Working-class people and youth have never had it this bad, for generations. According to The Economist at the time President Buhari was sworn-in for his second term, in May, “Nigerians got poorer in Muhammadu Buhari’s term”, with average incomes falling throughout that period for the poor masses. And from all indications over the last four months, things are only going from terrible to the worst of terrible for workers, peasants, poor artisans and traders.
Indeed, Buhari himself had told us that hard times are coming, as if things have been rosy in anyway, in the first place. But the hard times are only for you and me, poor working-class people and youth. Nigeria still has one of the highest economic growth rates in the world according to a report released by the World Bank in July.
But this immense growth rate of 7.4% has benefitted only the rich and super rich, who keep getting richer. “Nigeria’s richest elites now enjoy world-class status”, with the five wealthiest Nigerians currently holding a combined fortune worth $29.9, according to a report released by Oxfam in July.
The terrible situation of penury that is the lot of most of us, is worsened by ever increasing insecurity. Kidnapping, daylight robbery, maiming and murder – including “ritual” killing, have now become everyday events. To travel by road to visit loved ones in the village is now a big problem, that you have to think twice before embarking on, as nobody is sure of arriving at her or his destination with desperate bandits on the virtually every major highway.
This condemnable situation that we have been condemned to is enough to enrage any right-thinking worker, poor farmer, poor trader/artisan or student. But it is not enough for us to rage. This must be tied to struggle to emancipate ourselves, through revolutionary change of the social-economic and political system.
There is no section of the ruling class that can be relied upon to help make our lives better, not to talk of liberating us from poverty, insecurity and what generally speaking amounts to hell on earth for the poor masses.
After the 2012 January Uprising by working-class people and youth, which was ignited by the anti-poor policy of fuel pump price increase the All Progressives Congress was formed. Riding on the back of our mass anger against the PDP section of the ruling class, APC claimed that its coming to power would herald “change” which would make our lives better. But now we know better.
We know that APC and PDP are just two sides of the same coin of a ruinous anti-poor people ruling class of thieves and oppressors. We now know that all the posturing of General Muhammadu Buhari as an anti-corruption campaigner were just empty words.
Last year, The Punch drew public attention to the fact that just eight of the persons working earnestly for the re-election of President Buhari had corruption cases running into N232bn of money that could have been used to provide quality health care and education for the poor masses hanging on their necks. And when the president would constitute his cabinet after almost two months of being elected, it was filled with people correctly described by Tanko Yakassai as being “fantastically corrupt”.
All these point to the need for us to seize our fate in our hands as poor working-class people and youth. We must mobilise, organise, unite and fight for the revolutionary change we need to win our self-emancipation and build a better society. It is this important perspective that led to the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) launching a nationwide #RevolutionNow! campaign on 5 August, with a #DayOfRage.
CORE, and the struggle for Revolution Now!
In 23 cities across the country, as well as in Berlin, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, New York and Toronto, young working-class people heeded the call of the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) to join the movement for #RevolutionNow and rage against the anti-people regime led by President Muhammadu Buhari.
They were met with the draconian might of the tyrannical state in all venues across the country. Combined unites of the army, air force, anti-riot police, special anti-robbery squad, department of state services (DSS) and even the paramilitary NSDC dispersed swooped in on the protesters, dispersing them and arresting over 50 persons.
Yet, against all odds, the #RevolutionNow activists demonstrated in 14 of the cities, away from the earlier scheduled venues. These include; Lagos, Abeokuta, Osogbo, Ibadan, Calabar, Ondo/Ore, Benin, Abuja, Makurdi, Akwa-Ibom.
Mobilisation for the #DayOfRage caught the revolutionary imagination of the nation. The idea of revolution was put squarely onto the front burner of national discourse. With the word “revolution” trending as the most searched word in Nigeria on that day – with 5 million hits!
Putting forward the 5-CORE demands of the #RevolutionNow campaign in an SWL leaflet widely circulated across the country days before 5 August, we said:
“The road ahead requires our commitment and clarity. We must be united, and our aims made clear.
As we embark on this first day of rage, the demands of the movement are:
- An economy that works for the masses. No to an economy which throws 90 million people into poverty, while just five people own N11 trillion!
- An effective and democratic end to insecurity. Poverty, discrimination, repression by government and manipulation of ethnic differences by the rich elite are the roots of perpetual insecurity – we must end all these!
