to separate Nigeria into pure ethnic components! Two years later, on November 4, 1999, my piece, Impossibility of (pure) ethnic separation appeared in my column in The Guardian. The article was essentially a review of the late Chief Anthony Enahoro’s proposition on restructuring the federation. But simultaneously the article appeared as a re-statement of my December 3, 1997 proposition.


“I am not saying that Nigeria cannot disintegrate. Of course, the country can disintegrate if it pushes itself or is allowed to be pushed beyond certain limits by those who have the means and the power. Nigeria can disintegrate in a manner worse than that of the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, the former Czechoslovakia, the Greater Ethiopia (before Eritrea broke off), the Greater Somalia (before the current catastrophe), and Yemen, a bleeding country which has seen separation and unification several times. All I am saying is that if Nigeria disintegrates – as it can disintegrate if the Nigerian Left does not step in – it will not be along ethnic lines. If Nigeria disintegrates the more powerful war juntas will simply carve up the country – with each component reproducing Nigeria, that is, recreating majorities and minorities, the dominating and the dominated.

“The second cluster of propositions relates to class-to-class redeployment and redistribution of national resources or, simply, the restructuring of class appropriations. By this I mean the massive movement of resources from Nigeria’s ruling class and its blocs and forces to the popular masses through people-oriented radical reforms in employment, wages, education, health, housing, transportation, taxation and levies, etc. Class appropriations, by the way, include not only the monies, properties and businesses recovered from “looters” but also proceeds of state and class robberies which may have been covered by obnoxious legalities. The class-to-class redeployment is the sociological and logical complement of horizontal, state-to-state distribution which – as it is now – is essentially a distribution within the ruling class and its blocs and various segments.

To be continued tomorrow.


In this article:
General Sani AbachaNUJ
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