Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Newspaper of the DSM
For the umpteenth time in the recent years, the city of Warri, a major oil producing area of Niger Delta, is on fire. This time around, the conflict is between the Ijaws and the Itsekiris. As at the time of writing, over a hundred persons have been killed with thousands displaced, while billions of naira worth of properties have been burnt, looted and destroyed by the reportedly sophisticatedly armed combatants. As is usual with every such serious inter/intra-ethnic cum religious conflict, the Obasanjo government had drafted in soldiers to separate the combatants and maintain peace in the city. After the initial killings and brutality by the government soldiers, peace has temporarily returned to Warri. If it should be stressed, this will be about the tenth time in the past four years alone when soldiers/mobile policemen had to be drafted to keep peace in Warri, leaving aside similar operations in several other flash-points of inter/intra ethnic/religious conflicts such as Jos in Plateau State, Odi in Bayelsa State, Kaduna in Kaduna State, Kano in Kano State, Shagamu in Ogun State, Ketu and Ajegunle in Lagos State, Ife-Modakeke in Osun State, Aguleri/Amuleri in Anambra State, etc.
More than at any other period in Nigeria's history, save the period between 1967 and January, 1970, (the years of civil war), the past four years had witnessed unprecedented escalation of nationality and religious conflicts. Thousands have been killed in many parts of the country by nationalist and or religious combatants and members of armed forces usually drafted by the government to restore "peace" to the affected cities and towns. Tens of thousands have been permanently dislocated from their places of abode and work. In all these invariably armed conflicts, hundreds of billions naira worth of properties have been destroyed.
In a recent data released by the NNPC/Federal Government, about 3.5 billion dollar is annually being lost to acts of deliberate sabotage and vandalisation by suspected nationalist groups, particularly those of the Niger Delta region. There has also being a geometric rise in hostage being taken by radical youths, as a means of extracting, presently, material gains from the stinkingly rich but insensitive oil corporations, operating in this stupendously oil rich but impoverished region. As noted above, the nationality conflicts have not in any sense been confined to the Niger Delta region alone. There has been corresponding geometric rise in the growth and agitations over one form of nationality/religious issue or the other in virtually all parts of the country, especially in the past four years. The phenomenonal rise and influence of nationalist groups such as the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) in the Yoruba dominated south west, the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in the Igbo dominated south east, the Arewa Peoples Congress (APC) in the core north dominated by Hausa-Fulani, etc, are eloquent testimonies to the growing tidal waves of nationalism currently ravaging Nigeria.
In the previous chapter, we had argued that one of the major factors presently militating against a military coup against the president Obasanjo's led-civil rule, despite its absolute failure to deliver better economic and political dividends to the overwhelming majority of the working masses, is the fear of provoking an escalation of the nationality/separatist conflicts by such a military intervention. Dialectically, in future, this very reason of not wanting an escalation of nationality and separatist conflicts could be the precise reason that would be used to justify the return to full blown military rule.
Increase in ethno-religious crisis can provide an immediate excuse for military intervention. To consolidate its hold on power, such a military government could, aside from the characteristic threats of "dealing ruthlessly with anyone fomenting or seeking to foment troubles", promise to undertake a holistic resolution of the issues beneath the perennial nationality/religious conflicts. Even, some kind of Sovereign National Conference may be promised or permitted. Suffice to note, such a military regime may not be short of friends amongst those sections of the capitalist ruling class not directly involved and materially benefiting from this administration and even some that presently support civil rule, in the vain hope that an unrestrained dictatorial force may be able to preserve the prevailing basis of their wealth and prestige. Even, radical individuals and sections of the left totally frustrated with the antics and counter-productive economic and political policies of the current capitalist civilian rulers but lacking a coherent economic and political alternatives of their own may give temporary, even, if tacit, support, to such military take over.
However, whatever degree of success achieved initially in consolidating itself in power and by extension in the preservation of the widely hated status quo, in the spheres of nationality/religious issues, such a military government will sooner than later prove incapable and ineffectual to satisfactorily resolve these conflicts, for two main related reasons. One, the nature, complexity and scope of these issues go beyond what can be resolved by military fiats/bayonets. Two, the inherent nature and weaknesses of the military as an institution is such that can only ultimately escalate these conflicts rather than stopping them.