- An end to systemic corruption and for total system change. The bosses’ system is inherently corrupt. We must overthrow them and build a new society based on solidarity and democracy from below!
- The immediate implementation of the N30,000.00 minimum wage. Workers deserve living wages. All salary arrears must be immediately paid. Politicians must be placed on civil service salary scale. Even the N30,000 is not adequate, negotiations for upward review by 2021 must start now!
- Free and qualitative education for all. Education is a right and not a privilege. Massive investments must be made to develop public schools’ infrastructure. Curriculum must be reviewed to promote critical thinking. Independent student unionism must be respected!”
These demands express the central yearnings and aspirations of the poor masses and youth across the length and breadth of the country. CORE activists have thus been unyielding, even in the face of massive repression by the oppressive regime. We have been inspired, including by people like Mama Sariyu Akanmu, the 70-year-old woman manhandled by security agents for being part of the RevolutionNow protest in Osobgo.
While most of the activists arrested during the #DayOfRage have been released, Sowore Omoyele, National Chair of the African Action Congress and a leader of the CORE, as well as Olawale “Mandate” Adebayo and Agba Jalingo remain in detention.
CORE and several other bodies including the trade unions and civil society organisations demand their release. We also know that freedom cometh by struggle. CORE has thus continued organising and mobilising, raising the consciousness of working-class people on the need for revolutionary struggle to win what we demand, which is a better life, that we will make ourselves by putting us, we the people at the centre, and as the subject of social development.
Towards this, the #RevolutionNow campaign continues with 18 September and 1 October as nationwide days of protest. CORE does not see itself as a liberator of the poor masses. It is the working-class people that can and will liberate itself. We are part of the working masses, and merely serve as the spark for our collective conflagration which will burn down the house of capitalist oppression which the exploitative bosses built with our sweat and blood and lord over us, in.
The road ahead is rough. How long it takes cannot be decided in the comfort of our rooms or deciphered from tons of programmes in books. It is only through ceaseless, creative and dogged struggle that we will win. We must dare to struggle, to dare to win. We will march onward forward and will not stop until we can truly say that power belongs to, we, the poor working masses.
TIB/AAC and CORE; from radical reformism to revolutionary democracy
Coalition for Revolution (CORE) began as a coalition of the Alliance for Masses Political Alternative (AMPA) and the Take It Back movement (TIB), in the aftermath of the emergence of African Action Congress (AAC) as an INEC-registered political party. AMPA was an alliance of some socialist and radical organisations, while TIB had established AAC.
The revolutionary potentials of AAC – with the inspiring trail towards an electoral campaign which Omoyele Sowore, its National Chair and presidential candidate had blazed from the beginning of 2018 – was clear for any activist with a sense of foresight over astonishment. But, “revolutionary parties are not simply decreed into being.”
And the formation of AAC had involved the involvement of some chaff with the wheat, as the antics of the likes of Leonard Nzewa would later confirm. Thus, it was exceedingly essential that revolutionary socialists maintained organisational independence as AMPA. Only thus, could revolutionaries sharply deepen the mass reformist radicalisation taking place within the ranks of TIB and AAC, at that point in time, as Socialist Worker pointed out in our editorial, at the beginning of the year.
A thorough understanding of the growth and development of the radical reformism of TIB and AAC as a concrete political phenomenon requires our grasping the global political context.
The Great Recession of 2007-2009 saw to the loss of legitimacy of the world order established since the last quarter of the last century. Neoliberalism, which is essentially the bare bones of capitalism without cosmetics or the flesh of a welfare system, had become the conventional wisdom for which government after government from Thatcher to Babangida and Obasanjo after him, declared; “there is no alternative”.
But the generalised crisis of capitalism which has not abated over the last decade revealed the vulnerability of the bosses’ system and reinvigorating confidence in mass struggle, bursting out on the streets. Radical reawakening, revolts and revolutions seized countries as diverse as Greece, Spain, Chile, Egypt, France and even the United States. These spontaneous movements eventually congealed into political parties such as Podemos in Spain or behind hitherto marginal radical parties such as Syriza in Greece. But as these parties grew into mainstream relevance, they subordinated the direct mass action of working-class people and youth to the aim of winning elections as their bases for pursuing radical social programs.
But on getting to power, as we saw most clearly with Syriza in Greece, these radical reformist parties were sucked into the rubric of the capitalist logic, becoming some of the most loyal implementors of anti-poor people policies at the dictates of international capital, expressed institutionally as international financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank.
