Defend the ESN! Form Independent Self-Defence Guards Against Marauders and State Aggression! For A National Liberation Struggle of the Southern People!
Statement of the Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard (RSV) [Nigerian Section of the RCIT], 01.02.2021. http://www.revolutionarysocialistvanguard.wordpress.com/
The events of the last two weeks in Southern Nigeria stoked up ethnic tensions making many fear a downward spiral to a second civil war. First in response to the overwhelming atrocities committed by armed Fulani herdsmen and marauders which include kidnapping, rape and killings in South Western Nigeria, particularly in Igangan, Ibarapa Local Government Area of Oyo state, Sunday Adeyemo, who is recognized by the media as an agitator for Oodua republic, on 15 Jan, gave a 7-day ultimatum to all Fulanis resident in Igangan to evacuate the area or face the music. In an almost coordinated feat and for the same reason the governor of Ondo state Rotimi Akeredolu ordered the evacuation of all Fulani nomads from the state. On 22 Jan Sunday Adeyemo, who is also known as Sunday Igboho alongside local youths stampeded and razed the house of Seriki Fulani, Saliu Kari, the traditional head of the local Fulani in the community.
Kadri was alleged of being the bridge through which Fulani kidnappers get ransom from the family of abducted victims. On same day the Army attacked the South Eastern town of Orlu, Imo state killing one and injuring many while leaving houses and churches burned to the ground as a reprisal for seizure of some army vehicles by the Eastern Security Network as displayed in a video which went viral on the internet. The Eastern Security Network (ESN) is a sort of military arm of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The fighting between the Army and the ESN would last for days after the Army command deployed 400 soldiers to Orlu. The clashes left at least 14 civilians dead and four soldiers killed.
While the recent events are greatly underpinned by a conflict between Fulani nomads and local farmers in the South Western part of Nigeria and while the issue has serious implications for the security status of the nation, the root cause of these events cannot be reduced to conflicts between farmers and pastoralists neither can it be solved by increasing the state of security. A telling indication of this is the reports of soldiers escorting some of the Fulani herdsmen back into south western communities they have been chased out from and at the same time brutalizing members of these communities. Many activists have in an attempt to prevent an ethnic crisis and civil war tried to water down the crux of the matter by limiting it to security failings of the Nigerian federal and state governments; the widespread conflict between Fulani nomads and local farmers in West Africa; or the outdated practices of animal husbandry and other agricultural practices. These leftists miss, ignore or refuse to acknowledge that the current issue has its fundaments in the national oppression by the Fulani or the oppression of other regions by the North.
THE QUESTION OF NATIONAL OPPRESSION.
No serious political analyst can doubt that the British colonists who created Nigeria amalgamated the Northern and Southern regions surrounding the Niger majorly as a tactic to divide and conquer the peoples of this region. A vast number of ethnic groups and nationalities were merged together with the upper hand given to the Northern region. It should suffice to say that since Nigeria is now a neo-colony under Western imperialism this setting is still at play.
If further proof is needed of the oppression by at least the northern of other regions especially the south, one needs only look at the overwhelming number of heads of state or presidents throughout the history of Nigeria since independence who are from the North compared to the number of others from the South. Since the civilian dispensation in 1999 one northerner or the other has been either president or vice president till the present moment. The echelons of the military are also mostly northerners, so are the lower officers and soldiers which is how the rank and file of the military was left by the British since 1960.
As earlier mentioned large sections of the left in Nigeria have rightly stated that the recent conflicts are a sign of the failing of the Nigerian state to provide optimum security but they have failed to correctly articulate why or how this “rise in insecurity” came into existence. True many Fulani nomads and sections of the Northern masses cling to rather outdated or archaic practices or form of living but it is only because the Nigerian ruling class which is dominated by the Northern ruling class allows them to retain such traditions in order to maintain their support and this often includes condoning crimes they commit against other ethnic groups and nationalities of other regions. Just as the racist government of the Western imperialist nations overlook or give a sparse sentence for crimes committed by their citizens against blacks, people of color and other minorities so does the Nigerian government overlook crimes committed by the northerners especially against nations in other regions of the country. That is why Fulani herdsmen can brandish sophisticated weapons in any part of the country. The same reason is responsible for the emanation of the most violent groups of religious extremists from the north.
