FORM DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP IN EVERY MAJOR TOWN, CITY AND PROTEST GROUND!
Statement of the Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard (Nigerian Section of the RCIT), 21st October, 2021, https://revolutionarysocialistvanguard.wordpress.com
It is a year already since the End SARS protests declined due to state sponsored blood shed. While the whole length of the weeks long protest is filled with recurring decimals of extrajudicial killings by state apparatus like in Surulere, Lagos; Ogun state; and Oshogbo, Osun state. The Nigerian ruling class reached a consensus to snuff out the protest by force of arms on October 20, 2020. That is why the Army command attacked the epicenter of the protest in Lekki and other strongholds such as Alausa, killing scores of protesters on the same day.
The Vanguard has repeatedly pointed out that the End SARS protests were an outburst from tensions in the Nigerian capitalist system. This was already reflective in the sub-slogan of the protests which is: “End Bad Governance”. In fact it was to preempt the emergence of this second slogan as the main demand of the movement did the ruling class begin their campaign of state terror on October 20. The ruling class correctly assessed the threat that the movement was becoming. That is why, President Buhari months after the carnage of October expressly stated that the End SARS protests was to “remove me as president“.¹
The Transformational Origins of the Protests
Suffice it to say that the protests began amidst a deepening economic recession, the effects of which were worsened for the masses by the Draconian attempt of the world governments to retain their power through mass curfews and lockdowns. Just as it is for oppressed all over the world so it was for the Nigerian workers and oppressed that these conditions became the combustible mix that would lead to social explosions.
Already in March 2020 simultaneously with the inception of the lockdowns, the National Association of Resident Doctors threatened a strike. The association in some states even embarked on the strike not minding the pandemic or the lockdowns. This was the nature of that period when one workers union after the other threatened or even commenced strike actions. Those strikes were further warranted by several anti-people attacks from a government suffering dips in oil prices and a collapsed economy with its back against the wall by rising inflation partly due to devaluation of the Naira.
So there were at least 2 consecutive increments in fuel price before the protests began. It was in response to such a proposal that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) called for a general strike on September 28. In such a crises ridden period the police and its many corrupt divisions had already been given extra powers by the Lockdown regime killing at one point more people than even the pandemic itself. The corrupt police division known as SARS intensified their raids and racketeering knowing little that their wanton killings would provide the spark for an historic revolt.
Some leftists of the “socialist” milieu downplayed the protests from the onset as we already stated in the past: “This should have at least convinced all those comrades who think only a hike in fuel, electricity or food price can lead to a revolution (even though there were successive government imposed hikes in the price of these commodities in the days leading up to the End SARS protests) to take the movement with more seriousness”.²
Since they could not recognize the protest as an outburst from the very fundaments of contradictions in capitalist society they could not predict or follow the next phase of release of revolutionary energy–the national question. By transformational origins, we mean the social events which culminated in the momentum of the End SARS protests. Thus the protests itself gave reprise to other movements.
Socialist currents such as the Cliffite SWL; the Nigerian section of the IMT, CWA organized different conferences and symposia to mark the one year anniversary of the End SARS protests even though they absurdly ignore or neglect the next phase of the revolutionary onslaught of the masses which evolved directly from the protests.
It is instructive to note that End SARS drew its inspiration from an international movement against police brutality but which was hinged on a movement for national liberation–Black Lives Matter. Already during the actual protests, the initials E.N.D.S.A.R.S were made into slogans with the R standing for “Restructuring”, a slogan suggestive of ending the marginalisation of certain ethnic nationalities. So while our leftists and comrades were engulfed, to their credit, in the Panels of Enquiry and in demanding justice for the slain, they intentionally rejected the continuation of End SARS by other means–the liberation movements of the southern ethnic nationalities.
