Introduction: Twenty years ago, what has been described as “the freest and fairest elections” in the history of Nigeria, held on June 12, eleven days after it was annulled and for six years, the country was never the same again.
Diverse views have been expressed by different interest groups on what “June 12” symbolizes. We shall put in perspective the events, class interests and developments within those six years of struggle, from the world view of the working class, drawing lessons for our struggles today and our historic goal of social change.
1986-1992: Prelude to a revolution
The 1985 palace coup which brought the General Babangida junta to power was welcomed by most Nigerians, due to the neo-fascist character of the Buhari-regime, which most Nigerians had expected a lot from after the corruption-ridden and visionless 4-years episode of the second republic. IBB, who once described himself as an evil genius, promised reforms, which would be home-grown, transform Nigeria and guarantee the well-being of the citizenry. He was a master of deceit. He made Nigerians to debate over the IMF conditionalities, which we rejected and he then brought SAP –a creation of the IMF & World Bank- claiming it was home-grown. His regime also set up a Political Bureau in 1986, which was shrouded in what the socialist President of the Nigeria Var Association at the time, Alao Aka-Bashorun described as a “hidden agenda”
In his 1986 budget speech, IBB claimed that: “Government parastatals have generally come to constitute an unnecessary burden on government resources”. Two years later he asserted: “Government has not deviated from its basic decision to commercialize or privatize certain government enterprises and parastatals”. 69 out of 96 identified state-owned – enterprises were to be privatized. Indeed, privatization was the pillar of SAP. The other three components of the IMF/WB- inspired programme were: devaluation of the naira, removal of subsidies (especially on petroleum products) and trade liberalization. The IBB junta thus achieved what the Shagari administration (based on recommendations of the Onosode Commission in 1982) and the Buhari’s regime(based on the Study Group on Statutory Corporations and State-Owned Companies report) could not do: initiate “the beginning of an era of unprecedented increase in the ownership and control of production, commercial and financial activities by private capitalists (both national and foreign), and the end of the state as a catalyst to economic development”. The reasons for this however go deeper than the devilishness of IBB. Neo-liberal globalization was beginning to take roots and SAP, was its foundation stone in over 30 African countries.
The expansion of primitive accumulation of capital through privatization, liberalization, commercialization, deregulation, contracts and the “settlement” culture, went with the deeper impoverishment and marginalization of the working people. Retrenchments, job rationalization, increasing cost of living and worsening working conditions, became the order of the day. This led to “coping strategies” on one hand, such as: an expanding informal sector, increase in prostitution, drug-peddling and robberies and “419”.On the other hand workers and their organizations responded with waves of strike actions in virtually every sector of the economy. There were also series of revolts by working people and students/youths in: 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 &1992.The most wide-spread and thorough-going of these, was the anti-SAP uprising which reached its climax on May 31st, 1989.
While the IBB regime’s economic policies were defined by SAP, its politics was characterized by an unending transition programme
In January 1986, the Professor Cookey –led Political Bureau was inaugurated by the Junta. Its terms of reference included the following: (a) review Nigeria’s political history, and identify the basic problems which have led to our failure in the past and suggest ways of resolving and coping with these problems; (b) identify a basic philosophy of government which will determine goals and serve as a guide to the activities of government; (c) collect relevant information and data for Government as well as identify other political problems that may arise from the debate; (d) gather, collate and evaluate the contributions of Nigerians to the search for a viable political future and provide guidelines for the attainment of consensus objectives. The report of the bureau was in three parts. Parts 1 dealt with “Nigeria’s Political Experience” as a background. Part II dwelt on the imperative for a new socio-political order in Nigeria. While Part III addressed practical issues bearing on conducting a transition programme that would lead to such a new social & political order in Nigeria. The report of the Bureau was very clear on the fact that the masses of Nigeria desired a socialist socio-economic & political order. Such an envisioned order as its report noted, would rest on: patriotism, self-reliance, accountability of public office holders, mass mobilization and participation and would eschew; money-politics, ethnicism, regionalism, corruption, electoral and census malpractices and religious bigotry.
