Five RevolutionNow campaigners arrested at the Dunamis International Gospel Centre by the State Security Services (SSS) on 4 July were released on bail after spending 30 days in unwarranted detention. It still took further agitation for the SSS to comply with this court order.
These young revolutionaries are Ben Manasseh, Anene Udoka, Henry Nwodo, Samuel Larry, and Samuel Gabriel.
Their “crime” was wearing “Buhari Must Go” branded tee-shirts to church. They were kept incommunicado from family and friends. But the Take It Back movement (TIB), which they are members of, and the Coalition for Revolution (CORE), which TIB is affiliated, campaigned for their release.
The matter was equally taken to court, where the Dunamis5 sued the SSS, Maj Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and Pastor Paul Enenche, who heads the Dunamis church for unlawful arrest and detention.
Their lawyer, Temitope Temokun, argued for the defense of their fundamental rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and their; right to freedom of expression and press, freedom from discrimination, and right to personal liberty.
He pointed out these are rights guaranteed by the 199 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights Ratification and Enforcement. And on 26 July, Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the SSS to release them on bail, pending continuation of the substantive case.
When the five were arrested, not a few persons raised either of two questions. First was an echo of the earlier “why a Buhari Must Go sloganeering?” which had come up a couple of times earlier. The second was, “why to take this to the church?” Even some of the TIB movement allies who joined the Omoyele Sowore, TIB Convener, and AAC Chairperson, in engaging with Paul Enenche found some way or the other to condemn taking politics to church.
Arguments against the “Buhari Must Go” slogan come from two different angles. Some consider it “anarchistic.” It will only lead to avoidable repression, they say. Then some say, why should we be reducing things to Buhari or the regime? We want much more than regime change – our goal is system change!
Some of these arguments, and which are legitimate, came from close quarters. To put the Dunamis 5 experience in context, it is necessary to put TiB’s “Buhari Must Go” slogan in perspective.
Socialist Worker stands for much more than regime change. As socialists, we are revolutionaries, which means we want to change the system from capitalism to socialism. Irrespective of which capitalist government or regime is in power, they are all committed to oppressing the poor masses towards ensuring our continued exploitation.
We understand that the socialist revolution is not one political revolution that will emerge fully prepared to kick out the bosses. It is a social revolution comprising a series of political revolutions where different capitalist regimes are kicked out, and different sections of the capitalist class will wage reactions.
Every political revolution involves overthrowing the regime in power. Regime change might not be sufficient for system change. But it is a necessary element of the revolutionary process of system change. For Socialist Worker, the point is to build a movement behind the slogan.
But doesn’t such “down with the regime” slogan outside a revolutionary situation and before a movement has been built around it open revolutionaries to further repression? The fact is that, if or not such a slogan is put forward, the state will not relent in efforts aimed at suppressing all radical opposition.
We recall similar positions when the RevolutionNow campaign was launched by CORE in 2019. There were condemnations, some of them self-serving, even on the radical left. These came in torrents! “This slogan is insurrectionary!” They screamed.
And when the military, police, SSS, and other security agencies cracked down on protesters on 5 August that year, these lamenters on the left went like, “what did they expect? How can sane people call for revolution now?!”
It is ironic that, while self-styled revolutionaries saw the call for “revolution now” as taking things too far, a liberal judge believed that CORE activists were within the bounds of the bourgeois law in calling for Revolution Now!
Justice Maureen Onyetenu ruled to this effect on 4 May 20, in a case brought forward by Olukoya Ogungbeje, who argued that the crackdown on RevolutionNow campaigners abrogated his rights. We are in a similar position with “Buhari Must Go.” No one less than the rightwing Sheikh Ahmad Gumi has equally demanded the immediate resignation of the president!
Some might say, “okay, we agree, even if with some reservations, that we should push the limits of our demands against the regime and the system. But should such “Buhari Must Go” agitation be taken to the church?”
The most straightforward response to such a position is, does the Bible not record Jesus Christ going to the church to whip exploiters out of that house? Did not clerics like Martin Luther King Jnr and other members of the Southern Christian Leaders Conference in the United States join the civil rights movement to fight? The shame is on clerics who shy away from saying truth to power.
But there is a more profound point of note here, which we must appreciate and take forward as working-class and youth activists. Every sphere of social life is an arena of struggle. Cultural, including religious, institutions play an ideological role in making capitalist exploitation and oppression seem natural. We need to demystify them and help engender open political discussion on what these institutions are.
Socialist Worker stands firmly with the Dunamis5 as their trial proceeds. They have a right to enjoy the freedom of expression, including demanding the immediate exit of Maj Gen Muhammadu Buhari as president. They have a right to enjoy their freedom of movement, including joining the congregation at Dunamis with their expressive tee shirts.
We must challenge every single cranny of the system, including religious institutions propping up the system, as we fight to upturn it and build a better world.
by Lionel AKPOYIVO