Alternative roads to 2007


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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Alternative roads to 2007



Edwin Madunagu


culled from GUARDIAN September 25, 2003

A FEW weeks ago, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria was reported in the media to have cautioned General Ibrahim Babangida and Vice President Abubakar Atiku against "heating up the polity" by prematurely initiating the campaigns for the 2007 presidential election. Both men have formally denied starting the campaigns and have warned those involved in the activities to stop using their names to advance their selfish political ambitions. Their message to the country was that 2007 was still a long way off and that Nigerians should concentrate on proffering solutions to the problems of the country.

Predictably, neither of them denied he had ambitions for 2007. Before the presidential warning and the subsequent denials and admonitions, the polity was indeed "heated up" by presidential campaign activities and media reports and commentaries on these activities. General Babangida and Afenifere, one of the leading "socio-cultural" formations of the Western power bloc, appear to be at the centre of this "premature" electioneering which, I am sure, is still going on, but now in different more covert, ways.

This premature electioneering together with the pattern it has so far assumed, has one major premise or assumption, namely: that the existing political system and structures will subsist, and that political power will return to the "North" in 2007, after dwelling in the "south for eight years (1999-2007). Another assumption, perhaps a secondary one, is that in an election in Nigeria, what is primary is the candidate: the political platform on which the candidate should run, or would run, comes only after the choice of the candidate. In any case, the assumption goes on, if there is any need to consider political platforms first, then given the present reality and projections from that reality, the political platform to consider is the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I propose that with these assumptions there is no future whatsoever for Nigeria, not to talk of an enviable one; and that for there to be a future worth looking forward to, for the masses of our people, these assumptions must be confronted ideologically and politically. The task is for popular - democratic forces.

Humanity makes its own history, so said Karl Marx. But he added, we do not make history just as we want, we cannot re-make the world just as we wish to see it. We make and re-make the world with the material resources and social forces acquired and transmitted from the past. This is a statement both to mystics, evil politicians and political rulers who attribute the disastrous results of their acts to the will of God, and to the masses and their true leaders who may be tempted to believe that Nigeria's "deliverance" depends on a change of hearts by these same evil personages.

On the material resources and social forces transmitted from the past, humankind applies its knowledge, consciousness, strength, courage, faith and commitment to remake the world. The conclusion here is that the present generation of Nigerian masses and their leaders bear substantial responsibility for the state of the nation by failing to do enough to checkmate the modern enslavers, the enemies of the people and their foreign collaborators and inspirers. But there is a limit to that responsibility and that limit is indicated by the material resources, institutions, structures and social forces, and indeed the rot, inherited by them.

It is with this sober understanding that I approach the plans of modern enslavers and colonisers of Nigeria, and those they have blindfolded, for 2007. My own premise is, of course, that the popular masses, their organisations and their leaderships have the means, if properly organised, to frustrate the enemies of the people and genuine progress, re-make history by reconstituting and reconstructing Nigeria in their own interest and, in the process, re-make themselves.

Since the last years of General Babangida's rule, the popular political demand in this country has been the restructuring of the country. The demand has been led by leftists, liberal democrats and true nationalist. The objective of this political restructuring, as articulated by leftists, is to create a constitutional and institutional framework for the exercise of democratic self -rule at the grassroots, create a level of economic control and political administration between the states and the Federal Government so as to further reduce the powers of the latter and create a more enabling environment for the struggle against internal colonisation and unequal development.

Ancillary benefits of this exercise are countless. I have, myself, supported the advocacy that the present geopolitical zones be upgraded in status politically and economically with the suggestion that the South-South and North-Central zones should each be split into two. The result would be a federation of eight zones. In addition, I advocated the empowerment of the wards that currently make up each Local Government Area (LGA) in the country to be able to carry out community development.

Nigerian leftists, liberal democrats and nationalists have not asked that this constitutional change be effected by diktat. They have rather called for the convening of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) where they would put forward their proposals, having sensitised and mobilised the people around their platform. Chief Anthony Enahoro and his colleagues in the Movement for National Reformation (MNR), who have worked harder than any other group on this matter, have spelt out their position on the composition, structures, operations and agenda of the conference. They have moved from the advocacy of eight federations to 18 in the transformation of Nigeria into a federation of federations. They have drafted a constitution for the Federation and, I believe, they are now doing the same for the federating federations.

The Nigerian rulers' response to this call is well known. It has essentially been that of rejection. It is against this background that the campaign for the 2007 presidential election was engaged less than three months after the inauguration of Obasanjo's second presidency. The first act of this premature electioneering was the reported "invasion" of the south-west by agents of General Babangida, and the counter moves by vice president Atiku's forces. We learnt of this from the leadership of Afenifere, which asked Chief Olu Falae, one of its prominent members and former presidential candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), to respond to the allegation that he was one of the key figures Babangida's agents met when they "invaded" the South-West.

The man formally denied the charges and challenged his accusers to provide any proofs they had. Of course, they had no proof, and the matter was rested there especially after the group's leader welcomed Falae's denial. But I knew there was no smoke without fire: Babangida's "invasion" of South-West AD was the fire; the interrogation of Falae was the smoke. Then a couple of weeks ago, an AD leader said that the rumoured incursion of Babangida into the South-West was an indication of dissatisfaction with Obasanjo's government, and that if the general joined his party, his ambition to be a presidential candidate would be considered along with others.

So, the battle for 2007 has been engaged. Let me say with every sense of responsibility that if there is no qualitative improvement on the strategy with which popular democratic forces engaged the rulers during Obasanjo's first tenure (1999-2003), then the country may arrive at 2007 along the road designed by our rulers. There will be no change in the structure of the country, except possibly the emasculation of the local government system; there will be two powerful presidential candidates from the "North" and a number of other candidates from the "South".

The running mate of one of the "Northern" candidates will be a "Westerner" and the running-mate of the other will be an "Easterner". One of the two teams will win the race. But, depending on how things proceed in the country and the attitude of the "international community", President Obasanjo may have a change of heart and seek a third term "to save the nation". That is Alternative Road One. It is also possible that under the pressure of the various political and ethnic factions in the country - some of them armed" the federal government is stampeded into making superficial constitutional concessions which, rather than solving the problem of deep national disaffection, end up satisfying nobody and leading the country to disaster and anarchy. That is Alternative Road Two.

There is however an Alternative Road Three, and this is the road of serious and coordinated engagement by popular democratic forces. In this regard, I shall limit myself to two supporting propositions. My first proposition is that the primary task before popular-democratic forces in Nigeria is not the push for the production of a new constitution for the country. It is not even the convening of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC). The primary task is the construction of Pan-Nigeria Popular Democratic Organisation, whatever name may be given to it.

The second proposition is that globalisation, neo-liberalism, monetisation of politics, increasing poverty and decline of revolutionary consciousness have together put an end to the era of small leftist political formations. Efforts must be intensified to pull together all genuine and serious popular-democratic forces, including leftist political parties and groups, and civil society organisations, to re-direct the politics of the country. Every other thing that has to be done will have to proceed from this primary national duty.


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