Seemingly based on the Political Bureau’s report, a 45-member Constitution Drafting Committee was constituted in July 1987. It finished its assignment in nine months, after which a Constituent Assembly was instituted to consider its draft and come up with the 1989 constitution. The junta then asked Nigerians to form parties from which two would be picked to contest in the elections of the transition programme at all levels.
The trade union movement debated on the need for a workers’ party. The peak of this discussion was at a MAMSER– sponsored workshop held at Calabar, with the theme: Labour and Politics. While such progressive capitalists as Bola Ige amongst the guest speakers cautioned the workers to rather support a capitalist party, than form their own, revolutionary socialists such as Ola Oni, Nkana Nzimiro and the indomitable Eskor Toyo called for the working class to seize its destiny in its own hands by forming its own party and bidding for power. A week after the workshop, NLC reconvened at Calabar for its NEC meeting and set up a National Labour Political Commission. A major lesson for today is that the Commission included members from the then SESCAN (now TUC), the academia and renowned patriots. The Commission was chaired by Frank Oramolu, with SOZ Ejiofor as secretary. The Commission was to make contacts and mobilize public opinion for the formation of the party and midwife what was to become the Nigeria Labour Party.
This would be the first time in the history of the country, that the trade union movement as a whole would form a party. Earlier working class parties since the first republic had involved the socialist faction of the trade union movement with other groups in the labour movement (these included; SWAFP, LP, SWPP & SPWFY/SWP). It also was the first time ever that trade union leaders would shut the socialist left out of the national leadership of a working class party, all in the name of “politics of registration”. It could be argued that Akinlaja was correct when as an insider he asserted that: “with the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to also conclude that only a minority of the trade unionists had genuine interest in the ideal of a labour-owned party, the majority just wanted the spin-offs (of material benefits and positions) yielded by such venture”.
The IBB junta listed NLP as the fifth of the six parties on its score-card, amongst the thirteen that jostled for registration. None of the six was however registered. It rather disbanded all the parties and created the “six” & “half-a-dozen” twins of National Republican Party (“a little to the right”) and Social Democratic Party (“a little to the left”). Labour pitched its tent with the SDP. This was to be the party that provided a platform for Abiola’s presidential elections, after the cancellation of earlier primaries (that had produced Shehu Yar’Adua for SDP & Adamu Chiroma for NRC) and banning of “old breed” politicians from the electoral process of the transition programme. As the transition programme of the junta unfolded, certain developments that were to be critical in the revolution, developed in its womb. These were re-alignments in the socialist left and the emergence of the human rights/pro-democracy movement.
In 1986/87, the socialist left, re-grouped. The orthodox left coalesced into the Socialist Congress of Nigeria (SCON) and the (working) People’s Liberation Movement ((W) PLM) –the W/PLM, merged with a number of other groups to form the Socialist Revolutionary Vanguard (SRV) a few years after. These were underground movements due to the conditions obtaining under military rule. The Trotskyite organizationally emerged a year later as, and with the newspaper; Labour Militant. During the May workshop in Calabar referred to earlier, these groups established the first All-Nigeria Socialist Alliance (ANSA), in1989. In1990, the May 31st Movement was also formed, at Ilorin as a pan-Africanist, Marxist current. Although the alliance, ANSA did not last, all these groups were to be very active in the June 12 revolution, especially through the pro-democratic movement.
The first “NGOs” in Nigeria were forged as rights movement against military autocracy. In October 1987, Civil Liberties Organization was born as the first of these groups. By 1989, the “Free Femi Aborishade” Committee metamorphosed into the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights. These groups began to flourish and increase in number. Constitutional Rights Project and Universal Defenders of Democracy split out of the CLO family and many more groups followed. Of great significance though was the approach brought to coalition-building, with the formation of the Campaign for Democracy (CD). CD demanded: an abdication of power by the military; the formation of a “popular-based interim government” to; convoke a Sovereign National Conference. It condemned the transition programme and barely four months to June 12, threatened to independently convoke the SNC. It was however to play a leading role on the side of June 12, in the first half of the revolution, after which, it lost all relevance and other coalitions (UAD & JACON) were formed to play the role it earlier played.
