TOYO: Friend Of Workers Goes Home
Professor Eskor Toyo, the fierce revolutionary, Marxist scholar, polemicist and labour activist passed on Monday, December 7, 2015 in Calabar. He was aged 86. He was a retired Professor of Economics with the University of Calabar.
The late Toyo was born in Oron, Akwa Ibom State, in 1929. He had his early education in Oron, Lagos and Calabar.
He passed the Cambridge School Certificate in 1945 in Grade one and was exempted from London University matriculation. He also passed the Higher School Certificate (Cambridge). He received a Diploma in Public Administration and B.Sc. in Economics from the University of London. He later obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in National Economic Planning, M.Sc. in Economics and Ph.D. in Economics in Poland. Professor Toyo’s educational career was marked with distinction. He was the first to earn a First Class in Postgraduate Diploma in National Economic Planning. He obtained his M.Sc. degree with distinction and his Ph.D. Cum Laude (with praise).
His doctoral thesis entitled “Macroeconomic Analysis in Marx and Keynes” was published in 1977 by the Polish Scientific publishers on the recommendations of the Universities in Poland. It was republished in Russian.
Eskor Toyo had varied experiences in public and private sectors. For brief periods he held the positions of Planning Manager and Labour and Staff Manager in Lever Brothers (Nigeria), and Manager, Supply and Distribution for Esso West Africa. He has taught courses in sociology, economics, political science and history of ideas in Europe and Nigeria.
He also headed the Department of Economics in the University of Maiduguri and Calabar at different times. Late Eskor Toyo wrote copiously on economics and society in learned journals, books and other periodicals. He presented papers in large number of conferences in many countries and delivered many distinguished lectures. He was Vice President of the Nigerian Economic Society (NES), consultant on economic issues to the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Government of Ghana. He was for nearly two decades, a National Trustee of the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU).
Those who know him say he was an accomplished Marxist intellectual, perhaps the best that this country has produced, and one of the best the world has produced since World War II. He became a leading theoretician and partisan of the working class in Nigeria long before he read for higher academic degrees and became a University teacher.
With a long experience as a teacher and administrator in post primary schools, rising to a school principal and with groundings in History, Sociology, Political Science, the Natural Science, Mathematics and Logic, and with practical involvement in proletarian politics spanning about 50 years, the late Professor came forth as a very valued teacher, even when engaged in polemics against an opponent.
He was in Marxist politics when Zik was in bourgeois politics; he was first class polemicist, merciless and total. He dealt with any opponent as if asking him or her to shut up forever. He was rigorous, but lucid, prolific, but uniformly deep and serious. He was a captivating speaker, an orator, a few of his contemporaries attest.
The range, quantity and quality of late Toyo’s academic and political works are, indeed, prodigious. He had authored enough books, papers, monograph, articles and speeches to occupy a research institute.
An interested reader can refer to three of his books; The Working Class and the Nigeria Crisis (1967), The Working Class and the Third Republic (1686)’ and Crisis and Democracy in Nigeria (Comment on the Transition from the Babangida Regime) (1994), as well as his articles and essays in the Mass Line (1973-1977) and (1987-1990). The first of these books was a critique of proletarian politics in Nigeria between 1960 and 1965 and, in particular, the 1964 General Strike-together with the events preceding and following it.
According to Dr. Edwin Madunagu, the Late revolutionist could be assessed in his private life to be strict, but humane, humorous and generous within the limits of his austere circumstances. In revolutionary politics, he was often overbearing but this was arrived at less from his natural inclination than from the timidity of some of his comrades and colleagues.
He noted that his investigation so far revealed that Late Toyo was actively involved in frontline positions in the working class movement that was in the Trade Union Movement and Socialist Politics since the formation of the Nigerian National Federation of Labour Party (NNFL) in 1948.
He was a leading member of the Nigeria Youth Congress (Congress) (1960), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Socialist Workers’ and Farmers’ Party-SWAFP (1963), Nigeria Labour Party (1964), Nigeria Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation-NAASO (1967), Movement for People’s Democracy (1974), the people’s Redemption Party (1976), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Nigerian Socialist Alliance (1989) and the Labour Party (1989). He was an editor of the Marxist Journal, Mass Line during the first appearance (1970-1977) and the editor during the second appearance (1987-1980).
Dr. Madunagu said Eskor had nice words for several of his predecessors and contemporaries; he singled out Michael Imoudu for special praise. “If he had any hero at all, I suspect it would be Imoudu. In a private discussion with him, he said that the Nigeria Labour Movement had produced only one exemplary proletarian politician, namely, Imoudu. He singled out Imoudu for his proletarian and mass-line (as against petit-bourgeois and sectarian) approach to working class politics.
To explain the political crisis we had 20 years ago, especially the struggle between the various fractions of the ruling classes, late Toyo, took us back to the concept of primitive capitalist accumulation, which he defined as the “sum total of economic and associated social processes by which a capitalist class emerges and matures in a country.
He insisted that, “Unless one understands the essence, processes, contradictions, historical pressures and cultural emanations of primitive capitalist accumulation in Nigeria, one cannot make headway in understanding her politics.
“It is not enough to be a political scientist, he continued and that it is not enough to recognize that Nigeria has ethnic groups, neo-colonialist and is underdeveloped, or even that she is ruled by a bourgeois class with unspecified character…
“He was convinced that if one does not understand that the military coups and other political convulsions that had shaken Nigeria since independence were crisis of the politics of primitive accumulation in a neo-colonial and multi-ethnic national setting, his or her analyses and advice either to the government or to the opposition would be useless.”
Dr. Madunagu, stressed that if once, one grasps the Late Economist’s thesis on the link between primitive capitalist accumulation and the present political crisis at that time, one would be able to understand why he never regarded the national question or ethnicity as an independent phenomenon, but rather insists on the building of a revolutionary workers’ party-whether the state approved of it or not-and entering the political struggle with it. He said, “This proposition is clear, bold and logical. That was the mark of an intellectual who was also a practitioner.”
He died at about 7.30 PM on Monday at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, where he was taken to the mortuary by some members of his family and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) leadership in Calabar.
Prof. Toyo suffered from series of strokes for at least two to three years before he finally died at the age of 85.
Dr. Madunagu, a comrade, longtime friend and a colleague of the late Prof. Toyo and his wife Prof. Bene Madunagu, who saw him in his last moment described him to be the last of his own generation as a revolutionist socialist and a profound intellectual.
He said his fight for the oppressed lead to his untimely death because he was always speaking for the masses.
In his grief, he said, “Prof. Eskor Toyo, belonged to a biological family but his primary family was the working people of Nigeria and the masses. During the cause of his struggle for the oppressed, he suffered a series of strokes that lead to his untimely death.
“Everybody who dies will be living his family but beyond his family and his constituencies is the Socialist National Movement, a constituent that has lost a giant.”
He also said that the late Prof. Toyo was a patriot who regarded the Liberation of the masses as his primary objective in life.
Describing him as a great loss to the nation, Dr. Madunagu said, “Toyo was a very selfless, committed and courageous fighter for the masses and oppressed. He was a Marxist intellectual of world order.” He was a leading member of Socialist Patriots of Nigeria (SPN).
Toyo was a simple, but highly principled character, who never bothered about material things or wealth accumulation. Sometimes he would move about in ordinary bathroom sleepers, trekking.
He is a big loss to Nigeria and the Marxist world.
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