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Friday, December 19 2014 @ 10:35 AM CST

Sam Mbah: Towards an Anarchist Spring in Nigeria

Africa

The Occupy movement in parts of America and Europe has really inspired a lot of people in Nigeria. The resolve and the courage that has been demonstrated by the Occupy movement in different parts of America and European capitals, is a pointer to the endless possibilities that abound if people decide to struggle. The Arab Spring on its part, has been a most refreshing experience for those of us in Africa.

Sam Mbah: Towards an Anarchist Spring in Nigeria

Robert Graham's Anarchism Weblog

Interview with Sam Mbah

When I wrote African Anarchism with my friend [I.E. Igariwey], we wrote against the backdrop of three decades of military rule, nearly four decades of military rule, in Nigeria. Military rule was a form of government that believed in over-centralization of powers, and dictatorship, as it were, and it was a strand that evolved from capitalism. So while the Nigerian society and much of Africa was under the grip of military rule and military authoritarianism, today we have a nominal civilian administration, a nominal civilian democracy. Some people have called it rule democracy, some people have called it dysfunctional democracy, all kinds of names, seeking to capture the fact that this is far from democracy. And for me it is an extension of military rule. This is actually a phase of military rule. Because if you look at democracy in Nigeria, and the rest of Africa, those who are shaping the course and future of these democracies are predominantly ex-military rulers, and their apologists and collaborators within the civilian class…

I pointed out in the book… that anarchism as an ideology, as a corpus of ideology, and as a social movement, is removed to Africa… But anarchism as a form of social organization, as a basis of organizing societies – that is not remote to us. It is an integral part of our existence as a people. I referred to the communal system of social organization that existed and still exists in different parts of Africa, where people live their lives within communities and saw themselves as integral parts of communities, and which contributed immensely to the survival of their communities as a unit. I pointed to aspects of solidarity, aspects of social cohesion and harmony that existed in so many communal societies in Africa and tried to draw linkages with the precepts of anarchism, including mutual aid, including autonomous development of small units, and a system that is not based on a monetization of the means and forces of production in society. So, I look back and I feel… these are things… would throw more light on how these societies were able to survive. But again, with the advent of colonialism and the incorporation of African economies and societies into the global capitalist orbit, some of these things have changed. We’ve started having a rich class, we’ve started having a class of political rulers who lord it over and above every other person. We’ve started having a society that is highly militarized where the State and those who control the State share the monopoly of instruments of violence and are keen to deploy it against the ordinary people. That’s their business…

At the beginning of the year [2012] the government wanted to supposedly deregulate the downstream sector of the oil industry. And labour and civil society groups protested, and resisted such a move. In the event, a two week strike was called. During those two weeks, the people stayed away from work, the people protested in the streets of Lagos, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Kano, Ibadan, in different parts of the country. And because the government sensed the resolve of ordinary Nigerians to resist these arbitrary increases, the government backed down somewhat, by bringing down the over 100% increase in prices of petroleum products to about 30%. And of course the labor movement practically sold out, because the civil society and the mass of the population were prepared to go on with the protest and refuse to pay the 30% increase…

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