Six years of Revolution and Counter-revolution
Revolution and counter-revolution are like Siamese twins, joined at the hips by the waves of struggle for change by forces which represent progress in some form or the other and the pillars of reaction by the conservative forces representing the “law and order” of the status quo; till the balance of forces, won through bitter battles, tilts towards either, resulting in the death of the other. What were the forces in contention during the six years of June 12? Could it really be said to be a revolution? How and why did counter-revolution triumph? What lessons do we as working class activists have to learn from that struggle? These are some of the questions we will seek to address below.
1993-1994: Heady Days of Uprising
On Saturday June 12, 1993, 14,293,396 Nigerians peacefully cast their votes, in a bid to peacefully send the soldiers back to the barracks. Polls collated from the polling units indicated that the SDP had 8,341,309 votes (58.36%) while the NRC scored 5,952,087 (41.64%) votes. The SDP candidate was MKO Abiola, while that of the NRC was Bashir Tofa. Eleven days after, with an unsigned and undated statement circulated by Nduka Irabor (Chief Press Secretary to the Vice-President and ex-victim of Decree No 4!), the elections were annulled. The grounds for this had been prepared even before the elections, when the nefarious Arthur Nzeribe-led Association for a Better Nigeria had “secured” a judgment from Justice Bassey Ikpeme’s court at 9.30pm on June 10, to stop the elections. Justice Dahiru Saleh subsequently also declared the election a nullity. The FG thus claimed that “no responsible or responsive government will watch its judiciary built on sound and solid foundation to be tarnished by the insatiable political desire of a few” It also alleged the “offer and acceptance of money and other forms of inducement” against officials of NEC. The junta believed that it could get away with the annulment as it had with the earlier aborted bus-stops on the road of its transition. This however was one moving of the goalposts during a match, too many; all hell was let loose as the masses unleashed their pent-up anger against the military overlords.
The revolutionary upsurge of the masses started on July 5, though there had earlier been several spontaneous outbursts after the annulment. On that day, over one million Nigerians heeded the clarion call of Campaign for Democracy for a protest march to Abiola’s house. There are two important issues to point out with regards to this historical day, in the June 12 revolution. One, CD was expecting at most ten thousand people for the march (it had initially wanted to settle for a candlelight night!) The second crucial point to note is that MKO at first refused to address the masses -his personal assistants said: “baba is tired and sleeping, he would not like to be disturbed”- this was despite the fact that he was informed well ahead of time. It was much later that we would know why he was tired and sleeping; MKO had just gotten back from an overnight meeting with Babangida, trying to resolve their differences. Obviously, he did realize that what bound them together was much more than what seemed to be tearing them apart. This singular action also shows the disdain in which MKO and indeed all capitalists hold the working people, even when they say otherwise, so as to use working people, youths and the poor, as cannon fodder in their intra-class battles. Otedola, the Lagos state governor was to “surrender” the state to Abacha (then the Army boss) two days later, as the masses took over the streets, playing soccer on the highway, as “the festival of the oppressed” seized the youths with frenzy. On July 8, not less than 107 Nigerians were killed when the military rolled in the tanks.