Nigeria also had its own moment of the spontaneous anti-systemic movement on the streets. This was the 2012 January Uprising. However, radical and revolutionary forces could not amass the strength of organisation and inspiration of a critical mass to establish a political alternative in truth and deed (i.e. one beyond the platitudes of resolutions we read to ourselves in conferences, workshops and meetings of handfuls of persons). Lofty and not so lofty ideas of system change then boiled down to, little more than political masturbation.
The TIB project and the AAC which it gave birth to, expressed the emergence of a radical reformist agenda, as it burst onto the scene of “serious politics” i.e. politics beyond those which spoke to a few hundreds of people (and that is being generous) to one which could eventually garner the interest of 5 million people searching for the meaning of revolution.
This last aspect of 5 August which was spurred by the #RevolutionNow campaign however shows the radical reformist spirit which inhered in the amalgam of TIB/AAC reaching further than merely an electoralist agenda of radicalism. It marks a sharp radicalisation, one which locates where and how we, as the poor masses can bring about systemic change i.e. a democracy from below, from the grassroots. This in essence redefines the popular agenda which started as a radical reformist contest for the presidency to one of a movement for revolutionary democracy, with the 5-CORE demands as its immediate program.
In lieu of a conclusion
We as human beings make history. But we do not choose the context in which we make history, we rather inherit this from the history before our time. While the future is not cast in stone, for good or for bad, but is rather shaped by what we do or don’t do (particularly in the struggle to move society forward), it is important as well to note that steps we take and how we take these are influenced in different countries by both the global context and the historically established realities of our society.
This is an important element of radical thinking that many of those who criticise the actions of 5 August, with the launching of #RevolutionNow fail to take into cognisance. The #DayOfRage has been described as being ill-planned, adventurous and utopian in imagining that one day of action or just a series of days of rage will result in the triumph of revolution.
First and foremost, it has to be pointed out that a lot of the criticism does not only lose sight of basics of revolutionary thinking, but as well come up with baseless assumptions of the mindset of #RevolutionNow activists.
To think CORE assumed that 6 August would dawn with revolutionary forces in power was either being dumb or being plain mischievous. One thing though is clear, as Che Guevara teaches us: “The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall”. And making it fall, is a process and not an event. A revolutionary activist does not need to be a genius to understand this basic fact.
The argument that the mass action was not well planned or just came out of the blues is also a misplacement of what the problem is. It is a fact that it could have been better planned. But in terms of time, thinking and efforts put into it, it was no less well-planned than earlier turning point actions in the recent radical political history of Nigeria, such as the 5 July 1993 mass demonstration against the annulment of “June 12” and the 1998 “5-million man rally”.
The difference is that, while the left as a whole was still very active, with robust organisational life, and there were radical civil society organisations which gave Campaign for Democracy and United Action for Democracy respectively the support needed, the left today is largely in tatters and such civil society organisations, even where they exist are not what they used to be.
Probably what could be considered a justifiable criticism, on the face of it, is the limited involvement of organised labour. The working-class is central to anti-capitalist revolutionary struggle. And the trade unions are the primary defence organisations of the working-class. We are all witnesses to how the entry of organised labour into the “parliament of the streets” with a general strike generalised the rivers of protests into a torrent of the seas of revolt.
There is thus indeed a great need to forge closer ties with the trade unions and national trade union centres’ leadership. This is without prejudice to the fact that the trade union movement is often conflated with the working-class and in fact the labour movement as a whole. The trade union movement is organised labour i.e. that body of workers that are unionised, particularly in the formal sector. But the conflation does not stop there. The trade union bureaucracy also becomes conflated with the trade union movement.
The trade union bureaucracy serves a mediatory role between labour and capital. It is exceedingly unlikely that it will ever provide leadership for the consummation of revolution. As some labour leaders rightly pointed out when they took organised labour off the theatre of struggle by suspending the general strike on 16 January 2012, they are trade unionists and were not interested in regime change.
Revolutionary left organisations need to work within the rank and file of the working-class as much as, if not more than merely establishing liaison with the trade union bureaucracy. We must build the solidarity and struggle of workers and youth, from below. Our battle cry until victory must be for working-class people and youth to unite and fight towards actualising the triumph of revolution by winning our self-emancipation as the class of those exploited and oppressed day in and day out by the capitalist bosses.