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18 September 2017

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BIAFRA CRISIS: SPN Demands an End to Militarization of South-Eastern states

For Immediate withdrawal of troops from the southeast

No to Ban of IPOB and Attacks on the freedom of association and expression

The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) condemns in unequivocal terms the militarization of south eastern Nigeria and reported attacks on journalists, torture of civilians, killing of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) members and other civilians in Aba, Abia state by President Muhammadu Buhari led APC government. We call for immediate withdrawal of the troops now and appropriate punishments for those ordering and carrying out abuses, torture and killing of unarmed civilians.

In equal measure, we condemn reported attacks on people of Northern extraction residing in Aba, Rivers and Delta States resulting in killing of four and destruction of properties by suspected IPOB members and secessionist agitators in reprisals for the military repression. In the same way we totally oppose all sectarian threats in other parts of the country like the so-called "quit notice" to Igbos to leave the North by October 1.

We also condemn the so-called "banning" of the IPOB as a "terrorist organization" by the military authorities and some civilian governors. This is a completely undemocratic action which harks back to the dark days of military rule.

We urge the labour movement, students' movement, human rights and civil society organizations not to be silent on this very important development; rather they should publicly condemn the repression and demand that the troops be withdrawn immediately.

Against the background of several instances of brutal trampling on rule of law and democratic rights including the repression of Shiites, attempts to limit freedom of speech by labeling public discussion about the polity and certain criticism of the regime as hate speech and monitoring of the social media, this latest onslaught on pro-Biafra agitators indicates a rapid descent of the President Buhari administration towards a militarization of society, tyranny and jackboot authoritarianism. Unless the repression is roundly condemned by the labour movement and civil society, workers organizations, students' movements and community groups fighting for one demand or the other can fall victim to this rampaging regime which brooks no opposition.

As a political party fighting for the emancipation of the working class, youth, farmers and poor masses from capitalist exploitation, the SPN stands for a united Nigeria where the wealth of society and the means of production would be commonly owned and democratically administered so that the country's wealth and resources are used to ensure a better life for all people of Nigeria irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or place of birth. Consequently, we do not agree with Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB that fragmentation of Nigeria would fundamentally resolve anything. We also condemn reactionary and dangerous rhetoric of Kanu that tends to promote ethnic hate and present Nigerians of other ethnic extractions as the enemies of Igbo people. However this does not mean that Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB do not have the right to believe in secession and campaign for it. Indeed the right to self-determination is an inalienable right. It is in this sense that the military drill launched by the Nigerian government codenamed "Operation Python Dance 11" is no doubt a deliberate and calculated attempt to intimidate and provoke the secessionist's agitators in order to gain an excuse to drown their aspiration in blood.

We hold that such unwarranted killing and harassment of members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is counterproductive. The Operation Python Dance II recently launched in South east by the federal government in a bid to checkmate the activities of IPOB members which gave rise to all this pandemonium is a gross attack and violation of the democratic rights of civilians in the South east.

If these measures succeed in halting secessionist's agitation, the effect will only be temporary. So far the issues that have given rise to the agitation remain unresolved; it is only a matter of time before more militant and dangerous mutations of IPOB emerge in the not too distant future. Indeed we must warn that if this undemocratic and heavy-handed approach is not halted immediately, it risks causing a degeneration of the crisis.

The repressive tactics frequently adopted over the years by federal government in addressing nationality questions and agitations has not only failed but it has equally fuelled different centrifugal forces like pro-Biafra groups. It should be recalled by Nigerians that it was similar approach to Boko Haram which led to the death of Mohammed Yusuf and many other members, after which the group transformed itself into a violent organisation. Equally, it was the illegal execution by hanging of renowned writer and Ogoni people's leader, Ken Saro Wiwa, and 8 others by the Abacha military junta that paved the way for the emergence of the Niger Delta militant groups who for nearly a decade held the nation to ransom through pipe line bombing and kidnapping of oil workers.

Despite the limitations inherent in Nnamdi Kanu version of Biafra struggle, this is no justification to invade his home town Umuahia and militarize the entire eastern region. Instead of dousing the tension it has ended up snowballing into the loss of lives and properties.

To curtail more loss of lives and properties and to prevent total conflagration of Nigeria through civil war we urge federal government as a matter of urgency to withdraw troops from south east, end the harassment of civilians and stop the killings.

IPOB as an organization has the right to existence including the right to agitate for a country of its own provided it is not engaged in sectarian campaigns against other nationalities. The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) recognizes the right to self-determination up to secession if it is so democratically decided by a people while staunchly advocating the unity of Nigeria under a workers and poor people's government anchored on socialist policies. However, secession on the basis of capitalist unjust system will not resolve the prevailing contradictions, inequality and hopelessness. Only the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by a workers and poor people's government anchored on socialist economic policies that ensures that the wealth of Nigeria benefits everyone regardless of ethnicity or religion and based on a genuine people's constitution that recognizes the right of all people, including minority ethnic groups, to equal economic and political opportunities can resolve the nationality question in Nigeria, or in any new states that may be formed.

In order to forestall the degeneration of the crisis into an ethnic war, we call on the labour movement to mobilize Nigerians into a mass political movement that defends the interest of the vast majority putting forward demands for jobs creation, living wage payment, end to militarization and harassment, protection of democratic rights and general improvement in living standard. This will require the labour movement building a serious movement, including moving to create a mass political party armed with socialist programs to unite the working people of the country around a common programme of struggle and solidarity.

Chinedu Bosah
National Secretary, SPN