What was the stand of organized labour at this critical hour in our nation’s history? NLC had given full support to the SDP bid. On June 10, the Labour Political Commission had issued a directive stating: “For the avoidance of doubt, the National Labour Political Commission restates that Labour ‘s support for the SDP is not in question and still stands . Therefore, all workers are expected to vote the party’s presidential candidate at the forthcoming presidential election”. The CWC met on June 28, but was divided on the extent of action organized labour was to take against the annulment. This led to Unilag students sacking the NLC secretariat at Yaba and the abduction of its Head of Information department, Malam Salisu Mohammed, when they could not get the President, Paschal Bafyau. Its NEC meeting of July 14 & 15 at Port Harcourt, asked the FGN to roll back its annulment and call on the Electoral Commission ‘s Chair Humphrey Nwosu, to announce the results. When in August the military junta announced that it would set-up an Interim National Government (with the active connivance of the leadership of the SDP) and increase the pump price of petrol from 70 kobo to 7 naira, NLC summoned another NEC meeting, this time at Enugu. Congress re-affirmed its earlier position, but with the rider that the junta could hand over to the Senate President on August 27, if it chose not to de-annul the elections, rather than hand over to an ING that had no place in the 1989 constitution.
The IBB junta remained adamant until as the fires of revolution it had unwittingly stoked consumed it: ignominiously “stepping aside” on August 26, amidst civil disobedience championed by CD. The Central Working Committee of Congress met on August 27. In its communiqué it noted that: “changes in the administration of the country have not led to a return to constitutionalism”. It further observed that the ING “comprising principal actors of the Transition Council” could hardly move the nation forward, based on the failure of the council to meet its set objectives of; “revamping the economy; improving the wellbeing of Nigerians and; successfully concluding the transition programme”. It thus directed Nigerians “to stay at home with effect from Saturday, 28th August 1993 until further notice” stating that “the action is on the twin issue of democracy…and the 971.43 percent increase in the price of petrol”.
The ING sent a presidential jet to pick 23 labour leaders for a negotiation on the strike, at Abuja. It had been resolved upon that the delegation led by the Mr Bafyau would report back to CWC in Lagos before a decision would be taken. This it did, but the views of most members of the delegation was upheld by the CWC- in- session and to the dismay of working people, youths and the poor who sought socio-political change and hung their fate on organized labour, the strike was called-off. The rationale was the beggarly-philosophy of collective bargaining that since one of the two demands presented (that on fuel price hike, which turned out to be a trick!) had been partially met; a compromise could be reached with the powers that be. Oil workers however refused to return to work. Thus while NLC had ordered for work-resumption, there were no vehicles (since there was no fuel in the petrol stations) to take workers to work. CD activists also continued agitation and mobilization in the neighborhoods. At this point in time, the working people began losing confidence in their traditional organizations, paving the way for the rise of pro-democratic groups to the fore of June 12, revolution.
Meanwhile, MKO who had earlier asserted that: “August 27, 1993, shall be the terminal date of military dictatorship in Nigeria. Nigerians through their democratic decision of June 12, 1993, expect me to assume the reins of government. I fully intend to keep that date with history”, had sneaked out of the country like a thief in the night for what would be a 53-day sojourn with the imperialist masters in London and the United State of North America, before his assumed “date with history”! The drama was however just unfolding.
As with every revolution, practice melted the dross of “theory”, struggles on the battlefield were spurred and spurred struggles on method and strategy. Alliances, tactical and strategic, progressive and profane, were made and were broken. One of such more profane alliances during the June 12 revolution was that between radical elements of pro-democracy and supposedly “progressive” bourgeois democrats in the SDP on one hand and Abacha on the other; paving the way to power for the later.
The officials of SDP (in partnership with its “a little to the right” sister; NRC), earlier sold their victory at the polls for a pot of porridge, when they took part in the negotiations for the ING which people like Olusegun Obasanjo facilitated. After Abiola returned from his sojourn on September 24 he headed for the Lagos High Court seeking an order that Decree 61 which created the ING was “null and void” and that based on DN 58 and “provisions of transition to civil rule (political programme) Act Cap 443 laws of Federation of Nigeria, 1990” he was the rightful person to “lawfully exercise executive powers of the Federation under the 1989 constitution”. At the same time he was busy having discussions with Abacha on the need for a coup by the General to bring him to power. Mind you, Abiola was not new to coups; he was reported to have given financial and political support to the earlier Buhari/Idiagbon & Babangida coups.
