TERRORISM AND THE NIGERIAN STATE
The state, to paraphrase Engels in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, emerged as an organ of domination and class rule. It reflects the irreconcilable contradiction between the oppressor and oppressed. Therefore its essential content is a band of armed men - militia, SSS, soldiers or police - designed to visit terror and institute fear within the ruled to maintain order or disorder to suit the caprices of the ruling class and their neocolonial manipulators as the case may be. It follows that the forms which modern - day states take are more or less a Democracy to the extent its oppressed majority can restrict the capacity of the state to pacify, terrorize or trick it to submission; to the extent which this oppressed majority can subordinate the band of armed men as an alien force above them to one under their control.
This definition is further compounded by Nigeria's peculiar history to include the use of religion and tribalism as potent components of state power bequeathed by British Colonialism. Nigeria's brand of soldiers, police and security agents originated from Britain's West African Frontier Force - a band of armed natives pacified and hurriedly deployed to kill and maim their own people, paving the way for the exploitation of Nigeria's natural resources and labour power. Faithful to its origins, the Nigerian state had always deployed its armed men to terrorize the people whenever western interest were under threat globally or locally.
During military rule the army and security agents were deployed against seceding Biafra to secure the economic interest of Shell, Texaco and other western multinational oil firms. The crude oil producing zones of the Niger Delta were among the first areas captured to ensure that the exploitation of oil by these oil firms went unimpeded. Several hundred thousands of Nigerians were slaughtered by the state in order to keep Nigerian one for Shell and other multinational oil firms.
The Nigerian Army, Police and Security agents, were also turned against the people during military rule to impose the notorious Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) dictated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The Funding of public institutions such as health centers, Educational programs and Infrastructure; gainful employment of the people were restricted and replaced by lay-offs of million of Nigerian workers into poverty. Military tanks and troops were moved to the streets of Lagos, Kaduna and Enugu against University students, Nigerian workers and other segments who staged demonstrations against the implementation of these anti people programs dictated by these western money lenders to the military government.
The armed wing of the Nigerian state also played the global role for western imperialism in securing the Nigerian neocolony against communism in the cold war. Armed security agents infiltrated not only the Nigerian Labor Congress, and the National Association of Nigerian Students but also our University campuses where patriotic intellectuals were constantly monitored detained and in some cases killed or banished from Nigeria. The state also regularly unleashed terror on the Nigerian Press not only through various decrees but actually extinguishing the lives of patriotic journalists such as Dele Giwa among others. Able artists such as Fela Anikolakpo Kuti were also constantly visited by the state with violence.
Revolutionary coups which challenged the traditional role of the Nigerian state were quickly crushed by counter coups to preserve the local and global interest of western imperialism. While General Murtala Muhammed refocused the Armed and Security agencies towards noble pan Africanist objectives of supporting the African National Congress and the Movement for the Popular liberation of Angola, Major Gideon Okar called for the total restructuring of the Nigerian State, it decentralization to a loose federation. The ease in which these popular efforts were upturned indicated the umbilical link between the armed wing of the Nigerian state and their British and Western training institutions. Indeed these western military institutions had always manipulated the character, behaviour and mindset of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Security Agents. Thus, the armed wing of the Nigerian state had since remained an extension of the archaic West African Frontier Force, even when the state has changed or adopted various forms.
The end of the cold war, with the receding threat of communism to western imperialism, the increasing agitation of the oppressed Nigerian masses led to a change in the form of the Nigerian state but not its content. The new ideal in vogue was the democratic state.
Democracy defined as an ideal is a government presumed to be elected by the people, supposedly for the people. Its three branches presumed to check and balance each other are the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. Yet, the first executive president of the current democratic dispensation was not the man voted for by the people, Chief M.K.O Abiola, but in contrast a former military ruler groomed in western military institutions and a member of the eminent men of the commonwealth, General Olusegun Obasanjo. Also, the present head of the legislative branch, a former senior officer of the Nigerian army, also acquainted with western military institutions is notoriously known for having declared that telephone ownership was not for the poor.
Indeed, the bellicosity of the Nigerian state towards its people has always reflected the global conditions in which western imperialism finds itself. With the contraction and collapse of the economies of the Eurozone nations due to many years of profligacy by their lazy ruling classes, their citizens have risen in disobedience to occupy their business center in Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Britain, Portugal and even the United States own Wall Street. They demand for a reversal in the massive lay-off of workers due to the hiccups in production as the world market becomes saturated leading not only to the challenge for creating demand but competition for new markets and spheres of influence.
They object to austerity measures which include cut-backs in wages, health, education and funding for social welfare as conditions for receiving bailout funds to resuscitate their economies from the key western money lenders. The impact of this collapse has triggered a new rush by capitalist powers for natural resources chiefly oil, zonal market and spheres of influence. Once again the North Atlantic Treaty Organication (NATO) and its security agencies are flinging the sabers of war in North Africa under the dream of an unending Spring. Nigeria is not only the sixth largest oil producer in the world but the most populous nation in Africa and therefore the largest market in Africa. It is not only a source of oil but a potential reservoir for augmenting finance capital, necessary to restart the debt-ridden western economies and ameliorate the present global economic crises.
Such capital can not only come through the unimpeded flow of Nigeria's crude oil but through the withdrawal of the fuel subsidy, or deregulation of the down stream sector of the oil industry without fixing or building new refineries. It can also come from cuts in the budgets to develop our public institutions such as hospitals, research equipments in universities and other educational institutions. The accumulated money may then be transferred to pay our so-called debts to the IMF and World Bank, the Western moneylenders, who could then lend to the Eurozone nations. No wonder the government is unable to pay the meagre minimum wage of $120 per month to Nigerian workers because it is committed to paying its dubious debt to the western money lenders. No wonder the average Nigerian has to live well below one dollar per day while sixty percentage of the population wallow in abject poverty.
Clearly, to impose these harsh conditions on the Nigerian people will require not only the maximum effort of the armed wing of the Nigerian state but the utilization of religious and tribal components of state power to manipulate the people. Thus, the first act of the state was to disarm and paralyze the people and their popular organizations by passing a bill against terrorism, while conspicuously increasing its arms and security spending to nearly half of its total national budget. Indeed, given such procurements, one cannot help but wonder whether the government had declared war against its people.
Onwubiko writes from Nkwoegwu, Umuahia