Nigeria: State of Emergency – an intensification of attack on already terrorized masses

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on 14 May declared an indefinite state of emergency in three north-eastern states in Nigeria. In his speech he conveniently ignored the fact that he had earlier declared states of emergencies in two of these states already back in December 2011. The state of emergency in Borno, Yobe, Plateau & Niger, are yet to be called off. If the earlier declared emergency rule failed in its declared aims, what will make this one work, as the conditions remain the same?

boko haram mapEssentially, 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 was acknowledged by Goodluck himself. He admitted that eleven states in Nigeria are in fact currently facing “protracted security challenges” – Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Kano, Plateau, Bayelsa, Taraba, Benue and Nasarawa states. There are 36 states in Nigeria and all of them are currently in crisis. Crime rates are climbing very high, the menace of Boko Haram keeps escalating, cultists gangsterism is on the rise, etc.

It is quite clear that the country is sinking more and more into the abyss of instability and turbulence by the day. Thousands of troops along with heavy hardware are again being deployed in these areas, the air force has already started bombing, and numerous curfews are being imposed. And as anticipated thousands of innocent civilians are 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 actually commenced before the declaration of further emergency rule. More refuges are moving into Cameroon and more into other parts of Nigeria. Many will face starvation and very harsh conditions. Many are facing terrible discrimination as they are tagged as terrorists.

This is no doubt a tragedy. The Nigerian military have already lost the war of the “hearts and minds” in these areas, as it is clear that the state of emergency is more of an attack on the poor masses than an attack on Boko Haram. Under the guise of attacking Boko Haram the civil liberties of the masses are being attacked and scores of innocent people are being killed.

The notorious attack on Baga, Borno State, in April by the Nigerian army immediately comes to mind. Over two thousand houses were burnt down, the army killed over 185 civilians, scores of people were injured, and many are still in detention. So massive was the destruction that satellites flying hundreds of kilometres above noted it. The Goodluck regime is currently trying to sweep this crime against humanity under the carpet.

Avalanche of ‘Support’

Since the May declaration of emergency rule by Goodluck, there has been some support and commendation for it, Typical of all wars, at the beginning, the liberals, the petty bourgeoisie, dragging behind them the more backward layers of the working class and poor strata of the society, are queuing behind the state hoping that war will resolve all the perceived contradictions.

Most unfortunately, the leaderships of the NLC, TUC and Labour Party have also declared support for Goodluck and the state of emergency. WE have to understand that in no way will emergency rule further the interests of the working class in these regions, for under the guise of fighting Boko Haram the rights of the working masses are suspended while the privileges of the rich elites in these regions who are responsible for these crisis remain intact. Furthermore, the regime will inevitably use the same measures against the Nigerian working class as a whole when it intensifies its austerity programmes. 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, have opted for the seemingly easy way out by supporting the government. Several other organizations have also declared support ,such as the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, etc.

The bourgeois nominal opposition political parties are clearly split and in disarray as some of their top ranks have declared support for Goodluck. 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 moves after their meeting.

The petty bourgeois elements, mainly from the south, who openly and readily support this military clampdown, are actually victims of bigotry sponsored by the southern bourgeois controlled media, which consciously promotes the idea that all Northerners and Muslims are Boko Haram.

The Nigerian ruling elites over the years have been promoting divisions within 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 have several biases against the northern masses and Islam.

However, the current support for Goodluck can be compared to that of people that declare support for a declaration of war. The fanfare of the support is usually cleared by the horrific realities of war itself.

Most people living in the regions where emergency rule are been 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 the Joint Task Force, JTF, the enforcer of emergency rule.

The current reactionary support base of Goodluck will inevitably be eroded in the face of the realities and consequences of endless emergency rule, which no doubt is 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 and 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 Goodluck’s emergency rule but it is 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" – of Boko Haram, is that it is nothing but the foot soldiers of sections of the Nigerian ruling class that went rogue. 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 the 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 programmes of feeding and housing the very poor. These are actually the 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 right-wing groups round the country over the years. The current amnesty programme 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.

Boko Haram was active in the pro-Sharia movement in the north in the early 2000s, which was a major programme 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 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 Qaeda is another typical example.

It is very important to note that the basis of this development lies seriously in the extreme poverty in north-eastern 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 himself 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 raped victims were sentenced to death but the governors, senators, top contractors who stole billions are still enjoying their loot today.

