Ramblings On The Problems Of Nigerian Left

Ahead of today’s Trade Union Congress (TUC), Political Round Table 2022, I am tempted to put my fingers on the keyboard, allow the spirit take control.
But mental block occurred. No juice to stimulate production but my mind went into reverse and keep going back to 2006.

In 2006, I wrote an article titled Problems of the Nigerian Left. It was published at the back page of Daily Sun of February 14, 2006.
Some of the events that led to the outburst are now history but the core of the problems facing the Nigerian Left have grown like Frankenstein and like a cancerous tumor, they are still with the Nigerian Left.  I am further tempted to do a review of this article and infuse things that have happened since 15 years ago to the Left.

About a week ago, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), held its Workers Political Conference and ideas on how to get the workers to be part of 2023 general election, dominated the conference.

Prof. Yusufu Zoaka 

According to Professor Yusufu Zoaka, the FCT Chairman, The Peoples Alternative Political-Movement (TPAP-M), workers should not only unionize, they should join political parties as the Supreme Court had ruled that civil servants can participate in political party activities.
The keynote address, was delivered by Prof. Attahiru Jega, a renowned Leftist.

But the nagging question remains, is NLC a leftist organization or a mere amalgamation of unions whose role is just to advocate, agitate and collectively bargain for the interest of their members and not to torpedo the status quo and birth a new socio-political order?

The demobilization of the proposed January 27th nationwide rally by NLC, a rally being organized by NLC and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), showed the underbelly of CSOs. Can CSOs mobilize 1000 Nigerians to a protest without NLC/TUC calling in workers to join the rally?

Com. Mohammed Salisu, Labour Party Caretaker Committee Chairman, addressing the press in 2015.

How Left are CSOs in Nigeria? Are CSOs euphemism for NGO that are sponsored by Western donors that have historical intolerance for anything Left?

Is there still Left political parties left in Nigeria? Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), lays claim to this but a little lifting of their veil, reveals a lot but again, must a political party be puritan with 200% Left ideology?

As TUC picks up the mantle from where NLC left 8 days ago, the question will still resonate; which Left political platform will Nigerian workers use to engage 2023? Can any new political party be registered by Labour Movement and CSOs or will they collapse into Labour Party, a party founded, funded and later abandoned by NLC?

Will today’s Political Round Table by TUC, sprinkle life into Labour Party and revive her as a viable platform for the workers towards capturing power in 2023?
These rambling thoughts are eating me up but the spirit keeps dragging me to 2006.

I now leave you with unedited reproduced Problems of the Nigerian Left, published in 2006.