On November 10, despite all attempts at arm-twisting her, Justice Dolapo Akinsanya ruled that the ING was illegal. Immediately there was an upsurge of mass action. Lagos state higher institutions’ students moved to MKO Abiola crescent, but the June 12 custodian told them to go back to their schools and study for their exams. On November 17, Shonekan, head of the illegal ING was forced to resign at gun-point and thus did his “child of circumstance” regime come to an inglorious end in very curious circumstances. Its attempt at increasing petroleum products prices had stoked up fires of a General strike and mass action that made its exit very convenient. Abacha came to power with the full support of Abiola & co. Bola Ige pointed out that they drafted the maiden speech he was to read. From day one however, it was obvious to anyone who chose to see that Abacha was no June 12 man. In his eventual maiden speech, he proscribed the National and State Houses of Assembly & the two political parties. After describing his “Provisional Ruling Council” as a “child of necessity” he threatened to deal ruthlessly with anyone who dared it. Yet the June 12 apostles still flocked into his cabinet. “Progressive” bourgeois politicians such as Jerry Gana, Jakande, Babatope, Onagoruwa Ayu, Rimi & Kingibe who had been Abiola’s running mate graced the PRC like cursed ornaments.
The June 12 crowd woke up to the realization of Abacha’s gambit by the beginning of 1994 and formed the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) which gave a May 31st deadline for the Assemblies to be reinstituted. A lot of myth has been woven about NADECO and its fighting for democracy in Nigeria. Most of its leaders “fought” from foreign lands, for fear of their lives while working people and socialist activists confronted the tanks and guns of the military, dying for a victory that NADECO would claim and share the spoils of. It was in this period that Democratic Alternative was formed on June 4, 1994, as a party in defiance of the government. It was to be modeled on the lines of development of the ANC. The National Conscience, formed in March also emerged as a party of defiance on October 1, when it became the National Conscience Party.
The remaining chapter of the heady days of 1993-94, could be tied to the tragi-comic Epetedo declaration when on June11, Abiola declared himself President over a phantom “Government of National Unity”, went into hiding to reappear eleven days later and go back to his house where within hours he was arrested and taken to prison where he eventually died four years and fifteen days later. This ignited a series of mass actions that were to mark the end of that first phase of the June 12, revolution. Students seized the Radio Station in Delta State, broadcasting revolutionary songs and their “seizure” of power. Oil workers of both NUPENG & PENGASSAN paralyzed the country with a 72-day strike & CD mobilized a series of “sit-at-home” civil disobedience actions. Abacha quelled the mass actions jackboots, guns, and tanks, arrested Kokori and Dabibi, the oil workers leaders & his Constitutional Conference farce continued its work. NLC, ASUU & NASU were also banned as the counter-revolution barred its fangs, crippling labour to pave way for its consolidation. The counter-revolution it seemed, had at last taken the initiative from the myriad forces of the revolution.
1995-1996: Counter-revolution consolidates.
1994 was the real beginning of Abacha’s despotic rule on behalf of the counter-revolution. The honeymoon at the conception of this “child of necessity” for capitalist reaction to assert itself was over. Having clipped organized labour’s wings with the banning of Congress, the oil workers unions and unions in the restless education sector, there was no need for a soothsayer to show the pro-democracy movement that the “heady days of rebellion” were probably fading out. The more successful “sit-at-home” “strikes” which CD and its affiliates mobilized for, either coincided with, or were during workers’ strikes. The campuses, garrisons for the youthful foot soldiers of the revolution, were also shut. But all these were not enough for Abacha to consolidate the strangle-hold of reaction on the upsurge of struggle for change. There were two key features that were to be prominent as devilish tactics, for the rest of his regime that began taking shape in 1994. These were; the use of death squads and the use of filthy lucre i.e. hard cash.