To start with, the nationality crisis presently ravaging Nigeria has its origin in its creation by a British Imperial Act of 1913, which took effect from 1st of January, 1914. The diverse nationalities and religious groups, that make up the geographical entity presently called Nigeria and which hitherto had never been under common political and religious authority and which in fact had always been separately governed by the British colonial masters in London through its local representatives, were merged together as one geographical, administrative and political entity. Two immediate motives were behind this arbitrary amalgamation. One, there was the need by the British colonialists to bring under one political administration its colonies and protectorate in the south and that of its northern protectorate which it was then running at a financial loss. The idea was to use the surpluses being generated from its administration of its Lagos and Calabar colonies together with that of the rest of the southern protectorate to subsidise the administration of its vast northern territory. Two, there was also the need to effectively checkmate the incursions of the rival French imperialism which hitherto seemed to have paid greater attention to colonisation of vast areas of West Africa.
Expectedly, no nationality, tribe or religious group either in the whole of the south or the north was formally and or properly consulted before the Imperial Act which promulgated Nigeria as one administrative and political entity was passed. In effect, the diverse peoples and nationalities that make up Nigeria not only had no say in Nigeria's creation, they equally had no say on what terms the different nationalities and religious groups within the newly created country should relate and be governed or administered. However, in order to deal with the inherent, natural nationality/religious conflicts which this forcible merger has occasioned or accentuated, the various governments, right from colonial times, up till the present times, have been forced to introduce one palliative measure or the other.
Before independence, there were agitations by what are generally called the minorities, for one form of self-determination/administrative autonomy or the other within the frame work of Nigeria. There were three major demands for the creation of the Middle Belt Region, Mid-West Region and Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers State. There was the cacaphonic demand by the Yoruba elements in present day Kwara and Kogi states for a merger with their kits and kins in the Western Region instead of remaining as an inconsequential minority in the Northern Region. So loud were these demands that the British Colonial Authority was forced to set up a Commission of Inquiry, popularly known as The Willink Commission, in September, 1957, to look at the basis of the fears and demands of the minority national groups and make recommendations on how to allay these fears.
THE WILLINK COMMISSION
The Willink Commission was therefore the first major official opportunity presented to the Nigerian nationalities to frankly discuss whether Nigeria should be and if so, what should be the mode of existence and relationship between its diverse nationality and religious groups. Sadly, this opportunity was totally wasted. Prodded and actively aided by British imperialism, the various capitalist elites of the majority nationalities, of the Hausa-Fulani, the Igbo and the Yoruba who held sway in the governments of the Northern Region, Eastern Region and Western Region respectively, severally and collectively rejected and rebuffed the demands of the minorities for one form of self-determination or the other.
When in 1963, the Tafawa Balewa led Federal Government, under the control of the NPC dominated by the Hausa-Fulani elites and the NCNC dominated by the Igbo elites, decided to create the Mid-West Region, out of the Western Region, this was done not out of any concern or respect for the right of self-determination but rather as a political measure calculated to weaken the AG government (the main opposition party dominated by the Yoruba elite). The Yoruba elite themselves, notwithstanding the AG leadership rhetorics on self-determination, did everything possible to frustrate the creation of the Mid-West Region. Their unprincipled position was that they would only support the creation of Mid-West Region on the condition that similar exercise will be carried out in the North and East respectively. On the surface, this may sound reasonable. In reality however, that particular posture showed beyond any doubt that none of the sections of the elites of the three major nationalities in Nigeria had any progressive or principled position on nationality question.
The elites of the major nationalities had the chance to determine whether Nigeria should be or not, they had the opportunity, at least to determine, how the relationship between the diverse nationalities that make up the country should be, but due to their separate and collective selfishness, they resolved to keep intact this monstrous colonial creation.