of getting medical attention cheaply, quickly and promptly”.
Hamas understood this and groomed men, who touched the souls of the peasants and today, there is a landslide victory. But the west are not happy. Threat of reduction of aid worth four hundred million Dollars (400,000000) rent the air.
The Nigerian Left can aptly be described using Dan Agbese (“Maggots in the Apple”, Newswatch, April 6 1987) as those who “Chip at the granite of the status quo. By either force of reasoning or action of rebellion. They attempt to change a system and substitute perhaps, a better one or they seek to purify the society and its system for the greater good of man…Men and women who dared and dare to challenge society. They spread out society’s dirty whatever in public, daring everyone to ignore, the suppuration. They stirred and stir up society, standing constantly on the Hyde Park coner of societal conscience, calling, cursing raving”
Using the above definition, one wonders where are the Radicals in contemporary Nigeria? If not for Chief Gani Fawehinmi the indefatigable Professor Wole Soyinka and a sprinkle few, one is tempted to say requiem for the Nigeria Left/Radicals.
Did the crisis of identify start with the deportation of Patrick Francis Wilmot in March 1988? Or the deliberate clamping down on the Left by IBB, which father Hassan Kukah attributed to ” Myownisation of Power” through co-option, those considered to be in the opposition were brought into the power sanctuary by means of enticing appointments, contract awards one of the main planks on which personalized power stades is the broken branch of those perceived as opposition”
What used to be Nigerian Left, has submerged into the tidal wave of NGO. The most radical or the left of the right is the pro-democracy groups. In order not to be branded leftist and lose Western Aid/donor, they bury themselves in the challenge of any and every perceived “Rape” of the constitution. This fire brigade cum Ostrich attitude, is not what Nigeria needs.
The left in these NGOs should stand up be courted. A new platform should be restructed to provide alternative to OBJs idea of democracy. Agreed its no longer political correct to claim to be a leftist, but there has to be a political colourtation to this monotonous and boring emerging one party state in Nigeria.
It is this fear of branding that made our founding Fathers to lose the chance to place Nigeria head and tail above others.
At the dawn of independence, people expected the nationalist to continue the radical approach but in the quest of not being branded leftist or as it was then, communist, our nationalist, speedily alienated themselves from the masses on whose wings they rode to stardom. According to Claude Ake ” When political independence came the interests of the nationalist leaders who inherited power changed somewhat, and their ideas and disposition to power changed correspondingly”. These nationalist leaders had to consolidate power/authority.
Therefore, demobilization of the masses, the re-orientation of the opposition politics was the policy of the day.
This was further seen in the alarming speed at which these leaders swam to Ikoyi and victorial Island to take over the houses of their erstwhile “Slave masters”. Thereby promoting neo-colonialism. Like the pigs in Orwell’s animal farm taking up residence in Mr. Jones and alienated themselves from the suffering and daily needs of the animals our leaders insulated themselves from the cries of the masses. One would have thought, the Left in Nigeria has learnt a lesson. But the Scenario is replaying itself.
At the heat of June 12 struggle, our radical leaders, even the journalist were daringly investigative, stood shoulder to shoulder at the barricade with us. Together the masses gave up all, believing in the struggle. But when our 2nd independence came, our leaders readily embraced may 29th and any restive indication that all is not well, was met with “don’t scattle our nascent democracy” some rode on the popularity of the struggle to juicy posts and fat bank accounts, abandoning the foot soldiers. In the slums of Okokomiko, Sabo ngari, waterside and other swampy Zones of the Niger Delta.
They failed to teach the masses that there are stages in the process of liberation. Liberation from military rule, is not democracy. There is need for the masses to be suspicious and guard our liberation to prevent civilian dictatorship, the masses should have been educated to be watchdogs of democratic institutions and the democratic process. But the euphoria of release of ” Political Prisoner” blinded us to these needful tutorials in sustaining democracy.
Today we have seen how nascent our democracy is. From the constitutional “Rape” in Bayelsa to the judicial affront in Oyo the pro-democracy groups are reaping what they planted -Abandoning their power base.
Until the pro-democracy understands like Hamas did, that opposition to government, is not an opportunity for appointment, or popularity contest to contest election, Nigeria will remain in the hands of a few cabals. Until opposition is institutionalized, the left is wasting time. The “popular rally” against the impeachment charade in Oyo, is an eye opener that the masses are not impressed with the radicals. The cold silence given to them by the media shows that the radicals are sitting on a house of clay. It is close to a year since the much-talked PRONACO, yet nothing to show for it. The Nigerian left is now reactionary. This is why MDD and MRD are the darling of the press.
Going to the barricade, is the last option, when the masses have been “educated” and activated. Morealso, the masses doesn’t understand why we should go to the trenches against a “democratic” government. We expected this after numerous fuel rally. NLC would have cashed in on this and the emotions overflowing after the death of Chima Ubani but again, they allowed a Golden Fleece to fizzle out of their hand.
In other to check this abysmal decline of the left, the left should stand up to be counted. The structures should be revived to give alternative, well reasoned reaction to national issues. They should set the agenda for discussion, election issues, they should add colour to and bring back the robust political climate of Nigeria.
Che Oyinatumba
A legal practitioner writes from Owerri.


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