On the 1st of October 1960, the Union Jack was lowered and the green white green flag of Nigeria was hoisted. This heralded the birth of flag independence for the largest black nation on earth. It was a new nation with hopes, aspirations, and great potential in the hearts of its people. Sixty-two years later, the mass of Nigerians still searches for real independence from the ruling class that took over power from the colonialists as internal oppressors in collaboration with those that claimed to have given independence, which is now clearly a cosmetic one, at best.
Since 1960, Nigerians have been ruled by different oppressive governments of men in khaki or agbada who claimed to represent the people’s interest but only considered the exploitative class they all represent. This class has perpetually held on to power rotating the driving seat of power among their different sections. But all of them have always been collectively in power. There has been no military government without civilian oppressors in them. And there has been no civilian government where (ex-) military top brass has not played pivotal roles, including as president.
Contentions within the class for who gets the lion’s share of our collective wealth which they pillage together have thrown us into a bloody civil war that consumed the lives of over two million poor toiling people, in the Southeast. Some of these oppressors dangle illusions of freedom before us, with secessionist colors, in the guise of shared ethnicities. But even in the regions or states where these shared ethnic backgrounds are supposed to have bound us with them, they never granted the poor masses freedom or much of a better life. These exploiters have always been the ones who benefited, including through corrupt enrichment, from the trillions of dollars that have been generated from our toil and the richness of our natural resources since Independence.
But the exploiters have managed to turn Nigeria into a country divided along ethnic and religious line. Many people now see their ethnic groups (and religion) as the best, and the needed basis for breaking away from Nigeria and establishing new nations. This generalization of ethnic and religious chauvinism has contributed significantly to increasing incessant ethnic and religious conflicts.
But we must not lose sight of the fact that the ruling elite are united in one accord in their boardrooms and all arms of governance, where they are making money and ruling over us.
The poor working people in Nigeria remain enslaved, irrespective of their ethnicity. And while this class of wealthy people promotes ideas that encourage us to kill ourselves, they are all making sure that their own children will be well equipped to continue exploiting our children be it in “One Nigeria” or in any of the countries that can emerge from separation.
We have seen pictures of these elites, cutting across all ethnic groups, with their children graduating from some universities in Europe and America. While Nigeria has become the country with the worst case of multi-dimensional poverty in the world, the wealth of the Dangotes, Otedolas, Iwuanyanwus, Aghedos, etc. has expanded at astronomical rates.
All members of the exploiter class are concerned only with expanding their wealth. They do not care about you and I, even if we come from the same ethnic stock as them. They have a monopoly over governance, including in the states and local government areas. It is only their cronies amongst us that they allow get some crumbs. Governance at all levels has been monopolized by the ruling elite and their cronies.
This is not to say that there is no need to address the national question in Nigeria. Minority nationalities in the South South and Middle Belt, in particular, are oppressed by the majority ethnic groups. The Nigerian constitution which is meant to encourage harmonious national life, as we are told, does not promote the self-determination of actually oppressed nationalities. And it does not protect the social and economic rights of the poor people anywhere in Nigeria. Section 2 which “guarantees” our economic rights is impotent because these rights are not justiciable, that is to say, that we cannot insist on the government’s implementation of the “commitments” they entail.
We need a new constitution that will be based on the active participation of the working masses. From Independence to date, only a select few elites have drafted the country’s constitution – as colonialists, soldiers, or civilian elites. We need to have a Sovereign National Conference, with the people exercising our sovereignty in the formulation of a constitution that will reflect the social, economic, political, and cultural restructuring of Nigeria, in the interest of the masses.
All we need to do is to mobilize, organize and fight to put a Sovereign National Conference in place. The elites will never willingly allow us to have such a popular assembly of the people, unless they are left with no choice, based on our mass action for total liberation. The ruling elite has failed us, the poor masses, and our unborn generations.
We the Nigerian working people need to redouble our efforts and struggle for a better future based on our self-emancipation. We must build a new Nigeria, a society where we will not only be seen to be equal but be treated equally as a people, where “tribe” and religion will no longer be determining factors, and where poverty will be a thing of the past.
Lanre Revival OGUNDARE