We must not forget that the Obigbo massacre took place almost immediately after Black Tuesday which is directly linked to it. The justification the Wike government had for this macabre act was that Obigbo was an IPOB stronghold, the truth is that the victims might have also been apologists of Biafra who participated actively in the End SARS protests of Cross Rivers state.³
The Leadership Vacuum
Unlike members of the opportunist Cliffite SWL and liberal celebrities cum influencers who capitulated to the strong “anti-leadership” sympathy of the protests. The RSV opposed all such positions. We called for the formation of coordinating/action committees with self defense guards from the onset of the protests. We defended our position throughout the length of the protests by engaging protesters on the grounds. We rebuffed all ideas of a bureaucratic/de facto leadership and pushed outrightly for an officially and democratically constituted leadership.
Those socialists who support the acephalous nature of the movement or who avoided the question of leadership on account that the people are not ready forget what the role of vanguard parties are, that is, to advance the consciousness of the masses. True one cannot force readiness into the masses yet no change can come without some form of organic development in the mass consciousness. Whether the so called vanguard parties will play this role or not is a different question.
This “leaderlessness” has resulted in the youth still being at the mercy of celebrities even at this stage, a year after the protests, as no independent organising experience was gathered. It exposed the movement to various forms of attacks from the ruling class. Attacks which came to a head on October 20. In Alausa alone, there were 3 gang raids before the police and army attacked on October 20 yet no genuine formation of self defense guards. All these happened despite reports that protesters were being killed on other grounds like Surulere; in Ife, Osun state. In fact, on the day of the attack army patrols launched two failed attempts to invade the protest ground.
Worse still, the lack of democratically constituted official committees has left the movement largely derailed into the fox hole of electoral politics.
Linking The Struggle With The Workers’ Movement Means A Greater Chance of Success
By default many youths are workers even though they may not be active in workers unions or they may work in fields that are yet to form unions. However the quest to end bad governance in Nigeria relates to the improvement of working conditions for the average worker. In fact it touches on how much the minimum wage should be. Moreover every worker has in one way or another been victim of police brutality, extortion or high handedness at one point or the other.
Hence even while the umbrella body of Nigerian workers, the Nigeria Labour Congress betrayed the End SARS movement by failing to show any form of support during the protests, the youth must begin to make serious economic demands by campaigning for employment and unemployment benefits for the youth and unemployed respectively; the payments of all outstanding wages and allowances of workers; a monumental rise in the minimum wage; nationalisation of the power and energy sector etc.
A progressive labour leadership would have called, during the End SARS protests, for a general strike to bring down the Buhari regime. However this labour leadership already betrayed Nigerians by calling off the general strike of September 28. For this cause, the youth are well within their right to begin a “WABBA MUST GO” campaign to replace the corrupt lackeys of the Federal government from the head of the workers’ movement.
This will open a process of engagement with the workers especially the low income workers who suffer mostly the brunt of the anti-masses policies of APC and PDP rule. Pushing this economic demands can be a first step to engage the workers and cause a shake up in their rank and file. Once the workers are on board, forcing the government out by paralyzing the economy through strikes becomes easier and has a greater chance at success.
A large current was sparked by last year’s protest as regards a political alternative most especially concerning the next general elections in 2023. It is true that every movement must terminate in the formation of a political alternative but there is a difference between creating a political alternative and a shift to electoral politics. For the former, a party must crystallize out of the leadership and ideals of the movement, while the latter requires an external intrusion into it. The latter places liberal politics and electioneering above the movement but the former subordinates all forms of electoral activities to the program of the movement.
We dealt with how in the past several acclaimed left groups and liberal politicians tried to exploit the “leaderlessness” of the movement for their permutations in future electoral politics. Now we wish to deal more with the formation of a political alternative, simply put, a party under the present conditions. It is no gainsaying that a considerable portion of the youth population have become antagonistic to the two largest parties (APC/PDP) and are in search of which party to cast their votes for come 2023. This goes hand in hand with a campaign amongst popular activists urging the youth to participate massively at the polls in the next two years, for them this is the only way to take power from APC/PDP.
The question is who to vote for if we can all agree that APC/PDP are the enemy. For us the first steps to building a party is to have a program which consists of policies on various aspects concerning the society. Thus we urge the youth to begin a process of thorough discussion on important questions such as healthcare, education, power, security, self determination etc. It is only after reaching conclusions on these issues can a genuine mass party be formed. Moreso if APC/PDP must be ousted all sections of the masses and oppressed must be involved and the workers movement must be used as an arrowhead to launch this campaign.