The military section of the bourgeois elites had neither ever shown any radical progressive inclination towards the issue of self determination. As a centralist, commandist institution, the military's own motto had always been: to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done. Yes, it is the military that has carved Nigeria into 36 states in place of the four regions which existed uptill January 1966, when they first came to power via military coup. These states, however, were precisely created to undermine/buy off agitations for national self determination and not to meet these demands. Over the years, under military rule, the country more and more had assumed a totalitarian centralist feature, right in the image of the military itself. One, fit-all, political and social measures increasingly became the rule rather than an exception. In a country where access to resources is largely based on political control, which to one degree or the other, itself, is firmly under the control of the elites of the major nationality groups of the Hausa-Fulani, the Igbo and the Yoruba respectively, agitations for one form of nationality/religious determination or the other started to escalate from the late eighties to early nineties, and uptill the present time most especially in the Middle-Belt and Niger Delta regions. However, the often intense ceaseless and ferocious intra and inter elitist struggles and squables for decisive control over the country's wealth and resources between and amongst the elites of these three major nationalities had also added new complexity to the national question.
On June 12, 1993, a presidential election held and was subsequently won by a prominent capitalist politician of Yoruba extraction, Chief MKO Abiola. The then military government headed by General Ibrahim Babangida, a bourgeois leader of the Hausa-Fulani extraction, for inexplicable and unconvincing reasons annulled the entire elections. The agitations for the de-annulment of this election, partly due to ethnic consideration, was most pronounced in the Yoruba dominated south west and so also are the casualities of this agitations, first, under the Babangida regime, and later under the General Sani Abacha military junta. From June 1993 till June 1998, these agitations were not only rebuffed, they were mercilessly suppressed by the military through arbitrary arrests and detentions without trial, sacking from jobs, expulsions and rustication of students and youth activists and assassinations of opposition leaders. Ultimately, Abiola himself, the winner of the election in issue was murdered after four years in military detention. Needless to stress, this process led to the rise of agitation for self determination in Yoruba land and particularly, the rise to political prominence of the OPC.
At the end of the civil war in January, 1970, the then head of the military regime, General Gowon, proclaimed a "no victor no vanquish" policy. But this largely only existed on paper. From then up till now, the Igbo elites had never been fully integrated into the main stream of the political and economic structures of the country. And herein lies the perpetual cry of marginalisation by the Igbo elites. The emergence and growing mass attraction for MASSOB could also be partly traced to this.
Under military rule, the entire country was run like one huge military barrack. Government functionaries were arbitrarily chosen and posted in like manner. While the oil wealth being generated from the Niger Delta region constitutes about 80% of government's total revenue, this region had little or no representation (even by their elites) in all the key political and economic bodies at the state and central levels. More or less, this was true of many parts of the country. Unlike the situation under civil rule where at least, top government posts, parastatals, etc within the states are held by the indigenous elites of a given state, while posts and privileges at the central level were more or less shared between the elites of several nationalities, the military's approach of filling key posts, at state and central levels with non-indigenous elements considerably fuelled the quest for self determination in many parts of the country. Most sections of the masses without access to basic food, housing, health care, education, jobs, etc were being made to believe that things would have been fundamentally different had it been that their political and economic affairs were being run and controlled by elements from their own tribes and nationalities and religious backgrounds.
This situation was not also helped by the fact that most of these non-indigenous political appointees and administrations were usually and largely made up of elements from the Hausa-Fulani elites and or their surrogates within and outside the armed forces and the country as a whole, often with the near absolute non-representation from the so-called minority nationalities.
As the socio-economic conditions of the country worsens, the Hausa-Fulani elites, which owing to its preponderant influence and control within the armed forces and by extension within the military rule, naturally were held responsible for this unwholesome state of affairs. The clamour for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) wherein all major and minor issues, pertaining to Nigeria's existence, were to be discussed and decided upon, became cacophonic, most especially in the southern part of the country. In a way, the decision by strategists of capital to support the military's retreat from power, was partly built on the vain hope that civil rule, inherently based on a broader layers of the elites across the country, will be able to buy off these agitations. But as noted before, the exact opposite is what has happened. Far from quenching these agitations, civil rule seems to have accelerated its burgeoning. When the scope, depth, spread, complexities and ferocity of these agitations and conflicts, in the past four years are critically weighed, even side by side with the civil war years, it will be seeing that Nigeria is experiencing an unprecedented nationality crisis since its creation in 1914.
