Written by Workers' Alternative Saturday, 25 May 2013 22:23
State of Emergency: intensification of an attack on already terrorized masses
Conspicuously missing in President Goodluck Jonathan’s speech of Tuesday 14th May, 2013 where he declared an indefinite state of emergency in three Northeast States of Nigeria, is the fact that he had earlier already declared states of emergency in two of the present three states since December 31 2011. The states of emergency in these states, Borno, Yobe, Plateau and Niger are yet to be called off.
The most important question is if the earlier declared emergency rule had not worked, what will make this one work, as the conditions remain the same.
Essentially, the contents of the two speeches declaring emergency rule on December 31 2011 and 14 May 2013 remain fundamentally the same. Since the 2011 declaration, the conditions have further degenerated in these areas as even acknowledged by Jonathan himself. He acknowledged that eleven states in Nigeria are currently having “protracted security challenges” – Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Kano, Plateau, Bayelsa, Taraba, Benue and Nasarawa states. In reality, all the 36 states of Nigeria are currently in crisis. The crime rate has climbed very high; the menace of Boko Haram keeps escalating; cultists gangsterism is on the rise, and so on. It is quite clear that the country is continually sinking into an abyss of instability and turbulence by the day.
Thousands of troops, along with hardware of war, have been deployed into these areas.
The Airforce has already been bombing and notorious curfews are being imposed. In fact, a 24-hour curfew has been imposed in Maiduguri.
As anticipated thousands of innocent civilians are already being displaced by the day. It is currently reported that over 2,000 Nigerian refugees have moved into Niger Republic due to indiscriminate bombing by the Nigerian military; these attacks, it should be noted, had actually commenced before the declaration of further emergency rule. More refugees are moving into Cameroon and other parts of Nigeria. Many will face starvation and all forms of deprivations. Many are going to face terrible discrimination and ostracisation, as they are unjustly tagged terrorists. This is no doubt a tragedy. The Nigerian military have already lost the war of the hearts and minds in these areas.
It is clear that the state of emergency is more of an attack on the poor masses than on Boko Haram. Under the guise of attacking Boko Haram, the civil liberties of the masses are being attacked and countless innocent people are being killed.
The notorious April attack on Baga, Borno State by the Nigerian army immediately comes to mind. Over two thousand houses were burnt down; more than 185 civilians were killed by the soldiers; scores were injured and many are still in detention. So massive was the destruction that satellites flying hundreds of kilometers above noted it. The Jonathan regime is currently trying to sweep this crime against humanity under the carpet.
Avalanche of ‘Support’
Since the May 14 declaration of emergency rule by Jonathan, there has been some support and commendation, coming mainly from some sections of the Nigerian ruling elites and low-level petty bourgeois elements majorly from Southern and Christian parts of Nigeria. Even the leftwing bourgeois radicals, like Femi Falana, have lauded the emergency rule. However, the mass majority of the working class nationally have adopted a wait and see attitude, while the masses in the affected areas are quite doubtful. From their bitter experiences, they rightly suspect that they will be the victims in the long run.
Most unfortunately, the leaderships of the NLC, TUC and Labour Party have declared support for Jonathan and the state of emergency. In no way will the emergency rule further the interests of the working class in these regions, as under the guise of fighting Boko Haram various rights of the working masses would be subverted, while the privileges of the rich elites in these regions who are responsible for these crisis remain preserved. In addition, the regime will inevitably use the same crushing methods against the Nigerian working class as a whole when it intensifies its austerity programs. Already the IMF has called on the government to increase fuel prices.
It is unfortunate that the leadership of labour, instead of opposing the emergency rule and independently mobilizing workers and youth against Boko Haram and the atrocities of the Nigerian state, opted for the seeming easy way out by supporting the government.
Several other organizations which have also declared support for GEJ's move include the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, and the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA.
On the other hand, the bourgeois nominal opposition political parties are clearly split down the middle and in disarray over the emergency rule as some of their top ranks have declared support for the move. Even the governors of the affected states have opportunistically declared support. This is in spite of the fact that 30 governors had earlier openly opposed such move after their meeting.
The petty bourgeois elements, majorly from the south, who openly and readily support this military clampdown, are actually victims of sponsored bigotry of southern bourgeois controlled media, which consciously promotes the idea that all Northerners and Muslims are Boko Haram.
The Nigerian ruling elites have, over the years, been sponsoring the split of the Nigerian masses along religious and ethnic lines in order to undermine the enormous strength of the Nigerian working class. This is done by promoting all forms of bigotry in the mainstream media, churches and mosques.