Probably the first attempted assassination was on August 26, when six gunmen riddled Gani Fawehinmi’s chambers with bullets resulting in two of his security guards sustaining serious injuries. That same year, Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate fled the country. An attempt was made on his life the following year in Washington D.C by Abacha’s goons. Rewane and Kudirat were not lucky as Abacha waxed strong in ‘95/96. They were killed on October 2, 1995 & June 4, 1996 respectively.
Abacha’s regime infiltrated the students’ movement with money injecting it with a terrible cash-related disease which till today it has not yet gotten over. The split of NANS on July 22, 1996 was however as well aided, even if unwittingly, by the in-fighting between progressive forces in the Association.
The main fish for Abacha’s cash bait were anyway, outside the campus. They were to be found in the: “five leprous fingers of the same hand” –CNC, DPN, GDM, NCPN & UNCP- described as political parties, that were all to later endorse Abacha as their “consensus” presidential candidate; collectives of vagabonds who called themselves youths -NYO, NACYN & YEAA- and vowed that there would be “no work, no sleep, no school” until Abacha made explicit his esoteric disclosure of interest to “contest” made to the Washington Post and become Nigeria’s life president; various palaces of Emirs, Obas, Igwes and the whole lot of relics of feudal lordship who should cover their faces in shame since history has shown their “divine revelations” of Abacha’s “ordained” role as president of Nigeria for many decades to come, to be a lie; studios of dozens of musicians who waxed albums and gyrated like there would be no tomorrow at the 2-million man rally for Abacha, and; a host of other minions, carpetbaggers, braggarts and never-do-wells that sold their senses and balls for a piece of cake.
The main source of the monies thrown around was of course, the oil wealth of Nigeria. Between 1995 and 1998 Abacha’s petroleum Trust Fund rolled in over N320 billion while oil-producing communities were repressed and Saro-wiwa was judicially murdered in November, 1995. There were also contracts and sundry means of making money circulate if that was needed for Abacha to succeed himself. This included minting money!
The press suffered extensively during this period. Not only were several press houses shut down, imitation copies of the more radical newspapers and magazines were printed to confuse the masses. Several of the progressive magazines went underground and guerrilla journalism was invented in Nigeria by the likes of Tell and The News. Several journalists were arrested and detained, while Bagauda Kaltho was tortured and murdered.
Such were just some of the ruthless and bestial ways in which the counter-revolution re-asserted itself, consolidating reaction on the blood, liberty and sensibilities of Nigerians. But all that was to change, through a re-awakening of struggle on one hand and the ingenious if murderous equation by elimination calculated in Washington and London.
1997-1998/99: A new balance of forces and the “resolution” formula
While the Nigeria Labour Congress remained banned, 1997 opened with workers agitations. The industrial unions wanted Congress unbanned and strikes swept through the shop floor, albeit on economic issues. Meanwhile the Abachaists were growing louder with their well-oiled calls for the dark-goggled god to finally take possession of Nigeria. All this was tonic for the pro-democratic movement to re-group and re-awaken their June 12 struggle. CD by now had become a caricature of what it used to be. Split in two and seemingly bereft of life and focus, a new body had to be formed to play its role in the last act of June 12, drama. On May 17, 1998, United Action for Democracy was formed at Ilaje-Bariga in Lagos. It led the opposition “5-million man rally” in Lagos against the Louis Farakhan-inspired “2-million man rally” for Abacha, in Abuja.
Congress of Progressive Youths also seized the gauntlet; on May Day it organized a riotous demonstration in Ibadan. The military administrator consequently held Bola Ige – a former governor of the state – as “a prisoner of war”!
The rise of ethnic nationalism took a sharp peak in this period as well. While O’odua Youth Movement had earlier been formed in September 1994 and the more “massified” O’odua People’s Congress the following August, their activities spiraled as desperation mingled with faith about the possible future of Nigeria. The Niger Delta began to boil as well. The Warri wars were simmering and the Pan-Niger Delta Resistance Movement (Chikoko Movement), was formed to centralize the struggles in the creeks. But the issue of nationalism in the Niger Delta was to assume a deeper role in Nigeria’s economy and polity, after the Kaima conference of December 11, 1998, where the Ijaw Youths Council was formed.