Herein lies the basis of the conflicts between Boko Haram and its sponsors and the Nigerian State. We need to re-emphasize 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 links between 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 9, 2011 general strike. Several of these groups played major strike breaking roles in the south-east 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 the NLC made any 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 programme, methodology and choice of attacks. They insist on the imposition of strict Sharia law and they employ terrorism as a means of furthering their cause. Most of their victims are innocent people.

Contrary to the impression given by sections of the mainstream bourgeois media in Nigeria, the 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 the Military Option Failed

Officially, there are states of emergency in five States in Nigeria today and numerous military-police campaigns have been going since 2009 when the Boko Haram insurgency began. But in spite of all these, the Boko Haram insurgency has actually grown along with instability in several other states. There are several factors responsible for this, the main ones being extreme repression on the part of the state, continuous collaboration of sections of the elites with the sect, the collaboration of top officials in the State security apparatus with the sect for corrupt and reactionary purposes, the incompetence of top so-called security officers and massive poverty in the land. As the French saying goes, “you can do any thing with a bayonet, except sit on it.”

The extreme ruthlessness of the Nigerian so-called 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 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 leaning on each other. There have been cases of top security officers collaborating with the sect. The case of the ‘escape’ of Kabiru Sokoto comes to mind. It is on record that several top police officers were sacked but never tried due to their links with t 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 made contact with the sect 73 times in a month. He is currently facing terrorism charges.

The former chief security adviser to Goodluck, the late General 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 and 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 a pretence of attempting 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 its 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's 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 form of the ‘amnesty’ of the Niger Delta ‘militants’. This includes bribing Boko Haram to give up their arms. As some would put it, “this is nothing but rewarding bad behaviour”.

However, north-eastern Nigeria is not the oil rich Niger Delta where the foreign multinationals are concentrated. Boko Haram is a much bigger right-wing religious inspired insurgency, not a group of PDP supporters, oil thieves and kidnappers with questionable morals. They are better organized and trained and they have linked up with Al-Qaeda and other right-wing terror groups in Africa.

Even in the Niger Delta, the amnesty programme 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's 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 into conflict with the regime and the highly corrupt Niger Delta elites. Then the true face of the militants will be exposed.

The real intentions of Goodluck

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 Goodluck PDP regime while battling serious credibility problems is still desperate on returning itself to office come the 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 are related to 2015. The PDP is in crisis and is heading for implosion. It is at war with itself on numerous fronts. No day passes without a report of Goodluck’s conflicts with PDP governors, particularly the Rivers State governor, conflicts with the past president Obasanjo who actually installed him as president and numerous others. The regime is quite weak and clueless, but also desperate. It is also having problems with its imperialist backers who are getting doubtful of the regime's abilities to cope with the situation.

Several of the regime’s supporters have been openly threatening to render the country ungovernable if Goodluck 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 Goodluck 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 Goodluck regime. These elements do not care about the pain and death they impose on the masses; what concerns them are their greedy interests.

Concern of US imperialism

The US government has been very critical of the Goodluck regime's handling of the crisis to the extent that they have openly criticized the regime for “gross human rights violations”. 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 north-eastern 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 in. 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 also: which class 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 society and move it forward.

The current indefinite emergency rule, which some layers currently support, will inevitably fail. It is bound to create more problems than solutions and the masses will suffer the numerous consequences.

The Goodluck regime does not even have a definition of what victory against Boko Haram looks like. While it says it is fighting Boko Haram, the Goodluck regime and other sections of the Nigerian elites are directly promoting criminal elements in other areas. To the extent that even if Boko Haram suddenly disappears from the stage of history today, many more right-wing militias will replace it.

Clearly, there are no easy roads; all so-called short-cuts are heavily mined routes that will lead to more crises. Only the Nigerian working class and youth in alliance with other poor strata of society can actually save the situation.

This can be done by transforming their organizations, both trade unions and political party, and going directly for power with the programme 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 the working class organizations implies fighting the 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 would not stand by and 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. The working class must fight all forms of petty bourgeois divisive tendencies sponsored to undermine the strength of the working class.

A principled pro-worker leadership of labour would by now be independently mobilizing the workers to set up workers defence squads to defend the communities from Boko Haram attacks and would be appealing to rank and file soldiers for support and would take up the wages and pensions 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 and taking power from the ruling elites with a clear socialist programme.

The major task before workers and youth activists today is to intensify the work within the labour movement for a genuine fighting leadership based on a socialist programme, as it is only a matter of time before the working people wake up again and fight for the lives. The January 2012 movement will seem child's play compared with the impending movement of the Nigerian working class.