From the comments on social media, one can see the effect of this reactionary campaign on the consciousness of low-level petty bourgeois elements in the South. Most do not understand what is going on in the north and preserve several biases against the northern masses and Islam.
However, the current support for Jonathan can aptly be compared to that of a people that declared support for a declaration of war. The fanfare of the support is usually cleared by the horrific realities of war.
Most people living in the regions where emergency rule is being enforced would definitely prefer another option. They would prefer being directly involved in the process of ridding their communities of “Boko Haram” and their elite sponsors. The current emergency rule consciously excludes the elite sponsors of Boko Haram from attack and focuses on attacking the innocent masses along with Boko Haram. The masses in these regions are currently facing two options of death either from the bullets and knifes of Boko Haram or from the bullets and shells of Joint Task Force, JTF, the enforcer of emergency rule.
The current reactionary support base of Goodluck Jonathan will inevitably be eroded in the face of the realities and consequences of endless emergency rule, which is no doubt a very expensive option. Bombs, guns, bullets, shells, military supplies are very expensive, combined with wages and allowances of soldiers. No doubt, there will be cliques of contractors and top officials already smiling to the banks now. The Nigerian masses both north and south will have to pay for these wars one way or another.
The regime and its supporters are consciously fanning ethnic and religious bigotry in southern Nigeria; this will inevitably lead to further instability in the country as a whole.
Already, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, a platform of a wing of the northern section of the Nigerian ruling class have come out openly against Jonathan’s emergency. However, it should be noted also that the ACF is equally doing this for its own highly opportunistic reasons and not in the interests of the northern masses.
The True Face of Boko Haram Reaction
The concrete truth about Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means, "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad", aka Boko Haram, is that it is nothing but a set of foot soldiers of sections of the Nigerian ruling class that went berserk. It is an arch-reactionary organization that was and is still doing the bidding of sections of the Nigerian elites.
It has absolutely nothing to do with the northern masses nor does it protect their interests, in spite of its claims. It was set up officially about 2001 with the active support of a senator and later two-times governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, along with numerous other members of the elite in ANPP. Members of the sect were even appointed as commissioners in some northern states and received state funds. It was reported that several children of the elites were active members.
The state governments and several bourgeois elements gave the sect several landed properties and funded its populist programs of feeding and housing the very poor. These are actually policies bourgeois politicians use in recruiting the very poor and lumpen elements to do their bidding.
Twice the late leader of the sect, Mohammed Yussuf, was arrested and taken to Abuja by the security forces and twice he was released on orders from above. He was given state receptions back in Borno on both occasions.
It is important to note that the active support given to the Boko Haram sect is a typical policy of the entire Nigerian ruling class who have been investing in setting up private militias and rightwing terror groups round the country over the years. The current amnesty program in the Niger Delta is actually geared towards rewarding criminal elements. The federal government awarding security contracts to the dreaded Odua Peoples’ congress, OPC, and other ethnic militia groups are also to be seen in this light.
The Boko Haram was active in the pro-Sharia movement in the north in the early 2000s, which was a major program of the northern bourgeois politicians then and in the election campaigns of several bourgeois elements. Until date, its link with sections of the Nigerian ruling elites remains solid.
However, as it grew, it ran continuously into conflict with the interests of the corrupt politicians and the state it was working for, as the politicians were only interested in exploiting the Islamic ideology for their own selfish interests. Here lies the basis of the sect going rogue. It is a case of the dog going rabid in the hands of the owner. History is littered with examples of organizations like this. Osama bin Laden’s Al Queda is another typical example.
It is very important to note that the basis of this development lies seriously in the extreme poverty in northeastern Nigeria combined with a highly repressive and oppressive state apparatus.
Northern sections of the Nigerian ruling elites like their southern colleagues have continuously promoted religion in order to fool the masses, exploit them and keep them apart. Today, electoral campaigns are openly carried out in churches, mosques and shrines around the country. Even Goodluck has prostrated before several priests and idols during electoral campaigns.
The pro-Sharia movement, which they consciously created in the early 2000s, did guarantee electoral victories for several bourgeois politicians and the crude imposition of criminal Sharia but could not transform the lives of the masses nor bring any form of development. Rather they fed very fat while the poor became much poorer. The hands of poor thieves were cut off and several rape victims were sentenced to death but the governors, senators, top contractor who stole billions are still enjoying their loot today.
Here lies the basis of the conflicts between Boko Haram and its sponsors and the Nigerian State.
We need to reemphasize the fact that Boko Haram was a tool in the hands of sections of the northern Nigerian elites, the same way criminal cultists and gangsters in the Niger Delta and numerous gangs of so-called self-determination groups are tools in the hands of the elites of their regions.