These were times when the heady days of the beginning of the revolution were being relieved. But this was to be just for a while. The growing unrest was affecting American and European business interests in Nigeria. Even the global economy as a whole was being threatened as ethnic militant groups’ activities in the waterways and creeks of the Niger Delta were crippling oil supplies. What was the solution they arrived at?
Kofi Annan and Emeka Anyaoku, then Secretaries of the United Nations and Commonwealth respectively were amongst the last public figures to see and have tea with Abiola. Even a dullard does not need to think too hard to add up the equation of the Abiola + Abacha times minus, minus = Abdulsalam, formula.
In no time a fresh transition began and after a lot of horse-trading amongst the capitalist elites who were agreed on a “power shift” as part of the sub-head of the formula, Olusegun Aremu Matthew Obasanjo, an Egba man like Abiola and Shonekan emerged as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and was sworn-in on May 29, 1999.
We have tried to put in perspective recent history that many bourgeois scholars and commentators have already being trying their best to distort. We were relatively extensive on the heady days of the revolution for two reasons. First, the actions and inactions of the different parties in any revolution as it bursts out are decisively important in shaping the subsequent balances of forces throughout its subsequent phases. Of course, this is not to say these solely determine what happen after. It also does not at all overlook the fact that; what persons, organizations and alliances do or do not do at this and subsequent stages is established on their world view, methods, values & strategy before the revolution even unfolds.
Second, without a party and with its Congress banned in 19994, the working class as an organized political collective went into the recess of the stage, leaving the centerpiece for the pro-democratic movement (and later the ethnic militias/self determination groups), in the confrontation with Abacha’s reaction. This reality it could be argued was based on the vacillation in action of the trade union movement in a collective sense. It also confirms the view that such actions and inactions were rooted in earlier decisions right from 1989 when the NLP was disbanded in the most literal term of the word. The bourgeois PSP & PFN formed at the same time still went into SDP intact and till today exist somewhat in the soul of Afenifere and the PDM (though split with Atiku’s exit from PDP).
Today, Nigeria for the first time is having almost a decade of civil rule at a stretch. Revolutions are not just what we read in the book as having happened in 1776 America, 1789 & 1871 in France or in 1917 Russia. Revolution implies and brings about change. The June 12 political revolution limited itself to the change of political dictatorship in Nigeria from the hands of the military to that of their civilian class counterparts. A social revolution entails both political and socio-economic change. Workers can break the chains of their enslavement by the capitalist employers only through a Social revolution. Social revolutions don’t just come about. They involve struggle and a series of political revolutions through which the oppressed classes learn and build their power to be able to vanquish the power of the status quo which the ruling class holds.
A major lesson for us from the foregoing is the need to build workers power. We have to build Labour Party, arm it with socialist perspective and a revolutionary change–focused programme around which we can mobilize the mass of the citizenry.
The workers’ movement must establish institutional control over the party, through an all encompassing Nigeria Labour Political Commission and State Labour Political Committees, as resolved upon at the 9th NLC Delegate Conference in 2007.
Our generation has an historic mission far deeper and much greater than the mandate of June 12; we have to build structures of workers power that can seize the popular initiative, if a situation such as happened fifteen years ago were to arise again, in our lifetime.
But we cannot fulfill it without returning to the basics. Not to fulfill it, is to betray it.
* This article was originally published in the history section of the June 2008 issue of the Working People’s Vanguard, the now rested organ of the now defunct All-Nigeria Socialist Alliance. Apart from changing the opening phrase of “fifteen years ago”, to “twenty years ago”, it has been left intact. This explains the reference to Abubakar Atiku’s split with the PDP. He has since returned “home”.
More importantly, the perspective of this article has been developed in my book June 12, Revolution and Counter-revolution in Nigeria: 1993-1999. It will be issued on July 5, commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the day the working masses decisively entered the political arena of the “June 12 Struggle”.
Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.