This development, if it must be stressed, reflects not any inherent weaknesses of a civilian government as compared with a military government, but rather a historic incapacity of capitalist measures to effectively resolve Nigeria's socio-economic crisis. In the face of a growing socio-economic crisis, the current capitalist rulers have continued to employ well worn, failed and futile policies implemented by its predecessors in office. To the powers that be, most of the recent ethno-religious violence and conflicts were usually sponsored either by disgruntled elements from the opposition or outright military apologists seeking to foment perpetual crisis within the country so that their military mentors can have the needed excuse to stage a coup. The truth of the matter however, is that neither the military nor the civilian section of the neo-colonial capitalist class, in present period in Nigeria, against the background of an international capitalist system undergoing a historic economic and social decay masked under the bogey of globalisation, a technical jargon for an unprecedented worldwide imperialist exploitation of the working masses and nature resources, is capable of resolving the national question.
Just like all its predecessors in office, the Obasanjo regime in the past four years, has the perspective that Nigeria is one indivisible entity, albeit an entity whose inherited and widely hated terms and modus operandi are not even negotiable. Despite vociferous and cacophonic agitations for one form of self-determination or the other, particularly in the Niger Delta, Middle Belt, South West and East respectively, the current capitalist governments, across the country, have severally and collectively dismissed the idea and even necessity of a Sovereign National Conference as a form of peaceful and democratic way to resolve the intractable nationality crisis troubling Nigeria since birth. For them, it is business as usual.
This same impervious, opportunistic attitude was displayed on the issue of elections. From the beginning to the end, everything was done by all sections of the ruling capitalist parties (AD, ANPP and PDP) to ensure the preservation of the status quo at all cost. Naturally, the outcome has been more of a farce than elections! Government's legitimacy and credibility have in consequence become badly damaged. There is a growing feeling of frustration that the country's policy and elections can never be really free and fair, i.e. organised on a truly level playing field between incumbent power holders and their opponents outside power to such an extent that power will be conceded to the "outsiders" purely on the basis of actual number of votes cast. Sitting on top of the country's resources and state apparatuses of coercion and repression, it seems that the power that be will always, going by the experience of the 2003 general elections, be able to perpetuate its own rule and or that of its "anointed" in office any day, any time. There is thus a growing sense of de javu about the entire political climate prevailing in the country at this period in time.
The Sharia is another issue that reveals the utter bankruptcy and opportunism of all layers of the capitalist class within the country. It has to be noted that there has been a rapid growth of religion, both Christian and Muslim, in the country in past one decade or so as a result of the worsening socio-economic deprivation of the masses, general insecurity of life and increasing feeling of hopelessness. Those that adopted Sharia as a state religion did so more for political than religious reasons. Unfortunately however, their mostly Christian opponents were guilty of the same crime which the adoption of Sharia as a state religion admittedly has carried to an extreme proportion. Both the Christian and Muslim sections of the capitalist class which incidentally have always dominated the state's economic and political apparatuses and powers, are guilty of the tendency of using religious sentiments and connections to seek to gain political and material advantages over fellow capitalist competitors from any other region or religion.
Unable to provide the basic means of livelihood to the vast majority of the working masses under their jurisdictions and equally desperate to protect and preserve their hold on power from their capitalist competitors, sections of the capitalist class mostly from what is called core north decided to adopt Islam as a state religion contrary to the express provision of section 10 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The adoption of Sharia, the Muslim masses were told, will herald a new era of mass prosperity and crime and corruption-free society. New criminal law which provides a range of punishments for various category of offences were promulgated. Some of the most controversial of these new laws are as follows: hand amputation for stealing; public corporal floggings for consumption of alcohol; stoning to death for adultery; etc.
In an heterogeneous society such as Nigeria, in a society with its current degree of inter ethnic mingling, cohabitation and co-existence, the adoption of Sharia as a state religion from day one was a provocative exercise loaded with potential ethnic-religious conflicts and crisis between the different sections of the Nigerian people. Since its first adoption by Zamfara state in 1999 and up till the period of writing, not less than 3,000 persons have been killed in Sharia or anti-Sharia related violence and conflicts, leaving aside the hundreds of thousands dislocated and the billions worth of naira's properties destroyed.