The main reason why the former leader of the sect Mohammed Yussuf was killed in police custody was actually to cover up the direct link of the sect and several members of the ruling elites.
The Nigerian elites whip up religious and ethnic sentiments whenever it suits them for their highly selfish interests. The reactionary nature of these organizations could be seen in their role during the January 2012 general strike. Several of these groups played major strikebreaking roles in the southeast and south south, while Boko Haram staged a major attack in Kano on the last days of the general strike. Not only was the general strike massively supported in Kano, it was only in Kano that the State Chapter of NLC made attempt to defy the central NLC action of calling off the strike. Boko Haram’s bombings did the work of the State for them then.
The decadence and highly reactionary nature of Boko Haram can be seen in their program, methodology and choice of attacks. They insist on the imposition of strict 13th century Sharia law and they employ terrorism as a means of furthering their cause. Most of their victims are innocent.
Contrary to the impression given by sections of the mainstream bourgeois media in Nigeria, majority of their victims are northerners and Muslims. Of course, it is important to note that several of their victims are Christians.
It was recently reported that school attendance in Borno State has significantly dropped. Thanks to Boko Haram’s attacks on over 50 schools of the 175 schools in the state.
Why Military Option Failed
Officially, there is a state of emergency in five states in Nigeria today and numerous military-police campaigns since 2009 when the Boko Haram insurgency first made its appearance. In spite of all these, the Boko Haram insurgency as actually grown tremendouly. with instability in several other states. There are several factors responsible for this, top on the list are extreme repression by the state, continuous collaboration of sections of the elites with the sect, collaboration of top officials in the State security apparatus with the sect for corrupt and reactionary purposes, incompetence of so-called top security officers and massive poverty in the land.
As the French saying goes, “you can do any thing with the bayonet, except sit on it”. Extreme ruthlessness of the Nigerian security agents is responsible for pushing scores of fighters into the ready hand of Boko Haram. The JTF have committed numerous heinous crimes against humanity in that region. In spite of the cover-ups, many of these crimes have been exposed. Scores of innocent and poor people have been summarily executed or murdered by the State, scores have been arrested and detained without trial, thousands have been rendered homeless, thousands have lost their means of livelihood, the lives of millions have been dislocated, the list is endless. Numerous checkpoints created are also armed extortion points.
The Nigerian State and Boko Haram have actually been complementing each other.
There are cases of top security officers collaborating with the sect. The case of the ‘escape’ of Kabiru Sokoto comes into mind. It is on record that several top police officers were sacked but never tried due to their links with the sect.
Sections of the Nigerian bourgeois politicians still maintain links with the sect. The sect is still an important pawn in their dirty political games and proxy wars. The case of Senator Ndume readily comes to mind, he was alleged to have maintained contact with the sect 73 times in a month. He is currently facing terrorism charges.
The former chief security adviser to Jonathan, late Gen Patrick Azazi also openly alleged that the crisis of Boko Haram stems from the conflicts within the PDP. This was days before he was removed from office.
In the face of these complications, further military attacks are bound to create the same or even more terrible results, as the regime is clearly chasing shadows of itself and its class.
Even the most powerful army in the world, the US military, could not win this type of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the US military at some point did make attempt to win over the “hearts and minds” of the people but failed. In the Nigerian situation, the military is not even interested in winning over any heart or mind. They are only interested in killing any thing that moves or that has beards.
The numerous claims of victory and progress in the current campaign cannot be independently confirmed. Several foreign journalists are already describing the campaign as a “war without pictures”, as the regime has imposed a strict media blackout. Several mainstream national media corporations have been transformed into extensions of the military publicity office, passing off war propaganda as news with the intention of confusing the public.
Amnesty: an Option in Crisis
In the face of the declared state of emergency, the amnesty option is already in disarray. The amnesty option, which sections of the Nigerian elites openly supported, was to take the shape of the ‘amnesty’ of the Niger Delta ‘militants’. This includes bribing Boko Haram to give up their arms. As some will put it, “this is nothing but rewarding bad behaviour”.
However, northeastern Nigeria is not oil rich Niger Delta where the foreign multinationals are concentrated. Boko Haram is a much bigger rightwing religious inspired insurgency, not a group of PDP thugs and assassins, oil thieves and kidnappers with questionable morals. They are better organized and trained. They have links with Al-Qaeda and other rightwing terror groups in Africa.
