About the middle of 1985, the tendency to which I belongedin Nigerias Marxist Left met somewhere on the campus of the former Universityof Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. We met to review our programmeand, in particular, to discuss what I may now articulate as abstractionism inthe national platforms of the Nigerian Left. And what do I mean byabstractionism, a term in which, I fear, I may now have embedded unrelatedattributes? Let me recall the dramatic procedure used by the comrade whointroduced the subject.
The comrade produced a current draft programme in theNigerian Left and asked the presiding comrade to substitute Kenya or Ghana orCameroon for Nigeria everywhere the latter appeared in the document. Thepresiding comrade chose Kenya, and we spent some time doing the substitution.To cut this long introductory story short, the new programme obtained afterthe simple substitution of the word Kenya for the word Nigeria could pass for agood, even brilliant programme for the Kenyan Left. In other words, there wasalmost nothing specific to Nigeria in the original programme meant for Nigeria!
After this warm-up exercise, we next tried to convinceourselves, first: that this practice of writing abstract, non-nation specificor supra-nation programmes and manifestoes of struggle against capitalism,imperialism and dictatorship and for workers power, popular democracy andsocialism was widespread in the Nigerian Left; and secondly: that our tendencywas not guilty of the error having, in practice, abandoned it a decadeearlier in the locality where we were holding that meeting. What followed was,of course, the imperative: to decide and prepare to wage a struggle against thepractice described above, the practice I now call abstractionism.
One particular element of this envisaged struggle againstabstractionism was the writing of a book to be titled The (Un) Making ofNigeria (or, in full, The making and unmaking of Nigeria). It was to be astage-by-stage account, a critical and self-critical account of what had been acontinuous historical process: the simultaneous building and wrecking ofNigeria and the social forces responsible for the building and thoseresponsible for the wrecking of the nation. This would be followed, of course,by how the building struggle would continue more concretely. For severalreasons, this writing project did not come out the way we planned it. Insteadof a single comprehensive group publication, what we had were single-authorinternal memos, articles, collections of essays and monographs.
It was not that organisations and tendencies of the NigerianLeft were not connected with the masses or the grassroots. No, they were wellconnected with and active in the ranks of workers, peasants, women, students,academics, professionals and other strata of the popular masses. But theirconnections and activities were either entirely local or where they werenot entirely local and attempted to be regional or national were fragmentedand uncoordinated. Beyond this and this is the core of the matter-at thenational political level, or on the question of state power, what they did,said and wrote did not indicate that revolution or the capture of state powerin Nigeria by whatever means, electoral or nonelectoral was, for them, arealizable political project, in the foreseeable future assuming that such apolitical project was even considered desirable. It was as if the Nigerian Leftwas, at best, a self-limiting protest movement.
The preceding statement is a strong one, deliberately madeso because abstractionism is still alive in the Nigerian Left. Were theNigerian Left not abstract, as defined above, were it to consider revolutionor the capture of state power as a desirable and realizable political project,it would not summarily dismiss concrete and significant political questionsraised by political forces outside or within the Left. And it would not shyaway from raising concrete political questions of its own and putting them onthe agenda of national political discourse, debate or struggle.
For the avoidance of doubt, by concrete and significantnational political questions here I mean questions directly related to theissue of political power, the capture of state power and not simply thosepermanent economic, class and popular-democratic struggles (like struggles overwages, employment, prices, human rights, state abuse, social welfare, security,etc.) that the Left must permanently wage to be able to recognize and defineitself as Left and be so defined and recognized by its primary constituenciesand the nation. Current national political questions would include what is nowknown as restructuring. Related to it, and perhaps historically issuing fromthe same campaign, was the call for a national conference and latersovereign national conference or SNC.
What is at present embarrassing to me, as a not-too-youngmember of the Nigerian Left, is that several Leftists now make it sound as ifrestructuring and sovereign national conference were autonomousformulations from the Nigerian Right. Of course, not. For the origins of thesetwo campaigns, I invite interested persons to research the print media of theearly 1990s. Such persons will discover the role played by the Nigerian Left informulating the campaigns and giving them revolutionary and popular-democraticcontents and forms.
Recently, I re-organised my current position onrestructuring around five clusters of ideas. I shall conclude this piecewith an outline of the clusters. The first cluster of ideas I called theimpossibility of (pure) ethnic separation in Nigeria. By this I mean thatNigeria cannot break or separate, peacefully or violently, along pure ethniclines or even along near-pure ethnic lines. And by pure ethnic lines I meanwithout creating new entities with significant majority/minority dichotomies.
Madunagu writes fromCalabar, Cross River state.