Socialist Worker issued a call at the on January 1 for us to make 2017 a year call action. The past two months has seen resistance from below reignited. This new year rising holds hope for more decisive battles of working-class people in the months to come.
Away from the failings of 2016, and amidst seeming confusion in the air, different strata of the exploited and oppressed people reawakened and led a dazzling fight back. By January 9, the memories of the January 2012 Uprising against the Removal of Fuel Subsidy were awokened in the minds of the working people.
NUPENGASSAN organised a warning strike against the brutal consequences of the deregulation of the oil sector, culminating in a devalued currency and the usual habit of the companies to sack workers in droves, making them bear the brunt of the economic crises.
Then the students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) at the initiative of the Socialist Youth League-inspired Alliance of Nigerian Students Against Neo-liberal Attacks (ANSA) organised a mass protest against the Oyo and Osun governments in Ibadan as the Save Lautech Coalition. Governor Abiola Ajimobi was confronted by the students. Out of frustration, he resorted to uncouth abuses and goofs that became so popular in the media. The video of that protest has been popularly tagged “CONSTITUTED AUTHORITY!”
The United Action for Democracy (UAD) and the Youth Against Austerity (YAA) played strategic roles in the students’ action at Ibadan. A week later, the UAD also protested AUSTERITY and HARDSHIP. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, marching form the NLC House Yaba to Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota.
This January 16 protest got a harsh reaction from the mainstream media and strategists of the ruling classes. One Ola.S. Sanmi was their leading spokesperson. Their argument was rebutted by the leadership of the UAD and subsequently by renewed protest from other quarters. The Enough is Enough (EiE) coalition announced a protest for Feb 5 against HARDSHIP, in the wake of the UAD action.
The EiE drafted in Innocent Idibia (2face), a popular hiphop artiste who had recently been leading a socio-political NGO, the 2Face Foundation, as its “Protest Ambassador.” With the trending of the 2face protest and the artiste’s open mobilisations, the ruling class, especially the APC regime caught cold. Sadly, a significant number of the Left, the Labour Movement, and the civil society also caught feverish cold, from sectarian fixations on which social forces have the right, so to speak, to call for popular action.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the Manifesto of the Communist Party pointed out that, revolutionary socialists do not stand apart from the struggle of the working people. Our own historic role is to be the tribune of the oppressed. This vital lesson propelled the Soviet October Revolution in Russia a century ago. History repeated that question, and many on the Left cockily shouted “who is 2face to call a protest?”
But they failed to remind themselves that Father Georgiy Gapon was not an activist, but he gave leadership to the opening moment of the 1905 revolution in Russia. MKO Abiola whom these same socialists supported during the June 12 revolution was no more an activist than 2face Idibia is.
The rejection by many on the Left, especially the leadership of the Joint Action Front (JAF) and key persons in the UAD (at the last minute) helped to strengthen the audacity of the Nigerian Police Force to force the musician 2Face to step down, disown, and “call off” the protest on the blackmail that “criminals” wanted to hijack the protest.
The prevailing ideal in the UAD however smashed these reactionary views in popular debates and the media. This was iced by the resolve of EiE to continue with the protests without 2face. To broaden the protest, the UAD formed a MOVEMENT AGAINST AUSTERITY AND HARDSHIP (MAAH) to lead the left intervention in the Feb 6 protest in Lagos.
Omoyele Sowore, the radical publisher of Sahara Reporters; Charlie Boy, a former president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN); Fatai Ibuowo, Lagos state Chair and Bayo Ogunleye, former National Vice President of the National Conscience Party (NCP); Akin Revolution (ex-Students’ Union President of the Obafemi Awolowo University); Ade Adewunmi a veteran of many struggles, and other activists marched under this banner.
MAAH helped to lead out the EiE members that had convened very early in the National Stadium Surulere against the Police siege, marching from Ojuelegba. The February protests moved to the National Theartre and held a rally where Omoyele Sowore asserted rightly that “only revolution can change Nigeria!”
That same day, hundreds of TASUED students led by ANSA in SAVE TASUED COLAITION took on Governor Ibikunle Amosun and forced him down from the Government House to the MKO Abiola stadium, where he was thoroughly engaged. Concessions on the reversal of the hike in fees was promised with students promising to come back if the promises were unfulfilled. Buoyed by the mood of protest, the NLC and TUC announced a protest for Good Governance and Anti-corruption for Feb 9.
The Feb 9 protests had to change its orientation tackling Anti-poor policies and Corruption. The protesters marched through the popular Ikorodu Road all the way from NLC House, Yaba. Well attended with a much more resolved mass, the column of protesters however got broken into two after the Maryland Congress. Civil society activists stood against marching down to Alausa to get the audience of the state Governor. The civil society rightly argued for moving down to Ojota and held a rally instead.
On The lessons of the New Year Rising, the most vital is for the Left. As socialists, we are never supposed to substitute our ideas for those of the masses. We need to be patient and thorough in understanding the currents of the struggle. There would always be moments of “down turn” in our class war just as it was in 2016 when the Nigerian Ruling class won considerable heights by launching political and economic attacks on the masses as well as fuelling divisions in the structures of the working class like the trade unions and the Left parties.
We must double our subjective efforts at these periods and not “blaming the masses” as some are fond of. Some others also rest on the fake belief that “the masses will rise” every time and in ways conceived in these activists’ heads. failing to learn from Trotsky’ s warnings that oppressions could lead to submissions if not resisted in systematic ways.
The New Year Rising was a debut of the Year-long actions against Austerity and Hardship. It is a mass rain that we must continue to propel. We need class unity to achieve the best out of 2017. We need a revolutionary party rooted in working-class people. But only when we strive to do away with our recurring arrogance, sectarianism, fear of initiatives, and misdirected anger will we be able to learn from history and the current situation. We must stand on the shoulders of giants, but we will be so blind if our eyes are not widely open!
by Kunle Wizeman Ajayi