Even in the Niger Delta, the amnesty program has succeeded only with the highly criminal elements who exploited the crisis for their personal benefits. The situation in the Delta is still on a knife-edge as scores of youth are getting more restive by the day and the crisis of the environment continues. Already, Bayelsa State is listed as part of the growingly insecure states. It is only a matter of time before the masses of the Niger Delta come in conflict with the regime and the highly corrupt Niger Delta elites. Then the true face of the militants would be exposed.
Real Intentions of Jonathan
The transformation of Goodluck Jonathan from a clueless president to a decisive and wise war leader capable of leading the nation is the picture the regime intends to paint. The PDP regime while battling serious credibility problems is still desperate on returning itself to power come 2015 elections, while several other sections of the ruling class are opposed to his return.
Quite a lot of the numerous conflicts within the ruling elites today border on 2015. The PDP is in crisis and is heading towards implosion. It is at war with itself on numerous fronts. No day passes without a report of Jonathan’s conflicts with PDP governors (e.g Ameachi of Rivers), conflicts with the past president OBJ who actually installed him as president and numerous others. The regime is quite weak and clueless but desperate. It is also having problems with its imperialist backers who are getting doubtful of the regime's ability.
Several of the regime’s supporters have been openly threatening to make the country ungovernable if Goodluck Jonathan is not returned in 2015. They are openly saying they would use the same methods of Boko Haram. Under normal conditions, these elements would have been arrested for treason but the situation in Nigeria has seriously degenerated. It is clear that Jonathan is consciously promoting these elements.
Clearly, part of the considerations for the declaration of indefinite emergency rule is the 2015 agenda of holding on to political power by the Jonathan regime. These elements do not care about the pain, havoc and death they wreak on the masses, what concerns them is their greedy interests.
Concern of US imperialism
The US government has been very critical of Jonathan regime's handling of the crisis to the extent that they have openly criticized the regime for “gross human rights violations”. It is not that they care so much about human rights but they know that the crude repressive methods used by the military is pushing more people into the hands of Boko Haram.
Even though their direct economic interests are far from the areas of conflict in Northeastern Nigeria, they know that further destabilization would inevitably undermine their interests. This is why they are concerned about the situation.
What the Working Masses Must Do
The growing state of insecurity in Nigeria is a further confirmation of the impasse neo-colonial capitalism has landed the nation. It confirms that the Nigerian bourgeois class is incapable of moving the society forward, rather the country is moving backwards. However, the worst is yet to come.
Many ask the question, what other options exist to handle the Boko Haram crisis? We say the question is incomplete without asking, which set of people is capable of implementing an alternative solution. Sentiments apart, there is no way the current Nigerian capitalist class can solve any of the fundamental problems facing the society, not to talk of moving the society forward.
The current indefinite emergency rule, which some layers currently support, will inevitably fail, even if scores of Boko Haram leaders are killed. It is bound to create more problems than solutions and the masses will suffer the numerous consequences.
The Jonathan regime does not even have a definition of what victory against Boko Haram looks like. While it says it is fighting Boko Haram, the regime and other sections of the Nigerian elites are directly promoting criminal rightwing terror groups in other areas. To the extent that even if Boko Haram suddenly disappears from the stage of history today, many more rightwing militias will replace it.
Clearly, there are no easy roads; all so-called shortcuts are heavily mined routes that will lead to more crises, only the Nigerian working class and youth in alliance with other poor strata of the society can actually safe the situation.
This can be done by transforming their organizations, both trade unions and political party, and going directly for power with the program of socialism. In essence, only a socialist revolution led by the working class can solve the situation. This remains the only tough but sane route.
Transforming working class organizations implies fighting corrupt and class collaborating leadership currently heading these organizations. This process has already started within the Nigerian trade union movement. Corrupt and class-compromising officials are dangerous to the collective interests of the working people and youth.
A principled pro-worker leadership will not watch while both Boko Haram and the Nigerian State slaughter the masses with impunity, will not watch while the various sections of the Nigerian elites lead the country into disarray and into barbarism.
A principled pro-worker leadership of labour would by now be independently mobilizing workers to set up workers defense squads to defend the communities from Boko Haram attacks and would be appealing to rank and file soldiers for support. It would take up the wage and pension issues facing rank and file soldiers.
A principled pro-worker leadership of the labour movement would have by now built a serious labour party capable of uniting the Nigerian working class to take power from the ruling elites with clear socialist program.
The major task before workers and youth activists today is to intensify the work within the labour movement, as it is only a matter of time before the working people wake up again and fight for their lives. The January 2012 movement would be a child's play compared with the impending movement of the Nigerian working class.
The working class must fight all forms of petty bourgeois divisive tendencies sponsored to undermine its strength.