Apart from members of the working masses who have come under greater political repression and manipulations, there has been nothing done to relieve or mitigate the excruciating poverty ravaging the mass majority of the people of the Sharia states. Elitist, opulent and corrupt living, most characteristic of their counter-parts in the non-Sharia states, have been the order of the day. At the National Assembly, representatives from the Sharia states were, at all critical highpoints of anti-poor policies and politics of self aggrandisement, in complete conspiracy and agreement with their colleague in crimes from the other capitalist but non-Sharia compliant parties and religious. It is a matter of material interest.
On the other hand, the Obasanjo regime, though headed by a Christian president, equally lacks the willingness and capacity to guarantee the basic needs of life for the vast majority of the working people across the country. Thus, by presenting the Sharia phenomenon as a purely religious issue, the regime has been able to cynically capitalise on the consequent division amongst sections of the working masses on this issue to consolidate its own selfish hold on power first and foremost amongst most Christian population and in the country as a whole. The fear of electing a government that will impose Sharia on the entire Nigeria through voting for General Buhari was one of the most effective bogey used by President Obasanjo and PDP to secure the support or acquiescence of virtually all sections of the Christians and non-Muslim populations towards the whole scale riggings and manipulations that characterised his election for second term.
As with other major issues relating to the economy and most especially nationality question, the Sharia issue, particularly as it affects relations between sections of the working masses and their democratic rights has for now been swept under the carpets by the powers that be until another day of mayhem and conflagration!
However, it is the attitude towards the agitation for resource control, mostly from Niger Delta region, that reveals the hopeless and incurably selfish and reactionary character of capitalism, especially the neo-colonial type which exists in Nigeria today. In the main, the elite of the major nationalities of the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba and Igbo were either not enthusiastic or outrightly hostile to the agitation in all ramifications. The reason is not far fetched. None of these three major nationalities is a major oil producer and oil being the fundamental mainstay of the economy at this point in time. Thus, the attitude of the current capitalist elites of these nationalities are therefore nothing but a tragic repetition of the self-centred politics played by all layers of the ruling class across the country in the period before and during the Nigeria Civil War.
The Igbo elites which proclaimed the Biafra Republic did so primarily for oil and on the expectations that the new republic will include all the oil producing areas of Niger Delta. The so-called federal side, organised and led by the elites of the northern and western regions respectively, were equally motivated by the primary consideration of not allowing Biafra to fence it off from the oil wealth which by all estimates was already becoming a major economic earner. Today, the lukewarm attitude or outright hostility towards the agitations for a Sovereign National Conference, resource control, etc, by the elites of Nigeria's three major nationalities, underline their morbid fear of losing their access and domination over the wealth being generated from oil. For this same reason, these elites cannot seriously pursue any democratic or just "restructuring". Thus, denying the right to self-determination to people of the Niger Delta, these elites have willy nilly repudiated the right to self-determination of the people of their own nationalities.
There is therefore nothing democratic or progressive about contemporary pan-Nigerian nationalism. It is nothing but a calculated deception to hide the murderous greed of the elites of Nigerians major nationalities to preserve their self-serving hold on oil wealth.
Unfortunately however, the issue of self-determination, resource control, etc, are usually posed by the nationalist elites of the minority nationalities themselves mostly in self-centred, bourgeois, counter-productive manner. For instance, most agitations for self-determination across the country never pose the issue in such a way that right to self-determination is seen not as a right peculiar/exclusive to their own nation or ethnic group but rather a right that every nationality or religious group should have. There has consequently been very little networking or coordination between the agitations and struggles by the different nationalities across the country, for one form of self-determination or the other. This factor, it should be stressed, largely accounts, so far, for the ability of the "federal forces" to always triumph over or checkmate separatist nationalist agitations and conflicts in the past period.
Two, the demand for resource control is cloaked in bourgeois garments. Instead of the current practice by which oil corporations pay taxes directly to the central government for their oil exploitation and activities, under a regime of "proper" resource control, these taxes will be directly paid to the oil producing states/regions. The issue of which sections or proportions of the masses of the respective oil producing states and communities actually benefit or have real control over the stupendous revenue that will be generated in this kind of process is never posed or discussed. The contemporary manner of posing the question totally assumes the continued existence of the domination and control of the oil sector by imperialist/capitalist corporations.