The many similarities of the oppression of the black nation especially in the US with the case of national oppression in Nigeria are instructive to understanding and navigating scientific ways forward to the ethnic conundrum in Nigeria. It is no coincidence that the only counterpart of US citizens who are armed like the Fulani herdsmen and other Northern groups are the right wing extremists. Such is the case because the situation in the US and Nigeria is that of national oppression.
This brings us to a crucial point of the ruling class tactic to divide and rule the workers and oppressed masses. For the masses to be divided along ethnic/national/tribal lines one part of the divide must be given or have privileges over and above the other. These privileges form the material bases for this division so as to sustain a certain social base otherwise such scheme could not work. This why in the US white people enjoy several benefits over blacks; other people of color; indigenous Americans and national minorities including far lighter sentences for the same crime especially when these crimes are against oppressed nationalities. These benefits are the similar for the Northern tribes especially the Hausa/Fulani so that they continue with heinous crimes in form of terrorism or banditry and still be compensated by state and national governments.
Of course these benefits or privileges does not change the class characterization of the masses or workers of the oppressor nations, that is, they are still in the class of the oppressed. Just as the ruling class of the semi-colonies still remain oppressors even though they are but servants of Western imperialism. There are a thousand and one examples of these, for further illustration consider the fact that the female gender has been oppressed for centuries by the male gender but that does not mean that the majority of the men are not subjects of the overall oppression of the ruling class. Similarly not all members of the oppressor nations benefit consciously from racism or national oppression just as not all men understand the material benefits of being male in a patriarchal system.
Thus only those workers and members of the oppressor nations who acknowledge their benefits and are ready to give them up can join the progressive train to fight national oppression which is part and parcel of the capitalist system.
We denounce the call of Sunday Igboho and governor Akeredolu for the evacuation of Fulanis/Fulani nomads from Igangan and Ondo state respectively. We call rather for a national liberation struggle which enforces the right of self-determination of oppressed ethnic nationalities in the South. We call for the defence of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) from the aggression of the South Eastern governors unleashed through the military and police.
Sometimes in the fight for national liberation the leadership of such movements are often liberals, pacifists, petty bourgeois or even bourgeois forces like Sunday Igboho but this should not discourage revolutionaries from supporting such a movement while retaining the right to criticize its reactionary leadership. In this light it is not enough for the progressives and revolutionaries to decry the call for an Oodua republic simply because it is led by the now reactionary Western Security Network (Amotekun) rather genuine revolutionaries must give military or physical support to the struggle for self-determination of the Yoruba people. At the same time revolutionaries must criticize the reactionary developments in Amotekun and defend innocent locals from their aggression.
The same goes for the South Western governors or ruling class only physical support can be given in the fight against Northern domination. No political approval for the South Western governors meaning they cannot be voted or supported during elections.
A “MULTI-ETHNIC” OR “NON-SECTARIAN” SELF DEFENCE MILITIA?
As events unfold the bulk of the Nigerian left-wing forces continue to admit more and more the need for the people themselves to form self defense units, guards and militias but this is not without a whiff of adaptation to ultra-radicalism or reformism. This time it is through the call for a “multi-ethnic or non-sectarian self-defence unit” which is shared by almost all shades of left and liberal activists. There are many problems with this formulation or slogan but the ones of greatest import are elucidated below.
We must continue to make references to the case of national oppression in the US especially that of the black nation for when we draw necessary parallels we will arrive at concrete conclusions concerning the question. The Anti-Slave movement didn’t start in the Americas or any European country but in Africa and the slave ships. It started with the slaves who took their lives on the African coasts in resistance to slavery before they could be forced aboard the slave ships. It started with the slaves who rebelled on the slave ships before it ducked in the Western hemisphere. This trend would later lead to massive slave rebellion across the Europe and America giving birth to the Black Rights movement.
Surely at the inception of this anti-slave rebellion blacks were the major participants. Even in the era of the Black Rights movement of the 1950’s blacks were in the overwhelming majority because the whites were beneficiaries of black subjugation this made them come so late into the Black Rights movement as we saw in the most significant increase in white participation in the Black Lives Matter protests of last year. So the call for a “multi-ethnic” or “non-sectarian” self defence militia is a betrayal of historical materialism because members or even workers of the oppressor nation will not quickly give up or may never give up their privileges to join the fight against national oppression which is a crucial part of capitalism except in time of systemic crises.
