See, the Nigerian revolution has begun

Published on Pambazuka News, by Sokari Ekine, January 12, 20112.

Most of the country supports not just the strikes but also the Occupy Nigeria movement which seeks to seriously challenge the status quo and once and for all end the rule by kleptocracy … // 

… Complicating the situation in the Niger Delta, the powerful and long established Ijaw Youth Council whose stronghold is in Bayelsa State has yet to make a formal statement on the removal of the fuel subsidy or the national strike. The IYC was formed in the town of Kaiama [Kaiama Delcaration] 1998 during Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency in the post-Abacha period. It was a period of intense militarisation of the core Delta states which saw the destruction of Odi Town by the Nigerian Army, the ransacking of Kaiama and other attacks against civilians in Yenagoa, Warri, Isoko to name a few. The IYC action, however, conflicts with statements from other Delta youths such as The Niger Delta Youth Coalition who not only supported on strikes but threatened to disrupt oil production.

‘What we are saying is no to fuel subsidy removal. The reason why we are saying no to fuel subsidy is that Nigerians were not part of this decision. The economy is bad. We were paying N1,000.00 for transportation from Warri to our villages in the creek but now we are paying N10,000.00. You cannot say removal of fuel subsidy is to help the poor and it is the poor people that are suffering it………..We are giving President Jonathan a 24 hours ultimatum to reverse the pump price to N65 and failure to do so, we will go back to our communities and when we go back to our communities, we will ensure that all the oil installations in the creek are made not to work.’
Interestingly, one of the founding IYC members and director of Social Action Nigeria, Issac Osukoa expressed what he believed to be the disappointment and disgust Niger Deltans have for Jonathan. However, other activists I have spoken to recently have not been willing to be this critical.

‘Many Nigerians believed that Goodluck Jonathan was a different breed from the backward cabal that has held Nigeria hostage for the better part of the last 51 years. They thought that because he is a native of the Niger Delta with very minimal historical ties to what was referred to as the Hausa-Fulani oligarchy, he represents a refreshing change from the past. They saw a meek-looking and educated man and felt that maybe he is the change that Nigeria needs. Well, Goodluck Jonathan has proven to Nigeria that he is not the change the country needs. In fact, Jonathan is the worst President that the ruling class has ever foisted on Nigeria.

‘Exactly! The man has shown that he is clueless. He has shown that he lacks the capacity to address the very serious challenges confronting the country. And what is even worse is that he does not care. He does not care for the people of Nigeria. He does not care for the progress of Nigeria. He has the mentality of a Local Government caretaker committee chairman.’

Another group which has so far failed to enter the equation are the ex-militants from the various branches of MEND and the NVF many of whom are closely aligned to President Jonathan, the state governors and influential oil marketers. The hierarchy within the militants is itself at odds with the rank and file, many of who feel abandoned and betrayed. Unable to return to their homes where they are either feared or seen as outcasts and unable to find jobs despite the training they have been given, they remain disillusioned young men and women.

To summarise, what is becoming clear is that the Occupy Movement as it stands lacks any real socioeconomic or gender analysis (not surprising in what are essentially male spaces). There has been no discussion on the impact of massive rise in prices on women and children; the protests themselves in as much as what happens beyond gatherings and placards, there are issues such as sexism, homophobia and witch hunting of women and girls. It is not clear whether any women’s organisations are formally taking part in the protests or have representatives within the unions though a few prominent women have joined the protests and/or spoken out in support, but hardly a movement of women! Lesley Agams raised a number of these points on Twitter including the question as to whether women ‘involved are merely supporting a male agenda’.

It is worth remembering that Nigeria has a rich history of protests. Much of that history has come from women and there is much to learn in terms of bringing together protest and education. Interestingly, it has been in the east where large groups of women are visibly protesting. Women in Enugu and Edo took separate but very different actions. The former by gathering to pray in a church and the latter, elderly Edo women bearing their breasts as a sign of protest.

Nor has there been any discussion on the massive disparities between the rich and the poor. The new young aspiring upper class entrepreneurs, NGOs executives, celebrities and artistes have been at the forefront of organisng the Occupy Movement and the working and unemployed masses have joined together. In Lagos tensions are already beginning to appear between on the one hand local ‘area boys’, Lagosians and ‘their’ musicians and on the other, ‘Occupy’ protestors many from more affluent parts of the city. Will the elites of the movement be able to maintain control? What happens if the fuel subsidy decision is reversed, will they be able to move towards a more coherent debate around issues such as corruption, governance, social and economic justice and will social media activism be sufficient to make this happen?

The question of unity is complex. I believe the majority of the country is behind not just the strikes but the Occupy Nigeria movement which seeks to seriously challenge the status quo and once and for all end the rule by kleptocracy. However there are other small but extremely powerful interest groups working for and against the government: Boko Haram and whoever is behind them; Jonathan and possibly some of the ex-Niger Delta militants; Senators and Governors who fear loss of their power and wealth; the trade union movement particularly the oil workers – how trustworthy are they? – the independent oil marketers or cabal. And of course there is the religious factor, the cozy relationship between an all-powerful state and a powerful highly influential set of religious institutions.

Nigeria is about oil and nothing but oil. Let us not forget the multinational oil companies already facing huge losses and a complete shutdown of the sector has yet to happen. Finally at the end of this oil trajectory, the US and other importers of Nigerian crude? (full long text).

Link: Revolution in Nigeria: Our day has come, on Pambazuka News, by Baba Aye, January 12, 2012.

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