The Nigerian Left And The Future of Politics, By Jibrin Ibrahim
Last weekend, a significant number of Marxists in the country met in Keffi to review the state of the Left since the Marx Centenary conference, which took place in Zaria in 1983. The meeting was organised by the Nigerian Committee for the Advancement of Working Class Solidarity, the Nigerian Political Science Association and the Faculty of Social Sciences, Nasarawa State University, Keffi. The conference’s theme was “Capitalism, Imperialism and Revolutions in the 21st Century” and the venue was Keffi, Nasarawa State.
The key objectives of the conference were to: Rejuvenate the study and practice of Marxism; strengthen the relationship between the academic community and the labour movement; redefine the role of the Left in partisan politics; and revive civic spaces for the promotion of Marxism.
The conference, which was declared open by the vice chancellor of the Nasarawa State University, Professor Suleiman Baba Mohammed, had in attendance Marxist and feminist mentors, mentees, academics, labour activists and students. For a lot of us, it was a feel-good moment bringing back nostalgia of university life in the 1970s to 1990s, when ideological debates and mobilisation was the essence of life and the vision of a future progressive Nigeria was an article of faith that galvanised the actions of comrades.
Over and above the nostalgia, however, was concern about the world we live in, in which facts appear to no longer matter, reality is being denied by extreme right wing fascist regimes emerging from the United States, Poland, Brazil and so on, which are determined to turn the direction of progress backwards, edify racism and fascism, and attack democracy and human rights with a viciousness that has not been seen in decades. For us in Nigeria, we are increasingly being confronted with a restless youth suffering from joblessness and poverty, and whose idea for the future is to seek pathways to looting the national treasury, as they have seen their elders do. A return to progressive ideological commitments could therefore provide content, meaning and justification for the struggle towards a progressive Nigeria.
In his keynote address to the conference, Ibrahim Muazzam of Bayero University, Kano reminded participants that for the past seventy years, the Nigerian Left has been on the frontline of the struggles against exploitation, oppression, racism, patriarchy and for a humane, egalitarian society based on rationality, the love of liberty, economic, social and gender equality. He outlined the struggle of the past decades and made a clarion call for placing the interest of the toiling masses at the centre of the Left’s, and indeed Nigeria’s, future. To make an inroad in that direction, the conference commenced with a pre-conference workshop for students to create foundational learning on Marxism and its struggles. The conference’s plenary sessions and panels examined the relevance of theoretical perspectives on Marxism, experiences of teaching Marxism, the state of the political Left in Nigeria and the prospects for political organising in today’s Nigeria.
The conference observed that rapacious capitalism is increasing becoming extractivist, more exploitative, and violent. The tendency of the global economy has remained one of putting more value on profits, rather than the people. Inequality has never been as pronounced as it is today. Meanwhile, imperialism has continued to ensure control of international economic and governance institutions, with the aim of forcing poor nations to implement decisions made at those levels. Global capital restructuring is massively harming jobs, trade unions, women and the environment.
In its resolutions, the conference reaffirmed its commitment to continue to advocate for Marxism as a relevant ideology for the struggle for change and progress in society. In so doing, students, teachers, progressive political parties, civil society and activists should intensify its use as a tool of analysing and understanding society.
Resistance, even if necessary, is difficult as revolutions and other processes of political change are being stifled by the weakness of the political Left, the corporatist and repressive States, and the preventive role of imperialism. The conference saluted and applauded the continued participation of progressive forces in resisting repression and combating reactionary state policies, in spite of difficult conditions.
On Nigerian politics, the conference noted that citizens are increasing becoming dissatisfied with the failure of successive political regimes in delivering welfare, industrialisation and people-based development. It further frowned at the dominance of the political space by bourgeois politicians who have no agenda for the people and continue to divide citizens along primordial lines, while shaping political processes in a manner that sustains their interests and those of capital. The conference expressed concern that the participation of the political Left in partisan politics has been weak and poorly organised. Although the political Left in Nigeria has continued to play vital patriotic roles within and outside the country, the conference noted that members of the Left have operated in various political platforms without coordination or strategic planning. This has impacted negatively on their capacity to take control of political power in Nigeria and implement a development model that will move the country forward.
In its resolutions, the conference reaffirmed its commitment to continue to advocate for Marxism as a relevant ideology for the struggle for change and progress in society. In so doing, students, teachers, progressive political parties, civil society and activists should intensify its use as a tool of analysing and understanding society. Its adherents should therefore demonstrate its utility in all spaces they find themselves.
The conference also affirmed the commitment of participants to continue to teach Marxism in our universities, as approved by the National Universities Commission, and therefore urged teachers of Marxist courses to improve pedagogical methods in teaching, as well as create safe spaces for the young to work in trust with the teachers; address the training of young would-be mentors in institutions of learning; partner with local publishers to legally reproduce classical literature to address the dearth of reading materials in our institutions of higher learning; sustain the Marxism Conference website and publish an e-newsletter and use these to popularise Marxism while building a community of practice. It was also resolved that Marxism Conference would henceforth be an annual event for members of Nigeria’s political Left. The Conference would forge closer links with the trade unions to improve the learning of Marxism in the trade union movement.
On bourgeois politics, the conference acknowledged that entryism remains a practical means of engaging the state and changing its structure. It therefore urged members of the political Left to build radical Marxist political platforms in order to access political power. An agenda to provide a framework and guidance for entryism would be developed. The meeting urged the political left to support comrades who are running for public offices on credible progressive platforms. In so doing, the political left would commit itself to promoting the ideals and values of an alternative system that seeks to change the present order. The transformation of the state is key and should include the promotion of social justice through nationally generated wealth that benefits the poor. Decent work with indices of productivity commensurate to decent pay are non-negotiable.
Finally, the conference agreed to the establishment of a steering committee to take the decisions forward. The emerging dialectics must be one of creating conditions for a good future for the Left, while ensuring that the Future moves to the Left.
A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of PREMIUM TIMES.