Given the elitist counter-productive policy and conduct of the current capitalist civilian rulers, on every major and minor nationality cum religious matters and, sadly, the absence of a working class-led party with sufficient vision, vigour and commitment to construct a new socio-economic order wherein the satisfaction of the economic and political needs of all the current victims of capitalism will constitute the primary and central reasons of governance, the nationality/religious crisis and conflicts, more likely than not, will assume a more horrendous character and features in the immediate, medium and long term.
In fact, things may grow so bad that large sections of the capitalist class and their strategists may once again be prepared to tolerate/toy with the idea of bringing in the military to come to "restore order", that is, to bring about a kind of "strong", "no-nonsense", government not hindered by any legal and or constitutional restrains, to accomplish its self-centred, messianic mission to keep the prevailing widely hated entity called Nigeria as one at all cost. For reasons already explained before, this kind of political situation could only produce a temporary or an inconsequential resolution of the intractable nationality/religious questions ravaging Nigeria.
In the medium and long term, the return of the military under the prevailing socio-economic conditions will only heighten the guerillarist/terrorist tendencies presently existing in the country. Most, if not all, of the recent ethno-religious conflicts and violence had been reportedly fought with arms and in several instances with sophisticated arms. There has been a geometric rise in armed robbery and all other forms of violence and crimes. For reasons which we presently explain, this phenomenon largely owe its origin and growth to the previous military milieu. The growth and escalation of armed resistance and violence currently taking place in the Niger Delta, for instance, is largely a by-product of the military brutal armed repression of largely peaceful mass democratic movements led by nationalist elements like Ken Saro Wiwa but whom were subsequently executed by the Abacha military junta. This has helped to harden and convince a growing layers of youth that there is no feasible peaceful basis to fight and defeat their oppressors, i.e. the federal armed forces and oil corporations without themselves being armed. There is a growing consciousness amongst the youth of Niger Delta for instance that the Abacha military government and Shell Oil corporation were able to crush the self-determination struggles of the Ogoni people because Ken Saro Wiwa and other prominent MOSOP leaders, who led those struggles, either failed or were not prepared to fight with arms. What is even more, there is a growing practice by small armed groups to abduct and hold as hostages key oil corporations officials as an effective means of getting very often material concessions for themselves and sometimes for their tribes or communities.
The armed robbery phenomenon equally developed as a major social menace under military rule. Governing society by elements who not only shot their ways to power, against the provisions of the constitution, but elements who rely most often than none on sheer military force and legislative arbitrariness to loot the nation's treasuries and in consequence oppress its citizens. Naturally, certain layers of people, particularly youth who were increasingly being left out and pauperised by the economic and political policies of the military, see nothing wrong with the idea of using arms to rob citizens and companies with a view to live well like the looters in government. Sadly, over the years and decades, this self-destructive phenomenon has continued to remain the major means of livelihood to a growing proportion of the population.
Suffice to note therefore, the return of the military will most likely aggravate the tendency for armed resistance and violence. The idea of a bolder and better organised armed resistance can be expected to grow and be more attractive in the Niger Delta and other nationalist/separatist hot spots. Unfortunately however, this on its own can never bring the masses of the regions and nationalities fighting for self-determination either nearer to political liberation and economic emancipation, the primary idea usually beneath the idea of self-determination in the first instance. As we in the DSM often explained, a working masses movement and party fighting against capitalist exploitation and oppression will from experience find it inevitable to organise some forms of democratically controlled armed resistance/self-defence committees, against certain attacks by quasi-fascist armed gangs like the cult societies and unjustifiable armed attacks and repressions of peaceful associations and assemblies by capitalist state agents and sympathisers. Also, going by its international history and conducts, it is as certain as the day follows the night, that the capitalist class and elements will never peacefully accept their removal from economic and political powers. They will surely resist through acts of economic sabotage and armed resistance any attempt by a working peoples' government to abolish their material and political privileges.