This is important because even after drafting policies and programs the methods to achieve them are also very important. It should be clear to everyone by now that elections on their own cannot bring about any deep-seated change. Take as an example the elections in Uganda, Belarus and even the US. Following from this, the youth must begin to deliberate on policies which will drive the campaigns for the new party. The campaigns must start as early as possible since we will be promoting policies and not personalities. It is these policies that will attract other sections of the workers and oppressed to the party.
True, at first, the movement cannot fully capture all the failures of the current government but with time more of these issues will arise and the party must address them after sound democratic engagement and give ways forward. This is how to build a party that will change the system from its foundations.
The legacy of End SARS is a system change considering the conditions from which it emerged and how it developed after emergence shows that the protesters killed died not just to end police brutality but for the overhaul of the whole system of capitalism. We owe it to them to expand the demands and fight to rid our nation of oppression.
Justice for the victims of Black Tuesday! All over Nigeria we demand compensation for the lives cut short by police before, during and after the protests! Release all detained protesters! We call for all killer police and army to be tried in a public tribunal including youth, workers and others sections of the oppressed!
Form armed self defense guards to combat police brutality in the schools, workplaces, communities and protest grounds! Abolish the police! Begin democratic discussions on the policies for a fighting party which will sustain the legacy of End SARS!
For a public employment program controlled by youth and workers’ organizations and funded by taxes from the rich! Unemployment benefits; bursary schemes and shelter for the unemployed; students and homeless!
At least 26% and 15% of the 2022 national budget for Education and Healthcare respectively! Immediate payment of all owed salaries, emoluments and allowances of all workers in learning institutions! Accession to the demands of NARD members and a monumental increase in the hazard allowance of all medical staff!
Defend the right of the southern ethnic nationalities to self determination! Free Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho! Stop the military aggression against the IPOB&ESN! Drive the Nigerian military out of the South East!
Start a “WABBA MUST GO” campaign to remove the rotten, corrupt leadership from the labour movement! Fight for the democratic running of the labour unions! Retake NANS from the corrupt APC/PDP loyalists! For an indefinite general strike to bring down the Buhari regime!
Out with all transnational corporations! Expropriate the super-rich and the billionaires! Nationalise the commanding heights of the economy under workers’ control! For a workers and Poor Peasant government!
The Vanguard wishes to reiterate some of the practical methods of forming leadership during a mass movement like End SARS. These ideas emanated from the creativity of the youth during last year’s protest and we strongly believe it will allay the fears of misuse of power or betrayal of leadership as they help to achieve a more democratic running of the leadership.
1. A 24 hour leadership constituted democratically at the daily congress/general gathering of the protesters in each protest ground/community/school etc. A shadow committee which shall serve as the main democratic centralist organ of the movement and will be constituted democratically on a weekly basis.
2. The 24 hour leadership shall have the powers to call for a emergency general meetings/congress for special developments and consult with the shadow committee in other less important cases. However the leadership would by its own discretion push for an emergency meeting.
3. The leadership and shadow committee will continue planning and take steps to revive the movement in time of crises and set backs.
4. No closed door meetings or negotiation with any government official. All persons who wish to address the protesters should come to the protest grounds. No in-station radio or televised interviews. All interviews must take place on the protest grounds before the protesters.
These suggestions are of course open to criticism. Moreso they are largely dependent on the consciousness and mood of the movement at any point in time. In any case, they will most likely serve as an early stage in the leadership of such a movement. However if a mass uprising begins with a greater level of consciousness they maybe discarded altogether for action committees and workers’ and popular councils!
No future without socialism! No socialism without a revolutionary international workers’ party! Join the RCIT in achieving this task!
2. See on this: End SARS: Where Petty Bourgeois Activists and Influencers Fail, The Masses Must Continue! Statement of the Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard (RSV) [Nigerian Section of the RCIT], 10.02.2021. https://revolutionarysocialistvanguard.wordpress.com/2021/02/10/end-sars-where-petty-bourgeois-activists-and-influencers-fail-the-masses-must-continue/