The abduction of over 200 girls from a public secondary school in Chibok (in the Northern state of Borno) on 14 April by right-wing political Islamic group Boko Haram has sparked global outrage.
By Hassan Taiwo Soweto, Democratic Socialist Movement, Nigeria
Widespread condemnation has come from far and near and almost the entire world is following the horrendous situation in Nigeria as a result of daily coverage by the international media. Together with a big campaign that has taken off on social media sites under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, protests and demonstrations have been held in several cities in and outside Nigeria.
This latest crisis has again highlighted the failure and weakness of President Jonathan’s government. However, the working masses and youth must not make the mistake that all it takes to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency is a strong president. In reality, President Jonathan’s weaknesses are reflections of the weaknesses of Nigeria’s neo-colonial capitalism.
Elites from the north have ruled Nigeria for more than half of its history since independence from Britain. Yet while little has been done to develop formal education, healthcare and job creation in the whole of Nigeria, even less has been done in the North. It is against this background that Boko Haram emerged in the North questioning the legitimacy of western education both from a religious standpoint and because the corrupt elite is largely western-educated.
Just like the history of most fundamentalist religious groups, Boko Haram offered much more than religious vitriol. The group also condemned social and economic injustice and corruption. But Boko Haram’s solution is the introduction of Sharia law. Without alternative mass working class active organisations and socialist ideas on offer, this kind of religious fundamentalist teachings tinged with some form of radicalism, can draw support among the huge swathe of poor and mostly uneducated youth in the North. Besides, the sect also offered shelter, food and sustenance to the poor and dispossessed youths who flocked to it.
Even though Nigeria is endowed with stupendous natural and human resources, capitalism has ensured that over 80% of Nigeria’s oil wealth is cornered by a few. Meanwhile over 50 million young people are unemployed. Insurgencies like Boko Haram’s will not end unless the root cause – the exploitative system of capitalism – is tackled.
Behind Nigeria’s corrupt capitalist ruling elites are imperialist countries and their global financial institutions of the IMF and World Bank who, for their own strategic and economic gains, prop up corrupt regimes around the world. Now the western powers, worried that the combination of social crisis and a corrupt, incompetent government will destabilise the whole of West Africa, are using Chibok as an excuse to intervene.
Examined against this background, the responses of so-called opposition political parties and the labour movement of only bland calls for more security, are shocking. DSM affirms that increased militarisation will not solve the problem. Neither will the intervention of security experts and troops from Western imperialist countries.
Due to the characteristic brutality and atrocities of the military in the North Eastern States, the government cannot hope to rely on the sympathy of the people to provide the information required to locate and engage the Boko Haram insurgents. Many people largely feel caught up in the violence of both the army and Boko Haram and feel no sympathy for either.
So far, all that militarisation has achieved is a clampdown on the democratic rights of the working masses. Under the guise of fighting terrorism, the federal government now routinely bans protest and breaks up any “unauthorised gathering”.
The imperialist capitalist countries are responsible for the growth and spread of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism across the world as a result of brutal wars orchestrated in order to control the crude oil and mineral reserves of countries in the Middle East. So it is illogical to advocate imperialist intervention in Nigeria and expect them to be part of the solution.
The only effective strategy that the labour movement can proffer is to begin to mobilise workers and the oppressed masses to take their destinies in their hands. To start with, a one-day general strike and mass protest called by the labour movement can send the right signal to both the corrupt capitalist ruling elite and Boko Haram that the organised people are prepared to defend themselves against the onslaughts from both.
In the areas threatened by Boko Haram raids, the labour movement has to take the lead in mobilising working class people to begin to take up the responsibility of securing their neighbourhoods and communities. This can only be possible by setting up democratic multi-tribal and multi-religious self-defence committees.
In opposition to the current labour leaders, this is what we in the DSM are striving for. We call for the building of a revolutionary mass movement led by the working class to bring an end to Nigeria’s corrupt capitalist system. That is fundamentally responsible for the conditions of mass misery in the midst of abundance which is the basis upon which the Boko Haram insurgency emerged and now thrives.
We believe that only a new government formed by the working class and armed with socialist policies can begin to restructure Nigeria. This would ensure that the huge wealth of the country is used to better the lot of the overwhelming majority of ordinary people, regardless of ethnicity or religion.
Read more analysis from Nigeria at www.socialistworld.net