To consolidate its hold on power, to create the necessary economic and political atmosphere needed to effect a positive and substantial improvement in the living conditions of the masses, such a working peoples government will find it inevitable to crush such inevitable capitalist armed resistance and other counter-revolutionary ploys. For genuine socialists, therefore, the issue is not whether armed struggle is necessary or not. Rather, the main issue is whether the strategy of juxtaposing armed struggle to mass struggle is capable of putting the masses on the road to a permanent victorious victory over capitalist-induced mass misery and political oppression.
By nature, guerilla movements and all sort of para-military forces, just like the military, are inherently messianic, autocratic and undemocratic. Therefore, regardless of whatever justifications and rhetoric claimed by guerilla organisations/movements, their overall policies and conducts at the end of the day is bound to be arbitrary and dictatorial. After all, were they not the all knowing and courageous few that emancipated the entire masses from the clutches of military and civilian capitalist dictatorship?
Most of the time, in reality however, guerilla movements and their activities had always plunged the working masses into greater crisis. Very often and much more easily, the capitalist ruling class always capitalised on the negative characters of acts of individual terrorism such as pipeline vandalisation, kidnapping, assassinations, bombings, etc, to discredit and sidestep the fundamental issues behind nationalist/separatist agitations. Presently, the Obasanjo's government is once again preparing ground to step up the military repression of the agitations for better deals from oil wealth and or self-determination in the Niger Delta region. This, the government does by dramatising the scale of financial loses arising from alleged acts of sabotage, by Niger Delta political activists.
Recently, government and Shell Oil corporations said that the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the Warri refinery could not be successfully conducted owing to the alleged criminal sabotage of the Niger Delta militants. This same phenomenon was said to have been responsible for government inability, for the past ten months or so, to pump crude oil through underground pipes, to the Kaduna refinery in the northern part of the country. Thus tactically, the regime seeks to explain its failure to be able to guarantee fuel at affordable and more or less at uniform rates, across the country, as something arising from the "criminal" activities of armed guerillarist groups.
Not only this, the regime and oil cartels use this kind of argument to whip sentiments amongst the masses of the non-oil producing nationalities and communities against the struggles for self-determination in the Niger Delta. This they do by creating the false impression that the perennial fuel scarcity and high prices in many parts of the country is primarily being caused by the "selfish" Niger Delta activists. On the other hand, the kind of mass movements led by Ken Saro-Wiwa and others for fairer oil deals and self-determination, for the Ogoni people, have done more to put the issue of the economic, political and environmental disasters ravaging the entire Niger Delta in the sympathetic consciousness of the world working masses, than the endless series of heroic armed activities and sabotage by neo-guerillarist and paramilitary forces. The point however should always be stressed that the Niger Delta movement/struggle for self-determination and social justice for instance, will be relatively easier to win through a strategy which cultivates the active support and solidarity of the working masses of the other nationalities, rather than one which drives these masses into the false embrace of the capitalist elements seeking to keep Nigeria as one entity at the expense of the masses of all nationalities.
A rise in guerrilla activities will always provide the needed excuses for the capitalist government to devote a huge portion of its resources at the expense of pressing social needs, to the "struggle" against the "menace" of guerillaism and terrorism. Guerillaism also has the tendency to lower the consciousness of the working masses on the indispensability of their own conscious effort in the struggle for their own economic and political liberation. It creates the false impression in the minds of the working masses that there are out there a group of messiahs, do-good elements that will help to fight for economic and political emancipation. Thus, as explained above, guerillaism represents a dead end for the working masses not only because of the very often counter-productive effects which its campaigns induced on the part of the capitalist ruling class against the economic and democratic rights of the masses but even, also, in the unlikely event that a guerilla campaign brings to power a guerilla movement.
Socialists must continue to stress however that these nightmare and horrible perspectives are inevitable under capitalism, as its crisis internationally and nationally deepens. We should continue to demonstrate how only the working masses themselves can fight and achieve permanent victory over its own economic, political, nationality/religious exploitation and oppression. We should never be shy to urge the masses to take over the overall economic and political control and management of the entire country's resources if the kind of socio-human tragedies and disasters that have been the lots of countries like Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone, etc, is to be avoided in Nigeria in the not too distant future.
Appendix: General Strike Against Fuel Price Rises The Lesson For The Working Masses