Should the workers and masses of the oppressed nations wait until the working masses of the oppressor nation are ready to join them before they fight? Secondly, if blacks, Chinese, Latinos, Arabs and other national minorities in the US unite against white supremacy or the ethnic nationalities in Southern Nigeria unite against Northern oppression have they still formed a “multi-ethnic” or “non-sectarian” defence guard? One then begins to wonder what truly is the meaning of a “multi-ethnic” militia. This still boils down to the fact that it is the most affected nationalities that will dominate or actively participate in a militia fighting national oppression. Or is it that we are to do a role call of the over 200 ethnic groups in Nigeria before we defend ourselves?
A “multi-ethnic” or “non-sectarian” militia that is not armed with the correct ideology will crumble into tribal politics especially when it is formed mechanically out of liberal ideas of “unity”, so what is the essence? Lastly, such a call is an indirect denial or a product of denial of national oppression. This is not so surprising since none of these left organizations have mentioned or acknowledged its existence. When there is public outcry about a woman who was raped by a man and someone objects to the outcry by saying women rape men too, progressives immediately identify such position as an attempt to deny feminine subjugation but now that the Yoruba people of the South West can no longer bear the atrocities committed by armed Fulani nomads and kidnappers our activists are the first to say that there are criminals in every tribe.
Some comrades justify their call for a “multi-ethnic” or “multi-religious” self-defense unit by saying it is in order to prevent the migration of the Fulani/Northern masses into the camp of the Northern ruling class. The problem however with this is that telling the Yoruba&Igbo/Southern masses to wait until some Fulanis/Northerners are ready to join them before they defend themselves will also force them to migrate into the camp of the South Western and South Eastern ruling classes. Another excuse for this is that there will be reprisals against southerners living in the north but can a multi-ethnic militia stop this? No, the US is an example despite the relatively overwhelming participation of whites in the Black Lives Matter protests last year the extrajudicial killings of blacks continue at a rate higher than that of whites. Only the destruction of the capitalist system can bring an end to all forms of racism and national oppression, albeit, a fight against racism and national oppression is a fight against capitalism.
A militia fighting national oppression will at inception be dominated by members of the oppressed nation just as the Arabs are the largest force in the fight against Israeli state oppression in Palestine, they have only but an insignificant number of Jewish supporters. Albeit the agitations and actions of oppressed nationalities will serve to attract supporters from the oppressor nations. Workers or masses of the oppressor nations will join with time, most likely not out of good will nor a change of heart but in time of systemic crises when even those privileges are greatly threatened just as we saw in recent years in the US.
It is important also to stress the independence of such self defence militia from state forces like police and military. These forces create the impression that workers and popular masses should be armed but tacitly allow a section of the population to bear arms so that they can oppress others and go scot-free with crimes. Hence the main goal of such a militia must be to fight the capitalist class which is the sole progenitor of racial inequality; tribalism and national oppression by defeating its police and military which play a major role in executing the wishes of its pay-masters.
We reiterate that unity is only possible between workers of the oppressing/imperialist nations and the oppressed/semi-colonial nations when the workers of the oppressor nations acknowledge their privileged position and are ready to let go of those privileges in order to join their oppressed brothers and sisters in the fight against national oppression and international capitalism. At the same time no one should expect the workers of the oppressed nations/ethnic nationalities to wait or pause the struggle for their national liberation for any reason!
* For a national liberation struggle of oppressed ethnic nationalities in Southern Nigeria! This liberation struggle shall uphold the right of oppressed nations to political self-determination and fight for the fullest cultural expression of ethnic nationalities including control of their national economy and freedom to use their native languages as the condition for continual participation in one Nigeria!
* Support the call for an independent state of Biafra! This state in our opinion should be established as a socialist republic which puts the control of the economy in democratic workers councils and which collaborates with other nations based on workers solidarity.
* Defend the ESN against the South East ruling class and their butchers in uniform!
* For an independent people’s militia to defend the Southern people from Northern marauders and the Nigerian state forces of police and military! No trust in Eastern and Western imperialism in this quest! Defend the South Western people from brutality from Amotekun!
International Liaison Personnel,
Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard (RSV).