By Bamidele Aturu
It is already five years that passed on in a motor crash on his way from Maiduguri where
he had, as one of the leaders of the civil society, participated in a sensitisation rally organised by the labour movement to resist the plan by the Nigerian state to increase the cost of petroleum products and make life more miserable for the toiling poor masses of the country.
Without doubt and in particular from the standpoint of the left, Comrade Chima’s death on September 21, 2005 is one of the worst tragedies that have befallen Nigeria since the symbolic independence of the country on October 1st 1960. The anniversary of the death of this great friend and theoretician of the oppressed and social crusader affords another opportunity to examine the state of the nation in general and the state of the struggle against social injustice in particular.
As the race to change the baton of the leadership of the Nigerian state for another four years reaches its final lap, it is clear to every honest and serious citizen or observer that no concrete change will take place with the election regardless of who ‘wins’ among the agents of capitalism.
This is where we are missing Chima the most. He would have fiercely articulated the fact that none of the contestants can transform Nigeria as they share the same historically discredited worldview that worships profit at the expense of service and exploitation of the working people instead of garnering and harnessing the resources of the country for equitable development.
It is significant that one of the most notorious exponent of the cant of ‘limited state’ or ‘reduction of government presence’, Ibrahim Babangida (who is also jostling to head the Nigerian state) has candidly admitted that this worldview is doomed in spite of the inconsistencies in the admission contained in his Declaration Speech (Sunday Vanguard, September 19, 2010, pp.19_20). His exact words: ‘reduction of government presence in business appears to have resulted in a progressive depletion in the capacity of State to guarantee basic security to the citizens, inefficiency in the renewal of basic infrastructure and inability to intervene decisively to contain worsening unemployment and poverty’.
Of course, Chima would have logically pointed out that recent history and insights from the present crisis of global capitalism demonstrate irrefutably that the world is doomed except and unless the working people are in control of all aspects of their life but in particular in control of the economy. He was doing that precisely when he met his death. The concentration of the wealth of nations in the hands of a few was fought by Chima since I knew him until he died. Yet all who are campaigning to lead Nigeria today have no vision that is different from maintaining the status quo. It will not work.
True, the organisations of the people may be weak today, the lesson of history is that economic oppression cannot long endure. Privatisation of collective wealth may make the ‘lucky’ beneficiaries happy for a time, but it is a matter of time, the owners of the wealth, the people will rise up and expropriate them. He opposed privatisation in his speeches, writings and actions. The so_called PPP (Public Private Sector Participation) is nothing but fraud. Those who position themselves as the private sector depend on public sector funds which are basically the collective wealth of the people of Nigeria. Access to the funds is guaranteed through a complex mix of cronyism and graft. This explains why the state cannot fight corruption as its directing minds thrive on it and sustain their undemocratic hold on power through it.
Our objection to PPP is not necessarily that private persons should not play a role in the economy. That would be an idealistic proposition. The point is that those who want to play any role in the minor and major sectors of our economy should look for their funds and set up their businesses to compete with state corporations. The cant that government has no business in business is only true to the extent that governments are not historically set up to do business in the sense of making profits but to cater for the security and welfare of the citizens as a consideration for granting to it the power to govern.
This is the basis of the social contract theory. The state cannot just act as regulator; it must be the active dispenser of goods and amenities. We are discovering, as confirmation of the falsity of the limited government ideology, that corporations which do business with our governments under the PPP facade, notably from China, are state owned. So those fake private sector people who want to take over our roads should build their own roads and toll it or if they like invent a mechanism that enables them to roll away the roads at will; those who want to cannibalise PHCN must build their own power plants and compete with a State_owned PHCN. We will resist their evil plans to run our country as their fiefdom. We will make life difficult for them. That is our historic duty. If we don’t they will continue to make life difficult for us anyway. Privatisation can only translate to increased costs for having access to basic amenities. It is unacceptable and intolerable.
Today the voice of the left is drowned as the apostles of the fraud called privatisation are having a field day parcelling among themselves the wealth created by the working people of Nigeria. Our voice is not heard also because we have abandoned the work of building fighting organisations to which Chima energetically and irrevocably devoted his entire short adult life. The connecting thread in Chima’s organisational work from student unionism to human rights advocacy and to his work at the UAD or LASCO was the overthrowing of the capitalist order.
That was his preoccupation as a committed scientific socialist that he was. The greatest tribute that we can pay to the memory of this great internationalist and fighter of oppression is to reclaim our sovereignty from the charlatans that occupy and defile the polity. We really have no choice as the future of this country depends on the working people. We must build up a giant working organisation of the working people. In doing this we must avoid those trivial differences among us and realise that we are confronting an evil behemoth. To destroy it we cannot afford sectarian and inconsequential divisions on petty ideological trifles. The alliance against evil must be broad.
It must include all who are appalled at the looting and recklessness going on and who are willing to do something about it. Political parties such as DA (to which Chima was one of the founders and a leading light), NCP, Labour party, NAP must unite by any means possible. To resist unity is to unwittingly become an enemy of the working people. Chima hated sectarianism passionately and that is the attitude we must all adopt to rescue ourselves and our country from the criminals who govern Nigeria at all levels.
As we remember Chima today we remember his courageous fights against corruption.
What the politicians glibly promise us today is that they have zero tolerance for corruption. Again, their spokesperson Babangida in his speech earlier referred to promise to fight what he termed ‘unexplained and unexplainable wealth’.
He is less than frank here, for the gaudy wealth being displayed in this country is stolen wealth. Their wealth can thus be explained but has no justification in law or in morality. Chima’s position, which is the only sensible position, is that the war against corruption is only possible in the context of social change. Anti_corruption institutions may make symbolic arrests, but not much can be achieved as corruption itself is part of the institution of the plutocracy in place.
How can we expect those who bribe their way into power to fight corruption? This is why the need to organise and change the system is urgent and unavoidable. We must recommit ourselves to it and not allow our voices to be drowned by those whose only claim to relevance is through stealing and those of their hired praise singers in the mass media and the academia. The struggle sure continues, but victory is certain!